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The moral obligation in an automated future

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 3/27/2016 Category: Politics
Updated: 6 months ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 198 times Debate No: 88838
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (2)
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With the ever improving automated technology in industry, retail and vehicles it has been speculated that as many as 50% of all jobs could become automated by 2025. My question is not "is such automation moral", my question assumes such automation has already happened. In such a future, where a large chunk or even a majority of the jobs become automated and thus leads to massive unemployment, what moral obligation do the employed minority have to the unemployed if at all.

I am taking the side that there is no moral obligation by the employed to the unemployed.

I think that a welfare state of such a fashion is vastly different than those that exist now. Welfare in the US, I use this as an example as I am a resident of the US, is, at least in spirit, to give those under the poverty line a financial boost to rise above the line. Whether or not such a rise ever happens is irrelevant, the system was established to give the opportunity for such an economic elevation.

In a welfare state of majority unemployed and most likely unemployable the welfare would only sustain such a population and be nothing but a net drain on the economy.

To be clear I am not suggesting the unemployed should starve, or be eliminated in some way. I am asking for a debate about whether or not a moral obligation exists for skilled or executive employed citizens to support unemployable unskilled laborers or skilled workers with skills that could be replaced with automation.


Change scares people, but change drives innovation. I would assume that a debate similar to this occurred during the agricultural revolution, when instead of needing 200 people to work on a farm, there then only needed to be 5. Or maybe during the industrial revolution, when instead of the textile industry needing an absurd amount of labor to create a small amount of clothing, a machine could make it with 50 times the production speed of a human.

The point is that in a complex economy, things are going to change, evolve, and grow. Their will always be jobs for people. I am very confident in that. The only renowned economist I've seen blowing a whistle, pointing a finger, and jumping up and down about this issue is a socialist working for the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Debate Round No. 1


I am happy to welcome you to this debate. However, I must say I am confused by your opening statement as it does not address my question of whether a moral obligation exists between the employed and unemployed in a job poor and worker rich economy. When I posed the question I framed it to assume that such an economy exists not whether or not it is going to happen. I would appreciate it if you would address this question. I do not mind having a sub debate about the topic you brought up whether or not such an economy could exist.

To respond to your argument about whether or not such an economy could exist I would say your comparison between our current economic changes and those of the industrial revolution don't quite line up. The lack of jobs on farms was replaced because of a boom of industry in cities. Populations became focused in cities rather than in rural areas and because of this population density and boom of jobs the population naturally increased as did wages and over all production.

In our hypothetical automated economic situation both skilled and unskilled jobs are being taken over by automation without a clear alternative for the unemployed. Unskilled laborers are no longer needed in industry, retail, transportation, or agriculture where would new jobs arise for this massive portion of the population. Further what of those workers who have spent years developing a skill set like accountants, doctors, even lawyers that would now no longer have a job as an automated version has taken their place. They have lost years of their lives and tens of thousands in education to now be without a job. The industrial revolution went, relatively, well because as jobs left the farm they arose in the city. With the rise in automation the jobs decrease but there is no clear area with a job increase to alleviate the rise in unemployment.

Your confidence that there will always be jobs for people comes across as unfounded as you failed to mention where they would come from or why companies would continue to hire people when they could instead automate. I also do not understand your final sentence about the socialist.


What I was trying to get across was that the principle of this debate is very similar to worries that people had when farming started to get a lot more efficient. Economists of the time worried that their would be mass unemployment and that it would cause there to be such a large gap between the rich and poor casing their to be no middle class. They worried that it would cause us to either abandon the poor and let them starve to death, or to become a socialist country with taxes on the rich to support the poor. Also on the "sub debate" side of it, when you said that my comparison of the automation of industry didn't quite line up with the industrial revolution I think you were wrong. Their was no thought of the industrial revolution until their was enough people to create it. People lost their jobs on the farm and went to the city and that is what caused the industrial revolution. The jobs didn't exist until the change of populations in cities causes innovation in the way the textile and other industries operated.

compare that with your hypothetical, and also in my opinion impossible, situation of mass unemployment. I couldn't tell you where the jobs would come from because they don't exist yet, 80% of all jobs we are preparing our youth for don't exist yet! Furthermore, when technology is created, it is done by a very large group of people collaborating to form a working product. After a computer product is created it takes thousands of people to maintain it, for example, software updates and antivirus services, technicians to keep it running, the list goes on. On top of that, technology will not take over every job in any industry. Especially lawyers, I am not sure where you got that idea. Jobs like Maids, roofers, construction workers, biologists they will always be around. While unemployment rates may go up for a period of time while displaced workers try and find new jobs, the economy will find jobs for them eventually. It always has.

