Before he died Stephen Hawking warned the world about the potential destructive power robots can have on society.
In his last AMA Reddit session in 2016, a question was put to him about the negative impact that technology can have on employment rates.
The Reddit user asked him:
I'm rather late to the question-asking party, but I'll ask anyway and hope. Have you thought about the possibility of technological unemployment, where we develop automated processes that ultimately cause large unemployment by performing jobs faster and/or cheaper than people can perform them?
Some compare this thought to the thoughts of the Luddites, whose revolt was caused in part by perceived technological unemployment over 100 years ago. In particular, do you foresee a world where people work less because so much work is automated?
Hawking used the opportunity to advocate for wealth redistribution:
If machines produce everything we need, the outcome will depend on how things are distributed.
Everyone can enjoy a life of luxurious leisure if the machine-produced wealth is shared, or most people can end up miserably poor if the machine-owners successfully lobby against wealth redistribution.
So far, the trend seems to be toward [sic] the second option, with technology driving ever-increasing inequality.
Or what the kids are calling fully automated luxury communism.
Hawking has previously warned that mass automation might have a negative impact on the work force. In a column in The Guardian, he wrote:
The automation of factories has already decimated jobs in traditional manufacturing, and the rise of artificial intelligence is likely to extend this job destruction deep into the middle classes, with only the most caring, creative or supervisory roles remaining.
Anxieties about technology are wide-reaching and they're not unfounded.
A study by McKinsey Global found that advances in artificial intelligence will mean some 800 million jobs could be lost across the world due to automation.
In a separate report by Citibank and the University of Oxford, results warned that 47 per cent of US jobs are under risk of automation. In the UK, that number is still high at 35 per cent, and in China it’s 77 per cent.