I, robot, The Social Problem
Saw I Robot over the weekend. It was okay. I was struck by the concept of what role robots would play in the future. Specifically I was struck by the displacement of humans in many jobs. I, robot takes place in 2035, when yours truly will be in his 60's. at that time it appears that robots are rubbish collectors, babysitters, cooks, janitors even bartenders. My question was, what happened to the people who usually do these jobs? It is presumed that those persons are enjoying life, free from the mundane work of life and can go about their business. The problem with that assumption is that the movie clearly shows that there are classes of people. Smith's character rides in an Audi. The CEO of USR is clearly well off and Smith's character, Audi notwithstanding seems to live in a less than upscale apartment relative to the female lead. It is quite clear that some people made more than others and lived different lives. Therefore there still must be some means of making money. As we know, all throughout human history, where there is class there are those who are deprived. Clearly, everyone cannot be an accountant or a programmer and clearly even if they could, there would not be enough jobs to go around. So where are these people in this 2035 Chicago? Is there some huge welfare state going on? I'm not sure, but the absence of regular people doing regular things just bothered me. Currently (Aug 2004) the rate of job growth in the US was 35,000 for July. Unemployment in the US is about 5.5% representing 8 Million people. At that rate it would take 228 months (20 years) to achive full employment (which in a capitalist society will not happen as unemployment is a neccessary byproduct of capital creation). furthermore, most of those jobs are in low wage sectors.
quote ( from the NY Times):
"You want to think of two job markets - roughly speaking, one for college graduates and the other for high school graduates,'' said Frank Levy, professor of economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and an author of a new book on the subject, "The New Division of Labor.''
"The market for college-grad jobs over the last four years has been expanding,'' Professor Levy said. "But the market for high school graduates has been deteriorating, with production and clerical jobs shrinking and being replaced by lower-paying service sector jobs.''
Other analysts say the long-term trend is more complicated, noting that real wages for middle-income workers have been losing ground to those in the top 10 percent of earners over most of the last 30 years.
So if it is true that high wage/low education jobs are not being created (or worse yet disappearing) then how does the future presented in I Robot even exist? very few people would be able to afford a robot much less the 1 robot to every 5 humans spoken of in the movie. I know, I know, this is science fiction and none of this is real. But i think that the movie presents a very very real spectacle as to how the elite in the US view the masses, People without "ends" are expendable and replaceable and hopefully we can make them just disappear. Perhaps even Will Smith's character buys into this. After all he is biased against the robots because they cannot replace human "intuition." Yet apparently he does not really mind that many people's livelihoods have been wrecked.
Ahhh..maybe it's all just in my head.