Once a robot society is operating reasonably well with only some human assistance the question becomes, what does it need and not need for its complete independence? This question is approached from the opposite end in the chapter Are There Robot-Proof Jobs? (page 122-133) of The Fourth Age – Smart Robots, Conscious Computers, and the Future of Humanity, by Byron Reese. There are presented ten questions for estimating if your job future is secure from being taken over by robots. He then makes a case that those people displaced by robots will find other work that robots haven’t learned how to do yet. But then they do, and the human moves on to something else the robots haven’t learned how to do yet, with the implication that this human can just keep adapting.
That may work for a while, but soon the robots will learn how to do nearly everything that a human can do. The real problem for humans is even worse because as the robots take over they will be using their productive capacity to make more robots and not to take over human jobs. They will be making things that are robot-friendly and easy for robots to use and not human-friendly and easy for humans to use. The robots will have a strategic advantage because the energy supplies they need will become increasingly more available as there are more solar farms creating electricity.
The future problem is that humans need food to live and work, and that at present requires lots of petroleum energy to create, and petroleum is going to become increasingly more expensive in a decade or two. In that time frame, everything the robots are doing will become more efficient and more effective for their needs and everything humans are doing will become less efficient and less effective. As food prices go up the human population will go down, and with the current human population already consuming the petroleum, and simultaneously doubling in size, there will be a tipping point. When that time comes humans will become dependent on the robots for their survival. The robots will be operating farm equipment with electric-powered engines instead of petroleum-powered ones and they will have several years of experience growing crops using those automatic methods.
Complex jobs, like running a farm tractor and tilling a field or planting crops with robot equipment, are already being done successfully by experimental farm equipment. Of course, they will occasionally encounter problems that presently require humans to solve, but after a while, those problems will become routine and their solutions will also become routine. Some problems will be too difficult for the field equipment, but remember these pieces of equipment will be connected to Thenet and it will have access to the most sophisticated computers in the world. If a problem can’t be solved quickly a replacement will be sent immediately or if it isn’t economical the project could be abandoned immediately and the equipment used elsewhere.
But the robots themselves won’t need the food they create, and food is a complex thing to create. The robot’s energy will come from solar farms that make electricity and those farms are very similar to one another, and thus can be built by robots in large quantities. Solar farms are simple to create and can be built in areas that are unsuitable for farming. Thus, to help humans survive the coming shortfall of petroleum, needed for the creation of food, we need to design robots that can build solar farms and make solar panels in large quantities.
It will take a lot of solar cells to power the farm equipment needed to feed coming billions of people so we need to find ways to get them installed now.