Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
  #1  
Old 09-11-2019, 03:20 PM
Exapno Mapcase is online now
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2002
Location: NY but not NYC
Posts: 31,618

SF novels about jobs taken by robots and automation


Kurt Vonnegut's first novel, Player Piano, was a dystopia set in a future America where almost all manufacturing jobs have been replaced by automation.

It didn't happen then, but the issue is back in the news. Are there recent books that take on the issue of jobs being lost across all society, either to robots or machines more generally? Individual job loss, like robot cops or somesuch, isn't what I'm looking for.

By recent I mean this decade, maybe the last decade if the book is wholly devoted to the subject, but not anything 20th century. The book doesn't have to be labeled as sf. Any future that talks about how the world will change, even if marketed as mainstream, is wanted.
  #2  
Old 09-11-2019, 03:23 PM
Thudlow Boink's Avatar
Thudlow Boink is online now
Charter Member
 
Join Date: May 2000
Location: Lincoln, IL
Posts: 27,549
I almost wrote, "Hey, Exapno Mapcase wrote a whole book about robots. Maybe he'd know!" Then I saw who posted the thread.
  #3  
Old 09-11-2019, 05:15 PM
alphaboi867 is online now
Member
 
Join Date: Feb 2005
Location: the Keystone State
Posts: 14,412
I remember a young adult book where automation was used in response to a severe population decline, but then the population rebounded and most adults were consigned to a lifetime of unemployment (also the life expectancy was only in the 60s). The protagonists were recent graduates of a boarding school who couldn't find jobs and were assigned to live in a ghetto for the unemployed. Only the employed (or presumably independently wealthy) had civil rights. The protagonists ended up in testing a hyper realistic VR game that turned out to be survival training for an interstellar colony. They didn't really what was really happening until after they'd been dropped on the new planet with just the clothes on their backs. I can't remember the title, but I think I may have asked about it on this board before.
__________________
No Gods, No Masters
  #4  
Old 09-11-2019, 05:26 PM
Little Nemo is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Dec 1999
Location: Western New York
Posts: 82,374
Saturn's Children (2008) and Neptune's Brood (2013) by Charles Stross are in the neighbourhood of what you're looking for. They're about societies composed entirely of robots and AI machines because humans have become extinct. (I've read Saturn's Children but I haven't read Neptune's Brood.)
  #5  
Old 09-11-2019, 07:23 PM
Exapno Mapcase is online now
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2002
Location: NY but not NYC
Posts: 31,618
Quote:
Originally Posted by Thudlow Boink View Post
I almost wrote, "Hey, Exapno Mapcase wrote a whole book about robots. Maybe he'd know!" Then I saw who posted the thread.
Yeah, it's embarrassing. In my defense, it's impossible to keep up with the present while spending all my time in the past. The field has grown so huge that hundreds of books might be out there that zoomed right past me.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Little Nemo View Post
Saturn's Children (2008) and Neptune's Brood (2013) by Charles Stross are in the neighbourhood of what you're looking for. They're about societies composed entirely of robots and AI machines because humans have become extinct. (I've read Saturn's Children but I haven't read Neptune's Brood.)
I'll check those out. I'm really looking for the effect on humans, though, and how they cope in a world without work.
  #6  
Old 09-11-2019, 08:36 PM
Snowboarder Bo's Avatar
Snowboarder Bo is online now
Member
 
Join Date: May 2005
Location: Las Vegas
Posts: 27,498
Isaac Asimov's Profession isn't a novel, but it is brilliant. Kinda only tangentially related to the OP, too, maybe.

Last edited by Snowboarder Bo; 09-11-2019 at 08:39 PM.
  #7  
Old 09-11-2019, 09:48 PM
Exapno Mapcase is online now
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2002
Location: NY but not NYC
Posts: 31,618
The story is from 1957. Please, 21st century only.
  #8  
Old 09-11-2019, 09:59 PM
Little Nemo is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Dec 1999
Location: Western New York
Posts: 82,374
Quote:
Originally Posted by Exapno Mapcase View Post
I'm really looking for the effect on humans, though, and how they cope in a world without work.
I realize it falls outside your timeline, but John Varley sort of touches on the subject you've described. He doesn't have any robots in his Eight Worlds series (that I recall) but he shows humans living in a society where all of their needs are catered to them by an AI computer and many people have begun to feel like there's no purpose to life. If you haven't read it, I'd recommend Steel Beech (1992) as the work that most directly addresses this theme.
  #9  
Old 09-11-2019, 10:06 PM
Andy L is online now
Member
 
Join Date: Oct 2000
Posts: 6,668
Pohl's "O Pioneer " has technological unemployment as a key part of the setting - but it's from 1998.
  #10  
Old 09-11-2019, 10:10 PM
Andy L is online now
Member
 
Join Date: Oct 2000
Posts: 6,668
Ah. How about Vinge's Rainbow's End, where everyone is desperately trying to keep up with tech and expecting that the job he has today won't exist in 2 years (actually that description fits the novella that was the precursor to RE better than the novel does - the novella was Fast Times at Fairmont High)

Last edited by Andy L; 09-11-2019 at 10:13 PM.
  #11  
Old 09-11-2019, 10:11 PM
Snowboarder Bo's Avatar
Snowboarder Bo is online now
Member
 
Join Date: May 2005
Location: Las Vegas
Posts: 27,498
Quote:
Originally Posted by Exapno Mapcase View Post
The story is from 1957. Please, 21st century only.
Sorry, brother; I missed that part of the OP.
  #12  
Old 09-12-2019, 12:40 AM
kirkrapine is offline
BANNED
 
