AI Stole Our Jobs


AI is hot right now. Everyone is excited, some people are positive, but many are concerned. One common opposition I hear is “AI will steal our jobs”. This phrase always catches my attention, because while it was always framed negatively it really should be a positive. We can now have computers do things that people had to do. Our society can be more productive with less work!

So why are people scared? People are scared because in our society you need a job. Without a job you can’t afford a roof over your head or food on the table. But isn’t that the actual problem? Our society no longer needs this task, but instead of being freed from a now unnecessary duty the labourers are being punished. We have now more resources for everyone, but instead we are just taking resources from people who need them the most, and giving them to billionaires who benefit little.

This isn’t a new problem either. Every time there are talks about closing a coal power plant the coal lobby talks about how many jobs are being created by that power plant and in the mines. But this isn’t a good thing. Jobs aren’t a goal, they are a cost. We have people killing themselves to mine coal so that we can burn that coal to kill more people with pollution. But the coal plant can’t be replaced with a cheaper solar farm because that would require too few jobs. This is a lose-lose-lose scenario. We need to stop paying people to do harmful things. We would be better off paying them to sit at home.

I don’t know what the best solution is. But capitalism clearly isn’t producing the best world for everyone. On this planet we have enough resources for everyone, but many still suffer. Then we tell ourselves that they would suffer more if we didn’t force them to labour for a pittance. This twisted logic is used to justify harmful decisions that make the original problem worse.

We need to make it so that improving our society’s efficiency and productivity doesn’t harm us. People relieved from work mustn’t be punished. I think we should still reward those who do spend their time being “productive” (whatever that means), but that should be a choice you make, not a necessity. Our current society effectively forces people to work. The existence of minimum wage is a symptom of this. If people had complete agency when negotiating a salary they would be able to walk away from offers that were too low. But people don’t have a free choice, they need a job. If people truly had a free choice when signing an employment contract we wouldn’t need rules about minimum wage, we wouldn’t need most worker protections. These are only needed because workers don’t have a free choice, the employer has far more power.

In a good society AI taking people’s jobs would lead to 3-day working weeks, not poverty.