ISF Logo   IS Forum
Forum Index Register Members List Events Mark Forums Read Help

Go Back   International Skeptics Forum » General Topics » USA Politics
 


Welcome to the International Skeptics Forum, where we discuss skepticism, critical thinking, the paranormal and science in a friendly but lively way. You are currently viewing the forum as a guest, which means you are missing out on discussing matters that are of interest to you. Please consider registering so you can gain full use of the forum features and interact with other Members. Registration is simple, fast and free! Click here to register today.
Tags capitalism , robots , transhumanism , unemployment

Reply
Old 28th February 2007, 05:36 PM   #1
UserGoogol
Master Poster
 
Join Date: Sep 2002
Posts: 2,074
Capitalism and robots

It has always seemed relatively obvious to me that "eventually," technology will outclass humans in every possible human endeavor. (And by always, I mean since I was a little kid.) This is because it's certainly possible (worst case scenario, we can simply reverse engineer how humans do it and then throw some racing stripes on it) and technology seems to grow at a fairly substantial pace such that I don't see why something so very possible and beneficial would not eventually happen. When this happens, of course, we can all just lounge back and relax while robots do all the work for us.

But even if it is technically possible for this to happen, there seem to be some economic issues. Speculations about the singularity aside, we'll won't just magically wake up into such a utopia, but rather it'll gradually phase in. That is, there will be a point where most jobs but not quite all have been replaced by technology. But then a problem emerges. Assuming that some kind of capitalism is in effect during the lead-in time, (and capitalism certainly seems to be a good system) unemployment will rise to really crazy levels. If machines are both cheaper and better than humans at some job, then only an idiot will hire a human. Widespread unemployment has a tendency to hurt the economy, (since if people can't get money, they don't spend money) and that'll just screw things up all over. Hell, it might even slow down technological growth.

I'm young and unreasonably optimistic about technology, so I think these events might happen within my own lifetime, but even if it won't happen for a thousand years, I think it's an interesting topic for discussion. How does one deal with this problem?

I'm wrong, new jobs will always come: Historically, tons of jobs have been made obsolete, but new jobs were produced in turn. Buggy whip manufacturers going away but the car industry producing tons of new jobs being the stereotypical example. Thus, one might suppose that this trend will continue, and each every job eliminated will produce even more new jobs. Up to a point, I suppose this is true, but eventually I think technology will catch up.

I'm wrong, humans are awesome: Alternatively, there are certain jobs where people just like the idea of the worker being a human being, even if it doesn't make much of a practical difference. These jobs are in the service industry and the first examples that come to mind include teaching, cashiers, day care, waiters, artists, and prostitutes. I do think that "sufficiently humanoid" androids would be able to take these jobs eventually, but maybe not. These sorts of jobs might very well be able to "cushion" the transition period.

Avoidance: Self-preservation will lead technological investment will simply be directed in areas which do not make humanity obsolete. This is very possible, but I think it would be very unfortunate if this were to happen, since a world where nobody has to work ever is such a nice idea. (Of course, many science-fiction writers and other speculators have been far more pessimistic.)

Transhumanism: Technology will get better, but technology will also make humans better. Thus, humans will be able to compete in the marketplace until they eventually decide to shift all the work onto robots.

Welfare state: As more and more jobs become obsolete, the government would simply provide more and more gracious unemployment programs. I like this idea, but there are tons of reasonable sounding criticisms people could easily make against it; that it would harm the economy, that it would ultimately slow down technological advancement, that it would be detrimental to liberty, or whatever. In particular, such a system might lead to the "robots do everything" period being one of central control, which I think might be a bad idea.

Free market solution: A huge amount of enterprise in our economy is done by publicly-traded corporations. If a sufficient amount of people own stock, then dividends will be similar to the above welfare payments but without big government getting involved.

And just to make things clear, I think technocracy is retarded.

