Robonomics is an economic system that uses robots, artificial intelligence (AI), and automation technologies (RAIA) to produce goods and services rather than human employees.
Many companies prefer RAIA technologies as they can work 24/7, which is much more than the usual 40-hour work week of human employees, and the possibility to implement various tasks and expand their scope with suitable software and hardware upgrades.
Furthermore, robots can repeat the same routine, tedious, and/or dangerous work repeatedly, correctly, and promptly without complaints, strikes, or negative emotions.
Employing robots rather than human employees can fetch huge advantages for companies because
- Robots could work 24/7
- Robots could implement various tasks and expand their scope with software and hardware upgrades
- Robots could provide constant or improving quality of their work
- Robots could fulfill their work correctly and promptly
- Robots could do routine work repeatedly
- Robots do not complain, get ill, go on strikes, spread rumors, discriminate, quit their job without notice, show negative emotions, or shirk from work.
The most obvious benefit is the improved quality of life in the long term due to people’s liberation from hard, manual, repetitive, intellectually unchallenging work. People will enjoy a drastic increase in their leisure time that will allow them to pursue more creative, wellness, pleasure, and self-actualization activities and will have more time for travel. We can expect no work-related stress, which, combined with advances in medicine, will lead to improved health and increased life expectancy.
The advent of robonomics will also have a huge impact on economic theory and practice, such as:
- High production – Most products (goods and services) are produced/provided by robots/artificial intelligence/self-service/automation technologies. Human labor is used mostly to oversee the production process without much involvement in producing goods or service delivery.
- Fewer but more knowledge-intensive jobs – Most humans do not work, and those who do have predominantly highly paid knowledge-intensive RAIA-assisted creative jobs.
- Disconnection between employment and incomes – This is one of the most fundamental characteristics of robonomics. Due to the low number of humans employed in economic activities, employment is not the major source of income for households. Governments provide a universal basic income to the citizens.
- Active use of a variety of single- and multi-purpose industrial, service, and social robots – Robots are not constrained to manufacturing, warehousing, or transport but provide services and act as companions to humans, including sexual partners.
- High cost-efficiency of production – New technologies allow economically efficient on-demand single/few unit(s) productions of (most) goods.
- Small and dispersed factories close to consumers – This is a direct outcome of the high cost-efficiency of automated production processes, which allows smaller producers to enjoy economies of scale, be closer to consumers and save on product delivery time and costs.
- High level of standardization of services – Strict algorithmization of service provision due to the use of RAIA.
Challenges of robonomics
The benefits of robonomics seem lucrative, and society will enjoy them in the long run. However, it may need to pay a high social price in the short- and mid-term. Due to increased technological productivity, the loss of many jobs due to RAIA may not be compensated by newly created jobs. At the same time, the unemployed may not be able to requalify so easily to face the qualification needs of the robotized economy. Therefore, in the short- and mid-term, society will face significant challenges, including
- Unemployment and relative overpopulation – fewer human employees and lower salaries
- Possible functional illiteracy – humans may forget how to do things once robots do them
- Division of society between employed and unemployed
- Changes in social values – is human life valuable? Do we need other people to satisfy our needs when we have robots?
- Psychological problems of people who find themselves with too much free time, nothing to do, and no need to work
- Social unrest and political instability – due to the substitution of human employees with robots
Universal basic income (UBI) is widely discussed as a solution to technological unemployment. Under the UBI scheme, every country’s citizen receives a fixed amount of money every month, regardless of his/her employment status. All other social payments are ceased and replaced by UBI. The main advantage of UBI is that it will provide income for all people in society and serve as a social safety net – even if people fail in their entrepreneurial activities, the UBI will provide them with resources for their families existence.
Robot-based taxation is considered one of the ways to finance the UBI. Under the robot tax scheme, every company that installs a robot must pay tax, and the proceeds are used to support the UBI of displaced human employees. Third, constant and fluid-free life-long education is another proposed solution to technological unemployment. People will need to accept that education does not finish with graduating from university, but it is a life-long continuous process. To remain employable in the labor market, they will need to take regular (online) courses in their professional field every 5-7 years to enroll in master programs, sometimes completely unrelated to their previous education.
All in all, the advances in robotics, artificial intelligence, and automation allow us to project that robonomics is an inevitable economic system. That is why economists, politicians, corporations, financial institutions, education and welfare systems, and all citizens need to be prepared for its advent. Although robonomics will not happen overnight, it will first appear in developed countries and gradually spill over to the rest of the world.