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Nell Clover
Nell Clover
6 months ago

Money is a proxy for human labour. And human labour, jobs, are created when we each trade our labour for the services and goods we need that are created by other workers. Power is simply the control of how this is all distrubuted.

The availability of labour has always ultimately limited what needs we can satisfy, irrespective of power. Our first needs are food and shelter. For most of history, there wasn’t enough human labour to create other resources to provide much else, including inventing new goods and services.

Slowly though, we accumulated enough spare labour to innovate, which in turn generated more spare labour. Technology change meant fewer workers needed to produce the basics. The dislocated labour eventually refocused on new goods and services meeting less basic needs. Only the creativity and capacity for us to consume other people’s time and effort determines how much spare labour there is in our economies (barring war and disasters).

Productivity increases making labour spare has allowed labour to trade up to meet higher levels of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. We’ve gone from being able to barely meet survival and security needs, to supplying goods and services for self-actualisation such as plastic surgery. Power and control sit outside of Maslow’s hierarchy, the rise of democracies was not a precondition for our current technological development, though it may have helped.

The question is: compared to today, how much extra of each of Maslow’s five hierarchies can be created and consumed in the future? How much extra self-actualisation can there be? If we have reached the limit of human creation and consumption across all five of Maslow’s hierarchies we’ve run out of areas for labour to trade up in the face of productivity improvements, we have lost the capacity to absorb spare labour.

To answer this question, let us think of a wealthy medieval landlord who has good food and a good house, firewood, and a church providing both spiritual belonging and moral lessons from a Bible. If asked what is missing in their lives, they’d merely point to having some more of the material comforts they already have. Fundamentally, they’d say they were achieving all of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. How we perceive Maslow’s hierarchy is only ever relative to what is known in our world.

The medieval landlord cannot comprehend the goods and services that keep most of us gainfully employed in the 21st century. What we can safely guess is the landlord would not recognise our world, and I’d wager they’d feel uncomfortable if not outright disgusted about much of what we do. The future is a different planet, the people there are alien, to paraphrase another metaphor.

So in answer to the question: we cannot answer it. It is more than likely in the future we will occupy ourselves creating goods and services unrecognisable today, and probably in ways distasteful to our present sensibilities. Meanwhile, how power and control distributes the benefits will change independently although regression to the mean of history probably means a lot less democracy. Transhumanism and alternative reality worlds are perhaps two candidate technologies that could keep very many of us busy in ways that make me feel sick about the future. Perhaps our future selves really will be alien to us.

Last edited 6 months ago by Nell Clover
Waffles
Waffles
6 months ago
Reply to  Nell Clover

Interesting thoughts. I agree that future generations will be alien to us, just as we are to medieval people, but I see that as a good thing. Life is fundamentally about growth and change. Adapt or die.

We are getting steadily nicer and more peaceful. In the middle ages, they would hit the mentally ill with sticks to beat me devil out of them, stop by a bear fight, then join the wife and kids to watch a good hanging.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
6 months ago
Reply to  Waffles

We are getting steadily getting more vacuous, useless and ineffective. Soon it will not matter whether we survive as a spices or not.
I was watching a documentary on Shackleton last night. My son commented how come we don’t make men like that anymore

Simon Cornish
Simon Cornish
6 months ago

I’m sure they are to be found in hordes in Ukraine at the moment, plus many female equivalents.

J Bryant
J Bryant
6 months ago
Reply to  Simon Cornish

Yes. And how will those men be viewed/treated when the war eventually ends (or reaches perpetual stalemate) and the US/EU/NGOs move in and impose their progressive values?

jane baker
jane baker
6 months ago
Reply to  J Bryant

Well I’ve just learned that a USA agri-business corporation BOUGHT several STATE FARMS from the Ukraine government JUST BEFORE this conflict started. Hmmn!. This is not a few small homesteads but thousands of acres of land. Plus, Zelensky has signed over 30% of Ukraine territory to Blackrock for reconstruction and infrastructure. Hmmn. So if boo hiss our panto villain Ruski is deafeted the USA is going to move in big time and redevelop and put in infrastructure and control access to those minerals,rare earths,oil… so all those Ukraine people,a lot of whom think USA culture is fabulous,free coca cola for life,can get to live like Americans,in a tent on the sidewalk.

jane baker
jane baker
6 months ago
Reply to  Simon Cornish

Watch YouTube channel Pavlo from Ukraine to see life in Ukraine as it actually is. And see how many men of fighting age are actually in uniform. Only the slow thick ones.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
6 months ago
Reply to  Simon Cornish

Why did you feel the need to mention female equivalents?

