Serious Question: How Will Workers Make Billionaires Richer if Billionaires Automate All the Workers' Jobs?
The elite end game is mathematically ridiculous and morally reprehensible
Hyper-elites aren’t thinking straight about the end game.
Case in point: Elon Musk wants to build automated car factories that can build more automated car factories.
It’s a cool idea until you realize Musk will inevitably run into the Henry Ford Problem.
According to legend, Ford realized that cars were expensive and workers weren’t paid enough to afford cars. So Ford made it his mission to build cars affordably and pay his workers well enough that they could all afford to buy a Ford.
Musk does the opposite: he builds expensive cars and wants to do so without any employees.
It’s the same for billionaires around the world.
Human workers — the people who have done all the real contributive work for all of human civilization — are just a pesky expense line that elites are happily erasing in order to pad their bottom lines.
But don’t worry: Techno-delusionists believe humans are so creative that we’ll always find a way to create new jobs.
But efficiency-driven capitalism demands evermore specialization, meaning tomorrow’s jobs will inevitably be more miserable for the human species, which is hardwired for newness and variety. (Plus, the future’s jobs will be poorly paid, and entirely without rights and benefits in the gig economy.)
These hopium-filled tech folks are also conveniently ignoring the fact that the same billionaires who are creating widespread joblessness are also evading taxation and undermining democracy so there isn’t a meaningful social safety net for all the people they’re currently hurling through the cracks.
We can hope and dream that maybe tech will magically create more jobs in the shiny future, but it’s cold comfort for the 500,000+ Americans who will sleep on the streets tonight.
But that still doesn’t fix the long-term problem that Musk et al are creating.
What happens when billions of humans are deemed economically irrelevant when computing power bests brainpower, AI knows us better than anyone, and 24/7 robots perform tasks far more efficiently than “mere” homo sapien ever could?
The math is clear: Without the vast majority of people possessing well-paying jobs and having affordable things to spend that money on, the economy simply collapses.
Makers versus takers
There is good news on the enlightenment front: People are starting to realize that the ultra-rich are absolutely useless.
Contributive workers are responsible for 100% of the wealth of society — first through their work, and just as importantly, through their consumer spending.
Here’s how a reader recently put it:
“You know what creates jobs? Consumer demand. Period. When people don’t have money or jobs, demand goes down. Give a thousand people a thousand dollars, and a million dollars flows into the economy.”
If you give a billionaire a million dollars, they just add it to their war chest to amass more power and destroy more jobs. Billionaires don’t create jobs, they concentrate them.
Please think about this long and hard, friends.
Elon Musk, the wealthiest man in the world, would have literally zero dollars without:
A politically stable and taxpayer-funded infrastructure-rich nation in which to manufacture and sell his products
$10+ billion in subsidies from taxpayers
70,000+ contributors to do the actual work
Millions of value-creating consumers to buy the actual products
The billionaire sycophant now cries:
“Sure, but what about the initial capital to start companies?”
Investor-class capital is simply previously-extracted worker wealth.
Wake up, America.
Billionaires are extractors, not contributors.
We the people need to think far better of ourselves.
Ironically, worker skills and expertise are now being used to build the weapons of our own demise. But billionaires can’t seem to understand that once all the workers are out of work, billionaires are almost immediately out of billions.
The end game
We don’t have the same goal as billionaire corporatists.
Our goal is socioenviroeconomic sustainability; widest-spread wellbeing over the longest term; the perpetual flourishing of all living things for as long as possible.
Their goal is to extract private profits off of contributing workers and weaponize that capital to compound extractive gains unsustainably forever.
Don’t they realize it will only lead to everyone’s ultimate doom?
The super-rich aren’t thinking straight
We’ve got a world exploding with people.
We’ve got a scorching planet on the verge of ecological collapse.
We’ve got an automation-induced joblessness crisis on the horizon.
10 billion people + joblessness + resource shortages + widespread poverty = ???
Everything points to Armageddon, or at the very least, multiple civil wars.
So what are the rich doing about it?
Profiting from the death spiral.
Preparing for Armageddon.
The elites aren’t stupid. Even if there’s a 5% chance of a major regional or global uprising in their lifetime, it’s worth allocating 5% of their worker-derived wealth to hedge their bets.
