A current robot doing a back flip.

From out here in rural western Kenya, I have been reading on the internet how by 2030 robots will be taking over most of the jobs in the United States. When a person walks into McDonalds there will be only robots cooking and serving the food. I assume by this time that the robots will look like real people and customers will even forget that they are receiving their big mac and fries from a robot. The trash will be picked up by robots in a self-driving vehicle. All cars, buses, trucks, trains, and airplanes will be self-driving. There will be a robot in every household which will do all the cleaning, cooking and other household chores. To buy anything a person just sends a message to Amazon, the only supplier in the country, which will assemble the order with robots and deliver it within half an hour in a drone.

If the Republicans continue in power, 99% of the income will go to the top 10% of the population that is still employed/investors while the other 90% of the population will be unemployed. I would assume that theft and robbery would increase by two, three, or more times and the US, which already leads the rich world in the rate of incarceration, will dramatically increase the number of prisoners. Don’t worry though because the guards and other prison officials will also be robots.

Perhaps the Democrats will be lucky and win an election or two and will tax the 10% who work/invest sufficiently to give a basic wage to the 90% who have no jobs.

All a person will do is lie on the couch and watch the computer generated soap operas with robot actors and actresses. I suggest, though, that, when this comes to pass, people should visit Kenya to see how the real world works.

This is a picture of a small house with two bedrooms and a store room we are building. The fundi (mason) is the man in the orange suit, the two men on the left are the workers, and in the foreground is Trina, our grandniece on the left, and Brian, our grandson, on the right. This house is being built in the traditional way called “mud and wattle” (“a low-impact sustainable building technique”). Post are placed in the ground every two to three feet, sticks are nailed to the post, mud is inserted between the posts and sticks, the walls are plastered first with mud (with dirt dug next to the house and stamped with water by bare feet to the right consistency) with stones inserted for strength. Later the mud will be plastered again with cement. The house will look very. When it is finished, this house will cost us about US$1,000.

We could have gotten a cement mixer (cost new in Kenya is $2200) as shown in the picture above. Yet with the cost of the rental and fuel, it is cheaper for us to do the work by hiring two people to mix the cement as shown below.

Many people in Kenya don’t build their mud and wattle houses as well as this since they use cow dung instead of cement, thatch instead of the corrugated iron sheets, and wooden doors and windows in place of the metal ones we had made in Lumakanda town. I am certain that by 2030 a robot could be developed to build this whole house. Yet if one thinks the concrete mixer as the first step in developing a building robot and if the cement mixer itself is not economical, then there is no way that a robot can build this house without making it unaffordable.

The same can be said for the small scale farming that most Kenyans do. Each year we cultivate one acre of land belonging to our son, Douglas. Except for plowing, shelling the maize (corn) form the cob, and grinding the maize, everything else is done by hand – planting, fertilizing, weeding twice, harvesting, and shucking the maize. This gives us about 20 two-hundred pound bags of maize which is more than enough for our needs even though we usually have about ten people or more in the household.

There are an estimated 117.6 million gardeners in the United States. Some do this as a hobby, while others garden to reduce their food costs. No doubt a robot can be developed to do this gardening, but what would be the purpose? Many people garden for the joy of seeing things grow, eating food that they know how it was grown, getting their hands dirty, exercise and other non-monetary benefits. Those who grow food to supplement their income will not be able to afford a robot. Robots may not evolve in the US as the artificial intelligence community predicts. Then people in 2030 may not have to come to Kenya to see the “real world.”


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From 1998 to 2016, David Zarembka was the Coordinator of the African Great Lakes Initiative of the Friends Peace Teams. He continues his peacemaking work in East Africa with Transforming Communities for Social Change (TCSC) and Friends Church Peace Team (FCPT). He has been involved with East and Central Africa since 1964 when he taught Rwandan refugees in Tanzania. David is married to Gladys Kamonya and lives in western Kenya. David is the author of A Peace of Africa: Reflections on Life in the Great Lakes Region. He is an analyst on eastern Africa issues for TVC News in Lagos, Nigeria.


David Zarembka

Transforming Community for Social Change (TCSC)

Phone 254 (0)726 590 783
Reports from Kenya: www.davidzarembka.com/

Email: davidzarembka@gmail.com

Webpage: transformingcommunitiesforsocialchange.wordpress.com/