The Future is upon us

The Future is upon us!

Some laugh at Jeremy Corbyn when he promotes the 4 day week. It will not be a four day week we will be grappling with. It will be the three or even two day week. For the majority of us it may well be the no day week.

The future is here. The world is changing. We are in the winter of the old ways. Artificial Intelligence is coming fast. We have to prepare.

Corbyn is right. We need rapid change. We have to ensure that this tsunami of change will carry all of us along, not just the few.

Automation will displace people from factories as it is more efficient. A machine does not need pay, sleep, holidays, meals and rest periods. It can work 24/7. Productivity will go through the roof. Wage bills will go down. Profits will soar – but will they be flowing into the pockets of workers or into the pockets of bosses and profiteers?

Do we really want a society of billionaires and paupers?

The age of driverless cars is coming. Car ownership is hugely expensive – purchase cost, insurance, tax, fuel, and repairs. The days of owning a car are limited. Driving will soon be a minority leisure pursuit.

It is also inefficient. For much of the day cars sit in traffic jams or are parked in drives, streets and massive car parks.

The future is here. We will summon up an Uber. A driverless electric cab will pick us up, drop us off and drive away to collect someone else. It will be cheap and efficient. There will be no driver to pay, no cars clogging up our streets, no need for carparks, garages, traffic lights, traffic cops, or traffic jams. No-one will break the speed limit or make dangerous manoeuvres. The roads will be safe and efficient. Travel will be cheap. Traffic pollution will be a thing of the past. Already some cars and trucks are driverless. The industry is getting us used to automation. Some cars can park themselves in tight gaps and have automatic lights and windscreen washers. We are gradually becoming accustomed.

Instead of an army of drivers delivering goods there will be an efficient fleet of driverless trucks taking cargo from ports to warehouses where machines will unload. Convoys of lorries will take merchandise to stores where machines will unload and stack shelves. No more drivers, shelf stackers or loaders.

You might head to a fast food joint where, after you have placed your order in an automated machine, a machine will flip your burger. Your meal will be delivered quickly and efficiently, perfectly cooked, with no sight of an unhygienic human hand.

You ring up the doctor and find Alexa at the other end. She will ask a series of questions, consult her ever increasing data base and dispense drugs to treat your ailment. I doubt you will get an appointment. In most cases there will be no need.

The days of receptionists are already almost over. Alexa will have many names, genders and personalities and her voice will always be comprehensible.

You are insulted by Kim Jong Un and decide to go to war. You deploy your drones, launch missiles, and have a new batch of fearless automatons armed with the latest weapons, who never miss, do not duck or run away, and are programmed to take out all enemy combatants efficiently, quickly and cheaply. They are backed up by automated tanks while a fleet of automated ships and drones deliver the new robosoldiers to the battle front without a real flesh and blood soldier in sight.

When there is another Grenfell it will be a robofireman who will tirelessly bound up the stairwells at great speed, impervious to heat, not having to breathe the smoke. He will gather you up, encase you in a heat resistant envelop and bound back down to safety. And you know what? You will be grateful. You will be grateful because you will know that no human, no flesh and blood fireman, no matter how strong and brave, could have rescued you from those flames.

Brain surgery is already being carried out by robots. Planes are being flown by computers. In Japan the elderly are companioned by robots. We will have robotic nursing in hospitals. No patient will be left unattended, without food or drink – or a soothing voice. Their biometrics will be automatically assessed – continuously.

So what is going to happen to these tens of millions of factory workers, drivers, receptionists, carers, shelf stackers, burger flippers, brain surgeons, police officers, nurses and all manner of other workers who are surplus to requirements?

Do a small number of people continue working 60 hour weeks while the rest of us twiddle our thumbs? Or do we organise a shorter working week and apportion the new jobs created, more fairly?

Do we share the fruit of this increased productivity? Do we find a way of limiting the pay of the bosses, create a fair taxation system and increased pay for the workforce, or do we end up with gross inequality – a country of billionaires and homeless?

We may not like it but Artificial Intelligence is surely coming and it will sweep the past away.

We are in the winter of our discontent. Where is the sun coming from? Jeremy Corbyn is shedding light on a bold new future – a time of plenty for all, of leisure and freedom, fun and frolics – a more equal society with a shorter working week and better pay. Corbyn is surely the glorious sun.