we're going to need to do some more serious big thinking about more than "work", which is too narrow now. We need to figure how how we're going to "occupy" people in the transition from post-industrial/service/information technology society to a roboticized, post-scarcity, arts and leisure society. If handled poorly, "social unrest", mass protests, and outright violence may be become a regular part of the landscape, what with millions of always-idle, impoverished people just sitting on the sidelines, ignored. How long could this last? One hundred years, perhaps? That's a long time to have constant social upheaval.
Sci-fi has dystopias full of rebellious robots, human vs. robot warfare, grappling with what it means to be sentient, etc. but have startlingly little that deals with a much more realistic question: what does a society where human labor is being made redundant look like in terms of day-to-day human behavior?
I've said in this a number of times in the past, but this position is still at the fringes. Over the coming years, the consequences of mass automation and even "stupid" AI are going to come to a fore. Another entrant in the "automated future" analysis genre appeared recently: "Will robots steal your job?" It's definitely worth reading.
One thing I would like to see done sooner than later, is the analysis of what I touched in my quote: the occupation of people in a world where most human labor is unnecessary. Encouraging the arts and music, competitive games, and various leisure activities, are probably a given (and not much encouragement is likely to even be necessary, since many will do these things on their own given the ability to do so.) The other piece of the puzzle is the one that's really going to need a great deal of thought: how do we support them, and just as importantly, how do we run an economy where 40, 50, 60 of the population does not work (and thus, under the current system, have no income)? The most obvious answer is to move towards a massive expansion of what we currently call the welfare state along with planned population policies (hard, but probably necessary.) The big difference? We'll be not just supporting jobless people, but the economy itself (we can call it econofare or something.) What kind of economy can you have with few consumers? Not much of one. It will require a completely different perspective, one where it's not a bunch of unfortunate (or lazy, depending on your perspective) jobless people, but a bunch of people we essentially pay to be consumers. Items which are scarce will need special handling for sure (hopefully things like food and shelter can be made superabundant sooner than later), but for everything else, it'll be all about simply keeping the flow of money going. The main policy prescription here is the tax-free guaranteed income.
Edit: Two types of jobs I would add to the "won't be automated anytime soon" list:
- Jobs that exist to make others feel powerful/superior. Waiters, house-servants, massage therapists. They do have jobs that could certainly be automated, but you don't get the same feeling of "lording over" others with robots that you do with people.
- Interdisciplinary generalists (i.e., modern Jacks-of-all-trades.) This job isn't a single "job" at all, but a collection of jobs requiring the understanding and ability to synthesize knowledge from different (and sometimes disparate) areas. We will continue to automate parts of specific types of cross-discipline "tasks", but we won't be automating the big-picture viewers.