The people of Australia are aware of your desire that this nation and its people be agile, enterprising, and ever ready to adapt to change. I applaud your aspiration.
While some changes receive much publicity such as global warming, there is another, just as crucial, but which scarcely receives a mention. I am referring to the march of automation and the consequent displacement of humans from work they once did.
As robots progressively replace the workers who perform physical work, as algorithms make redundant people who perform cognitive tasks, the human toll increases as more and more are swept into unemployment.
The predictions are frightening. Robots are taking over jobs in manufacturing, agriculture, transport, tourism, hospitality, catering, retail, online sales, health and aged care, the service sector, and communications. Already, algorithms are being used in seventy percent of financial transactions. The trend is accelerating.
Whilst it is acknowledged that many benefits follow in the wake of automation and that productivity gains could be substantial, and while it is expected that automation will enhance national prosperity, the human cost is either being ignored or discounted by planners.
It is predicted that in the decades ahead many millions of people will lose their jobs, both here and overseas, leaving them without an income, dependent on welfare for survival.
Inequality, already high and rising, will be exacerbated.
Which brings me to the purpose of this letter.
Since it is the function of governments, civil authorities and planners to predict the future and plan for it, I seek your response to these questions:
- What steps has your government taken to address the issue of automation and its sequelae?
- Is there a department, a parliamentary committee, or an external body or group that has been commissioned to address the issue of automation?
If there is such a group:
- What are the predictions about the proliferation of robots and algorithms?
- Over what time frame has the predictions been made?
- What effects are predicted to result from automation?
- As people are displaced by automation and become unemployed, what provision is being made for their welfare and that of their dependents?
- Has any consideration been given to the idea of guaranteeing all who unsuccessfully seek work or become unemployed a universal basic wage to enable their survival?
- Does your government have a plan to manage this radical change to the work environment and the social contract of work for all?
I seek answers as a concerned citizen, deeply troubled by what lies ahead as automation takes its toll on our people.
I will anxiously await your response to my queries. In my view, in the same way as global warming threatens physical existence on our planet for all living things, automation threatens the very fabric of our human society. Both threats are dangerous; both demand the urgent attention of those to whom we have entrusted our future.
What do you think?
Have you seen any signs of Turnbull or his ministers taking any preemptive action on automation?
What action should he take?
Let us know in comments below.