Hawking: Greedy capitalists may pocket wealth as robots replace human workers
The scientist was commenting on so-called technological unemployment, a trend of automatization taking over the jobs that previously required humans. According to some estimates, in a matter of decades robots may become better and cheaper than humans in most tasks and make most of the human workforce unemployable.
Hawkins believes that in such a scenario we should expect not prosperity but drastic economic inequality in the future.
“If machines produce everything we need, the outcome will depend on how things are distributed,” he said in a Reddit Ask Me Anything session Thursday.
“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 the second option, with technology driving ever-increasing inequality.”
Hawkins’ previous predictions of emerging threats dealt with automatic weapons controlled by artificial intelligence (AI) and the potential dangers of actively searching for alien life.
Economic inequality is a problem growing worse in developed countries. According to the OECD, the situation is worse than 30 years now, with the US and Israel performing worst.