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Old 01-09-2012, 06:43 AM
SlackerInc SlackerInc is offline
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What happens when the robots (peacefully) take over?

Let's leave aside for the moment all the dystopian visions of doom from an automated future (The Machine Stops, The Terminator, The Matrix, etc.), not because they couldn't happen but because I have another question in mind.

When we look around us and see ATMs, Roombas, GPS operated farm combines, iPhone's Siri, etc., it's not so hard to imagine that if we were to jump forward a few more decades or a century, we could find ourselves in a time where the vast majority of drudge work (from janitorial services, to construction and agriculture, to cooking and waiting tables at a restaurant, to manufacturing everything including the manufacturing robots themselves) is done by "robots". Not C-3PO or R2D2, but computer-guided machinery of one sort or another. Perhaps there will be a few humans needed to guide things (almost like George Jetson, pushing buttons), plus of course artistic and creative vocations like political punditry or ballet; but the stuff that maintains people's basic Maslow hierarchy needs (shelter, food, etc.) will be taken care of without human labour, as will additional layers of luxury.

Further, this level of automation should mean that no one is wretchedly poor, that everyone will be able to live in at least reasonable comfort without having to "work for a living". Right? Again, maybe those who do "extra" could have additional reward for doing so, but if robots can do all the stuff I described, and assuming population is under reasonable control, no one should want for the basics.

So here's my question: what does the transition to this state of affairs look like? Before we get to the point where people say "duh, this is obviously stupid to make people work for paychecks and pay for everything", it strikes me that capitalist tech entrepeneurs will try to enrich themselves by taking over sectors of the economy that used to require human labour. After all, when washers and dryers and dishwashers were invented, they weren't just passed out to families with a benevolent wish that housewives liberate themselves from drudgery. They were (and are) sold at a profit, just like those automatic GPS-driven farm combines.

So when the janitorial robots become cheaper than hiring people, janitors and hotel housekeepers will be thrown out of work. Same thing for taxi drivers when automated cars are perfected. And so on and so forth. At what point then, and in what way, does it cross a rubicon from creating mass unemployment (which is bad) to obviating the need for employment at drudgery (which is good)? Will the robot-making companies find themselves increasingly with fewer and fewer customers because no one will have a job? Will governments just take over, Tea Partiers be damned? Or will it somehow happen organically without great turmoil? I can see the end result, but that transition is a muddle. Whaddaya think?
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Old 01-09-2012, 06:56 AM
Gagundathar Gagundathar is offline
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This is somewhat what is posited if we allow (as we already have) for underpaid immigrants to take the jobs that nobody here wants to have.

Perhaps we can project from that to a future that you imagine.

An underclass that is hated and yet preserved.

If you don't grant your postulated robots greater abilities than humans, why give them rights at all?
They are slaves.
Right?

Last edited by Gagundathar; 01-09-2012 at 06:56 AM.
  #3  
Old 01-09-2012, 08:24 AM
Hellestal Hellestal is offline
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Originally Posted by Gagundathar View Post
If you don't grant your postulated robots greater abilities than humans, why give them rights at all?
They are slaves.
Right?
I don't understand this question.

Let's say I somehow program a computer with the task to maximize a societal utility function. Pure hypothetical here, so it's got plenty of computing resources to crunch out this baby, figure out what it needs to do to help max out everyone's collective happiness. Nobody forced to be happy, it's just helping us out with what we want to do. And it's plenty smart about it, smart enough to program little drone machines to do its work or do any current industrial work, smart enough to make robots that can repair robots, even smart enough to understand law and crime and enforce legal statutes, or maybe more general golden rule type stuff if statutes are no longer necessary, if we wanted it to do that sort of job, too. The whole AI package, all focused on allowing us the possibility of living happy, free lives.

But it's got no emotions. No sadness, no drudgery, none of that. It's a quicker thinker than any human for any given problem, but at core, what it's doing is continually working on a math problem, doing its best to maximize a utility function that was programmed into it.

Is it a slave?

Seems to me that machines capable of designing new machines, repairing them, testing the modifications, and then redesigning to create even more, are a recipe for a robo-commie paradise. Or human extinction. One or the other. Slavery does not even begin to apply. They're not going to be Star Trek 'Data's walking around, all wanting to be human. They won't be evolved creatures at all. Intelligent, but not remotely human. They'll be optimizing the functions they're originally given, the problems they're programmed to solve. If we plug in the wrong problem without realizing, then sucks to be us. If we plug in the right one, then life could be pretty swell.

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Originally Posted by chrisk View Post
Unfortunately true. That's the way capitalism works. The benefits of having robots in the factories don't go to the workers who used to slave away in the factories, or even to the remaining workers who can't be robot-replaced yet. The benefits go to the rich man who paid for the robots.
This is contrary to centuries of history, and even the most introductory economics.

Even when some workers do lose out -- which can absolutely happen, yes, if we're not on a super-long-term time frame -- the owners of the robots are not now, nor have they ever been, the only winners. The remaining workers benefit loads, as does the rest of society. We've had two hundred years of evidence about this since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. It is helpful to learn a little bit about these events and economic processes that led to our modern technological world in order to comment sensibly about it.
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Old 01-09-2012, 07:09 PM
SlackerInc SlackerInc is offline
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Originally Posted by Hellestal View Post
Seems to me that machines capable of designing new machines, repairing them, testing the modifications, and then redesigning to create even more, are a recipe for a robo-commie paradise. Or human extinction. One or the other.
Completely agree with this. And since the "human extinction" side has gotten so much attention, I wanted to explore the "robo-commie paradise", but specifically how the transitional phase would look.

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Originally Posted by aruvqan View Post
This is sort of covered in the 'Jupiter' series by Charles Sheffield [and a couple other cowriters]
That sounds right up my alley. Thanks for the tip, will look for it ASAP!

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Originally Posted by heathen earthling View Post
Workers are conditioned to hate non-workers, but non-workers generally don't hate other non-workers. If everyone is a non-worker, what's the problem?
Agreed--and even if a minority of workers hated the non-workers, the non-workers are the majority and could just not associate with the workers. Besides, my guess would be that given human nature, most people would still want to feel they were doing something productive (or "productive"). So just as we see that most ultra-rich people today do not live a complete playboy/dilettante lifestyle (though some certainly do), but serve on foundation boards, edit literary magazines, or at least intensely pursue some kind of hobby, that would likely still be the case.

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Originally Posted by The Other Waldo Pepper View Post
"Release the robot hounds."
LOL, touche.

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Originally Posted by msmith537 View Post
I don't think the OP is talking about sentient artificial people like Cylons or Blade Runner replicants. He is talking about highly advanced industrial automation. IOW, why would you design an advanced automobile factory robot to want to "become human" like in the Sci Fi movies? You'd design it to want to stamp car bumpers all day.
Exactly right. Although if we give in to the temptation to have robots/computers take over jobs that do require more subtle forms of judgment (doctor, lawyer, teacher, cop) there is definitely the risk of sentience and all that implies. But that avenue has been explored so much, I'm more interested in the scenario you describe, which has not.

