This discussion is not new. Indeed, when Jacquard devised automated methods of controlling a loom, many weavers may have been displaced, but the world went from average people being able to afford only 2 complete changes of clothing, to what we now have.
When I worked for Unimation in the late 1970's, we used robots to automate the spot welding of auto bodies. This work was extremely harsh, with heavy welding rigs, hot metal splash, the need to wear protective clothing, etc. In addition, because humans could not be expected to exactly replicate the same welds on every car, it was necessary to add "extra" spot welds in the weld schedule to assure the car was safe. The robots improved weld quality and repeatability. They also worked faster. As a result the throughput of the factory went from about 35 cars/hr to about 55-60 cars/hr. This increased throughput meant additional workers needed to hired in other areas that could not be as easily automated, such as the upholstery shop, or inspections etc.
I think that automation creates more commerce, which in turn creates more wealth, and more jobs.
As for the U.S., it helped us compete with lower wage countries. In the 70's it was Japan Inc. It is now other countries.
I just don't think it is reasonable to blame engineers for losing jobs.
Unfortunately, the ones who survive are all too often the ones that are prepared to trample on others to get the limited resources. These days, greed prevails. Greed is having far more than others, but you still want what others have. It is about power, power to control, power to hurt others. The 1%, or even the top 5% could double their financial contribution to society, and it wouldn't make the slightest difference to their lifestyle.
A banker, alocal brocklayer, and a minimum-wage immigrant sit at a table. There are 12 biscuits (cookies to 'mericans) on a plate. The banker grabs 11 of them, then tells the bricklayer "be quick or the immigrant will steal yours"
When I started using Linux, 18 years ago, I didn't know how much I didn't know. Now, I have a good idea how much I don't know, but I have lost interest in computers for their own sake anway. Now, they are just tools, and as long as I know enough to use them in a way that does what I otherwise require, I don't bother with the rest.
So how do we "break" those rules? As you hint, those rules stand if you look at Earth as a closed system. Solar harvests energy from outside that system. Humans leaving the planet expands this closed system to infinity. This expansion, practically unlimited energy and robots do technically render the economy redundant as the only unavoidable costs are raw materials (as long as limited) and human work.
Beyond that we can also better exploit the existing resources.Wind, geothermal and others harvest energy from underexploited sources. 3D printing and others better recycle resources. The areal efficiency of food generation is likely to see exponential advances as we stop relying on growing animals and plants. Humans could exist in the original body, artificial bodies, robot(or hybrid) bodies and even just in virtual worlds. New types of bodies and worlds would fundamentally alter the profile of the resources required.
Now that an economy doesn't exist, what is prosperity?
We'll end up spreading like immortal locusts and not quite sure (yet!) how to stop someone from creating billions of replicas of himself for a nefarious purpose - you can't have progress without crime. Maybe we'll just have to ascend, w/e that ends up meaning in practice.
What's certain is that humans must always want something and that enables us to evolve but will also create problems so any vision for a future society needs to include those too. Unless we fundamentally alter what a human is, the most we can do is to mitigate unethical tendencies. We can't create Utopia and if we could, maybe we shouldn't.
PS: You copy/paste the deffinition of Scientology at the end of your comment, maybe we should leave religion out of this or it becomes comedy.
It used to be "survival of the fittest" in terms of being the physically strongest. With technological innovation "fittest" is coming to mean brightest. We all seek to survive, some work to forward our civilization and others seek to survive for themselves at a cost to everyone else. William Shakespeare once wrote "the pen is mightier than the sword". In our modern world there are all kinds of new economic theories and people pushing their own special interests. There are a few basic principals that always seem to prevail that if you think about it have a lot in common:
1. Conservation of Energy - Physics
2. Supply and Demand - Economics
3. Balance of Nature - Ecology
Each of these principals come out of separate fields yet seem to express the same concept - balance. The current world population is out of balance in excess of 7 Billion (7X the population over the last 100 years). The natural resources needed to support our growing population will trigger counter-effects in all three areas. We know well how to convert matter into energy but not back. This will result in shortages that will drive costs for the essential resources and ultimately polution will trigger a natural disaster such as the atmospheric changes or destruction of our food sources.
Innovation is what is going to keep that population fed and sheltered for the time being and men and women will not be able to keep up with population needs. At current growth rates the ability of the planet to sustain human life will fail and either an equilibrium will be met or rapid population decline will be the outcome. That is if we don't blow the planet up first! The only way for our population to stabilize or continue to grow is to expand outside of our solar system as so many science fiction writers have conjectured.
Currently, we are unable to move off-world and using robots to harvest off-world resources will be the most viable alternative because they will not need life support systems to withstand long durations in space. If we stop developing technology, then the most likely scenarios are apocalyptic because desperate humans take desperate measures. Meanwhile lets let the robots do the most demeaning or onerous tasks and help our fellow men learn to live in our technological erra.
Historically, mankind has moved onto new frontiers to assure survival and there will be those willing to move off this planet too! Once the frontiers are opened then more will follow. If you want to see into the future, then read or watch Science Fiction and decide which path you want to partake in. The last few decades have shown several science fiction writers such as Hubbard, Orwell, Asimov and others to have prescience as their fiction became reality.
Ultimately, the only real solution will come about through enlightenment of men where we live in a civilization without insanity, without criminals and without war. In this civilization the able will prosper and honest men will rise to greater heights by as they become more able. If these principals prevail then all mankind has a chance to make it in the long run.
@sixscrews "In my experience there are no 'dumb people' but there are many uneducated people and it's easy to confuse the two."
While I agree that it's sometimes hard to tell the difference between the uneducated and the 'dumb people', I have meet some people who have a much lower than average intelligence to the point where they require assistinace. I favor dong what that can be done to allow these people to live meaningful lives, including jobs within their skill levels.