While discussing some observation my brother made on how automated many places these days have become like checking-in at airports, ordering at some fast food chains, even returning trays in food courts, I started imagining this:
Take a billion dollar company like Amazon. We have these high-end computers working 24x7 to let consumers shop for products by displaying them on their screens, personalizing the catalog on the fly for each customer and taking their orders. Automated chat bots have already started to intelligently provide customer support for most issues, track orders and give necessary updates. With news about Amazon testing robots for managing their warehouses and drones for delivery, I can already foresee a fully automated e-commerce system that can run efficiently without human intervention.
A drone developed by a start-up called Infinium Robotics is seen here delivering food in Singapore at Timbre Group of restaurants
To stock up their stores, Amazon has to rely on their suppliers shipping them stuff. I imagine pilotless ships taking thousands of containers to warehouses worldwide. Plug in the master super-computers of Amazon and we have a system that automatically places orders with suppliers based on customer demand for specific products and inventory checks. And I imagine driverless trucks loaded and unloaded by robots carrying these containers from suppliers to the ships at the source and then to the warehouses of Amazon at the destination.
Now I see a fully automated system powered by a super intelligence in the form of thousands of high-end computers and intelligent robots linked together on high-speed networks working 24x7 to generate billions, even trillions of dollars in revenue each year. And all this by a company run by one founder sitting at home in front of a terminal, and probably a small team that oversees each automated department in the business just to assure ourselves humans are still the masters and give customers a human touch whenever necessary.
This kind of future which seems entirely plausible looks scary to me. And I wonder if it can ever happen?
What will happen to the thousands of jobs that are lost as computers take over most departments in many industries? How will people earn? Will they have enough money for spending first place? Would rapid deployment of automation in many industries controlled by a small number of people with the money to buy such supercomputing power create huge wealth divides, destroy our economies, create civil unrest taking us back to the dark ages?
Will it all crash suddenly or will we find ways to share and own computing resources and profit from it somehow equally? Or would the world be a place full of humans slaves, run by robots which in turn are controlled by a handful of filthy rich people?
It would be interesting and also important to know the answers to these questions.