So it looks like a lot of people responding are like me in having an easier time imagining the end result, but not a lot of comments about the transition. What does the economy look like a decade or two before we get to this state where most everything is automated? High unemployment or underemployment seems a given (or reduced hours, or reduced importance for each employee to do their share to keep society functioning). But would that lead to turmoil in the medium term, or would the massive increases in GDP make it fairly easy to use taxation to provide a comfortable safety net? (I should add that my scenario assumes the problem of energy is also solved, by controlled fusion or somesuch mechanism; the whole thing becomes much more problematic if that's not the case.)
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Old 01-09-2012, 10:18 PM
Arjuna34 Arjuna34 is offline
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Originally Posted by SlackerInc View Post
So it looks like a lot of people responding are like me in having an easier time imagining the end result, but not a lot of comments about the transition. What does the economy look like a decade or two before we get to this state where most everything is automated? High unemployment or underemployment seems a given (or reduced hours, or reduced importance for each employee to do their share to keep society functioning). But would that lead to turmoil in the medium term, or would the massive increases in GDP make it fairly easy to use taxation to provide a comfortable safety net?
The book The Lights in the Tunnel: Automation, Accelerating Technology and the Economy of the Future is about this transition, and the end result (assuming technology results in this scenario, of course). The book argues that, unlike the progress in the last 200 years, technology will eventually make many jobs obsolete without new, different jobs to replace them. Without jobs for everyone, there are very few consumers, and thus our system breaks down.

According to the book, the massive increases in productivity and drastically lower labor costs allow much higher taxes on businesses, ultimately resulting in business taxes on business comparable to the original labor costs. These taxes are then distributed back to the people, allowing them to be consumers. Hopefully this would be a gradual occurrence, as specific jobs and sectors were affected.

Tough to predict how our society will actually react to disruptive technological changes over the next 50-80 years.
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Old 01-10-2012, 12:29 AM
Lemur866 Lemur866 is offline
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So the "ultra-rich" are the capitalist owners of robot factories, yes? And these robot factories churn out every product imaginable, yes? And the ultra-rich are rich because they provide these products? And everyone else become welfare bums? Except, who are the ultra-rich selling products to? Each other? There are no consumers in this scenario. Therefore, how does owning a robot factory make you rich?

A guy with his factory churing out every product imaginable isn't rich. Sure, he can make anything he wants. So what? What does he do with those piles of stuff? He can't sell them, can he? What would he sell them FOR? What would he exchange his worthless piles of junk for, that he wants?

When the marginal cost of producing a product is essentially zero, then you can't get rich manufacturing that product. It becomes free. It doesn't matter if the product is diamond necklaces or digital watches or luxury cars or plastic toys or soybeans. In fact, the example of agricultural products is entirely analgous.

Back in the feudal era, what was the basis of wealth? Land. And why? Because serfs worked the land to produce agricultural products that everyone needed to live. Wheat, grapes, olives, wool, and so on were the basis of every aristocrat's wealth. And the surplus food supported a small class of artisans and priests and so on. But the vast majority of workers were agricultural workers.

So suppose there is an agricultural revolution, and agricultural products can be grown at a fraction of the cost using a fraciton of the labor. What now? The feudal aristocrats become fantastically rich, and the former serfs now become beggars dependent on the scraps from the lord's table? Is that what happened? No, what happened is that the amount of wealth you could generate from agriculture plummeted relative to the amount of wealth you could generate by manufacturing. We produced much more food than ever before and the food was worth less and less. The Earth has 7 billion people today, and never in human history has each person been so well fed.

So consider the poor capitalist factory owner. When the marginal cost of production drops and drops and drops, do the products of his factory retain their value? Of course not. The flood of manufactured products means that manufactured products become cheaper and cheaper, and eventually so cheap that you can barely give them away.

And we're already beginning this process. Do the thousands of new factories in China make the factory owners fantastically rich? No. Oh, they make money, especially compared to the starving communist peasantry of a few decades ago. But ownership of a factory that makes goods for dirt cheap doesn't make you rich, any more than ownership of a farm that produces a flood of cheap corn and wheat makes you rich.

But won't the industrialists use the political process to keep the workers/former-workers-now-beggars enslaved? But to what end? The agricultural aristocrats tried to hang onto their privileges too, but when mass production knocked the floor out of the value of agriculture, how could they? Those who control valuable goods and services control society, not those who control formerly valuable goods and services. Yes, the people of the future will need manufactured goods, and there will be a flood of manufactured goods. But the people who control the factories that produce those goods won't be rich any more than modern farmers are rich.

Go to any city in America, and if you stand in the right line, someone will hand you a free meal. People used to literally starve to death when they couldn't find jobs and didn't have land to work. Nobody starves nowadays, because the cost of food is so low that we just hand it out. Yes, we have so much food nowadays that the poor are fat and the rich are thin.

And so in the future, the guy whose giant house is stuffed with gadgets and gizmos and diamond necklaces and clothes and cars and fountains will be considered poor and crazy, just like the rich today don't have giant pantries bulging with packaged snack cakes. The meaning and value of these things will be different.

And as for the value of information, well, the marginal cost of making another digital copy of information is already zero. The cost of making the information in the first place isn't zero, but once we've already created it then copying it over and over costs nothing. And so basing a fortune on control of information seems pretty unlikely as well. You have to continually create new information to stay in the same place, because very soon the information is worth nothing, because the marginal cost of copying it is nothing.
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Old 05-10-2015, 10:58 AM
Mr. Nylock Mr. Nylock is online now
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Originally Posted by Hellestal View Post
This is contrary to centuries of history, and even the most introductory economics.

Even when some workers do lose out -- which can absolutely happen, yes, if we're not on a super-long-term time frame -- the owners of the robots are not now, nor have they ever been, the only winners. The remaining workers benefit loads, as does the rest of society. We've had two hundred years of evidence about this since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. It is helpful to learn a little bit about these events and economic processes that led to our modern technological world in order to comment sensibly about it.
I find this argument very weak. The future of automation will be very different from the past, and encroach more and more on white collar work.

I find this analysis of history as tremendously flawed in the situation. In the beginning of the industrial revolution, it was horrible for the workers. It was not as if technology was created and the benefits just trickled down to everyone - they had to be fought for. The workers fought and won - but part of the reason they won is because they were needed; they were a necessary part of the production process. If workers are no longer part of the production process, and therefore not needed, then what leverage do they have?

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  #8  
Old 05-10-2015, 11:19 AM
Hellestal Hellestal is offline
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Originally Posted by Mr. Nylock View Post
I find this argument very weak. The future of automation will be very different from the past, and encroach more and more on white collar work.

I find this analysis of history as tremendously flawed in the situation. In the beginning of the industrial revolution, it was horrible for the workers. It was not as if technology was created and the benefits just trickled down to everyone - they had to be fought for. The workers fought and won - but part of the reason they won is because they were needed; they were a necessary part of the production process. If workers are no longer part of the production process, and therefore not needed, then what leverage do they have?
You're responding to a post from January 2012.

There is a more recent, and much higher quality thread, from just last month where my thoughts on this topic are more fully fleshed out. If you'd like to discuss this, you'd be better off reading those posts to get more context and then bumping that thread with any questions or criticisms you have.

