“The greatest good, for the greatest number”. That’s how utilitarianism was summarised for me as a kid. (The Wikipedia entry is a bit more nuanced.)
It’s an issue that has been in mind since we’ve been working on Nobot. We aim to have Nobot improve the lives of two sets of people:
- Nobot owners
- Nobot operators
Nobot owners will benefit with chores and jobs being undertaken by Nobot operators. Due to the nature of Nobot, many of the operators will be based in lower-cost, poorer countries. This is where the moral principle of utilitarianism came from: Not all of the work undertaken by Nobot operators will be fulfilled by those in the same countries as the Nobot owners.
This conundrum (not everyone considers it one, but we do) has been around ever since globalisation and offshore outsourcing became a thing. There are a myriad of arguments that can be trotted out, for example that outsourcing low value jobs allows natives in richer countries to undertake higher value roles.
Whatever the merits of that argument — and to be frank, it seems a bit thin — we’ve considered the following when figuring out a moral stance with Nobot.
Utilitarianism: We’re all human. If someone gets a job that is ‘50% better’ than a job they would otherwise have, in terms of a positive impact on their lives, then it doesn’t matter where that person is in the world. It is a net gain for a human.
Not a zero sum game: Many of the chores that a Nobot undertakes would not otherwise be undertaken by a third party employed, but by the Nobot owner herself. Nobot will therefore lead to a net increase in employment and a net improvement in
Migration: Nobot, if successful to any degree, will lead to a reduction in migration. We’re not going to explore the benefits or otherwise of migration on destination countries, but for donor (of migrants) countries, it can be a disaster, with the many able, younger, brighter people leaving. It creates a brain-drain, making it an even more uphill struggle for countries to develop.
Nobot is far from alone of having to grapple with these issues: Almost every large company actively outsourced jobs to lower-paid populations where they can.
Nobot potentially impacts this equation however as it opens a raft of jobs tied to a physical location to such an outsourced option. Our goal, what we strive for, is to make a real net positive benefit for people the word over.
We’re not arrogant enough to assume that Nobot will have a big impact, particularly in the earlier years. In all honesty, we expect Nobot to have zero depressive effect on domestic salaries. For each operator Nobot employs however, we expect them to get a 50% increase in salary compared to whatever job they would otherwise be doing.
We hope that will be a tangible improvement Nobot can make, if even for just a few.