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Old 01-13-2012, 07:59 AM
Evil Captor Evil Captor is offline
Join Date: Apr 2002
Location: Lair
Posts: 20,890
Wow the title of this thread is really misleadjng. What you're asking about is "how do you think the early transitional effects of a post-scarcity economy will be handled?" It's got nothing to do with robots. I really think you should ask to have it changed.

I personally think we will see mass starvation in the hundreds of millions, possibly exceeding a billion will occur, mostly in Asia, because that's where all the people are, and in Asia they have a LONG tradition of not giving a rat's ass about average folk. But it will be bad in the US as well, you only need to look at the recent financial hi-jinks to figure out that our one percenters would gleefully watch the rest of us starve to death. Serve us right, we non-job creators!

I have no idea how African countries will manage a transition to post-scarcity, but I'm pretty sure it will be awful. South America, some countries awful, some not. Antarctica might be OK.

The thing is, post-scarcity won't start with magic widgets that can make you rich. It will start with what we have now, big, expensive factories owned by large corporations managed by crony capitalists. They will become increasingly automated, as is the trend now, and eventually they'll get that little software problem that involved getting video cams and robotic manipulators run by a computer to work as well at repetitive tasks as hands and eyes run by a human brain. Repetitive tasks put the ball very much in the computer's court, I'd be surprised if they didn't figure it out in the next decade or two. (It IS a surprisingly difficult problem, but nothing on the scale of true A.I., more like a very advanced expert system.)

When that happens, manual labor of all kinds will become obsolete. Just. Like. That. And the number of people required to produce goods is gonna become very, very small. But it will still take large amounts of capital for the machinery that extracts the goods, processes them, and distributes them. It just won't take all that many people.

Of course with vast numbers of people economically displaced, the market for goods is going to get increasingly restricted, but it will take a very long for this to manifest on a global scale. After all, the American economy has been stagnant or worse since 2008 but the big corporations are rolling in cash by selling goods overseas -- you know, the places they've been exporting American jobs. This will keep things going for a while in terms of having a market for mass produced goods and the one percenters will show the same fine compassion for displaced workers they have shown all along, which is to say, none. They will try to shift all the responsibility for coping with the effects of their economic activity to government, and accept none of the blame, just as they have done in the current economic debacle, and they will be aided by the howling masses of conservative one percenter wannabes, just as they are now.

As a result, it's going to be very difficult to make the profound changes in our society that will be needed as we transition to post-scarcity, because the libertarians and conservatives are very weak on social cohesion. They will be fine with displaced workers going homeless and without health care, and possibly even food, especially if they are, well, kinda brown. But a lot of white people will be displaced too.

I suspect there will be mass riots and violence, certainly an increase in crime.

In Asia, Africa and South America, this will be much more pronounced, much more violent, much nastier. Europe, which has developed a pretty good social cohesion, might be able to avoid it entirely, or at least, have a very much milder transition.

After things settle out and everyone is either benefiting from post-scarcity economics or dead, things will be much nicer for human beings. But that will probably be little consolation for the dead and their loved ones ... though they may also be dead ...