Automation, robotics and machine learning will, as many august bodies, from the Bank of England to the White House, have predicted, substantially shrink the work force, creating widespread technological unemployment. But that’s only a problem if you think work — as a cashier, driver or construction worker — is something to be cherished. For many, work is drudgery. And automation could set us free from it.
Gene editing and sequencing could revolutionize medical practice, moving it from reactive to predictive. Hereditary diseases could be eliminated, including Huntington’s disease, cystic fibrosis and sickle cell anemia, and cancer cured before it reaches Stage 1. Those technologies could allow us to keep pace with the health challenges presented by societal aging — by 2020 there will be more people over the age of 60 than under the age of 5 — and even to surpass them.
What’s more, renewable energy, which has been experiencing steep annual falls in cost for half a century, could meet global energy needs and make possible the vital shift away from fossil fuels. More speculatively, asteroid mining — whose technical barriers are presently being surmounted — could provide us with not only more energy than we can ever imagine but also more iron, gold, platinum and nickel. Resource scarcity would be a thing of the past.