From my Quotes File (which you can see serving up random quotes at the bottom of the sidebar):
The fact is, that civilization requires slaves. The Greeks were quite right there. Unless there are slaves to do the ugly, horrible, uninteresting work, culture, and contemplation become almost impossible. Human slavery is wrong, insecure, and demoralizing. On mechanical slavery, on the slavery of the machine, the future of the world depends.
Oscar Wilde (1854 – 1900)
I find the search for the perfect robot society a continuing feature of SF novels, and the examination of how this ties into artificial intelligence (and whether AI machines would necessarily have to also be self-aware, in which case would it be unethical to enslave them?), and whether indeed a society where all drudge-work was done by machines would be a bastion of culture and contemplation rather than merely a hedonistic and decadent play-pen, or whether the two can adequately co-exist? to be either totally fascinating or infuriating facile, there’s rarely a middle ground.
Of course, we’re a long way from every house, office and factory having janitor/maid/gardener bots just yet (and where’s my flying car?).
An early idea in robotics was that it would be simple to program a robot to do daily household tasks. The discovery that those daily household tasks actually require much more perception, knowledge and discrimination in regards to what exactly needs to be done and when with how much force applied was made decades ago, although it hasn’t generally made it into the popular conception of what housework requires in a cognitive sense. AI has not yet been able to adequately reproduce a mechanical device that acts with sufficient intelligence to make a house clean and comfortable rather than a wreck full of broken items and with needed things discarded along with the dirt and dust.
So what would the production of robots with sufficient AI that they can look at a dustpan and pick out the bits of construction toys and the loose change actually mean for those who do housework and commercial janitorial work? How would that single change restructure our culture in those societies that could afford to purchase and utilise such robots?
What books have you read that explore any of these issues? And which did it well?