As kiosks, driverless cars, and other automation takes over: What strategies are on the table to prevent people from going nuts? I've seen talk of "universal basic income" and have even seen libertarian support for such policies in the context of simplifying the tax code, and providing a "negative income tax." Aside from UBI and large-scale wellfare expansion (in a country which is producing less children to pay for the dependents), which ideas are being proposed to deal with this issue?

If Elon Musk's self-driving 18-wheeler goes into mass production, literally millions of people could be out of work. The optimistic response is that "There will be less crappy jobs to do," but who really expects 50-year old trucker drivers to take up computer programming or engineering? How are political groups preparing to deal with this?

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    Related: What is the capitalist answer to automation?
    – user11249
    Commented May 14, 2017 at 2:47
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    “in a country which is producing less children to pay for the dependents”: That's not a problem, the robots are “paying” for the dependents. Or said otherwise: each worker is vastly more productive so they can easily “pay” for everything.
    – Relaxed
    Commented May 14, 2017 at 7:23
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    “who really expects 50-year old trucker drivers to take up […]?“ Transition is a serious problem but it's relatively short-lived. In 10-20-30 years from now, these truck drivers will be dead or retired. Another question is what kind of jobs can you expect people to do in a highly automated economy. Which one are you interested in?
    – Relaxed
    Commented May 14, 2017 at 7:26
  • “There will be less crappy jobs to do […] computer programming or engineering?” Computer programming isn't a big source of jobs. Service jobs is a bigger one, we still have hairdressers in basically the same numbers as before, (health)care is growing, etc.
    – Relaxed
    Commented May 14, 2017 at 7:30
  • Actually automation will decimate skilled jobs. Commented May 14, 2017 at 9:50

1 Answer 1


Automation, in essence, is just one of many instances of industrial glut. The problem of surplus is nothing new, as George Orwell pointed out in 1984: "Ever since the end of the nineteenth century, the problem of what to do with the surplus of consumption goods has been latent in industrial society." In the first half of the 20th century, industrial glut had been one of the reasons why some people looked forward to war.

From the Marxist point of view, the 1930's depression was also caused by increased productivity: at one hand, machine churned out much more stuff than before, at the other hand, workers lost their jobs because machines did better job. The result was a machine-made abundance few people can enjoy because people had no money. If people had not stick to the first principle that everyone had to work to make money, then there would have been no problem. But people firmly believed that every penny had to be earned, as a consequence of which, the great depression raged on. Marxism is partly true, partly false. I have to say this part is true.

China is currently experiencing industrial glut. The Chinese government's response is moving towards 4-day work week. Although there are many aspects of the Chinese government I do not like, I have to admin that this policy is a very good one. As Bertrand Russell pointed out in his In Praise of Idleness:

Good nature is, of all moral qualities, the one that the world needs most, and good nature is the result of ease and security, not of a life of arduous struggle. Modern methods of production have given us the possibility of ease and security for all; we have chosen, instead, to have overwork for some and starvation for others. Hitherto we have continued to be as energetic as we were before there were machines; in this we have been foolish, but there is no reason to go on being foolish forever.


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