People have been being replaced since the beginning.
Top tier humans have been replacing their goods-producing entities since the advent of civilization. The first replacements were other humans somehow forced into labor either by slavery or by a social arrangement which gave them more goods for their labor than they could supply to themselves. Early on animals replaced some humans by being domesticated and forced to perform physical labor such as plowing fields and hauling materials. By 1500 AD energy was being gotten from falling water, using water wheels, and from wind using wind mills and sails on ships. By 1800 fossil fuel in the form of coal was powering steam engines for lifting, hauling, transportation and weaving. 1900 saw machines doing tabulating of data which was formerly a human mental job. 2000 had computers and their robots taking over the creative work of making new complex machines like airplanes as well as the routine physical manufacturing.
By 2011 untended machines plow and harvest fields, manufacture complex products like automobiles, and wage robotic war within human specified zones. Untended automobiles are now instructed to drive from one point to some distant point through complex environments. The creation of food and goods, and the waging of war which was formerly done by human workers is now being done, in some locations, wholly by machines. Even the most human of work, the creating of new and useful things, is being done by machines. This trend is presently accelerating, and if it is as successful as it appears it is going to be, then the need for human physical labor and mental input will end. The top tier humans will no longer have need for human workers and the robots will do everything they need done.
Who will be the benefactors of hyper-modern robot technology?
The top tier humans have always been the primary benefactors of all of the progress made by human ingenuity, but most of humanity is presently enjoying considerable benefits of it also. There is a temporary abundance of food which permits a lower percentage of humanity living with hunger than ever before, and most people have at least some access to the high-tech world.
The cheap and long term benefit of technology, for most people, will be in the form of entertainment. Once that information has been created, packaged and stored and the machines to view it in place, the entertainment can be provided virtually free to anyone and almost without cost or consumption of further energy to power the system. A separate issue is the price of food. Food will continue to rise in price as the population grows and arable land remains constant. The price of technical devices will continue to drop as their creation is done by machines and they are made permanently failure proof. The distant future may witness massive numbers of humans starving to death while watching high quality surround sound 3D HDTV.
The need for humans is fading away.
The most human of all activities, that of humans motivating other humans to do things, may fade away. Even the actors in the entertainment industry, and politicians in the motivation industry, are being replaced by super quality animation. Androids are being made which simulate living people who are approaching being indistinguishable from real humans. Also, because entertainment can be stored, over the years there will be far more available than can ever be witnessed. Netflix already has a hundred thousand titles and enough movies for a lifetime of near constant viewing. Interactive games may come to the rescue and displace overly formulaic and rigid movies, and they are infinitely extensible in time. However, humans themselves become mere extensions of the entertainment machines and the machines have no need of humans. The stored memory doesn’t need humans, the machinery for presenting the stored data doesn’t need humans, and thus as this technology matures, humans themselves are no longer needed for creating or providing the entertainment to other humans. The need for humans to exist to provide the goods and services to make human society function has vanished.
Why feed billions humans when they don’t contribute to society?
If people are not contributing to the goods and services wanted by other people then their reason for existing, for all of those other people, vanishes. Humanity then exists only for the purpose of consuming goods and media but not for helping other humans. That doesn’t seem sustainable as a reason for existence. In the past people existed for other people, but in this Robotic New World, robots exist to fulfill people’s needs, and humans are superfluous consumers of food and energy. The need for human workers evaporates and with that the need to maintain billions of them. This trend bothers me!
Humans derive their life meaning by serving other humans.
I am a human and as a human I want humanity to maximize its vitality and contentment. But, how can we be contented if our lives have no purpose? In the really long run, say trillions of years, the struggles of humanity become absolutely meaningless, but in the ten year, hundred year or even thousand year future I can imagine personal and human impact and meaning. Many individuals and societies more than a thousand years gone are still having real effects on our daily lives, so it is easy to imagine that some things we are now doing will have an impact in that time frame.
To talk in terms of permanent human aspirations, or even trillion year plans is clearly absurd and to talk of thousand year projects requires planning for very general types of things. A hundred year plan is clearly doable and is done in many engineering projects and ten years is within most individuals’ personal striving. When looked at in this more limited way we can choose to do things which are helpful to other people and that is what gives us personal satisfaction. We should do things for other people which we can comprehend as being meaningful to them and to ourselves.
The robots may serve us but we gain contentment by serving each other.