Last edited by UserGoogol; 28th February 2007 at 05:48 PM.
UserGoogol is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 28th February 2007, 06:37 PM   #2
Ziggurat
Penultimate Amazing
 
Ziggurat's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jun 2003
Posts: 40,572
The thing about robot labor vs. human labor is that it doesn't matter if robots can do the job better than humans can: human labor would still be an available resource, and as an available resource, it will get used one way or another. Robots could drive down the price of much human labor, and will almost certainly shift what that labor is used for (even if robots don't become intelligent, which I think will be the case), but it cannot drive humans out of the labor market simply because robots (just like everything else) will never be free (as in price).
__________________
"As long as it is admitted that the law may be diverted from its true purpose -- that it may violate property instead of protecting it -- then everyone will want to participate in making the law, either to protect himself against plunder or to use it for plunder. Political questions will always be prejudicial, dominant, and all-absorbing. There will be fighting at the door of the Legislative Palace, and the struggle within will be no less furious." - Bastiat, The Law
Ziggurat is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 28th February 2007, 06:40 PM   #3
UserGoogol
Master Poster
 
Join Date: Sep 2002
Posts: 2,074
Hmm. I think they'll be cheap enough for practical purposes, since human beings have a certain amount of money that they need in order to not die, but perhaps I'm not compensating for the fact that in a world of extremely efficient robots, supply and demand will make things very very cheap.

Last edited by UserGoogol; 28th February 2007 at 06:51 PM.
UserGoogol is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 28th February 2007, 06:49 PM   #4
Lonewulf
Humanistic Cyborg
 
Lonewulf's Avatar
 
Join Date: Nov 2005
Posts: 10,375
Quote:
Transhumanism: Technology will get better, but technology will also make humans better. Thus, humans will be able to compete in the marketplace until they eventually decide to shift all the work onto robots.
I'm a Transhumanist in some aspects, and this I support the idea of. I think that if we develop powerful robotics, we will find ways to integrate with those robots, even as the playing fields change.
__________________
Writing.com Account
Lonewulf is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 28th February 2007, 08:21 PM   #5
Sir Robin Goodfellow
Master Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2007
Posts: 2,804
Lousy robots! They took our jobs!
Sir Robin Goodfellow is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 28th February 2007, 08:38 PM   #6
Rob Lister
Guest
 
Join Date: Apr 2004
Posts: 8,504
Originally Posted by UserGoogol View Post
Hmm. I think they'll be cheap enough for practical purposes, since human beings have a certain amount of money that they need in order to not die, but perhaps I'm not compensating for the fact that in a world of extremely efficient robots, supply and demand will make things very very cheap.
robots too need a certain amount of money or else they die. The upfront costs are stupendous. the maintenance costs too are great. There are very few 'general purpose' robots; some are general purpose to some extent but all require human-designed specifications and upkeep.

So far, our technological path has led to outsourcing labor to the third world for jobs robots can already do; supply/demand curve rules.

I'm not worried. Even with the current (and seemingly stable) progression of robotic/AI ability, the world-wide market is adjusting nicely, even if strictly regional markets (detroit comes to mind) seem to lag behind.

Number 3: get me a brew from the fridge.

Last edited by Rob Lister; 28th February 2007 at 08:41 PM.
Rob Lister is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 28th February 2007, 08:42 PM   #7
UserGoogol
Master Poster
 
Join Date: Sep 2002
Posts: 2,074
Yes, but that amount of money drops down as technology advances, whereas the basic needs of human beings remains pretty constant. I think that cost approaches zero as time approaches infinity, although admittingly that's a bit of speculation. Thus, for any particular wage humans may demand, technology will "eventually" be cheaper than it.
UserGoogol is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 28th February 2007, 09:04 PM   #8
Darth Rotor
Salted Sith Cynic
 
Darth Rotor's Avatar
 
Join Date: Aug 2006
Posts: 38,517
Originally Posted by UserGoogol View Post
It has always seemed relatively obvious to me that "eventually," technology will outclass humans in every possible human endeavor. (And by always, I mean since I was a little kid.) This is because it's certainly possible (worst case scenario, we can simply reverse engineer how humans do it and then throw some racing stripes on it) and technology seems to grow at a fairly substantial pace such that I don't see why something so very possible and beneficial would not eventually happen. When this happens, of course, we can all just lounge back and relax while robots do all the work for us.