Adam Bartlett
Adam Bartlett
6 months ago
Reply to  Waffles

Sadly it’s not correct that we’re getting steadily nicer and more peaceful. Earlier centuries have nothing comparable to the blood baths of WWI & WWII, even if we looked at numbers killed in proportion to population levels at the time. As for madness, surviving art & manuscripts from middle ages shows they were generally regarded with near reverence, as possessors of a ‘divine wisdom’. It was only as the industrial revolution got underway that the proportion of insane people rapidly increased thanks to tech & adverse social change. The “great confinement” started in the 17th century. Madmen & women who were free to roam in earlier, kinder times, now forced to endure unspeakable torments in Asylums across Europe, often in the name of science.
Of course in some ways we are kinder & more peaceful, it depends on what data one looks at.

jane baker
jane baker
6 months ago
Reply to  Waffles

All that would come back in the blink of an eye if it was allowed. I speak as an “odd looking person” (thanks God,so helpful of you) and just lately I’ve felt a sense of incipient violence towards me much stronger than I’ve ever known in my life. Actual violence not just abuse of a verbal nature. Oh well,que sera.

Martin Butler
Martin Butler
6 months ago
Reply to  Nell Clover

There is a fatalistic assumption in your post that somehow we have no control over what happens, and it all depends on the tech titans. Just shows how democracy in capitalism amounts to very little when it comes to the big things that matter – like the future of work. This can be traced back to the individualist assumptions of liberalism.
Those who have the wealth and power have every right to deploy that wealth power as they see fit – according to liberalism at least. And, as you make clear, it is this elite that determine the direction of society with regards to work and economics, not the democratically elected politicians. The clever thing is they make it seem like it’s simply private citizens asserting their basic rights. We all swallow it of course.

jonathan carter-meggs
jonathan carter-meggs
6 months ago
Reply to  Nell Clover

One element you have overlooked is the availability of cheap reliable energy (be it food, electricity or others) which enabled us to multiply our human efforts. We have lived through an era of amazing energy surplus resulting in high growth but what will the next few decades bring?

Adam Bartlett
Adam Bartlett
6 months ago

Nuclear fusion now!

jane baker
jane baker
6 months ago

It is in THEIR interests to make energy,oil,gas,electricity,even logs of wood,more expensive,erratic, unavailable etc. Only yesterday I heard on my radio,the BBC of course,how the power to our homes is going to get more expensive but despite it not being good news for poor people the presenter was upbeat,it’ll make us use much less power and thus save the planet,so all good.

Edward De Beukelaer
Edward De Beukelaer
6 months ago

depends what you call growth and whether you consider this solely to be underpinned by energy. What about ‘growth’ that emanates from human inventiveness? (can be good and bad of course) What if growth starts being counted/measured/see as quality of life?
Will not happen soon as all is counted in money which is more or less the same as power

jane baker
jane baker
6 months ago
Reply to  Nell Clover

Not sure if my point is at all relevant to your words but about ten years ago I was explaining to the wife of the pastor at a church I was associated with,it’s a long story..any way I was explaining John Lockes radical new idea ( insofar as I understood it) every man (and woman) “owns” their bodily strength and capacity to labour. Thus in working for someone else they are “selling” the one asset they have and have a legal right to be paid. My lovely pastors wife was astonished that such a self evident truth should even be an idea,it was just “how it was”. She could not even see how much an obvious fact of life,nature and the world could even be a philosophical idea. She thought this John Locke must’ve been a bit thick!
But of course in JL’s day our society was still coming out of the feudal society,and vestiges of it were still strong,even today on ducal estates it’s there now but benign. I’d rather be a tenant of say The Duke of Northumberland or Devonshire than of Bill Gates or Jeff Bezos. But we ARE seeing society reconstructed around us into a new feudalism but so many people don’t recognise it because they associate feudalism with medieval peasants in thatched huts. A little known fact about the Nazi regime in Germany of that era is that they implemented a policy of slave labour on a huge scale. Industry is so much more profitable if you don’t have to pay people. And what I find incredibly insulting and I’ve never heard this on mainstream media is that in a concentration camp whether you were a Jew or one of the other groups,you had to work to “pay” for your bed and board. We,us,people are given the impression that people sent to concentration camps got to lie on their beds all day,in despair yes,but not actually have to do anything. But they had to WORK which seems to me a particularly sadistic twist and not only not be paid but they had to ,”pay rent” to their oppessors for their.”accomodation.

