Robots, work, and money

I recently listened to the Planet Money podcast series on robots. It was really interesting to me, especially in that it pointed out some ways robots could be used that I never would have imagined they would work (like for psychological therapy? wut?).

The final episode of the series talks about the future. Will robots take over all the jobs, so that we won’t have any work to do anymore? They talk with two different experts who have two very different takes, but one of them says yes. We will not have the things we call jobs anymore in the future. And it sparked my interest.

No jobs? What will we do? How will the economy work?

I happened upon the idea of everyone getting paid; the idea of a base pay from the government and it isn’t tied in any way to work. I had honestly never heard of this idea before, but apparently, there is a whole movement about this.

And, in some ways, I’m not quite sure what I think of it. My upbringing as a good Scandinavian Lutheran American taught me that work is good, we should all work. And yet, I’m not so sure I agree with our system all the time. Is all work good work and is structuring the economy such that some people barely make it the way we should be going?

These two things then led me to the way economies work in Star Trek. I know, that was a utopia of sorts, but there is no money. People work at things they like and enjoy to further society, but they never need to worry about having the necessities of life because that is just there.

My friend Mandy points out, in a fantastic essay, that in Star Trek the race that is greedy, the Ferengi, are looked down upon and shunned. And I just can’t help but wonder, if the robots take our jobs, will we ever be able to get to a place of not needing to have money? Will our economies be driven by something else? Will we even talk about economies and if so, how?