Some magazine writers and many science fiction writers have imagine labor saving production as destroying jobs and leading to mass unemployment. Let's refer to the past. At the end of WWII, there were 700,000 underground coal miners. More recently there were 70,000, producing more coal than the 700,000. Many miners had to find other work, sometimes having to move out of communities that had existed for generations. The remaining miners are paid much more, are safer and healthier, and live much longer. Linotype operators all lost their jobs when newspapers were produced by photo-offset. The employers bought the jobs. Finally, farming which once occupied 50 percent of American workers, now occupies one percent.
With all that, the rate of unemployment is no larger today than it was in 1900 and median personal income is greater. What happened? Service industries, the biggest being health care, grew. There is apparently an unlimited desire to be served by other people.
Science fiction has described many variants of societies in which robots do all the work and the humans are bored to death, sometimes with the exception of a few geniuses. That situation has existed in the past when a small noble population ruled a much larger population and regarded them as not quite human. The nobles, or many of them, did suffer from boredom and tended to gamble and quarrel. Kings especially tended to quarrel. Nevertheless, they preferred being rich to being poor.
Conclusion: If robots take over most work, people will complain, but they won't move to places without robots.
Today there are many more amusements than before. Skiing, skin diving, mountain climbing, TV, movies, computer games are just some examples. The rich sometimes misbehave but apparently not so much as the poor.
There are enough things I'd like to learn about to last me for many hundreds of years. I don't know about ten thousand years.
2007 June: On the CNN and Fox websites, there's usually one story about Iraq, but most of the news is about crimes and other misbehaviors. Much of the crime seems not financially unmotivated. If it's boredom, I fear there will be a switch to gang crime - even middle class gang crime.
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