Benedict Waterson
Benedict Waterson
6 months ago
Reply to  Nell Clover

The world becomes increasingly fragmented into separate spheres which are barely even legible to one another. Transhumanist technologies would accelerate this, maybe to a point where the species even fragments biologically

Caradog Wiliams
Caradog Wiliams
6 months ago

When I was a lad I used to read a lot of science fiction. Robots were big parts of the plot. They did everything for the humans – they all looked a bit metallic and walked with two legs. Robots would take all of the boring jobs from people.
And they did but they didn’t have two legs. Washing machine robots saved a day of labour every week, dishwasher robots and microwave robots invaded our kitchens, direct debit robots and credit card robots meant that we didn’t need to go to the bank for cash and smartphone robots did everything else.
All that was left was going to work – laptop computer robots meant that we could work at home. So most of the labours of man and woman have disappeared and have been replaced by those robots. We only need robots to think for us and then we will be free to…. do what? Free to eat and drink all day with pills to stop us getting fat? Bliss.
And total boredom leading to quite a lot of mental problems.

Paul T
Paul T
6 months ago

Wall-E world.

Martin Butler
Martin Butler
6 months ago

Yes exactly. The problem is we are so unreflective about what makes life worth living. The slightest acquaintance with philosophy tells us that the empty hedonism of a consumerist society won’t end well. Tech can be great but we need to pick and choose so that it fits in with us rather than us fitting in with it. But unfortunately we don’t have any shared conception of what a good fulfilling life looks like, so we have no idea how tech could fit in with us. The mantra of ‘individual choice’ – which is all we have – tells us nothing and is simply used by the tech titans to manipulate us to live in a way that suits them.

Sonny Ramadhin
Sonny Ramadhin
6 months ago

This piece is nonsense, conflating Robotics with AI without engaging in the applications of either.
Button pushers are going to be replaced and the charge of the Engineers is not going to stop that. Jobs will disappear, as they have throughout history, but more will be created. No one can see exactly how the economy will transform but the fear of no work has been the refrain for hundreds of years. This time may be different but I would hasten to assume so.

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
6 months ago
Reply to  Sonny Ramadhin

Quite so, and I am reminded of the quote from the issuer of patents in the U.S. around 1900, who said he would be out of a job very soon as everything has already been invented. (paraphrased).

Brian Kullman
Brian Kullman
6 months ago
Reply to  Sonny Ramadhin

Based on economic history since the industrial revolution began, the burden of proof is on those who fear technological progress will “destroy jobs”. Jobs are both created as well as destroyed.
However, we need to acknowledge that past technological progress was also a great disruptor to investors, families, communities, and cultures. AI is likely to do the same. NYC was once a great manufacturing center with many factory workers housed in Manhattan. The Mon Valley was a great center for steel making. All that was swept away in the course of two to three generations.

Andrew Holmes
Andrew Holmes
6 months ago
Reply to  Sonny Ramadhin

I concur. Look to auto assembly lines, formerly occupied with men wielding spot welders but now with robots doing the same job better. The result, better cars owned by more people.
The authors of the main article have a vision of a few tech giants taking over the world. I recall the same vision applied to GM in the 60’s, IBM in the 70’s, Japan in the 80’s, ad nauseum. Such claims are always popular, witness the certainty in 1900 that NYC was the largest any city could grow because the removal of horse manure was becoming unmanageable. The projection of current trends into the future makes as much sense as the perpetual imminence of flying cars.

Y Way
Y Way
6 months ago
Reply to  Andrew Holmes

Seems like credit availability has more to do with more people owning cars today. Lol.

Right-Wing Hippie
Right-Wing Hippie
6 months ago

There’ll always be a role for humans in the future. I mean, the robots are going to need pets, after all.

Douglas Redmayne
Douglas Redmayne
6 months ago

I look forward to being looked after by my robot servant who will perform all my household chores

Right-Wing Hippie
Right-Wing Hippie
6 months ago

It is the destiny of mankind to evolve into cats. The furries and the therians are just ahead of the curve.