The elites aren’t stupid… but they are short-sighted.
Because what happens if a true collapse does occur?
Where do the rich end up?
Isolated and stuck in an underground bunker. (IE billionaire Peter Thiel, who’s supposedly building one in New Zealand.)
Isolated and stuck in a spaceship. (IE billionaire Elon Musk, who hopes to die on Mars.)
Isolated and stuck on a private island. (IE billionaire Larry Ellison, who owns the island of Lanai in Hawaii.)
Isolated and stuck on a private yacht. (IE billionaire Jeff Bezos, who is currently building a superyacht that’s so large it requires a second support yacht with a helipad.)
Setting aside the fact that homo sapiens aren’t adapted for long-term enclosure — in all these doomsday scenarios, the rich end up isolated and alone.
Is that really their long-term game plan?
Is that their brilliant Plan B backup for society?
Is that their vision of human flourishing?
The billionaire council
If I was one of the richest people in the world, I’d get together the top few hundred wealthiest people for an End Game discussion.
I’d say something like, “Look, if we’re going to move full speed ahead with our AI automation joblessness agenda, it’s going to create billions of impoverished people who will hate us. We also need to face the fact that our companies have raped the planet to fill our bank accounts. And right now, 131 million new enemies are being born every single day, and there’s no way our families will survive if we can’t feed, clothe, and affordably house all 11 billion of them in 2100.”
So what should we, the hyper-wealthy do about it?
Let’s start by assuming that we are only as rich as our poorest neighbor and that we are only as safe as our most dangerous citizen.
Let’s also assume we’d like to reverse the destruction of the middle-class and avoid planetary collapse.
How the heck can we do that?
What if we invested heavily in incentivizing reasonable population sustainability? Everyone’s worried about population decline from an economic perspective, but we actually don’t need workers anymore — we’ve got AI robots coming to do most of the work.
What if we gave people an extremely generous universal basic income if they chose to have one or fewer biological kids? A hundred years from now, the planet would have half as many people, essentially doubling the number of resources available per person.
What if our global human goal wasn’t to pack as many people onto this planet as possible, but instead to maximize per capita human wellbeing?
A brighter tomorrow
Imagine the world of 2300 with just, say, one million people, but paired with the technological gains we’ve made in the past century — all owned more or less equally by all members of our global family.
Imagine a world where we re-grow the forests, re-stocked the oceans, and re-iced the poles.
Imagine being able to freely roam millions of acres of shared field and forest and river and stream.
Imagine being able to see smog-free stars.
Imagine no one needing to work jobs they hate.
Imagine no more poverty or need.
Increasing shared natural resources + increasing shared technology + decreasing population = Super-abundance.
But it’s not going to happen.
Instead, we’re heading for a Mad Max wasteland… but dotted with very posh prison compounds for the wealthiest among us.
The ultra-elites have one ultimate goal: To be the last family standing. As such, they’re engaged in a dog-eat-dog-survival-of-the-fittest game of thrones, trying to monopolize as much land, money, resource, and power as possible. While people and the planet suffer and wither, they live comfortably and outrageously, never tamping their desire to accumulate more.
It’s not a very inspiring vision for humanity.
But the heart-breaking fact is that most ultra-wealthy people already live their lives in loneliness and isolation.
They can’t just go out for lunch like a normal person.
They can’t safely go for a walk down the street at night.
They can’t let their kids go off to school without bodyguards.
They’re under constant pressure to compete with global economic forces.
They live under the threat of political targeting.
They live with the knowledge that the contributor class hates them.
They can’t trust the large majority of the people they meet, including potential life mates.
In the case of many billionaires like Sumner Redstone and Rupert Murdoch — as so brilliantly portrayed in Succession — they can’t even trust their own children.
So who knows… maybe isolation-for-everyone is their subconscious long-term game plan.
Maybe they want all of us to feel the way they do.
Jared A. Brock is an award-winning biographer, PBS documentarian, and the cell-free founder of the popular futurist blog Surviving Tomorrow, where he provides thoughtful people with contrarian perspectives on the corporatist anti-culture. His writing has appeared in Esquire, The Guardian, Smithsonian, USA Today, and TIME Magazine, and he has traveled to more than forty countries including North Korea. Join 20,000+ people who follow him on Medium, Twitter, and Substack.