One thing I'd briefly point out, which I might not have mentioned there, is that it's an extremely difficult argument to make that early automation was worse for workers than what had come before. Enclosure preceded the Industrial Revolution proper. So the actual question is: Did the early Industrial Revolution literally make things worse, or did it consolidate already existing poverty into focal points that were no worse than before, but more easily observed and commented upon? (I don't have an answer to that, by the way. I want to emphasize the problem with casual historical assertions. It's not enough to point at bad things and say they're bad, when those conditions might plausibly have been an improvement on what they were doing before.)

Last edited by Hellestal; 05-10-2015 at 11:20 AM.
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Old 05-10-2015, 04:03 PM
Evil Captor Evil Captor is offline
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Originally Posted by Hellestal View Post
You're responding to a post from January 2012.

There is a more recent, and much higher quality thread, from just last month where my thoughts on this topic are more fully fleshed out. If you'd like to discuss this, you'd be better off reading those posts to get more context and then bumping that thread with any questions or criticisms you have.

One thing I'd briefly point out, which I might not have mentioned there, is that it's an extremely difficult argument to make that early automation was worse for workers than what had come before. Enclosure preceded the Industrial Revolution proper. So the actual question is: Did the early Industrial Revolution literally make things worse, or did it consolidate already existing poverty into focal points that were no worse than before, but more easily observed and commented upon? (I don't have an answer to that, by the way. I want to emphasize the problem with casual historical assertions. It's not enough to point at bad things and say they're bad, when those conditions might plausibly have been an improvement on what they were doing before.)

Here's a piece
the addresses the living and working conditions of people in Britain during the Industrial Revolution. It's even worse than I thought, and I thought it really sucked!

Quote:
The Registrar General reported in 1841 that the average life expectancy in rural areas of England was 45 years of age but was only 37 in London and an alarming 26 in Liverpool (Haley).
Life expectancy in industrial Liverpool was very nearly half what it was in rural England. I'd say that tells us a lot about the quality of life of the rural poor vs. the urban poor.
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Old 05-11-2015, 04:51 AM
SlackerInc SlackerInc is offline
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Originally Posted by Hellestal View Post
There is a more recent, and much higher quality thread,
Much higher? Well, first of all, that's just rude. I'm partial to this one, of course, but it seems to me that they are both of good quality. (The best posts in both threads are those by Lemur866, IMO.)
  #11  
Old 05-10-2015, 03:45 PM
Evil Captor Evil Captor is offline
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I find this argument very weak. The future of automation will be very different from the past, and encroach more and more on white collar work.

I find this analysis of history as tremendously flawed in the situation. In the beginning of the industrial revolution, it was horrible for the workers. It was not as if technology was created and the benefits just trickled down to everyone - they had to be fought for. The workers fought and won - but part of the reason they won is because they were needed; they were a necessary part of the production process. If workers are no longer part of the production process, and therefore not needed, then what leverage do they have?
Well that's my viewpoint too ... I'm sure that, long term, automating jobs out of existence will be good for the human race ... at least, those who survive the process. But looking at the trends today: huge wealth inequality sparking a huge social gap between the one percent and the peasantry, libertarianism and conservatism increasingly popular among the one percent, Citizens United making our government basically a puppet of the One Percent ... it looks BAD for our children, possibly our children's children.
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Old 01-09-2012, 12:16 PM
msmith537 msmith537 is offline
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Originally Posted by Gagundathar View Post
If you don't grant your postulated robots greater abilities than humans, why give them rights at all?
They are slaves.
Right?
I don't think the OP is talking about sentient artificial people like Cylons or Blade Runner replicants. He is talking about highly advanced industrial automation. IOW, why would you design an advanced automobile factory robot to want to "become human" like in the Sci Fi movies? You'd design it to want to stamp car bumpers all day.


Quote:
Originally Posted by chrisk
Unfortunately true. That's the way capitalism works. The benefits of having robots in the factories don't go to the workers who used to slave away in the factories, or even to the remaining workers who can't be robot-replaced yet. The benefits go to the rich man who paid for the robots.
It actually isn't the way capitalism works. The benefits also go to people who can buy products they previously couldn't afford.
  #13  
Old 01-10-2012, 02:41 PM
Kobal2 Kobal2 is offline
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Originally Posted by msmith537 View Post
I don't think the OP is talking about sentient artificial people like Cylons or Blade Runner replicants. He is talking about highly advanced industrial automation. IOW, why would you design an advanced automobile factory robot to want to "become human" like in the Sci Fi movies? You'd design it to want to stamp car bumpers all day.
The answer to this question is obvious to any engineer. Why would you design a factory robot to want to become human ? Because you can, and it would make the other engineers go "Cool !".
  #14  
Old 01-10-2012, 08:50 PM
msmith537 msmith537 is offline
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Think of it like this. A couple of hundred years ago, most people worked in agriculture. Since most wealth was generated by the production of crops or livestock, it was a direct function of who owned the most land.

A hundred or so years ago, the Industrial Revolution created a new form of wealth. The ability to make shit and lots of it. People got rich by making lots of stuff or inventing new ways for people to make stuff. It also had the effect of transferring the work force from working on farms to working in factories.

In the past 50 years, it's been about information. As technology and automation has made it easier to make stuff, the focus has shifted to figuring out what to make and how to make it more efficiently. Again, much of the work force has shifted from working in factories to working on the systems that run them.

It stands to reason that in the future, more and more decision making will be handled more cheaply and more efficiently by decision support systems. The company I work for makes software that analyzes data to tell salespeople who they should sell to. A lot of companies have systems that tell them when they should buy. How much longer until those systems are linked and you don't even need salespeople at all?

So when the drudgery of working on farms, factories and IT development centers becomes a thing of the past, what would be the next step? With the ability to produce so much so quickly, society would likely be highly socialized. After all, what does capitalist cutthrough efficiency matter when you can cheaply produce more than most people can ever use?

But what would pass for currency in a society where wealth was no longer based on land ownership, production capacity, or even intellectual property? The only thing left is the ability to amuse and entertain the masses of interchangable carbon blobs sitting in front of their 3D vid walls eating massive piles of cheap food.

You wouldn't teach kids to study math or science or even law or medicine. I would no more want my kids toiling in a data mine than my parents wanted me toiling in a coal mine. You would tell them to spend extra hours at the gym, tanning salon and laundrymat. Your "resume" would be the assorted clips posted on whatever future version of Youtube and Facebook exist.

The world of the future would look a lot like Idiocracy. The difference is that people wouldn't have bred themselves stupid. They would just be stupid because there would be no reason to not be.

Future generations would look at Snookie and The Situation the way we look at Henry Ford or Bill Gates.
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Old 01-11-2012, 12:04 AM
Kobal2 Kobal2 is offline
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Originally Posted by msmith537 View Post
But what would pass for currency in a society where wealth was no longer based on land ownership, production capacity, or even intellectual property? The only thing left is the ability to amuse and entertain the masses of interchangable carbon blobs sitting in front of their 3D vid walls eating massive piles of cheap food.
Nah, there's a lot of stuff that people need/want and robots can't quite do besides Hollywood. Restauration, politics, religion, security, police, journalism, sex, science... just off the top of my head. Keeping the damn robots in check too, 'cause you know you can't trust them. Shifty. Scheming, dead eyesphotosensors. Don't like 'em.

