So, there's 3 days to go in the current federal election campaign. I can honestly say I have never before been this involved or engaged in politics - I have done three doorknocks (hosted two preps), one data party and two prepolling handing out how-to-vote cards. I've had some fantastic conversations with people, and had the occasional door slammed in my face. I've been invited in by a Muslim mother during Ramadan, chatted about the inevitable automation of much legal work with a young lawyer, been moaned to about transport issues (and tried to explain that self drive cars will soon alleviate many of the current delays), and been told several times that voting is pointless because all politicians are corrupt, on the take, and nothing ever changes anyway (yes, if you keep the major parties in power by thinking you're "wasting your vote" voting for anyone else, that's definitely going to continue being the case).
The scariest thing for me has been the fact that many people are so disengaged and disempowered. So prepolling has indeed been very important: statistics show around 20 percent of voters have no idea who they are going to vote for as they are going in, so, sad to say, getting your HTV into their hands can be crucial. Proud to say there have been more Greens volunteers than any other party at both the prepolls I was at. And it has been satisfying helping people get in the right queue.
My reason for becoming so involved at this point is that everything I've been paying attention to for the last few years seems to be rapidly accelerating, and at this rate, current mainstream politics doesn't have a hope of keeping up. We need to start laying the groundwork for the next few elections which are going to be crucial if we are to avoid the most catastrophic effects, no, NOT of climate change, but by something that is happening MUCH faster - and that is the rise of the robots.
You think it's not going to affect you? That I've been watching too much sci-fi? Think again. In the last few years, on the most visible level, we've seen supermarkets transformed as manned checkouts are replaced with automated ones. There are state-of-the-art warehouses in Melbourne now which have already replaced masses of formerly human jobs with automated forklifts and robot transport. The self-drive car is just around the corner for Australia (the technology is already here, safe, and getting even better - it's just a matter of legislation and then scaling), and with it, the self drive truck, train and bus. Legal discovery, medical symptom matching and research, professional writing and so much more, are already becoming the domain of new AI powered machines which are far more accurate (and cheap) than humans. This is not the industrial revolution - it's happening so much faster, and an order of magnitude more change is occurring.
A significant proportion of the workforce is due to be replaced in the next couple of decades, with technology that already exists now, thanks to the profit motive (and the concomitant lack of recognition of the value of human lives and meaning) economies of scale bringing the cost of these new technologies into economic viability for many large companies.
So when Turnbull spouts "Jobs and Growth! Jobs and Growth!" I have to shake my head in despair at how completely out of touch he, and mainstream politics is, to the freight train heading our way in which NO conservative economic stimulus is going to "save" or "create" jobs. The jobs will still be getting done, sure, but increasingly by robots, NOT humans. So unless you are going to instead angle for a luddite-style protest "No more Supermarket Self Checkouts!!!!" each time a new automation technology becomes visible and mainstream, you need to start looking at the ramifications of these inevitable changes that are upon us.
A first year economics student should be able to work out what's going to happen next: economy will shrink when there is less money being circulated thanks to automation (because all the extra profits are going to companies that are already very wealthy thank you very much, and invested in safe, non productive areas). Sure, better technology will still allow the economy to grow slightly even with the reduced number of humans employed and earning, but it is hugely risky to be redirecting such a large chunk of the economy without allowing existing living people to be a part of it.
And what we are inevitably going to be seeing in the next decade or so (and is already happening) is a big chunk (some estimates up to 40 percent) of people currently in employment becoming unemployed through no fault of their own
and not due, as the Right so like to self-Righteously proclaim, due to bludging, laziness and "just not trying hard enough".
The thing we MOST need to change, on all spectrum of politics, is our understanding of our position now and where we are headed. We have created an amazingly complex society, and the technology we are creating is producing the vast majority of economic growth. We live on a finite planet, and there are many humans currently alive who, unless a plague wipes them out, are going to DEFINITELY be unemployed soon. We will need a social system which recognises this change, and so this part of the budget needs to be planned for, and structures put in place as early as possible to cope with this change. As economic growth will still be occurring, we need to look at where the profits are going (companies big enough to be able to afford to automate early on) and tax appropriately to stop that money being distributed only to those that own capital and siphoned out of circulation, and increasing inequality even further. But we don't need to think only about the economic support, we also need to think about how this affects people socially and emotionally. We need more funds to be directed to education, especially higher education in areas where there will be future need, and changing the type of education focus away from rote learning (any AI will do that better than you, human) to things AI's aren't as good at (yet) such as problem solving, management and logistics. But mostly, we need to recognise that even with retraining, many people will NOT be employable in the shifting landscape filled more and more with robots / AIs working better, faster, and cheaper than humans can.
And the thing that I want to beat right wing people about the head until they get it is this. The ECONOMY is what is going to suffer more and more as you keep taking more wealth out of active circulation. We already have the ability to allow many people to live without "earning a paid wage" (and they need to consume, whether they are working or not). A work ethic is useful, sure (it definitely increases life satisfaction), but it's time to start redefining what we consider important in life, and what kinds of work we value (note: not just traditional "paid" work counts). How about we start to genuinely value, economically, the raising of children? Of volunteering of all kinds? Or any endeavour than increases happiness for humans alive now?
That's where we need to start focusing our attention. The Greens are the only
well-supported voice in Australian politics which recognises the value and dignity of human life. This is seen in refugee policy, income equality proposals, and the emerging guaranteed living wage proposal in their social policy, as well as arts funding and living wage proposals for artists. We know from emerging policy worldwide that basic income promotes growth, encourages economic activity. Even without the robots bearing down on us, it would be still be a good policy, but with the unemployment wave that is about to break, it's absolutely critical. #adam2016 #thegreens #doorknock #auspol #ausvotes #automation #basicincome #therobotsarecoming