But even if it is technically possible for this to happen, there seem to be some economic issues. Speculations about the singularity aside, we'll won't just magically wake up into such a utopia, but rather it'll gradually phase in. That is, there will be a point where most jobs but not quite all have been replaced by technology. But then a problem emerges. Assuming that some kind of capitalism is in effect during the lead-in time, (and capitalism certainly seems to be a good system) unemployment will rise to really crazy levels. If machines are both cheaper and better than humans at some job, then only an idiot will hire a human. Widespread unemployment has a tendency to hurt the economy, (since if people can't get money, they don't spend money) and that'll just screw things up all over. Hell, it might even slow down technological growth.

I'm young and unreasonably optimistic about technology, so I think these events might happen within my own lifetime, but even if it won't happen for a thousand years, I think it's an interesting topic for discussion. How does one deal with this problem?

I'm wrong, new jobs will always come: Historically, tons of jobs have been made obsolete, but new jobs were produced in turn. Buggy whip manufacturers going away but the car industry producing tons of new jobs being the stereotypical example. Thus, one might suppose that this trend will continue, and each every job eliminated will produce even more new jobs. Up to a point, I suppose this is true, but eventually I think technology will catch up.

I'm wrong, humans are awesome: Alternatively, there are certain jobs where people just like the idea of the worker being a human being, even if it doesn't make much of a practical difference. These jobs are in the service industry and the first examples that come to mind include teaching, cashiers, day care, waiters, artists, and prostitutes. I do think that "sufficiently humanoid" androids would be able to take these jobs eventually, but maybe not. These sorts of jobs might very well be able to "cushion" the transition period.

Avoidance: Self-preservation will lead technological investment will simply be directed in areas which do not make humanity obsolete. This is very possible, but I think it would be very unfortunate if this were to happen, since a world where nobody has to work ever is such a nice idea. (Of course, many science-fiction writers and other speculators have been far more pessimistic.)

Transhumanism: Technology will get better, but technology will also make humans better. Thus, humans will be able to compete in the marketplace until they eventually decide to shift all the work onto robots.

Welfare state: As more and more jobs become obsolete, the government would simply provide more and more gracious unemployment programs. I like this idea, but there are tons of reasonable sounding criticisms people could easily make against it; that it would harm the economy, that it would ultimately slow down technological advancement, that it would be detrimental to liberty, or whatever. In particular, such a system might lead to the "robots do everything" period being one of central control, which I think might be a bad idea.

Free market solution: A huge amount of enterprise in our economy is done by publicly-traded corporations. If a sufficient amount of people own stock, then dividends will be similar to the above welfare payments but without big government getting involved.

And just to make things clear, I think technocracy is retarded.
Human Labor has a lower carbon footprint.

Plus, robots chicks don't have nice touchable and kissable tits. Aluminum is not erotic.

DR
__________________
Helicopters don't so much fly as beat the air into submission.
"Jesus wept, but did He laugh?"--F.H. Buckley____"There is one thing that was too great for God to show us when He walked upon our earth ... His mirth." --Chesterton__"If the barbarian in us is excised, so is our humanity."--D'rok__ "I only use my gun whenever kindness fails."-- Robert Earl Keen__"Sturgeon spares none.". -- The Marquis
Darth Rotor is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 28th February 2007, 09:12 PM   #9
yinyinwang
Muse
 
Join Date: Nov 2003
Posts: 603
Originally Posted by Sir Robin Goodfellow View Post
Lousy robots! They took our jobs!
which is a good thing, so you can sit and drink.
__________________
Hell for mind is heaven for mindless

My web pages: http://wayofnature.sunhi.org
yinyinwang is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 28th February 2007, 09:23 PM   #10
UserGoogol
Master Poster
 
Join Date: Sep 2002
Posts: 2,074
Originally Posted by Darth Rotor View Post
Human Labor has a lower carbon footprint.
Not really.

Quote:
Plus, robots chicks don't have nice touchable and kissable tits. Aluminum is not erotic.

DR
They can. The technology for artificial breasts is already fairly advanced, and I see no reason to assume it won't keep on advancing.