Skill is its own form of currency. You maybe can cook a mean gumbo, but I sure can't. All I can make is a slightly antagonistic mush with fish in it.

Last edited by Kobal2; 01-11-2012 at 12:05 AM.
  #16  
Old 11-05-2014, 04:37 PM
SlackerInc SlackerInc is offline
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Originally Posted by msmith537 View Post
Think of it like this. A couple of hundred years ago, most people worked in agriculture. Since most wealth was generated by the production of crops or livestock, it was a direct function of who owned the most land.

A hundred or so years ago, the Industrial Revolution created a new form of wealth. The ability to make shit and lots of it. People got rich by making lots of stuff or inventing new ways for people to make stuff. It also had the effect of transferring the work force from working on farms to working in factories.

In the past 50 years, it's been about information. As technology and automation has made it easier to make stuff, the focus has shifted to figuring out what to make and how to make it more efficiently. Again, much of the work force has shifted from working in factories to working on the systems that run them.

It stands to reason that in the future, more and more decision making will be handled more cheaply and more efficiently by decision support systems. The company I work for makes software that analyzes data to tell salespeople who they should sell to. A lot of companies have systems that tell them when they should buy. How much longer until those systems are linked and you don't even need salespeople at all?

So when the drudgery of working on farms, factories and IT development centers becomes a thing of the past, what would be the next step? With the ability to produce so much so quickly, society would likely be highly socialized. After all, what does capitalist cutthrough efficiency matter when you can cheaply produce more than most people can ever use?

But what would pass for currency in a society where wealth was no longer based on land ownership, production capacity, or even intellectual property? The only thing left is the ability to amuse and entertain the masses of interchangable carbon blobs sitting in front of their 3D vid walls eating massive piles of cheap food.

You wouldn't teach kids to study math or science or even law or medicine. I would no more want my kids toiling in a data mine than my parents wanted me toiling in a coal mine. You would tell them to spend extra hours at the gym, tanning salon and laundrymat. Your "resume" would be the assorted clips posted on whatever future version of Youtube and Facebook exist.

The world of the future would look a lot like Idiocracy. The difference is that people wouldn't have bred themselves stupid. They would just be stupid because there would be no reason to not be.

Future generations would look at Snookie and The Situation the way we look at Henry Ford or Bill Gates.
This thread is such a pleasure to reread. Everyone posting in it should be proud of their contributions; and I hope it is remembered when future econonic, social, and technological historians take the measure of our age.

The post quoted above, #32, strikes me as a very interesting and unique contribution that got initially lost in the shuffle amidst the embarrassment of riches (if anyone quoted it or responded to it before now, I missed it).

ETA: Captor, you seem to have become more optimistic than you were in 2012.

Last edited by SlackerInc; 11-05-2014 at 04:39 PM.
  #17  
Old 01-09-2012, 07:21 AM
engineer_comp_geek engineer_comp_geek is online now
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Further, this level of automation should mean that no one is wretchedly poor, that everyone will be able to live in at least reasonable comfort without having to "work for a living". Right?
Heh. That's funny.

Look back a couple of hundred years ago, and folks were saying exactly the same thing. As soon as technology progressed, we wouldn't have people toiling on farms and slaving away in factories. Utopia was right around the corner.

We have huge machines automating much of our farm work and robots fill many factories, and Utopia isn't anywhere in sight. It's not technology that's holding us back at this point.

There needs to be some sort of drastic social change for anything like the above to happen.
  #18  
Old 01-09-2012, 08:04 AM
chrisk chrisk is offline
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Originally Posted by engineer_comp_geek View Post
Heh. That's funny.

Look back a couple of hundred years ago, and folks were saying exactly the same thing. As soon as technology progressed, we wouldn't have people toiling on farms and slaving away in factories. Utopia was right around the corner.

We have huge machines automating much of our farm work and robots fill many factories, and Utopia isn't anywhere in sight. It's not technology that's holding us back at this point.

There needs to be some sort of drastic social change for anything like the above to happen.
Unfortunately true. That's the way capitalism works. The benefits of having robots in the factories don't go to the workers who used to slave away in the factories, or even to the remaining workers who can't be robot-replaced yet. The benefits go to the rich man who paid for the robots.
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  #19  
Old 01-09-2012, 08:20 AM
SlackerInc SlackerInc is offline
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Unfortunately true. That's the way capitalism works. The benefits of having robots in the factories don't go to the workers who used to slave away in the factories, or even to the remaining workers who can't be robot-replaced yet. The benefits go to the rich man who paid for the robots.
But there's got to be a tipping point eventually where everyone's put out of work and no one therefore has money to buy the products the robots make. Then the rich guy who paid for the robots isn't so rich any more. Or he is (because his robots can make anything his heart desires), but the unemployed masses start rioting outside his mansion. Or the government says "this is ridiculous, you can't just hoard these tools that could provide unlimited prosperity" and nationalises the robot factories just like happened to banana plantations after leftist revolutions in Latin America. When inequality gets too extreme, the social fabric must give way, either peacefully or otherwise.
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Old 01-09-2012, 12:12 PM
The Other Waldo Pepper The Other Waldo Pepper is online now
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Or he is (because his robots can make anything his heart desires), but the unemployed masses start rioting outside his mansion.
"Release the robot hounds."
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Old 04-19-2012, 03:54 PM
Mnemnosyne Mnemnosyne is offline
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If we're talking about manufacturing more efficiently, there's an upper limit to where that's going to get us with the resources we have here on earth. Granted, I think the resources here are sufficient to maintain a stable population with minimal work in perpetuity, but since that situation won't come about overnight, looking at the road by which we get there is a big deal - the arguments by Lemur866 only make sense to me if it happened overnight, and if costs actually got down to near-zero, which I don't see happening without energy to matter conversion, if such a thing is even possible at any point in the future.

First, we see products get cheaper and cheaper, but at the same time less and less jobs are available. Manufacturing jobs mostly vanish entirely - at some point even slave labor would be less efficient than having the machine do it (in many industries that's already the case, in the rest it will be eventually). Service and entertainment jobs are all that remains, and many of those start going to the robots too. Eventually, the cost of having a robot flip a burger and serve it to the customers is less than the cost of hiring someone. At this time, we're still running on increased amounts of government welfare most likely, but there's increasing resentment to that from all the corporation owners and higher ups.

Still, there's a large number of jobs that still needs doing - business, science, and software engineering, and entertainment. Most of the robots still need people to write their initial programs for them and so on. These are the companies' real customers at this point, since they're the only ones still making more than welfare (which we'll remember, is being taken from the companies in the first place - they'd rather keep it than give it away and then be given it back in return). Eventually, people write programs that can automate the entire business sector (technically, this may have been an even earlier step, but it still happens at some point or another). Some time after that comes the real trick - someone comes up with a program that can program other programs. Robots no longer need people to write their programs for them, that process is automated. Software engineering goes away as a sector of employment, we're left only with the scientists and entertainers - these would eventually be replaced too, but societal unrest is likely to change things before that happens.

