Jonah Goldberg

You might take solace in the fact that there will still be a need for truck drivers to deliver the really big stuff and to supply the warehouses where the drones come and go like worker bees. The only hitch is that technology for driverless cars is already here, it just hasn't been deployed -- yet.

None of this is necessarily bad. Machines make us a more productive society, and a more productive society is a richer society. They also free us up for more rewarding work. As Wired's Kevin Kelly notes, "Two hundred years ago, 70 percent of American workers lived on the farm. Today automation has eliminated all but 1 percent of their jobs, replacing them (and their work animals) with machines."

While some hippies and agrarian poets may disagree, most people wouldn't say we'd be better off if 7 out of 10 people still did back-breaking labor on farms.

That doesn't mean the transition to a society fueled by robot slaves won't be painful. The Luddites destroyed cotton mills for a reason. Figuring out ways to get the young and the poor into the job market really is a vital political, economic and moral challenge. My colleague at the American Enterprise Institute, James Pethokoukis, argues that one partial solution might have to be wage subsidies that defray the costs of labor, tipping the calculus in favor of humans at least for a while.

"Of course," Pethokoukis notes, "wage subsidies are an on-budget, transparent cost -- which politicians hate -- while the costs of the minimum wage are shifted onto business and hidden. But the costs exist just the same."

The robot future is coming no matter what, and it will require some truly creative responses by policymakers. I don't know what those are, but I'm pretty sure antiquated ideas that were bad policy 100 years ago aren't going to be of much use. Maybe the answers will come when artificial intelligence finally comes online and we can replace the policymakers with machines, too.

Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
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