Nik Jewell
Nik Jewell
6 months ago

Resistance is futile.
This is going to happen whether we like it or not.

Alan Thorpe
Alan Thorpe
6 months ago

Theodore Kaczynski said all this and explained it in more detail almost 30 years ago. He didn’t really have an answer on how to respond to it and I doubt that many people will be willing to return to hard labour.

Tyler Durden
Tyler Durden
6 months ago

I disagree vehemently with online conservative intellectuals here – overpopulation is the problem here precisely due to globalisation. The outsourcing of cheap labour has worsened with the Internet because the same has happened for intellectual labour.
There is much in the thesis that an underemployed graduate class are driving all these vehement identity politics and offshoots of Queer theory. And it was ever thus for revolutionary movements.
My hope is that less babies will be had in the West, which requires ever-tightening restrictions on immigration as well as an universal basic income if this fashion for mass university admission continues.

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
6 months ago
Reply to  Tyler Durden

Less babies in the West? The West is already on the verge of being overtaken in a cultural suicide mission. You had better begin practicing Arabic.

Andy Rix
Andy Rix
6 months ago

Here are some additional issues we need to think about:
Will white and blue collar victims of AI and globalization unite and use their numerical advantage in the democracies to force future governments to cater to their needs or will governments continue to divide and conquer through identity politics?
If large portions of white and blue collar workers are forced onto UBI, who will have the money to consume the goods and services made by the oligarchs?
What will happen with immigration? If the oligarchs are essentially funding UBI, will that include anyone who wants to come to a developed country?
Global income inequality is causing enough issues domestically and internationally now. How will populations feel about living on $24k per year while others live in walled enclaves in the lap of luxury?
All the ingredients are here for revolution and the elites know it. Look out for sustained and large scale attacks on individual freedoms and autonomy in preparation for what is to come.
This will sound hysterical to some, but think of this: humans can handle major change, humans can handle fast change, humans can handle economic change and humans can handle social change, but in the next 20 years we will be forced to handle all this change at once. This scale of change has never happened so fast to so many people in our history.
If there is one message people need to understand it is this: the only advantage regular people will have in the future is our numbers–our voting strength. We can stick together, or our kids will be living on pennies in tiny houses at the foot of the large walls of an oligarchical citadel.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
6 months ago
Reply to  Andy Rix

How will populations feel about living on $24k per year while others live in walled enclaves in the lap of luxury?

There’s no way people will accept this.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
6 months ago

I remember from that Foucault–Chomsky debate where they discuss the need for “creative work” being a fundamental part of human nature. Surely it is, so simply throwing in a UBI isn’t going to stop us being desperately unhappy if AI virtually destroys the possibilities for such work. Anyone who’s been unemployed will know how depressing it will be to sit around living off a state handout.

Arthur G
Arthur G
6 months ago

So, use the political process to ban AI. If a technology is going to be destructive for the majority of mankind, don’t use it.

Sonny Ramadhin
Sonny Ramadhin
6 months ago
Reply to  Arthur G

Competition prevents the likes of this from ever happening. A collection of countries would need to form an alliance with guarantees not to buy from China, Russia or India, whilst watching these countries grow richer. The only way to control the economy is to become isolated and I am afraid that trade is what makes the world go round.

Arthur G
Arthur G
6 months ago
Reply to  Sonny Ramadhin

How would AI make them richer if it turns 75% of the population into a dependent class that needs to be supported on welfare? With all the social dysfunction that comes from welfare dependency it will cripple their societies within a generation or two. Your whole society will look like the worst projects or housing estates before very long.

You can have all the AI in the world and 75% of your people on the dole with all the social ills that brings, and I’ll take zero AI, and 75% of my population gainfully employed, and within 50 years I’ll crush you because your society will collapse.

What does society gain by replacing a $75,000 salary employee with $50,000 of AI, if you then end up paying said employee $40,000 in UBI or the dole?

Last edited 6 months ago by Arthur G
Douglas Redmayne
Douglas Redmayne
6 months ago
Reply to  Arthur G

AI will remove the labour element from production making everything cheaper. The government can pay everyone a UBI to buy the products the robots make without causing inflation. That will keep the corporations rich and workers will have their needs met without needing to undergo the drudgery of work. Hopefully everyone can have a robot servant so the drudgery of household chores will also be eliminated.

