The tech world has been prepping the population on the idea of driverless vehicles for a few years now, but there has been little talk of the potential economic impact of such a transformation on the economy. The most common occupation in the US involves driving, so it requires little imagination to foresee what would happen if all those drivers were replaced with robots.
Techno Zombies will quickly raise the tired old argument of the buggy whip manufacturers who disappeared after the advent of the automobile, but that’s an illegitimate argument. Most manufacturers adapted to the change and shifted to production of auto parts in order to survive. In the modern world, there is no alternative occupation for drivers. Driving requires little education and skill, so most people that are forced out of a job will have few, if any, alternatives. Many people who drive for a living ended up there after being laid off from higher paying occupations, so they’ve already fallen to the lower end of the economic pyramid. These aren’t glorious jobs that people seek out, as they pay poorly, some require lots of time away from home, and can be brutal on the the human body. For many of those that would be replaced, there’s simply nowhere else to go and we’re not talking about a handful of specialized whip makers, but tens of millions of workers.
The time is now to promote discussion on a national level to review the use of autonomous vehicles and their impact on the economy along with the possible horrific societal implications of such a monumentous alteration of the employment structure in this country. Millions and millions of idle, hungry people make for a very tenuous political situation and this country, among others, needs to start thinking about it.