By this time, we've probably got 75%+ of the population unemployed, producing nothing, only consuming. Those who are still employed are resentful of them - they don't want these people taking what they have. Why? Human nature. Logic suggests that everyone could have 'enough' easily by this point, but most people seem to want way more than 'enough'. A multi-billionaire today has no need to increase their assets, yet they continue to do so. The same will apply at this point - those who are still making money will want to make more money, and they won't want to give away their money to people who are completely useless to them. Since government is primarily made up of the rich, the government will be on their side. The idea will be that anyone can be a scientist or an actor/writer/other form of entertainer. Those who don't do that are lazy, they don't deserve as much welfare as they're getting. Goods still have value, because we're not creating them from essentially limitless energy, star trek replicator style, and although their value is low enough that everyone could theoretically have most things they want, those who are still earning money that's being taxed and redistributed want to reduce what they're paying.*

Welfare and taxes are slowly reduced, or perhaps money is devalued through intentional inflation - inflation that goes up faster than the welfare numbers. Prices go up since there's more money in circulation, but the welfare remains the same numerically, so the masses of unemployed can afford less and less of the luxuries they want. Widespread unrest probably follows at this point. With increasing violence from the unemployed masses, stricter laws are put into place, and pretty much everyone still making money gets themselves a little army of private security bots to ensure their safety. Eventually, the unemployed will probably revolt. Unfortunately by this time, the security bots are far too advanced and commonplace for them to have a chance. Millions or even billions will probably die in unsuccessful revolutions - eventually the survivors would be either imprisoned or simply exiled to undesirable regions. Some of the earners would sympathize and perhaps even side with them, but it seems unlikely to be a large enough number to turn the tide in their favor.

The remaining earners would continue to exist as they do, their workload probably diminishing more slowly at this point. Eventually entertainers or scientists are replaced - hard to say which - when the robots are able to take over those fields. Programs will eventually be written to discern human tastes, and robots will be able to create entertainment based purely on the data they receive. It may not be as creative as some of what we have seen, but it will be satisfactory. Science too, will eventually be a robotic field, since it is primarily concerned with studying empirical data, something computers do well. New ideas will still have to be thought up by people, but they will be along the lines of 'hey robot, I want a thing that can do <insert neat thing the human just thought of>' and the machines will determine how to implement that request.

By the time entertainers and scientists are replaced, there will likely be minimal friction in simply allowing the robots to continue taking care of them. Besides which, everyone will have sufficient money to continue 'paying' for their upkeep for a significant amount of time, at this juncture. Land is the only thing that will still have value, and this will primarily go to those who owned and produced the robots throughout this entire transition. As population rises again, the land will be broken up into smaller and smaller chunks as it is divided among children, then grandchildren, and so on. And life will be good, at least until they run out of room and/or resources they can't figure out a way to replace or do without.

*Again, for the same reason that billionaires today continue to acquire more wealth even though there's no real need for it: someone who has 10 billion could stop earning money forever, and spend $273,972.60 a day for 100 years - with a more reasonable expenditure of $27,397.26 a day, the 10 billion would last a thousand years, or drop down one more decimal to $2,739.72 a day to make it last ten thousand years. Enough for them and all their foreseeable heirs - and inflation seems unlikely to take us to the point where that much daily expenditure will provide anything less than an 'extremely comfortable' lifestyle for centuries. Yet, people with billions keep trying to make more billions.
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Old 04-19-2012, 06:37 PM
heathen earthling heathen earthling is offline
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By this time, we've probably got 75%+ of the population unemployed, producing nothing, only consuming. Those who are still employed are resentful of them - they don't want these people taking what they have. ... Since government is primarily made up of the rich, the government will be on their side.
Do you think democracy will be history by this point? If 75%+ of the population is unemployed, whatever party that looks out for the interests of the unemployed should be getting 75%+ of the votes.
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Old 04-19-2012, 05:18 PM
rat avatar rat avatar is offline
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Unfortunately true. That's the way capitalism works. The benefits of having robots in the factories don't go to the workers who used to slave away in the factories, or even to the remaining workers who can't be robot-replaced yet. The benefits go to the rich man who paid for the robots.
The benefits also go to the people who figure out how to fix, spec and install the robots.

Those who still bet on making buggy whips do pretty poorly.
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Old 04-19-2012, 06:52 PM
Evil Captor Evil Captor is offline
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The benefits also go to the people who figure out how to fix, spec and install the robots.

Those who still bet on making buggy whips do pretty poorly.
You seem to have missed the point. The people you describe will be a VERY small percentage of the population. Eventually, the one percenters will include not just the wealthy but everyone they employ. Gonna get nasty long before then, unless we develop strong social welfare nets and alternative methods of creating value. I personally do not expect that ... even though it's rational, human beings are not rational, especially where money is concerned.
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Old 04-19-2012, 07:18 PM
rat avatar rat avatar is offline
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You seem to have missed the point. The people you describe will be a VERY small percentage of the population. Eventually, the one percenters will include not just the wealthy but everyone they employ. Gonna get nasty long before then, unless we develop strong social welfare nets and alternative methods of creating value. I personally do not expect that ... even though it's rational, human beings are not rational, especially where money is concerned.
I was responding to the current issue with the middle class, there are jobs like crazy we can't fill in the industry that we would love to pay people money for.

I am quite worried as robotic cars produce yet another class obsolete workers and yes this will be an issue.

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Old 04-19-2012, 07:37 PM
Wesley Clark Wesley Clark is online now
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The benefits also go to the people who figure out how to fix, spec and install the robots.

Those who still bet on making buggy whips do pretty poorly.
The robots will be able to fix, spec and install the robots at a higher level of precision and for a lower cost than a human worker.

I'm assuming robotics will follow a trend like computers, exponential growth in ability combined with rapid price deflation.
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Old 04-19-2012, 10:27 PM
rat avatar rat avatar is offline
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The robots will be able to fix, spec and install the robots at a higher level of precision and for a lower cost than a human worker.

I'm assuming robotics will follow a trend like computers, exponential growth in ability combined with rapid price deflation.
We need a few massive improvements in AI before that happens, computers are just machines and don't do well in tasks that are not repeatable or easily defined.
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Old 04-21-2012, 09:40 PM
Martini Enfield Martini Enfield is offline
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Those who still bet on making buggy whips do pretty poorly.
Only as an industry overall. There's always going to be a small number of people who make a living dealing with well osbolete technology. For example, look at the people who supply Civil War or Wild West re-enactors. They're making a living supplying stuff that's functionally 150 years old.

An interesting and thought-provoking OP. I can't hope to add the same depth of worthy response as some other posters here have, but I think the OP's scenario would play out different in different countries and it would be nice to explore the scenario in an non-US context.
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Old 04-22-2012, 07:31 AM
eburacum45 eburacum45 is offline
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I enjoy Lemur866's posts, and find them very thought provoking. But they are basically thought experiments, and refer to situations that could not exist in reality. Even a perfectly functioning, fully automated manufacturing system which operates without human input couldn't rovide an unlimited amount of goods for consumption, because some resources remain scarce.