Y Way
Y Way
6 months ago

People on the dole will want what the rich have. Most will be on the dole in this scenario. Cannot end well. Unless they invent cheap, safe drugs that help everyone not notice what they are missing. Ugly world. Ugly idea.

I do think we will keep innovating. What will come of it, I do not know. But I already miss the world of the 70s and I NEVER thought I would live to say that. I look at kids today, and I wonder what childhood memories they have. Mine were largely of freedom and exploration. What now? 90s kids fondly recall the video games they played. Yikes.

Sonny Ramadhin
Sonny Ramadhin
6 months ago
Reply to  Arthur G

The country that produces the cheapest sells the most. Someone in the market is always looking for innovation, to produce cheaper. This is the basis of free trade. If a country can use automation to produce goods cheaper then they will attract the money of the world. This is exactly how manufacturing has left Western shores.

Now your country is not competing, your goods are not selling, your industries are dying. What do you do?

Banning overseas trading is your only option. This is the only power a national government has.

If you don’t raise taxes from production, who pays the UBI. The country producing can tax sales and exports, the countries who aren’t wither and die.

The march towards maximum productivity can not be stopped. Perhaps this is undesirable but it is ultimately inevitable. Compete or die.

So long as there is money flowing in your economy, you will be fine. This may come from an expansion of the leisure industry for example but luddism is not the way.

Y Way
Y Way
6 months ago
Reply to  Sonny Ramadhin

Well, free trade would maybe work. Matkets would work. We do not have that. The West restricts itself in ways other countries do not – to protect nature and workers, for instance.

We could compete on an even playing field but do not. The countries that win in today’s scenario are those that treat workers the worst and who pollute the most.

It is stupidity. Not free trade.

Waffles
Waffles
6 months ago
Reply to  Arthur G

Fire can be destructive. Should we ban all technology and go back to living in trees?

Like every other technology, AI will have massive benefits and some risks.

China and Russia are racing ahead as fast as they can with AI. It can’t be stopped. Our only defence against authoritarian AI is Western AI (as long as it’s not the current woke versions).

Nik Jewell
Nik Jewell
6 months ago
Reply to  Waffles

Yes and no.
China and Russia are playing catch up on the latest tech because they are deliberately being starved of GPUs.
AI will be no defence against authoritarianism; it will enable it.
AI will monitor everything you do in the future. No government can resist this power, and it won’t. There is an argument that it will even be necessary because rogue AI and garage synthetic biology will present an overwhelming terrorist threat.

Adam Bacon
Adam Bacon
6 months ago
Reply to  Arthur G

Vis a vis nuclear weapons, this isn’t likely to be successful..

Hugh Bryant
Hugh Bryant
6 months ago

AI has the potential to make true democracy a reality. But it also has the power to create a really nasty dictatorship. How to avoid that?
Devolve all government powers except national defence and diplomatic representation to the lowest possible level and strengthen democratic oversight. Collect and spend taxes locally. Localise control of the police force and make it subject to much more transparent supervision by local government. Replace the NHS with a framework for a mutualised healthcare system run by its users. Convert most of the universities to social housing. Re-purpose schools to emphasise sport, PE, horticulture, crafts and music. Scrap the BBC – or, at the very least, make the Board of Governors electable on a regional basis.
AI makes all these things possible. Let’s be positive.

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
6 months ago
Reply to  Hugh Bryant

Good one. You forgot what to do about the tooth fairy and unicorns?

Hugh Bryant
Hugh Bryant
6 months ago
Reply to  Warren Trees

What I’ve described above is basically Switzerland. I have no idea what the Swiss do about Tooth Fairies and Unicorns, though.

Caroline Ayers
Caroline Ayers
6 months ago
Reply to  Hugh Bryant

Your comment sounds like proposals Russell Brand would agree with. (I am a big fan of (the current) RB)

Y Way
Y Way
6 months ago
Reply to  Hugh Bryant

How? Where would we start to devolve government power. How do people with no money or power make that happen? What mastermind keeps us on track? Sounds nice, but how?

Someone mentioned Switzerland. I recall vaccination passes were needed during Covid in Switzerland for travel.

Much like Polio, vaccination for Covid eradicated that disease from Europe, thank God…oh wait…

I do not see any government today that is an exemplar for the above scenario. I do not see us citizens having the power to tear down the powers that be.

