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Robotic Nation and Robotic Freedom – Tenth Anniversary Edition

by Marshall Brain

In 2003, I wrote a series of three articles on the coming robotic revolution. Known as the Robotic Nation series, they were published on and have been freely available there ever since.

At the time, the articles garnered a good bit of interest. For example, Wired and Salon ran articles on Robotic Nation in August 2003. I have been able to write editorials and speak widely on the topics introduced in the articles. Since then the interest has grown. Hundreds of thousands of people have read the Robotic Nation articles.

Here we are 10 years later, and many of the ideas in these articles are beginning to appear in reality in significant ways. Self-driving cars are starting to seem inevitable rather than futuristic. Pilotless drones soon will outnumber piloted planes in the military. Restaurants are now installing kiosks and tablets at a breakneck pace. And so on. As the pace of automation increases, I have had a number of requests to get the articles in book form so they can be used as reference material (as it is much easier to academically reference a book with an ISBN number than to reference a web article).

This Kindle book represents a Tenth Anniversary packaging of the Robotic Nation articles. What I have tried to do here is duplicate the articles as they were originally published in a 2003/2004 time frame.

Around the same time that the Robotic Nation articles were published, I published the novella entitled “Manna: Two Visions of Humanity’s Future”. Manna represents a fictional prediction of how events in a robotic economy could unfold, depending on society’s ability to change its current economic model. Manna is also included in this book for completeness.

The basic idea here is that robots and automation are in the process of eliminating most of the jobs in our economy, and the pace of elimination is rapidly accelerating. We are about to see a tectonic shift, where 50% or more of American jobs are eliminated in a short period of time. This will happen in traditionally “safe” job sectors like the transportation sector (truck drivers, taxi drivers), the service sector (check out clerks, waiters and waitresses, cleaning and restocking employees), the construction sector, etc.

As this tectonic shift takes place, how will society reconfigure itself? Will all of these displaced workers end up in welfare dormitories that function approximately like prisons for them? Or will we come up with a transformational economic model that eliminates the idea of jobs and labor? The choice is ours as a society, and this book provides us with ways to think about and envision the two possibilities.


by Dean Doucet

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