The Future of Social Welfare; AI, Automation and Robotics.

The Future of Social Welfare; AI, Automation and Robotics.

To understand the future of social welfare in the context of AI, automation and robotics, I will begin with an analogy. A while ago, I walked into the kitchen space and met a colleague frying some sausage. His eyes were off the frying pan for a moment, and he asked me whether I see people in kitchens of the future. I replied that robots already occupy some kitchens.

He didn’t stop there. He went ahead to pick my brain about home kitchens of the future. He asked me if people would have a place in their home kitchens in the future. I may be called a futuristic optimist, but I foresee a possibility of robots taking over the majority of home kitchens as well. And now that begs the question, what happens to chefs?

For a fact, not only kitchens are or will be seeing disruptions and loss of jobs but other areas of the economy as well. Precision surgery and agriculture mean that even some jobs that looked secure back then cannot boast of being immune to changes brought by AI and robotics anymore.

Automation and Robotics

In the manufacturing sector, for instance, automation has increased productivity, reduced takt and lead times drastically, increased efficiency on the shop floor and helped companies cut down on operational costs. All these have come at a cost. More and more people are getting out of work and being replaced by machines.

And because these people are not able to find new jobs at the same rate there are losses, it thus means economies are now struggling with higher levels of joblessness. Middle-income countries are feeling the pinch big time because most of them don’t have strong social welfare. But even for high-income economies, the effect of higher job losses translates to increased dependence on the government to support the jobless people.

It is not surprising then that we might be at a level in the future where ideally supposing population growth continues at current rates, people will be paid to be out of work so that machines (robots) can take over. The governments will then impose taxes on companies in a smarter way to raise money to support the people replaced by machines.

Impact on Social Welfare

In a more bizarre situation, the governments will be forced to pay people to simply stay home and do nothing. At that point, demand for social welfare will burgeon and governments will need other ways to take care of the crisis. It is not far-fetched so to say.

Another thing will be the increased healthcare costs. Going with the current lifestyle where people are eating ‘well’ and not exercising, increased obesity cases and ailments as a result of lifestyle will more than double especially in higher-income countries.

Interestingly though, middle and lower-income countries will struggle with access to quality medical care support as people will not have jobs nor will there be social welfare. This simply means more people will not be able to afford proper diets and regular medical checkups. And because the design of social welfare varies drastically, people will struggle even more as they pool up resources to care for each other at an individual level.

One possibility may be shared the world over by most governments though. That is, to let the people fend it out on their own since the demand for social welfare may or will outgrow the government’s ability. Though a joke goes around that if governments cut down on their expenditure in wars, they can manage somehow. That is another fix that those in leadership might find themselves cornered on; balancing the public expenditure.

For now, there is no slowing in the demand for technological innovation across our different areas of life. And not just demand, but the innovation supply and the perception of ideality regarding quality of life means that the uptake cannot be slowed down either.

Machines, People and Social Welfare

AI is revolutionizing all the areas of our lives, organizations are automating in a bid to be lean and robots are proving to be effective, efficient and cost-effective compared to using people. The ‘war’ now is between people and machines and as your guess is as good as mine, the machines have become smarter, and so we can predict the outcome.

The major victim now becomes social welfare. There will be a need to find ways to strengthen the social welfare fund, reserve or practice or whatever name it may be called to safeguard the people. Otherwise, history will replay, and war become the new levelling element.

Yet amid this war, social welfare will still be the loser. Either way, social welfare is the component to watch.

Geoffrey Ndege

Geoffrey Ndege

Geoffrey Ndege is the Editor and topical contributor for the Daily Focus. He writes in the areas of Science, Manufacturing, Technology, Innovation, Governance, Management and International Emerging Issues. For featuring, promotions or support, reach out to us at info@dailyfocus.co.ke
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