Humans can obtain free oxygen from the air, simply because bazillions of automated factories manufacture it for us. But oxygen is the mosr abundant element in the Earth's lithosphere; if we want automated manufactories to create unlimited amounts of other goods, some of those goods are going to require resources that are less abundant, such as rare earths.

Given a fully automated manufactory system that was given permission by the land owners of our planet to process the rock beneath our feet, this shortage of resources could be solved; hurrah! We can all have limitless quantitioes of electronic goods1 Except that this would cause environmental degradation.

No, that can be fixed as well; the automated manufactory machines would need to be programmed to restore the land to its previous state (or better still, improve it); something like mountaintop removal mining, but on a grand scale, and with carefully regulated end results.

To achieve a green and pleasant planet after all this activity would require a lot of energy input; some might say an unrealistically large energy input. On the other hand there is plenty of Space-based solar power (SBSP) that could be imported into Earth ; given enough (robotically produced) SBSP we could have a true post-scarcity society on this planet. This imported power would eventually cause problems with waste heat, in a couple of hundred years or less depending on growth.

Alternately rare earths and other resources that could only be obtained by environmentally damaging strip mining could be obtained from seawater and/or from asteroids. Hmm; once again we hit problems with growth- if all humans can obtain all of their material requirements from these automated systems, what would prevent the population from growing at an arbitrary rate? Perhaps everyone would be too busy enjoying themselves to have big families; but perhaps not.

Eventually you hit a situation where Earth resembles Corusacant or Trantor; waste heat would be the limiting factor here.

I'm hoping that in a post-scarcity society it would become fashonable to live as responsibly as possible; since almost all trappings of wealth would be meaningless, there would be no need for conspicuous consumption, and no need to have large families to support the adults in old age.

But in an environment where resources are abundant, growth often continues until some limiting factor kicks in. What would be the limiting factor in a post-scarcity society with fully automated manufactories? Waste heat considerations, or simply the choices made by the population to limit consumption?
  #30  
Old 01-21-2013, 03:38 PM
jasg jasg is offline
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The benefits also go to the people who figure out how to fix, spec and install the robots.

Those who still bet on making buggy whips do pretty poorly.
... Or perhaps the robots will do repairs themselves - after banning screwdrivers and wrenches so that humans cannot disassemble the tyrannical robot overloads.

We need another amendment
  #31  
Old 01-09-2012, 08:16 AM
SlackerInc SlackerInc is offline
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Heh. That's funny.

Look back a couple of hundred years ago, and folks were saying exactly the same thing. As soon as technology progressed, we wouldn't have people toiling on farms and slaving away in factories. Utopia was right around the corner.

We have huge machines automating much of our farm work and robots fill many factories, and Utopia isn't anywhere in sight. It's not technology that's holding us back at this point.

There needs to be some sort of drastic social change for anything like the above to happen.
But doesn't there have to be drastic social change of some kind when robots can tend a farm automatically, build a house with no human carpenters, and manufacture anything (including more robots) in a factory with little to no human oversight?

The people who predicted there would be a drastic lessening of need for farm labour were right: today's agriculture requires only a tiny, tiny fraction of the labour it once did, which is why farm country has mostly emptied out over the past century. So that in itself did cause a big social change. But there was still plenty of work that needed doing in the cities, plus a certain amount of rural work driving (and loading) trucks, maintaining infrastructure, etc. It's easy to imagine those tasks and pretty much all other manual labour being taken over by robots within a century; at that point it will be possible to maintain human's needs in a pretty comfortable way without any human effort.

Now as I say I can totally see there still being rich people who come up with the latest equivalent of the iPhone, or the new hit song, etc. And there will be things that are still scarce for rich people to buy--land, for instance. But for the average schmoe, what jobs would be available to them, and why should they be expected to work?

I suppose it could simply be that there will be very few jobs available (and very high qualifications for them) but that those who have them will be paid extremely handsomely, will pay a lot in taxes, and there will be most everywhere a generous social safety net of the contemporary European variety.
  #32  
Old 01-09-2012, 09:07 PM
robinson robinson is offline
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We have huge machines automating much of our farm work and robots fill many factories, and Utopia isn't anywhere in sight. It's not technology that's holding us back at this point. There needs to be some sort of drastic social change for anything like the above to happen.
What evil lurks in the heart of man? (The shadow)
Idle hands are the devil's workshop. (Mrs. Grundy)

I pondered this a long while back. Especially in the face of finite natural resources, the default outcome (as we observe) is chaotic and unsatisfactory. In the absence of economic drivers, only powerful social controls can save us from ourselves. The army motto "Be all you can be!" is to the point. The naturally talented 10%in any line of endeavor might be able to discipline themselves, but the rest of us are going to need strong social programming. In addition, some captivating social goal(s) (Survival of the human race! . . .) would be needed to keep the herd moving.

If we are not to succumb to chaos and misery, I could envision an array of quasi-military organizations (like the CCC or monastic or Masonic orders) that could achieve appreciable results, provide for distribution of the goodies, and develop the potential of their members.

Perhaps the criterion for graduation would be the demonstrated capacity for artistic or academic self-discipline. Of course, there would be a lot of Professional Students. Maybe only a few would graduate.

Yep, pretty commie. Except more like a combination of Hitler Youth and a large university.

Comment?

Last edited by robinson; 01-09-2012 at 09:10 PM.
  #33  
Old 01-09-2012, 09:23 PM
BrainGlutton BrainGlutton is offline
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In addition, some captivating social goal(s) (Survival of the human race! . . .) would be needed to keep the herd moving.
Space colonization. It makes no obvious sense economically, but it will ensure the long-term (as in, up to 10 billion years) survival of the human race. And our robot overlords too, of course.

Last edited by BrainGlutton; 01-09-2012 at 09:24 PM.
  #34  
Old 01-09-2012, 09:25 PM
BrainGlutton BrainGlutton is offline
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Another possibility is that someday there will be no meaningful difference between robots and humans.
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Old 01-09-2012, 07:24 AM
samclem samclem is offline
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  #36  
Old 01-09-2012, 09:49 AM
Tristan Tristan is offline
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There is a fundamental flaw in the "no work" utopia that I have seen expressed before, that there is something in Humn nature that will rail against "the other guy" not having to work for his bread.

Which is to say, someone who does not work, but is still provided with food, shelter, and other essentials to live will be hated. Much as we see segments of the American population looking down upon those that are surviving via AFDC or other means of governmental support.
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Old 01-09-2012, 10:00 AM
BrainGlutton BrainGlutton is offline
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I, for one, welcome our . . . Oh, never mind.
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Old 01-09-2012, 10:07 AM
heathen earthling heathen earthling is offline
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There is a fundamental flaw in the "no work" utopia that I have seen expressed before, that there is something in Humn nature that will rail against "the other guy" not having to work for his bread.

