RE: economic effects of AI (was RE: About that E-mail:...)

From: Michael LaTorra (
Date: Sat Sep 30 2000 - 20:41:28 MDT

What you have described here, Ben, is exactly what I hope will happen. I
know that I have at least a dozen projects I'd love to work on, projects
that other people would probably enjoy, but which are not remunerative
enough in the short run to keep my kids in sneakers. And I can think of
plenty of services I would like to receive from other people if I had the
time and money for them.

In trying to think through the transition to this stage of "low-cost"
human-to-human service, however, I keep getting stuck at the following

1) How will the wealth generated by AI be distributed? We don't want to fall
into a system with the negative incentives of socialism. But we would
endanger social stability if, say, 1% of the population controlled 99% of
the wealth because they own the AIs. (An SI would probably not submit to
being owned!)

2) How many "lotus eaters" can a society tolerate? Suppose there were no
need to work for a basic living (welfare for all and jobs for the few whose
services are in demand). How many heroin addicts would we want to support?

3) When the possibility for uploading finally arrives in reality, will there
be a first-mover advantage? Can the first homesteaders of cyber-mindspace
gain permanent advantages over those who come later? (If you could control
the cyber equivalent of the fundamental constants of physics, what would you

Michael LaTorra

-----Original Message-----
From: []On Behalf
Of Ben Goertzel
Sent: Saturday, September 30, 2000 8:12 PM
Subject: RE: economic effects of AI (was RE: About that E-mail:...)

It's not a ridiculous argument, but I still think it's a wrong one

People need more than just material goods, people need emotional goodies
other people, which come in a million different forms

What this means is that as long as there are humans with human bodies
similar to the
ones we have now, there will be plenty of service jobs, because humans want
to be surrounded
by humans doing things with and for them

Also, I predict that when real AI comes about, there will be a long period
when it is
complementary to, rather than unmitigatedly superior to, human intelligence.
Each kind of mind
will have its niche. Ultimately AI will surpass us in all ways, but by
then, the human body
may also be obsolete due to other technology advances...


> -----Original Message-----
> From: []On Behalf
> Of Michael LaTorra
> Sent: Saturday, September 30, 2000 10:02 PM
> To:
> Subject: economic effects of AI (was RE: About that E-mail:...)
> I do agree that commercial AI leading up to SI (at whatever rate of
> progress) would almost certainly be perceived as a great boon because it
> will make many people rich and provide tangible benefits to others in the
> forms of new or cheaper goods and services.
> But this initial "era of good feeling" could change quickly as AI advances
> begin to substitute for more and more "human capital" (i.e.,
> people's jobs).
> I am making this argument not because it feels right to me
> intuitively, but
> because a very intelligent transhumanist economist has made it. Here's the
> link to, and the abstract of, Robin Hanson's paper:
> [NOTE: Go to the page and scroll down to the title below then click it to
> open the actual PDF file.]
> Economic Growth Given Machine Intelligence, Aug. '98
> A simple exogenous growth model gives conservative estimates of
> the economic
> implications of machine intelligence. Machines complement human labor when
> they become more productive at the jobs they perform, but machines also
> substitute for human labor by taking over human jobs. At first, expensive
> hardware and software does only the few jobs where computers have the
> strongest advantage over humans. Eventually, computers do most jobs. At
> first, complementary effects dominate, and human wages rise with computer
> productivity. But eventually substitution can dominate, making
> wages fall as
> fast as computer prices now do. An intelligence population explosion makes
> per-intelligence consumption fall this fast, while economic growth rates
> rise by an order of magnitude or more. These results are robust to
> automating incrementally, and to distinguishing hardware, software, and
> human capital from other forms of capital.
> Regards,
> Michael LaTorra
> -----Original Message-----
> From: []On Behalf
> Of Ben Goertzel
> Sent: Saturday, September 30, 2000 7:45 PM
> To:
> Subject: RE: About that E-mail:...
> Here's another point
> If the first real AI is a commercial enterprise, it'll be making people
> money
> Everyone will own stock in real AI ... it'll be a huge popular
> sensation ...
> the financial aspects may drown out any troublesome philosophical
> aspects in
> the public
> mind...
> if they're making money off it in the short run, not many people
> will really
> be thinking
> about the long run -- this is typical homo sapiens shortsightedness, which
> will work in the favor
> of cosmic evolution in this case
> -- ben goertzel
> > -----Original Message-----
> > From: []On Behalf
> > Of Eliezer S. Yudkowsky
> > Sent: Saturday, September 30, 2000 9:23 PM
> > To:
> > Subject: Re: About that E-mail:...
> >
> >
> > Josh Yotty wrote:
> > >
> > > I'm willing to bet the people working toward superhuman
> > intelligence will be hunted down. Of course, the people hunting
> > us down will be irrational, ignorant, narrowminded and stupid.
> >
> > Be careful what you fear. Sufficient amounts of hatred tend to
> turn into
> > self-fulfilling prophecies... and if somebody really did try and
> > hunt me down
> > I sure wouldn't want to underestimate them.
> >
> > You'd be amazed at how often witch-hunts don't happen in First World
> > countries. I can't think of anything I ought to be doing in advance to
> > prepare for the possibility of violent protesters, so I don't
> > intend to worry
> > excessively over the possibility until it starts actually
> > happening. There
> > are essentially two strategies to deal with anti-technology
> > crusades; you can
> > try to run quietly and unobtrusively, or you can try for a
> pro-technology
> > crusade. I've observed that ordinary people tend to grasp the
> > Singularity on
> > the first try; it's the people who think they're intellectuals
> > that you have
> > to watch out for - so the second possibility is actually
> > plausible. I don't
> > know if running quietly is plausible - it depends on how long it
> > takes to get
> > to a Singularity. It's starting to look as if we don't bring the
> > issue into
> > the public eye, Bill Joy will.
> >
> > Presently, I think it's not too much to hope for that the
> future will not
> > contain anti-AI terrorist organizations. There are anti-GM groups and
> > antiabortion groups, but it's harder to get public sympathy for
> a violent
> > crusade against something that's only a possibility - I hope.
> >
> > If we do bring the issue into the public eye, turning it into an
> > elitist issue
> > isn't really going to help.
> >
> > -- -- -- -- --
> > Eliezer S. Yudkowsky
> > Research Fellow, Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence

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