Chinese law professor: AI will end capitalism


#1

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2018/05/10/hal-tse-tung.html


#2

HAL


#3

Aside from the…deeply optimistic…position that a ‘capitalism with mitigations’ as provided by Alibaba and Tencent is going to go well(much less better than the more familiar model from parts of Europe of ’ capitalism’s undeniable efficiency taxed to operate a welfare state and subject to certain rules around parental leave and not letting workers fall into the toxin smelting vats’) this seems like a more or less completely orthodox Marxist reading of AI:

In the context of Marxist theory concerning the role of expensive(but vastly productive, sucks to be you skilled craftsmen) capital goods as a mechanism that cements the control of capital over labor(that can’t afford the same productivity at an artisan level; and increasingly has no skills worth any premium aboe their bare cost of production because the skilled labor has been automated away); ‘AI’ is pretty much the ultimate capital good: the comparatively crude expert systems already reach up the skill tree a fair way; and ‘AI’ would quite dramatically finish the job.

Also of note, the optimism over “AI will make central planning work this time” seems reminiscent of the (often quite sophisticated) Soviet work in economic modelling; undertaken with a similar desire to apply enough technology to the problem to make it work.


#4


They will use of coure a Communist computer like this one.


#5

AI 0,1% will have AI security.
Bad news for the 99.9% (and later also for the 0.1%, i guess)


#6

Our friend the late Milton Friedman once told us a story of being in India in the 1960s and watching thousands of workers build a canal with shovels. Milton asked the lead engineer, Why don’t you have tractors to help build this canal? The engineer replied: “You don’t understand, Mr. Friedman, this canal is a jobs program to provide work for as many men as possible.” Milton responded with his classic wit, “Oh, I see. I thought you were trying to build a canal. If you really want to create jobs, then by all means give these men spoons, not shovels.”

One of many tellings of this anecdote.


#7

Really? Trotting out Milton Friedman to refute communism? Did I roll out of bed into the 70s?

By contrast Xiang argues that Chinese megafirms like Alibaba and Tencent… will be amenable to having their assets shared among everyone – customers, workers, and shareholders.

Is that so? I can imagine some Chinese oligarchs might object to having their assets “shared.” This is the whole problem with what lies ahead: the owner class has no incentive to release their grip on capital. You can giggle about guillotines, but regulatory capture and media capture will ensure nothing like that happens, ever again.

Honestly, I don’t see a solution.


#8

That rather depends on whether the govenment controls the firms or the firms control the government, though, doesn’t it? He seems rather complacent regarding the government of China, given history. Of course, the USA is no shining example either.

Humpty Dumpty was right.


#9

I trotted out William Aberhart, but I guess you didn’t bother to follow the link.


#10

It’s a provocative notion, albeit a chauvinistic one that assumes that the Chinese model of authoritarianism “market socialism” will be able to shed its corruption, indifference to human rights, and capture by its own oligarch class once abundance is in hand.

It’s baked into what is effectively state (crony) capitalism. For decades now, when a new “slow AI” is initiated in China the state and its functionaries always – always – wet their beaks.

Late-stage capitalism with authoritarian state characteristics is still late-stage capitalism. What he’s positing as pro-human regulation only benefits a small handful of humans, just as the American unregulated version does.


#11

I don’t know if calling the soviet work in economic modelling “sophisticated” is fair. I’m sure there were some very sophisticated alchemists at one point, but as long as they were doing alchemy their level of sophistication was wasted.

I don’t think describing America as “unregulated” is fair. America has a fantastic amount of regulation, and it’s being added to all the time. Three Felonies a Day is an American phenomenon, not a global one.

“Late-stage capitalism with authoritarian state characteristics” is probably a better description of America than of China. In China the state still exercises control over the large businesses. In America, the large businesses exercise control over the state.


#12

My fingers started to hurt from just listening to that keyboard’s harsh, brutal clicks. Is that synaesthesia, am I special?


#13

I’m talking about ideological ideals and goals, not realities on the ground. The fact is that in both countries there’s a core of bureaucrats and technocrats of goodwill constantly pushing back against these variations on crony capitalism simply by dint of doing what they understand to be their day-to-day jobs.

In both countries, there’s increasingly little difference between corporate shareholders and high state functionaries. While the approach is from different angles, the end goal is the same whether you’re talking about Scott Pruitt or his Chinese equivalent.


#14

Correct; and the vast majority of “deregulation” efforts championed by the laissez-faire cultists end the day with more laws on the books than before.


#15

I think my previous post did come across as excessively reverent of China when in reality I share your assessment here. I do think there is a different power balance in China. My solution to the 2008 crisis would have been the nationalize failing banks instead of bailing them out, but that would never actually fly in America. I think China is more likely to be high handed.

But that doesn’t matter if the state officials and the business owners see themselves as having the same interests. It only matters when those interests start to break down. Still, a report like this shows us the cultural difference. The state is still reminding businesses who the boss is.

Either way, though, the merger of corporate and state power leaves the people with few options other than revolution.


#16

I think AI and capitalism is incomparable but mostly because AI will devalue money. AI will help automate jobs but also help the average person not need a job by having automation in the home. Do you need 2 incomes if your home can sustain you? Home automation and open software grows food, cooks, cleans, generates power and more. Basically if you can get to this point you no longer have to be part of the full time economy because you don’t need the money.


#17

This is true only if all that home automation comes at a price you can afford. Expect companies supplying it to make their best to prevent open source by using DRM etc.


#18

I think the powers that be will find a way to keep money valuable despite automation. Fully Automated Luxury Communism for all is not the end goal of either the American or Chinese ruling classes, despite the lip service paid to “luxury” by the former and the lip service paid to “communism” by the latter.


#19

I think a sentient AI would just have to look for a few seconds at our system and say capitalism is crap. Then the world’s elite will promptly outlaw said sentient AI for the “good of humanity.” I’m pretty sure this is how it’ll go down.


#20

I understand why we engage in this thought process of arguing about what human society will look like after full-fledged AI becomes a thing, but everyone engaging in the speculation should be clear that it’s an event horizon. There is no precedent for anything like this in human history, and it has the potential to reorder the basic structure of society in ways that normally take decades or centuries.

Sure, there’s going to be a period of Chinese AIs battling US AIs in the banking systems and Japanese AIs doing weird sci-fi shit in the context of what we can currently imagine, but once it takes the next step, who knows? What the hell does “capitalism” or “communism” even mean to an AI if/when it become sentient?