Which is to say, someone who does not work, but is still provided with food, shelter, and other essentials to live will be hated. Much as we see segments of the American population looking down upon those that are surviving via AFDC or other means of governmental support.
Workers are conditioned to hate non-workers, but non-workers generally don't hate other non-workers. If everyone is a non-worker, what's the problem?
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Old 01-09-2012, 10:30 AM
Tristan Tristan is offline
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Workers are conditioned to hate non-workers, but non-workers generally don't hate other non-workers. If everyone is a non-worker, what's the problem?
There will always be workers though. If nothing else, there will be humans designing new robots, or artists, or humans that oversee sensitive things that no matter how advanced, we can't/won't trust robots to do entirely by themselves.

Or politicians.
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Old 01-10-2012, 02:36 PM
Kobal2 Kobal2 is offline
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There will always be workers though. If nothing else, there will be humans designing new robots, or artists, or humans that oversee sensitive things that no matter how advanced, we can't/won't trust robots to do entirely by themselves.

Or politicians.
True enough, but a) they would be in a minority and b) they would do so by choice. If everyone is guaranteed house, feed and entertainment by the robots, then only those motivated to have more or do more would work.
Which, in my mind, is a different situation from having to work a job you mostly loathe because there ain't no such thing as a free lunch and seeing other people getting free fucking lunches that you were just told there ainten't.
  #41  
Old 01-09-2012, 12:07 PM
aruvqan aruvqan is offline
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There is a fundamental flaw in the "no work" utopia that I have seen expressed before, that there is something in Humn nature that will rail against "the other guy" not having to work for his bread.

Which is to say, someone who does not work, but is still provided with food, shelter, and other essentials to live will be hated. Much as we see segments of the American population looking down upon those that are surviving via AFDC or other means of governmental support.
This is sort of covered in the 'Jupiter' series by Charles Sheffield [and a couple other cowriters]

There is a small oligarchy, 'Families' associated with manufacturing empires, military/political empires, and so forth. Somewhere around a few hundred thousand ultra rich people. They have human servants, a point of conspicuous consumption that they do not use robots/machines. Then there are people who have jobs, a few million or so more, they are the managers and pilots and such. They run the factories, work in stores and such. Then there is the 'Pool' - the great unemployed unwashed. They apparently are all on the dole - in one story the parents of one guy get 900 credits a month for him to stay in school. This pool also supply the criminal element.

I do believe that the world is headed for a similar situation, as computerizing, robotizing and mechanizing everything keeps reducing the jobs available, corporate farms take over from small holdings, factory mass production of everything. Handcrafted items will be made by a diminishing pool of craftsmen, and being sold to the ultra rich. At some point, if you do not have a job, you will end up in that pool of unemployed on the dole. And it will not matter if you have the brilliance of Einstein, and a PhD, you will be sitting i your flat, watching the TV and on the dole, unless you can winkle your way into one of the ultra rare jobs.

Wonderful future.
  #42  
Old 01-09-2012, 09:23 PM
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[quote] Further, this level of automation should mean that no one is wretchedly poor, that everyone will be able to live in at least reasonable comfort without having to "work for a living". Right? Again, maybe those who do "extra" could have additional reward for doing so, but if robots can do all the stuff I described, and assuming population is under reasonable control, no one should want for the basics.[unquote] Your end-state is reminiscent of the cities in Logan's Run (1970s movie).

Last edited by robinson; 01-09-2012 at 09:24 PM.
  #43  
Old 01-10-2012, 12:48 AM
SlackerInc SlackerInc is offline
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Arjuna, that book looks fantastic--I have put it on my Amazon Wishlist at highest priority--thanks!

BrainGlutton, the idea of space colonisation "keeping the herd moving" is intriguing. Makes sense.

Lemur866, your whole post is very well observed. But isn't the difference this time that in those other revolutions, there was still stuff that human labour was needed to do to keep the new orientation of society working? The labour force moved from farms to factories to service positions; but if those are all automated, what then? I can see a big expansion in people working in the arts, research, etc.; but what of the common folk who aren't so intellectually oriented? What will they do? And do you see upheaval along the way, or just a steadily larger and larger percentage of the population living on welfare until at some point that seems obsolete and unnecessary?
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Old 01-10-2012, 02:41 AM
Senegoid Senegoid is offline
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I believe that great proponent of robotics Isaac Asimov thought a lot about these questions.

Many years ago I read an essay either by Asimov or by someone else who was discussing Asimov's ideas on this. (Sorry, no cite, this was many years ago.) Asimov's idea was that robots would take over most of mankind's productive work, creating a mass leisure society. He envisioned that there would only a minimal amount of work requiring human hands. This would be done by a very small work force, perhaps working only a small number of hours a week. Pretty much everybody else would live lives of total leisure.

That small workforce of very-part-time workers, plus all the robots, would produce all the goods (and services?) that everyone might need.

I don't recall anything said about how we would make the transition to such an economic model. But it might be plausible if it happened gradually, as the above description seems to imply. As robots become increasingly commonplace and productive, more and more people would work fewer and fewer hours (or not at all), but there would be enough goods produced to maintain everybody. As long as the robots and minimal work force kept the supply of goods adequate for everybody, prices would stay in line with what people could pay. A massively welfare-economy would evolve to provide for those who don't work at all. This is the part that I think would be difficult to achieve. I think creating a massively welfare-based economy would be very difficult -- or at least, it would require a major paradigm shift from the capitalist economy we have now.
  #45  
Old 01-10-2012, 04:57 AM
Untoward_Parable Untoward_Parable is offline
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The result will most likely be hyper-fascism. A small number of wealthy families will control this labor pool that have no rights and do whatever is necessarily to eliminate any threat to their new royalty system, IE eliminate the vast majority of the human population (99.9% or so).
  #46  
Old 01-10-2012, 09:15 AM
Lemur866 Lemur866 is offline
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So the hyper-rich slaughter billions of threatening unemployed people. And how are they hyper-rich better off after they murder everyone? OK, they have their automated factories that can produce whatever goods and services needed, so they don't need the useless proles. And now what? They aren't any better off. And now they aren't hyper-rich anymore, are they?

Because to be "rich" you need to have a better standard of living than the guy next door. When the aristocrats kill off the peasants, they aren't aristocrats anymore, even if they have the same luxuries as before. Now the peasants are dead, and everyone on earth is a hyper-rich owner of an automated factory. How is that different than just allowing the peasants to own automated factories?

Again, automated manufacturing means that the marginal cost of production drops to zero, which means that the value of owning an automated factory drops to zero. Take a look at how products are produced nowadays. Some guy or some firm comes up with an idea for a product. They set up a factory in China. The factory churns out millions of widgets. But how much wealth stays in China? The majority of the profit goes to the designers. And this is because the factory has no leverage. If the factory tries to claim a greater share of the profits, then the company will just find another factory in another part of the world to produce the widgets.

In other words, the factory itself adds almost no value to the product. Of course somehow somewhere the company needs a factory to produce the widgets. But since the manufacturing itself is dirt cheap and a small fraction of the cost of producing the widget, the location and owner of the factory doesn't matter. The factory owners become the equivalent of day laborers who get orders to produce such and such and get paid a pittance, because there are plenty of other hungry factories who need the work.
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Old 01-10-2012, 12:18 PM
Untoward_Parable Untoward_Parable is offline
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So the hyper-rich slaughter billions of threatening unemployed people. And how are they hyper-rich better off after they murder everyone? OK, they have their automated factories that can produce whatever goods and services needed, so they don't need the useless proles. And now what? They aren't any better off. And now they aren't hyper-rich anymore, are they?

