Why Social Security Is Doomed

The experts say that if nothing is done to fix the system, by 2034 the Social Security Administration will have to cut benefit payments to retirees by 20-30%. That may be optimistic.

The year is 2034. The year when prognosticators int the twenty-teens thought that the Social Security trust fund was going to run out of money, forcing the government to reduce payouts and leaving retirees to live on just 71% of their projected benefits.

Jennifer Stinson is on her way to her Alphabet job as an artificial intelligence diagnostician, tasked with finding and recommending fixes for glitches in the robots that have replaced virtually all factory workers in the United States. It’s not really a programming job – it’s more akin to being a robot psychologist.

She’s running a bit late so she calls the cab while she is still filling her coffee cup. It arrives in minutes and she directs it to stop at a convenience store that’s on the way. As the cab pulls to the curb in front of the store, automated forklifts in the warehouse across the street are busily loading cargo into the driverless tractor trailer that will deliver it to its destination.

Jennifer instructs the cab to wait and quickly runs into the store, where she grabs a drink and something for her morning snack. As she exits the store without stopping, the entrance reads the rfid chips on the items she is carrying and automatically deducts them from her bank account. Behind her as she leaves, automated hands are already replacing the items on the shelf so the display always looks its best and most enticing.

As the cab pulls through the gates of the campus where she works, it once again passes the ever present line of pickets. She feels for these people, but there is really nothing that can be done for them. The jobs that they were picketing for no longer existed.

The country had held on to jobs like theirs for longer than most of the rest of the world, but eventually the realities of supply and demand made that impossible. Either the U.S. jumped on the AI train leaving the station or found itself left behind.

Jennifer does feel for them. She also has the nagging feeling that before long, she too will be one of the dispossessed.

In this imagined world of 2034 the worst of the projections have come to pass. Over the course of the past 20 years, 40% of the jobs have been replaced by automation of one sort or another. The picture is pretty much the same world wide. AI is an ever present fact of life. At its best it improves the quality of life for everyone who benefits from it. At its worst it leaves massive inequality. Massive stockpiles of wealth for the few who profits by owning and using the advanced technology and abject poverty for those who have been pushed aside.

In a world like this will there be Social Security as we know it? It seems unlikely. Not only will there be far too few workers to support the number of people who are retired, but the trust fund will have run out years before and the government will be facing fiscal difficulties more dire those faced in the Great Depression. There will still be a country to run but there will be far too little income tax coming in with which to run it.

It seems to me that there are three possible outcomes to future situation such as this.

The first is that dystopian future where a few rich folk live in walled conclaves, enjoying the type of luxury perhaps not seen since the Pharaohs of Egypt. Outside those gates is a Mad Max world where the poverty stricken masses fight for scraps. This scenario brings to mind the wretched world imagined by Charles Dickens. In a world like this, if Social Security hasn’t been totally jettisoned, the checks will be pitiful by today’s standards.

There is a second scenario. One where the government has devised a way in which the fruits of this amazing new world of plenty can be shared with society as a whole. In a world like this, there will probably be no social security either. Whatever system is devised will just naturally take care of retirees as it takes care of all of the other people who no longer work.

There is a third road. And that is that all of this is nonsense. The doom-sayers of today are just modern day Luddites, railing against and uncertain future while attempting to turn the clock back. Things will go along as they always have. The jobs that are given over to robots and intelligent programs will be replaced by better ones and civilization will continue it’s millenia long climb.

And your Social Security will remain as an earned and secure cornerstone of your retired life.

We can hope.

Leave A Response

* Denotes Required Field