Robots, Work, and The Future of Mankind

Post Author: Bill Pratt 

Mark Andreessen, co-founder of Netscape and now famous technology venture capitalist, had some very interesting things to say recently about why the rise of robots and artificial intelligence won’t put humans out of work. Andreessen wrote this blog post because of the panic many politicians, academics and technology experts are having over the future of the workplace, given that robots are becoming better and better at doing what only humans used to be able to do.

Andreessen’s piece, entitled, “This is Probably a Good Time to Say That I Don’t Believe Robots Will Eat All the Jobs …” addresses this panic head on. He denies that there is a fixed supply of work for humans to do, which means that as robots take some forms of work from humans, humans will invent new forms of work to take the place of the old forms. There will be never be a time when human beings simply have no work to do because robots can do everything.

How can Andreessen be so confident? First of all, this process has already occurred repeatedly throughout human history, where animals or machines have replaced human labor, and yet humans have found new things to do. Why do we think the future would be any different?

But secondly, Andreessen makes this fascinating comment: “The counterargument to a finite supply of work comes from economist Milton Friedman — Human wants and needs are infinite, which means there is always more to do.” (emphasis added) The argument is simple: human beings have a nature which causes them to have infinite (without limit) desires. Therefore, as technology advances and satisfies our current desires, we will just move on to new wants and needs.

Andreessen foresees a kind of utopian future where all human physical and material needs are met, so human work will revolve around “culture, arts, sciences, creativity, philosophy, experimentation, exploration, and adventure.” To the naysayers, Andreessen asks, “Utopian fantasy you say? OK, so then what’s your preferred long-term state? What else should we be shooting for, if not this?”

I agree with Andreessen that the worries about robots taking human jobs is overblown. There will always be new things for humans to do. But I don’t think Andreessen gets it right when he predicts a utopian future where we all get to focus on “culture, arts, sciences, creativity, philosophy, experimentation, exploration, and adventure.”

The one thing he doesn’t take into consideration is human sin. Even though humans have been able to replace old jobs with new jobs as technology has advanced, humans have miserably failed at being able to control the evil in their nature. Rape, murder, torture, theft, adultery – these evils are all alive and well. Technology will not fix human nature.

That is why the Christian looks at Andreessen’s utopian future and responds, “Yes, that sounds like a wonderful future for humanity, but we call that Heaven.” It is only when the stain of human sin is quarantined and removed that humankind can truly reach the utopia that Andreessen is predicting. The Bible predicts this will occur when Jesus Christ returns.

Christians agree that human work is a beautiful thing, that God created mankind to love culture, beauty, art, science, exploration, and adventure. All of these things will occur in Heaven. But best of all, we will be able to see the source of all that we love, God Himself. God is the only Being that can finally satisfy our infinite wants and desires.