Also, what the hell do you mean aluminum isn't erotic? :3
UserGoogol is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 28th February 2007, 09:47 PM   #11
Lonewulf
Humanistic Cyborg
 
Lonewulf's Avatar
 
Join Date: Nov 2005
Posts: 10,375
Originally Posted by UserGoogol View Post
Not really.

They can. The technology for artificial breasts is already fairly advanced, and I see no reason to assume it won't keep on advancing.

Also, what the hell do you mean aluminum isn't erotic? :3
^--- :3





Googol: Do you think that "robots" are really going to be the only influence, though? Not just AIs, not just robot workers, but what other influences might there be? Genetic Engineering, for instance? If that's too morally questionable, then what about bio-engineering after you're born, by introducing new things to your body grown in a lab?

I think that we may need to either rely on robotic technology *or* develop ourselves into something different in order to survive the ravages of space exploration. We can't keep all of our eggs in this tiny little basket, we need to branch out; but space is, quite frankly, very hazardous, and to keep explorers as perfectly human may make their job way too difficult to accomplish. I mean, even resistance to stuff like cosmic radiation could help a lot, not to mention the effects of Zero G on the body after long exposure (or rather, what happens when you come back to 1 G).

Of course, not everything is either/or. I just like looking at most of the differing factors, and I think that space exploration is one of the biggest journeys ahead of us. But we can't make that leap easily, without some adjustment somewhere.
__________________
Writing.com Account
Lonewulf is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 28th February 2007, 09:51 PM   #12
Rob Lister
Guest
 
Join Date: Apr 2004
Posts: 8,504
Originally Posted by UserGoogol View Post
Yes, but that amount of money drops down as technology advances...
Evidence?

ETA: and by that I mean actual standard of living (A/C, Color tv in every room, insulated houses, yada ad nausum). Compared with that of my dad's in his time, my SOL has increased 10 fold though I probably don't make more than twice what he did (in constant dollars).

EATA: we currently live in the LAP OF ***** LUXURY...assuming that doesn't put to fine a point on it....and every damn bit of it due to technological advances...including robots. Do a cost compare of a new auto now vs. then in terms of constant family dollar income.

Last edited by Rob Lister; 28th February 2007 at 09:58 PM.
Rob Lister is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 28th February 2007, 10:06 PM   #13
Rob Lister
Guest
 
Join Date: Apr 2004
Posts: 8,504
Originally Posted by Darth Rotor View Post
Human Labor has a lower carbon footprint.

Plus, robots chicks don't have nice touchable and kissable tits. Aluminum is not erotic.

DR
I absolutely refuse to get banned for including the link and jpegs this response needs...not that I condone that sort of purchase.
Rob Lister is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 1st March 2007, 01:16 AM   #14
UserGoogol
Master Poster
 
Join Date: Sep 2002
Posts: 2,074
Originally Posted by Lonewulf View Post
Googol: Do you think that "robots" are really going to be the only influence, though? Not just AIs, not just robot workers, but what other influences might there be? Genetic Engineering, for instance? If that's too morally questionable, then what about bio-engineering after you're born, by introducing new things to your body grown in a lab?
No, I just think that robot is a nice word that summarizes a lot of different "futuristic techy stuff" and has some nice imagery to it.

Originally Posted by Rob Lister View Post
Evidence?

ETA: and by that I mean actual standard of living (A/C, Color tv in every room, insulated houses, yada ad nausum). Compared with that of my dad's in his time, my SOL has increased 10 fold though I probably don't make more than twice what he did (in constant dollars).

EATA: we currently live in the LAP OF ***** LUXURY...assuming that doesn't put to fine a point on it....and every damn bit of it due to technological advances...including robots. Do a cost compare of a new auto now vs. then in terms of constant family dollar income.
I'm a bit confused, since you seem to be agreeing with what I'm saying, so I'm wondering if you understood me. I'm saying that technology makes things cheaper and better. I'm making the further claim that technology makes things arbitrarily cheaper and arbitrarily better, that is, that the goodness of technology approaches infinity and the price of technology approaches zero. I admit I don't have any tangible numbers on me (other people do, but the only example I can think of is Ray Kurzweil, and I think he misreads data to be a bit overoptimistic) but I don't think it's that extraodinary a claim at the same time.