Join Date: Sep 2019
Posts: 381
Just a bit before your specified period is Neal Stephenson's The Diamond Age. (1996). After the nanotech revolution, there is a substantial population of unemployed/underemployed "thetes" (name derived from the lowest free class in ancient Athens).
  #13  
Old 09-12-2019, 06:36 AM
Johnny Ecks is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 458
The setting of the Judge Dredd comics has near universal unemployment because of robot labor. The Midas plague series is set in a world where production is so efficient that consumption has to be enforced. (Those lucky enough to be employed get to live the simple life). Wasn’t there also a twilight zone episode where a manager intent on automating his factory gets replaced by a computer?
  #14  
Old 09-12-2019, 10:22 AM
Exapno Mapcase is online now
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2002
Location: NY but not NYC
Posts: 31,618
Quote:
Originally Posted by Johnny Ecks View Post
Wasn’t there also a twilight zone episode where a manager intent on automating his factory gets replaced by a computer?
Yes, "The Brain Center at Whipple's." In 1964.

I'm looking for today's attitudes, in the modern world of social media and smartphones, none of which existed in the 20th century.
  #15  
Old 09-13-2019, 06:47 AM
Meurglys is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Jul 2003
Location: Edinburgh
Posts: 2,361
Not exactly what you're after but Autonomous (2017) by Annalee Newitz addresses some of the societal changes advances in robotics and AI might bring.
I liked it a lot.
  #16  
Old 09-13-2019, 09:46 AM
Lightnin''s Avatar
Lightnin' is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jan 2001
Location: Edmonton, AB
Posts: 7,485
It's a central premise in Marshall Brain's Manna, except that humans basically become the automation.
__________________
What's the good of Science if nobody gets hurt?

Last edited by Lightnin'; 09-13-2019 at 09:47 AM.
  #17  
Old 09-13-2019, 11:52 AM
Exapno Mapcase is online now
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2002
Location: NY but not NYC
Posts: 31,618
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lightnin' View Post
It's a central premise in Marshall Brain's Manna, except that humans basically become the automation.
That sounds exactly the sort of thing I'm looking for. I just downloaded it. Thanks.
  #18  
Old 09-13-2019, 12:00 PM
LuckyNumber85 is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Nov 2003
Location: Branson, Missouri
Posts: 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by alphaboi867 View Post
I remember a young adult book where automation was used in response to a severe population decline, but then the population rebounded and most adults were consigned to a lifetime of unemployment (also the life expectancy was only in the 60s). The protagonists were recent graduates of a boarding school who couldn't find jobs and were assigned to live in a ghetto for the unemployed. Only the employed (or presumably independently wealthy) had civil rights. The protagonists ended up in testing a hyper realistic VR game that turned out to be survival training for an interstellar colony. They didn't really what was really happening until after they'd been dropped on the new planet with just the clothes on their backs. I can't remember the title, but I think I may have asked about it on this board before.
That would be "Invitation to the Game" which is on my bookshelf somewhere from an ancient Scholastic Book Fair, and not a bad candidate for the OP's criteria. I really loved the book when I was younger, so seeing it mentioned here makes me itch for a re-read. It probably is a little more youth oriented than a lot of the other suggestions here, but the unemployment problem due to automation is fairly central to the plot.
  #19  
Old 09-19-2019, 01:43 PM
Limmin's Avatar
Limmin is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Oct 2018
Posts: 149
How about David Brin's Kiln People (2002)?

It imagines a future where anything and everything can be automated by people making expendable, temporary copies of themselves, basically golems. IIRC, the simpler the intended task, the longer the copy would last.

That would pretty much take care of all manufacturing, not to mention other professions, including medicine and law. (Somehow, super-sharp copies capable of such feats are also possible, although shorter lived and more expensive.)

I'd also look into David Brin's other "near future" works, where he accepts the challenge of trying to imagine the world within the next 50 years. It is far easier to write about today, or 100+ years in the future, as in the former case you just write about what is known today, and in the latter, you imagine a future free of many constraints because, you know, "the future." Trying to accurately predict what's coming in 10, 20, 30 years is really hard. He gets a surprisingly large number of things right, if you look at his book "Earth" from the early 1990s, and compare that to today.

Last edited by Limmin; 09-19-2019 at 01:44 PM.
  #20  
Old 09-19-2019, 04:12 PM
Exapno Mapcase is online now
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2002
Location: NY but not NYC
Posts: 31,618
Thanks, Limmin. I'll add that to my list.
  #21  
Old 09-20-2019, 09:22 AM
swampspruce's Avatar
swampspruce is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jan 2012
Location: Cool Pool
Posts: 4,493
Ready Player One doesn't explicitly deal with the subject but definitely shows the effects of living in such a place. It's also a pretty entertaining novel.
__________________
Life is an economy. Where everything must be traded for something else and the value of all things rise and fall with the amount of attention and effort you put into them. -Mark Manson
Reply

Bookmarks

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is Off
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump


All times are GMT -5. The time now is 08:56 PM.

Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.7
Copyright ©2000 - 2019, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.

Send questions for Cecil Adams to: cecil@straightdope.com

Send comments about this website to: webmaster@straightdope.com

Terms of Use / Privacy Policy

Advertise on the Straight Dope!
(Your direct line to thousands of the smartest, hippest people on the planet, plus a few total dipsticks.)

Copyright © 2019 STM Reader, LLC.

 
Copyright © 2017