Re: [SL4] Employment vs. Singularity

From: Brian Atkins (
Date: Mon Aug 21 2000 - 20:47:48 MDT

Samantha Atkins wrote:
> Brian Atkins wrote:
> >
> >How exactly would the jobs be provided for the
> > "worthy" if no one wants to hire them?
> If the jobs can be done more economically and efficiently by automation
> and AIs in a particular area then what motivation do I as employer have
> to hire less efficient and highly problematic humans instead?  If enough
> jobs go in this direction then humans will become increasingly
> unemployable.  Unless you believe this is ok if that is the way it is
> and it is ok that these people starve if they can't find work, then
> something, somehow needs to be done about it. Now, I come from a pure
> libertarian and even objectivist background. Saying these things rankles
> against a lot of my own former pet beliefs.  But I don't see any holes
> in the logic sufficient to make the problem just go away.

That's great, but you totally forgot to answer my question.

> >Government subsidies backed by
> > a massive tax and spend program? I'm sorry, but the world (at least pre-
> > Singularity) is not perfect. If someone can't learn what they need to
> > learn to get a "good" job in the new economy, then they are going to
> > have to take whatever work they can get.
> >
> The way we currently do economics I would agree that this sort of
> program doesn't work very well.  But the entire basis for our current
> economics, scarcity, is fast disappearing as we go forward toward
> singularity.  So I think there is room to rewrite the fundamental
> equations and to design something that isn't just the same as some label
> we have already suffered with.

Ok, still no answer or specifics. If you really don't have an answer on
how to handle the theoretical increasing unemployment, then just say so.

> > > > theoretical event. What would be your solution to the hypothetical problem?
> > > >
> > >
> > > Figure out as quickly as possible how to ensure all have a workable
> > > standard of living including the prime necessities and room to grow from
> > > there regardless of whether we have a standard paying job for all of
> > > those people.  As we get closer to nanotech and as technology advances
> >
> > May I suggest you move to Sweden? I hear they have a 50%+ tax rate for
> > the productive individuals, and the highest percentge of leeches (oops,
> > I mean "people without a standard paying job") in the world.
> >
> It is easy to throw out this sort of response.  It is more difficult to
> think about how to address the problem, if indeed there is one.

I'm waiting for your ideas...

> > > we become better able to produce all the necessities and many of the
> > > wants for everyone with increasingly less human labor involved.  I don't
> > > think I need to quote studies for that point to be pretty obvious.  If
> >
> > Well it isn't obvious to me why penalizing (through higher taxes) the people
> > who actually go through the trouble to learn how to work in the new economy
> > in order to support the losers is such a good idea.
> >
> I never once said that higher taxes are the way to address the problem.
> I don't think they are.  I don't know, honestly, what the answer is or
> looks like.  But I think it is high time we started to think quite
> seriously about whether the current economic model is reasonable to
> carry forward or if we should design something new to meet the
> increasingly quite different economic context.

Well I have absolutely failed to convince you that we don't need to worry.
So let's go into the theoretical direction of an unemployment problem,
and let's assume it is so bad that it affects progress towards Singularity
significantly. If none of us has ideas on how to handle that scenario, then
what are we left to discuss?

> > > that is so then it is logical that we find ways to distribute these
> > > goods and services that are less dependent on the recipients being
> > > employed producing them.  As we go forward we should be able to acheive
> > > greater human freedom rather than following the same "wage-slave" model
> > > that developed in a very different past than the present, much less the
> > > near future.
> >
> > That sounds nice, but can specifically describe your future scenario
> > showing me how all this is going to work?
> >
> > P.S. you do realize that your average person who can't get a job tends to
> > get depressed and unhappy? They want something to do, and if watching TV
> > is all they have, they tend to head off sometimes into self-destructive
> > behaviors. If we rush to put 50% of our workforce out of work just "because
> > we can" and we "want to increase happiness", we may the exact opposite
> > effect for many people.
> >
> If, just as a for instance I don't know how to get to, if every person
> had a decent living wage and all the physical necessities taken care of
> (a la cheap nano-tech matter assemblers for instance), then every person
> can be quite busily employed - doing exactly what they themselves find
> most meaningful and interesting regardless of whether they are getting a
> conventional paycheck for it.  Personally I would have a hell of a lot
> more to do than watching TV if I no longer had to work for someone else
> for a living.  I have more things to do and explore and work on than I
> could finish in a hundred lifetimes of such 'pointless empty leisure'.

It just doesn't make sense to me- ok let's take an extreme case to make
my point: let's say some guy has a dream: to fly airplanes. You can give
him his standard dole, but that isn't going to do anything in the least
to get him anywhere near his dream. So I simply don't buy your claim that
by giving everyone a bit of cash each month they are all going to be
perfectly happy. I will hold to my claim that the more people on the dole,
the more general unhappiness you will have.

The only time you will achieve what you really want is when everyone who
wants to is uploaded into an environment that truly allows people to be
able to accomplish whatever they can think of. It simply is not going to
happen on this planet in our current state of affairs.

Going on that fact, along with the fact that 150k+ people are dying each
day we sit around twiddling our thumbs, it makes the most sense from my
perspective to focus all our energies on getting to the Singularity ASAP.
I am only interested in this unemployment issue so far as it might affect
that goal.
Brian Atkins
Director, Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence (temp site)

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