If technology makes things cheaper and better, then logically, technology will eventually be produced that can do what a million people can do at the cost of a single loaf of bread, thus leaving (unmodified) human beings in the dust. I admit, of course, that there is a danger in overextrapolating from existing data.

Last edited by UserGoogol; 1st March 2007 at 02:09 AM.
UserGoogol is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 1st March 2007, 07:40 AM   #15
Ziggurat
Penultimate Amazing
 
Ziggurat's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jun 2003
Posts: 40,572
Originally Posted by Darth Rotor View Post
Human Labor has a lower carbon footprint.
Depends what you're using them for. The human carbon footprint for heavy labor is fantanstically inefficient, which is why most of the labor in large construction projects nowdays is always done by machine (even if human-driven), even in places where labor costs are dirt cheap.
__________________
"As long as it is admitted that the law may be diverted from its true purpose -- that it may violate property instead of protecting it -- then everyone will want to participate in making the law, either to protect himself against plunder or to use it for plunder. Political questions will always be prejudicial, dominant, and all-absorbing. There will be fighting at the door of the Legislative Palace, and the struggle within will be no less furious." - Bastiat, The Law
Ziggurat is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 1st March 2007, 08:09 AM   #16
Beerina
Sarcastic Conqueror of Notions
 
Beerina's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2004
Posts: 29,253
Originally Posted by UserGoogol View Post
But then a problem emerges. Assuming that some kind of capitalism is in effect during the lead-in time, (and capitalism certainly seems to be a good system) unemployment will rise to really crazy levels. If machines are both cheaper and better than humans at some job, then only an idiot will hire a human. Widespread unemployment has a tendency to hurt the economy, (since if people can't get money, they don't spend money) and that'll just screw things up all over. Hell, it might even slow down technological growth.
I don't believe this will be as bad as we imagine. Here's why:

When machines do more of the work, this is a productivity increase. People still find jobs, for "lower pay", but this is offset by the productivity increase lowering the cost of items.

The net effect is that, for the same number of people, more and more work is getting accomplished. This raises the standard of living in ways that people don't immediately see, such as cell phones being omnipresent, giant color TVs for less than the cost of a 19" one 20 years ago, or a 7" B&W in the mid '50's.

In the '70's though '90's, you had no shortage of professors whining about the "consumer mentality" of the western countries, where, once basic needs like food and clothes and shelter are met, artificial needs must be created to help drive the economy.

Well, sort of. But that actually manifests itself by allowing more and more esoteric items to be purchased. This is an extension of the concept of specialization in skills that agriculture (with attendant large cities) brought about. Food was produced easily enough there were lots of excess that could be traded -- and hence professional classes that were not farming (and not priesting) could arise to produce goods the farmers could trade for.

And the more work that gets done, the more specialization can occur.

A world of "replication devices" would not be a world of massive unemployment, starvation, and want, but rather a world of untold bounties and riches. Almost everybody would become some kind of specialist producing a unique item, or helping out somehow.

How? I don't know. But I know that it will work itself out. If you were to tell a politician a hundred and fifty years ago that, by the year 2000, less than 2% of the population would be doing farming for a living, he'd look at you incredulously and ask, "Sheah, right! What are they all doing? Embossing the leather in different ways on buggy whips? Idiot!"
__________________
"Great innovations should not be forced [by way of] slender majorities." - Thomas Jefferson

The government should nationalize it! Socialized, single-payer video game development and sales now! More, cheaper, better games, right? Right?
Beerina is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Reply

International Skeptics Forum » General Topics » USA Politics

Bookmarks

Thread Tools

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Forum Jump


All times are GMT -7. The time now is 08:49 PM.
Powered by vBulletin. Copyright ©2000 - 2018, Jelsoft Enterprises Ltd.

This forum began as part of the James Randi Education Foundation (JREF). However, the forum now exists as
an independent entity with no affiliation with or endorsement by the JREF, including the section in reference to "JREF" topics.

Disclaimer: Messages posted in the Forum are solely the opinion of their authors.