The US Constitution tried to guarantee us a small national government with limited power, but loopholes, and judges with ideological agendas, drove right past the gatekeepers.

Andrew Wise
Andrew Wise
6 months ago

Nonsense article riddled with inaccuracies and confused assumptions … maybe it was written by Chat GPT 🙂

Last edited 6 months ago by Andrew Wise
Brian Villanueva
Brian Villanueva
6 months ago

The industrial revolution decoupled physical strength from economic success. It allowed physically weaker people (nerds like me and women) to succeed. This was a great thing for them and for humanity.
Since that time, we’ve built an economy which rewards cognitive ability at the expensive of physical ability. The “laptop class” / “creative class” / “professional managerial class” has derived the vast majority of the benefits of this shift.
The AI revolution will decouple economic success from cognitive ability. It will do for the mind what the industrial revolution did for the body. As such, it will likely benefit the cognitively weaker (the dumb or at least the average). And that will be a good thing for them and for humanity.
How to distribute the spoils of that revolution will be a huge political and economic and social challenge. But a world in which humans can flourish regardless of their physical or cognitive abilities or limitations should be welcomed by all.

Y Way
Y Way
6 months ago

I agree that a world where people with cognitive challenges and physical challenges can thrive would be great.

Explain to me, other than possibly sustenance, how an AI world will allow a cognitively challenged person to actually thrive? And will that person know they are thriving?

I say this because I see thriving as being able to set and achieve goals and having a feeling of purpose and fulfillment in life. For my Dad, that meant wealth creation (he was an accountant), for my Mom it meant breaking glass ceilings and becoming a Director of a division at a major corporation. For my sister, it meant being a full time Mom. For me it means teaching our youngest students. For my husband it meant building his own company.

Now my husband is physically unable. What in your new world would help him thrive again? He only lacks purpose. But he is depressed and often angry. He lacks nothing financially. He has a beautiful home and yard. What is AI gonna give him? I would love to know. He is in chronic pain and cannot work for more than thirty minutes at a time.

How would AI fix this?

Or How does AI help someone thrive if they do not understand goals? Or cannot think of one? How does AI benefit a child in a wheelchair who cannot speak, walk, crawl, swallow and who does not understand that a picture represents an object he can have (One such student was in my class last year)?

We could provide for these souls already but do not redistribute wealth enough to do that. We allow individuals to hold billions more than some small countries have total! We could fix that already. But we do not.

AI will not change that. Those same people will make even more.

AI will simply displace competent, functioning people. It will make their work unnecessary. They will lose their ability to create goals worth having and achieve them.

What will those people do instead? Garden? I doubt Bill Gates will pay us to futz in our yard. He might pay us enough to live in a small one bedroom apartment. Is that fulfillment? I think not.

Living in one or two rooms with no way to better that? No way to achieve much? I guess I could learn to paint but I honestly know I have little talent for art. So I could waste my time by painting. But they also will not pay me enough to buy all those art supplies. So… Um…

People think there is some great untapped potential is us. You would know about it if you had a talent. I have no such talent to explore even if I had all the time in the world. I assure you. Most of us are just pretty average, actually.

