Worldwide the population is aging: according to the NIH "the world’s older population continues to grow at an unprecedented rate. In 2016 8.5 percent of people worldwide (617 million) are aged 65 and over. According to a report, “An Aging World: 2015(link is external),” this percentage is projected to jump to nearly 17 percent of the world’s population by 2050 (1.6 billion)."
Simultaneously, in the U.S., we are experiencing what Jill Lepore calls " the downward compression of the labor market". In her recent article for The New Yorker Ms. Lepore writes:
"In “The Globotics Upheaval,” Richard Baldwin predicts that the march of the robots will have four stages: transformation, upheaval, backlash, and resolution. The resolution will involve what he calls “shelterism.” Once white-collar workers realize that their jobs are on the line, too, they’ll find ways to protect themselves by “sheltering” certain activities, things that only humans can do. He explains, “This will mean that our work lives will be filled with far more caring, sharing, understanding, creating, empathizing, innovating, and managing people who are actually in the same room. This is a logical inevitability—everything else will be done by globots.” The catch is that, historically, caring, sharing, understanding, and empathizing with people who are in the same room as you has been the work of women, and is therefore either unpaid, and not recognized as work, or paid very badly. Childcare, elementary-school teaching, nursing, geriatric care, and social work will not suddenly become high-paying, high-prestige professions simply because everything else is done by robots. If that were going to happen, it would already be happening, because we already know that these jobs require beings who are human. Instead, something darker is going on, mirrored in the feminizing of robots, from the male robots of the nineteen-sixties and seventies—Hal, R2-D2, C-3PO, and Mr. Robinson’s robot on “Lost in Space”—to the fembots and sexbots of “Her” and “Ex Machina,” and, not least, the sexy and slavish Alexa. Female workers aren’t being paid more for being human; instead, robots are selling better when they’re female."
Should we (mostly women) who are currently unpaid or underpaid caregivers be championing the potential of our work becoming "high prestige" or fearful that by it becoming "high prestige" we will be aced out of the deal? Probably both. The advances that are being made in smart homes, AI healthcare and personal robotics will certainly help those of us with access to live better and possibly more independently longer. There will no doubt be a vast have- and -have-not divide.
We are now in such uncharted territory that no sentient being would predict what the next decade might bring. We know there will be more of us over 65. More people living to be "the oldest old" needing some assistance. Most of us long to live independently in the home that we love for our entire life.
How much value is there in having a robot make your tea if there is no one to share it with? It is possible that robots will free the few caregivers there are to spend their time on more humane and human only tasks.
We will just have to wait and see.