Because to be "rich" you need to have a better standard of living than the guy next door. When the aristocrats kill off the peasants, they aren't aristocrats anymore, even if they have the same luxuries as before. Now the peasants are dead, and everyone on earth is a hyper-rich owner of an automated factory. How is that different than just allowing the peasants to own automated factories?

Again, automated manufacturing means that the marginal cost of production drops to zero, which means that the value of owning an automated factory drops to zero. Take a look at how products are produced nowadays. Some guy or some firm comes up with an idea for a product. They set up a factory in China. The factory churns out millions of widgets. But how much wealth stays in China? The majority of the profit goes to the designers. And this is because the factory has no leverage. If the factory tries to claim a greater share of the profits, then the company will just find another factory in another part of the world to produce the widgets.

In other words, the factory itself adds almost no value to the product. Of course somehow somewhere the company needs a factory to produce the widgets. But since the manufacturing itself is dirt cheap and a small fraction of the cost of producing the widget, the location and owner of the factory doesn't matter. The factory owners become the equivalent of day laborers who get orders to produce such and such and get paid a pittance, because there are plenty of other hungry factories who need the work.
A certain number of the poor would be kept alive for use as prostitutes, artists, informants, ect. Mostly though you don't want a large, conuming, polluting, potentially revolutionary population around. Being rich in this context will be to have one's individual desires and ambitions multiplied many times by robot labor. Though many of this new humanity would not consider themselves rich but perhaps some kind of destined minority of perfect citizens in a grand new era of democracy and prosperity.
  #48  
Old 01-10-2012, 12:22 PM
The Other Waldo Pepper The Other Waldo Pepper is online now
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Originally Posted by Lemur866 View Post
So the hyper-rich slaughter billions of threatening unemployed people. And how are they hyper-rich better off after they murder everyone?
The slaughtered will no longer be a threat.

Quote:
Now the peasants are dead, and everyone on earth is a hyper-rich owner of an automated factory. How is that different than just allowing the peasants to own automated factories?
Such peasants could be a threat.
  #49  
Old 01-11-2012, 12:02 AM
Lemur866 Lemur866 is offline
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Originally Posted by The Other Waldo Pepper View Post
The slaughtered will no longer be a threat.



Such peasants could be a threat.
What "threat"? Owning an automated factory will mean nothing. It won't give you any power. This is like a medieval peasant imagining that the drivers of combine harvesters would be the most powerful people of the modern era. After all, they control the food! Think of the power!

Except the driver of the combine isn't rich, is he, because anybody could do his job. The owner of an automated factory isn't going to be rich, because the first thing someone's going to build with their automated factory is another automated factory. Wait, second thing. The first thing will be a fully functional sexbot. The second will be another automated factory.

A magic factory that produces an endless cornucopia of goods and services would make you a wealthy man--today. A factory in the future that produces the exact same cornucopia, except there are millions of other automated factories would be worth nothing. What good is it? If can make you anything you want? Yeah, and so can any other factory. You can produce piles and piles of diamond necklaces? Yeah, and so can any other factory. Those diamond necklaces are worth nothing, because it costs nothing to produce them. The goods and services pouring out of your factory are worth nothing, and so your factory that can produce literally anything you can imagine is also worth nothing.

By that I mean, if you take a hammer and carefully smash your factory to bits, you won't be any worse off than you were before. Yeah, you won't have a river of manufactured goods pouring out any more. So what? You can get any manufactured good you can imagine for free, there are piles of them everywhere, or would be if robots didn't follow around behind people scooping up their discarded trash and dumping it back into hoppers to be used as raw materials.

In a world where every material good costs nothing to produce, material goods are worthless. People who have ownership of factories that make these material goods will be as rich and powerful as people today who have all the air they could ever want. It's the abundance of air that makes air worthless. Yes, you'll die in minutes without air. On a planet where air has to be laboriously manufactured by hand, the people who controlled the air supply would control the world. On a planet with a blanket of air a mile thick, it's ludicrous to speak of controlling the air.

Yes, there will be times and places where future people in a world of prosperity will have to work hard to make sure they have the material goods and services they need to live, just like there are times and places today where people have to work hard to make sure they have enough air. If you're in a submarine, or a burning house, or climbing Mt Everest, or visiting the Moon, you have to laboriously carry your air with you. That doesn't mean that the air barons rule the world.
  #50  
Old 01-11-2012, 01:31 AM
Untoward_Parable Untoward_Parable is offline
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Originally Posted by Lemur866 View Post
What "threat"? Owning an automated factory will mean nothing. It won't give you any power. This is like a medieval peasant imagining that the drivers of combine harvesters would be the most powerful people of the modern era. After all, they control the food! Think of the power!

Except the driver of the combine isn't rich, is he, because anybody could do his job. The owner of an automated factory isn't going to be rich, because the first thing someone's going to build with their automated factory is another automated factory. Wait, second thing. The first thing will be a fully functional sexbot. The second will be another automated factory.

A magic factory that produces an endless cornucopia of goods and services would make you a wealthy man--today. A factory in the future that produces the exact same cornucopia, except there are millions of other automated factories would be worth nothing. What good is it? If can make you anything you want? Yeah, and so can any other factory. You can produce piles and piles of diamond necklaces? Yeah, and so can any other factory. Those diamond necklaces are worth nothing, because it costs nothing to produce them. The goods and services pouring out of your factory are worth nothing, and so your factory that can produce literally anything you can imagine is also worth nothing.

By that I mean, if you take a hammer and carefully smash your factory to bits, you won't be any worse off than you were before. Yeah, you won't have a river of manufactured goods pouring out any more. So what? You can get any manufactured good you can imagine for free, there are piles of them everywhere, or would be if robots didn't follow around behind people scooping up their discarded trash and dumping it back into hoppers to be used as raw materials.

In a world where every material good costs nothing to produce, material goods are worthless. People who have ownership of factories that make these material goods will be as rich and powerful as people today who have all the air they could ever want. It's the abundance of air that makes air worthless. Yes, you'll die in minutes without air. On a planet where air has to be laboriously manufactured by hand, the people who controlled the air supply would control the world. On a planet with a blanket of air a mile thick, it's ludicrous to speak of controlling the air.

Yes, there will be times and places where future people in a world of prosperity will have to work hard to make sure they have the material goods and services they need to live, just like there are times and places today where people have to work hard to make sure they have enough air. If you're in a submarine, or a burning house, or climbing Mt Everest, or visiting the Moon, you have to laboriously carry your air with you. That doesn't mean that the air barons rule the world.
the owners of the combines and the land were very rich, but sure they didn't actually drive them themselves, that's peasant work. Whichever mechanism you use to control the means of production and therefore select for yourself as much benefit as is possible from it is only specific to time, place and culture, the result is the same and not that hard to understand.
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