Creativity will always be fine. As long as we have a system of economy, people will trade economic influence for entertainment. I’ll have to think about how that could be the essence of an economic system though … you’d need a perfect education system, for starters.
I don’t see the decline of capitalism as automation occurs because there’s a limit to how well that technology can expand. Look at just how much stuff we produce. Now automate all of it, systematically. That requires more people in positions of planning and management and engineering then we have. It’s not going to happen cleanly and across the board, if it happens, then. It’s going to happen in spurts and fragments and we’re going to see more and more conflicts between nations of differing abilities in terms of automation and resource gathering.
There are things that even really good automation isn’t good at unless we get true AI behind it. Tasks that humans are really good at without any technological aids–at the cost of a long development time including enormous educational requirements. So if true AI happen, perhaps more fundamental changes start to occur. At the end of the day, though, we’re not going to out-mode ourselves or out-mode literature or out-mode creative and intellectual professions unless we go full-on Brave New World and just turn the whole civilization into biological automatons and be done with it. I expect to see the American version of the individual decay substantially, but I doubt it will decay to nothing. It’s too against how we see ourselves and our world to form the basis of a society. We are not a hive and we would function poorly as one.
Similarly, the bigger we get the more risk-averse we get. We’re already relatively risk averse and short-sighted as a species. I don’t see full-blown automation taking over because it’s such a big change and there are so many question marks. Businesses especially like to hold back and milk existing systems as long as they can no matter how problematic or unstable or even financially risky … known risks feel inherently safer than unknown ones to us.
I’m not quite sure what to make of your comments about intelligence really because it seems out of sync with your statements about the instability of capitalism after the theoretical automatic revolution. What we lose in an automated world isn’t the jobs that require a human mind but the jobs that require a human body. We lose skilled labor. Manual tasks that are valuable and sometimes quite complicated and technical … but also repetitive and substantially physical. In the US we tend to call them “trades” or “vocations” and they are, sadly, looked down upon for no good reason what-so-ever. Dental hygienists are an example and even full-blown dentists are considered part of this category. It also includes a lot of things more typically thought of as blue-collar jobs. Fruit picking, welding, machining. Things like driving a delivery vehicle will be some of the lower priority tasks for automation–they might still go first because they’re easier to automate, but it’s less expensive to train a driver than a skilled dental hygienist so you don’t save as much money. All in all, the upper ends of capitalism continue to function just fine. People working in jobs that require substantial education (such as designing and maintaining and operating all of these robotic systems–being the surgeon behind the robotic scalpel), will remain intact for a long time. We’ll always find new such jobs, because the very existence of automation implies a refinement process that requires research and education which tend to perpetuate themselves by leading to new discoveries.
The big question mark, then, is what happens to the already unemployed. Or to the unskilled, uneducated laborers: the high school students working check out counters who are already being replaced by self-checkout stations. What happens to the families who experience generational poverty, get left behind by the education system, and then rely on welfare in a cycle that makes them care less about the missing resources that put them in that situation to begin with. That’s where we start to see and already see capitalism break down. And frankly, I’m not sure other economic systems really offer a good alternative. Better, perhaps in some ways, but not good. We can only evolve so much as a species without actually undergoing biological evolution to our own benefit … and human society doesn’t really allow for that. Instead, we evolve the technological and intellectual world around us of our own volition, but that requires solid education which requires time, resources … things that are scarce and only getting scarcer as our populations get big.
A capitalistic society could exist in a world of perfect automation … just not with nearly so many people unless we had a crazy paradigm shift in the way we thought about economies and employment–and not just adopting old, sporadically successful economic ideas simply because they’ve always been alternatives to capitalism. Less capitalistic sub-sectors of the global economy are having plenty of problems, too. We need new economies for a new world–what they could look like is another matter I’m still mulling over and would love input on. I’m sure world leaders would, too.
I agree with you that we’ll get better at synthetics and matter manipulation. I don’t know how good we’ll be as implementing those technologies. I think we’ll have a lot of trouble with barriers of varying economic and political development around the world. Look at how much of the world still doesn’t have robust electrical grids, transportation systems, communications networks … the technological developments of 150 years ago still haven’t made the rounds. Any future-scape has to take into account that infrastructural changes become exponentially less possible as civilizations get bigger. Imagine the United States, for example, trying to fix it’s horribly inefficient power grid. We’re the third largest nation on the planet and we have a relatively well connected highway system. The sheer quantity of pavement … heck, the sheer quantity of URBAN pavement, urban water-pipers, urban electrical infrastructure … re-fitting all of that with new tech is a nightmare. Think of all the cars on the American road way. Enter automatic vehicles … well, how do we make all of them, distribute all of them, and recover the old ones in an efficient and feasible manner?
So much that we’re capable of won’t happen for decades or even centuries simply because the scope of consistent change isn’t feasible. There’s going to be inequity–and in some ways that’s good. There will always be places and jobs where unskilled workers can go. Just not in the wealthiest, most high-tech nations. And that’s a big social problem … one that would make for some great fiction. And it’s one of many reasons why I mentioned in my other post that I foresee at the very least a wild escalation of existing threats to the nation-state system.