The problem with automating away so many jobs is that meaningful work is essential to humans, not perhaps in the way that food, drink, shelter and companionship are basic needs, but in the sense that we need something to give us purpose and to provide meaning for our existence. Humans also benefit in a similar way from being a member of a group or community, this perhaps goes a long way towards explaining why religion is still so strong in the face of logical arguments against it.
Universal Basic Income is not an adequate solution for this, it would cover the basic needs, but not that need for purpose. Some people might successfully occupy themselves painting, writing, making furniture, growing vegetables, but those things are not for everybody.
When a large mass of people are involuntarily idle, history shows us many will be tempted by vices, drinking, drugs, slobbing out in front of TV eating unhealthy snacks all day until the fire service have to remove a wall of their house to hoist them out and take them to hospital. Others might become gang members and contribute to socially disruptive and violent activity for the sake of experiencing that feeling of being part of something.
So what could we do with 800 million surplus people? Kill them?
Somehow I don’t think that would go down well with voters at election time.
In the past century technology has progressed far more quickly than human societies are able to adapt. Before we push ahead with more technological advances we should pause and ask Cicero’s question, Cui bono? Who benefits?
Does automating work on balance benefit the whoe of society more greatly that its negative imact, or are these technological advances purely for the benefit of corporate investors and hedge fund managers?