Created in the image of man
There is an American company by the name of Tesla, which many of you have no doubt heard about. For those who haven’t, Telsa’s main mission is to transition society towards utilising sustainable energy. Their main focus at the moment is electric vehicles. The co-founder and CEO of Telsa is a man named Elon Musk. It is important to understand that Musk is essentially a technocrat. So, for those who don’t understand the term, here it is: technocracy is a system of government in which a decision-maker is elected by the population or appointed on the basis of their expertise in a given area of responsibility, particularly with regard to scientific or technical knowledge.
It’s one thing to have a government that depends on the work of supposedly nonpolitical experts to staff its ministries and regulatory bodies. However, it is something entirely else to have a government actually led by a non-elected technocrat. You may be tempted to think that technocrat governments are rare but in fact, during the period between World War II and 2013 there were 24 technocrat-led governments in Europe. The problem with technocrats is that they believe they are smarter and better than the population they oversee. Accordingly, they don’t necessarily see democracy as a useful function to their rule, unless of course it gives them more power. In that event, we see the rise, not of technocratic democracy, but of technocratic tyranny (arguably, Australia in 2021). No surprises then that Musk would view China as “the future”. In other words, as Winston Churchill was once smitten by the work of the fascist dictator Mussolini, so Musk is equally smitten by the communist ruling government in China. Why? Because they demand the complete obedience and subservience of their populations in order to drive their country forward economically and technologically.
Anyway, Musk’s latest bright idea is the development of a robot (or more specifically an artificial intelligence humanoid robot) called Optimus. Apparently, the robots will be designed to “eliminate dangerous repetitive, boring tasks” and respond to voice commands from their owners. The robot will be 173 centimetres tall and weigh 57 kilograms. For those concerned about a robot rebellion, the machine will be limited to a walking speed of 8 kilometres per hour (the average human only walks 5km/hr) and will be deliberately weak enough that most humans will be able to overpower it if needed (obviously not the frail, elderly or young though). Goodness me, as if the elderly don’t have enough to worry about – in the future they may be at risk of being mugged by both a human and a robot.
Anyway, it all sounds good in theory. After all, who wouldn’t want to simply be able to send their robot out to get a bottle of milk. We have husbands for that job now, but I am sure they would willingly hand over the task. Don’t get too excited – the robot is still in development. However, according to Musk, increasing automation will make physical work a choice in the future which will therefore have profound implications for the economy and therefore may require a universal basic income (UBI).
The concept of a UBI is hotly debated. Some see great merit in the idea, while others believe it could disincentivise a working ethic. Finland actually ran a two-year UBI study in 2017 and 2018 during which the government gave 2000 unemployed people, aged between 25 and 58, monthly payments with no strings attached. The payments were not means tested and were unconditional, meaning that if an individual got a job or later had a pay rise, the payments were not reduced.
Mark Twain once said, “Work is a necessary evil to be avoided”. However, we know that God created work as a stewardship of His creation (Genesis 1:28; 2:15). Therefore, as a rule, all legitimate work in the world has intrinsic value and God calls men and women to be faithful in working in various arenas as their service to Him. Of course, there are limits to that. We cannot endorse work in producing pornography or producing illicit drugs as inherently faithful or helpful to the world. At its core, we must remember that God, in His providence, works through our occupations to accomplish His work in the world. If that is the case, is the rise of a robot workforce something to be welcomed?