If machines produce everything we need, the outcome will depend on how things are distributed. ~Stephen Hawking AMA on capitalism and robots
Adam Rifkin stashed this in Robot Jobs
Machines won't bring about the economic robot apocalypse. Greedy humans will:
In a Reddit Ask Me Anything session on Thursday, Stephen Hawking predicted that economic inequality will skyrocket as more jobs become automated and the rich owners of machines refuse to share their fast-proliferating wealth.
If machines produce everything we need, the outcome will depend on how things are distributed. Everyone can enjoy a life of luxurious leisure if the machine-produced wealth is shared, or most people can end up miserably poor if the machine-owners successfully lobby against wealth redistribution. So far, the trend seems to be toward the second option, with technology driving ever-increasing inequality.
Essentially, machine owners will become the bourgeoisie of a new era, in which the corporations they own won't provide jobs to actual human workers.
3000 comments in yesterday's Stephen Hawking AMA:
What is the role of consumption in this? You can have all the production in the world, but without mass consumption it isn't creating wealth in the way we call "capitalism". It would be more like... ancient Egyptian slavery but with robot slaves. You'd have your .01% who own all the means of production, and presumably live godlike lives -- maybe even forever -- and perhaps a smallish clerical staff of programmers who make the robots and acquire the raw materials until the robots learn to make themselves. EVERY OTHER HUMAN BEING would be redundant to the system.
Without consumption there cannot be an economy because there's no one to sell to.
So you're right, it makes humans useless to the system: