Automation and the Five Stages of Grief

Dennis Consorte
7 min readMar 14, 2021
People protesting robots
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Automation is here. Most of us love its outputs, though many of us aren’t aware of the extent of its proliferation. Or rather, we don’t want to be aware. For better or worse, COVID-19 lockdowns have made this reality visible to more people.

Consider how many billions of people spent the majority of their time at home for the past year, due to government-enforced lockdowns and social distancing requirements. Despite this new paradigm, many systems continue to thrive with minimal human presence. This has had a profound impact on society, to the degree that many people have developed COVID PTSD (or more accurately, Lockdown PTSD).

The way in which we as a society have dealt with the symptoms of automating away sectors of our economies aligns well with the five stages of grief as described in Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, MD’s book, On Death and Dying:

  1. Denial
  2. Anger
  3. Bargaining
  4. Depression
  5. Acceptance
Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, MD’s book, On Death and Dying (2014)

Government Solutions to Job Attrition

Many People in government want to help their constituents. They see job attrition through automation as a problem that needs to be solved through intervention. People like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Bernie Sanders pushed for a federal jobs guarantee, by amplifying the idea of a climate crisis and creating demand for green energy solutions. Former President Donald J. Trump wanted to replenish the job supply with plans to re-shore barely extant manufacturing jobs to the U.S. coupled with enforcing restrictions on immigration.

Others like Andrew Yang would implement a VAT on products produced with automation. Those costs would be passed on to the consumer. Yang believes that he can fix the problem that his plan amplifies by installing a Universal Basic Income, or UBI.

There may be short-term wins with all of these ideas. There is even a long-term positive outcome through UBI if it consolidates all existing welfare programs and departments into a single system, thereby reducing waste, fraud, and…

Dennis Consorte