Brian Villanueva
Brian Villanueva
6 months ago
Reply to  Y Way

These are great questions, and very fair ones. However, I would point out that the vast majority of people in the world don’t face the sorts of challenges you mention (in a wheelchair unable to speak, daily racking pain, etc…) I don’t dismiss those concerns, but making public policy with an eye only to the extreme ends generally results in poor policy.
However, I think you are correct that the crisis of our day is meaning and a lack of it.
So let’s posit a world in which AI and robotics can fulfill the vast majority of human needs without human labor, and in which redistribution alleviates the bulk of the wealth inequality that such a world would create on its own. This is not a new thought experiment; John Maynard Keynes believed such a world would occur within his lifetime (the infamous 15 hour workweek).
The example of your parents is a good one: “For my Dad, that meant wealth creation (he was an accountant)”. Men particularly tend to derive meaning from their occupations. “For my Mom it meant breaking glass ceilings”. You are correct that both your parents would face very different lives, and perhaps both would struggle with meaning for a while. But is there really nothing that can provide meaning outside of building wealth and power? What would your mom have done with her life if there were no ceilings to have to break though? What would your dad have done if wealth was simply not that important to the vast majority of people? If we didn’t have to provide for our needs, what would “happiness” look like?
The classical philosophers actually provide a great deal of insight into this. Everyone from Plato to Confucius to Buddha to Saint Augustine believed that the greatest challenges in life were internal not external. That’s what Plato’s cave allegory is about. That’s what Saint Paul meant when he wrote “oh wretched man that I am, who will save me from this body of death.” Aristotle believed that happiness was synonymous with learning to live virtuously. Jefferson had this definition in mind when he wrote the Declaration. Imagine if it said “life, liberty, and the pursuit of virtue”.
Aristotle wrote in Nicomachean Ethics (I think it’s book 10) that some virtues require resources (money), and as such, a society that ensured the most citizens access to the resources to be virtuous was a more just society. This is the essence of the classical political scientists’ differentiation of positive and negative liberty.
“I say this because I see thriving as being able to set and achieve goals and having a feeling of purpose and fulfillment in life. For my sister, it meant being a full time Mom. For me it means teaching our youngest students. For my husband it meant building his own company.”
I wholeheartedly agree that thriving is about setting and achieving (virtuous) goals that help you achieve your telos (purpose in life). None of your examples are affected by AI in the least. Do you believe teachers won’t be necessary in the AI world? I would speculate the opposite — look at what ATMs did for bank tellers. Do you really think that, if AI rendered his business obsolete (but his family’s basic financial needs were taken care of), your husband wouldn’t find another avenue to channel his ambition?
I do agree that the Wall-E risk is real (if you haven’t seen the movie, you really should.) That risk is that AI makes us fat, dumb, and utterly dependent on our technology, effectively infantilizing us. But have our prior technologies done this? Our dependence on machines has made us physically weaker today than 300 years ago, but has that made us worse as a people? Will our cognitively weaker descendants necessarily be less virtuous 300 years from now? I don’t think so.
I’m not blind to the risk. And I do agree that the period of adjustment will be very hard. It may be so hard that we don’t survive it and fall backward. But since it appears AI is coming regardless, I would like to try to embrace it, attempt to use it for good, and hope for the best.

Last edited 6 months ago by Brian Villanueva
jane baker
jane baker
6 months ago

See,I’m pretty sure I’m right. At some future point could be next year,could be ten years time those now despised jobs like early morning cleaner and carer,part of which involves wiping old people’s bottoms ( I’ve done both of those and a lot else) will be the valued and vied for jobs. Whether they’ll be higher paid I doubt but they’ll be actual jobs that a PERSON actual human has to do in person and be there. Of course once the high IQ people who can’t be lawyers etc as AI has taken these jobs once they start vying for those jobs us thickos really are sunk. I hope I’m wrong but I can imagine a future where being a toilet cleaner has huge social kudos as those people know how to put an image spin on everything they do. They may not get much money but they will invest a lot more social cachet in what they do,because it’s,lol,them doing it. And even low money is better than NO MONEY.

Last edited 6 months ago by jane baker
Right-Wing Hippie
Right-Wing Hippie
6 months ago

I’ll go get some wooden clogs.

Daniel P
Daniel P
6 months ago

Friend of mine just got back from an Oracle conference in Vegas.

5 to 10 yrs they are not going to need programmers or database people.

They are building the worlds larges supercomputer by clustering NVIDIA chips apparently. Super AI.

Been saying for a year now, that this stuff was going to revolutionize almost everything and once tied to robotics it will be a whole new world. A whole new world.

What are we gonna do when people have no purpose?

What does it mean when there are people born for whom there is simply no place for them to earn a living?

You got a lot of well paid, educated people out there working doing Oracle development, Oracle databases and Oracle cloud that are going to be out of jobs.

Samuel Ross
Samuel Ross
6 months ago

Can’t spell Gaia without the ‘AI’!

Douglas Redmayne
Douglas Redmayne
6 months ago

Deluded. No Luddite will be allowed to get in the way of the development of artificial general intelligence and the idea of strikes or direct action at chip manufacturers is a fantasy. Personally I look forward to self driving robotaxis ( they will be far cheaper than Ubers as the immigrant labour component is excluded) and I certainly want a robot servant. Those made unemployed are likely to be given a UBI funded by quantitative easing as there will be massive debt deflation forthcoming. Human numbers will also reduce in the long run as this is bound to affect fertility and UBI may be made conditional upon sterilisation