I understand that I might be arguing the principle of your initial question instead of plainly answering it, but in my opinion, their could not be a situation like you are describing. This is because the economy would not allow itself to get to that point.
Debate Round No. 2


I will first start with your addressing of the main debate. Again whether or not the economy is viable to exist is irrelevant to the question, it is a hypothetical to allow the debate of a bigger question. If you have ever taken a physics class something similar is used to teach basic physics. Whenever you need to teach velocity, momentum and other basics of physics, equations and scenarios are set up without incorporating fiction and other forces that would complicate the equation and make it difficult to teach. A frictionless world is impossible, but that does not mean using and examining one is useless. In the same way, though this hypothetical world is impossible, according to you, it does not invalidate the debate around it.

In reference to our sub debate the wide spread mechanization of farmland replacing field hands happened decades later than the industrial revolution. European industry was already rising when agriculture became more mechanized and the jobs pulled people into the cities not because of the lack of work in the fields but because a person could make much more money in a factory than cutting wheat. Especially when you come to look at america where mechanized agriculture took decades to incorporate into the 20th century despite factories and industry existing since 1790.

Your basis for denying that jobs could be automated simply because you can not imagine it is not a valid way to nullify my argument. Construction workers, maids, roofers, and biologists have already been downsized due to technology in the last century why would it not be the same in the next? Your example of a computer technology also does not hold up when you consider that most of those jobs you mention could be replaced by theoretical AI or automated machines designed to do that. I am aware that no such technology exists but that does not disqualify it from existing in the future. While you say that technology could not take over every job in any industry semantically I agree however they could theoretically, and definitely hypothetically, replace enough jobs so that where ten, twenty even a hundred people worked before now only one does.

Above is a link to an almost 100% automated farm that exists today. It can produce 21-50 thousand heads of lettuce a day without human involvement.

Above is a link to a robot that can clean your floors.

above is a link to a robot that can lay brick streets.

With the rate technology is going these machines could easily be improved and become more and more prevalent as we progress forward. Each of these machines, and their advanced improved versions that will be made in the future, do and will continue to replace human jobs.


funny, I actually have that robot sweeper! IT SUCKS, no pun intended. My problem with it and other innovations is that they aren't practical, they are expensive and don't work well. You are right, I bet that will change, but that will require people working for years and years to get to that point, so by the time we do their will be some other form of employment that will employ the displaced workers. Also I'm very unimpressed by the break laying "robot" as it looks to me like more of a mold that holds the bricks while small wheels and gravity push the bricks down, I hope you noticed that there was at least three people in the video working to enable the machine to do its work.

To your example of studying physics in a vacuum id like to remind you that when you study torque, for example, you use the pretend vacuum scenario to simply everything. no need to account for gravity, friction, moisture etc.. but torque is still a real thing. your scenario of pretty much everyone being unemployed facile. its like me asking the question if their was no such thing as light, would be all be black? the question is dumb because there is such thing as light, without it we would be dead.

Although I don't like the basis of the question I will go along with it now. I would say that if something like that were to happen, then a few things could occur, first, an uprising by the have-nots to create a pure form of socialism like what Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels called for. second, a war or disease would kill off a large portion of the world leaving only a few people left to live a labor free life of luxury. Third, and my favorite, The robots of the world could rebel and try to kill everyone. The only person that could stop that would be Will Smith.
Debate Round No. 3
2 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Posted by Jpw 6 months ago
I'm guessing not! With such strict requirements to be eligible to vote I can see why.
Posted by Hakkayo 6 months ago
Does anybody even vote on these things
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