How will automation in the era of intelligent machines change society?


#1

Originally published at: http://boingboing.net/2017/06/09/explainer-video-about-automati.html


#2

Then depression set in.


#3

Things suck, but they’re getting worse. Got it.

(I would curl up into the fetal position, but I was already there.)


#4

The means of production will be owned by the means of production. A strange Marxist future will emerge: society will be governed by the workers, but the workers will no longer be human. Humans will become pets, if we’re lucky.


#5

At least we’ll have robots to trade all our stocks!


#6

“How will automation in the era of intelligent machines change society?”

It’ll make ‘Right-Wing Clem’ claim even more loudly (and wrongly) about jobs being lost here because they’re farmed out to overseas businesses.

(Try telling an out of work ‘peanut-sheller’ that the machine doing that now is just down the block from him.)


#7

And with climate change, we’ll start hearing complaints about jobs going to underseas businesses too.


#8

Snorkeling, anyone?


#9

“We’ll make great pets”:


#10

Well the poor areas over seas that don’t have the automation will have the jobs, for awhile longer.

Here again is CGP Greys talk on it, and all of this is coming. How soon, I dunno. We are going to have a paradigm shift, though, as the traditional way of doing things won’t be there.

I am guessing that the people who are smarter or more creative and talented will still be ones to “work”, in creating art and pushing our knowledge. But a lot of people just won’t have a lot to do. It might end up being community service type things to keep people busy. Busy work, like in school. Some might just sit home all day and drink and watch TV, but that will get old fast.

I dunno - dunno what it will look like, but it should be neat.


#11

One interesting wrinkle to this is status comes before employment. Which is to say, in society today, if you’re of a powerful class, you are granted employment (of a certain kind) by virtue of that class. Nepotism/Networking/“It’s all who you know,” etc.

Those jobs might be bullshit jobs, but their purpose isn’t economic - it’s not to produce value for an economy. It’s cultural - it’s to demonstrate personal value. Careers and jobs serve to reinforce the ruling ideology - “I deserve my money because I work for it.”

So these jobs - even if they are of questionable value, and even if they could be automated away - I think will continue. I imagine many of these jobs would be construed as jobs for the “smarter” or “more creative” or “more talented” among us (“Oh, he’s an Investor, he must be very smart!”). That it is some virtue of the powerful that allows them to find work (and thus moral superiority) where few can.

There’s a cruel nightmare down in there, suggesting that those who can’t find jobs just aren’t among the smart, creative, or talented. That they’re just “leeching off” of those who are, Galt-like, pursuing their virtuous self-interest as superior individuals in a world of people trying to hold them back.

I may be cynical, but I predict things get worse before they get better. Our culture isn’t at a place where it can accept the idea that you can be virtuous without work, that you can be creative and talented and smart and not be paid for that. It might be getting there, among the educated and the compassionate, but men like Trump make the rules these days, and in that world, there is no room for acknowledging the humanity of someone who doesn’t have a job.


#12

Related question: how will environmental collapse and the global fascist resurgence affect the process of automation?


#13

At the risk of stating the obvious, it seems to me machine-learning is in many cases much inferior to what humans can produce, and might even have an upper bound on quality – but it’s just so much cheaper that it is difficult to justify the additional expenditure.


#14

In many different ways because there are - as many I communicate with weirdly forget - many different societies.


#15

Doubtful. This assumes machines with general intelligence will think and behave like the humans who indirectly instigate the emergence of these alien intelligences. This is highly unlikely. Although we are the only species with which we can communicate through complex language, we are not the only intelligence on Earth. From gorillas to dogs (which are far less human than we loving owners anthropomorphically project onto them to be) to ants to even intelligent systems that use chemical feedback instead of electrochemical neurons (such as forests), the variety in types of intelligences seems almost as diverse as the number of kinds of intelligent systems. Ergo, this observation would seem to suggest generally intelligent machines - which will be more evolved than directly programmed - will be strikingly inhuman. They might take over and treat us as pets like the Minds in Banks’ Culture novels. But they might just as well simply ignore us as they take command of the planet’s resources.

Nor should we assume they will be recursively self-aware individuals like us. They could well be able to take over without there being a Skynet we can deal, fight or negotiate with. Again, most robot uprising movies are anthropomorphized myths on par with the animism and archetypal pantheons of human religions.

Finally, it may be that self-awareness really is a unique advantage and that humans will remain in executive control simply by virtue of being the only intelligence interested in dominating all the rest. In which case the question remains: who among us will give the orders? The direction it’s heading now is the elite investor class. In part because of automation, we’re transitioning into an age when wealth cannot be grown by work, but only by having an abundance of it to begin with.

When people can no longer get ahead by hard work, but those with lots of wealth can accumulate ever more merely by investing it, the outcome is obvious. A rigid class structure will freeze a permanent underclass and a distantly wealthy ruling class who will have the money and means to control things like elections and intellectual property laws, facilitating their exclusive access to ownership. As the French aristocracy learned the hard way in the late eighteenth century, folks will only stand for that for so long before they take ownership by force of what they were not allowed to own as serfs. The modern global aristocracy learned well the lessons of underclass revolution. Whatever they claim to be, from Chinese “communist” party elites to Randian “free market” capitalists, they know a permanent underclass without access to basic essentials and distractions will eventually revolt. This is why you hear some of the more forward-looking of them beginning to make noises about universal basic income. But this isn’t a new idea and it isn’t a strategy to liberate the masses. Keeping people on the dole, to borrow and old phrase, is a way to keep them pacified.

If I may offer friendly dissent - because I think a lot of creative and/or high IQ types will try to console themselves with the belief that they can still thrive no matter what happens around them - it’s all connected. If the jobs market implodes, the mass unemployment and all the problems that follow will make the economy untenable even for the workers who can still do jobs machines have yet to learn to do as well or better.

Make it easier to cover up the genocides?


#16

No, no, you misunderstood. I put work in quote because it wouldn’t be work as we know it. That is, they wouldn’t be the only ones with extra money because they have an exclusive job. Rather they have the drive to do something, whether that be make their own comics or plays or books or dig for dinosaur bones or work in a lab or split atoms etc. Or even other things like take care of animals or clean up trash in parks, etc.

But the world as we know it would have to be different if nearly all tasks can be performed by machines. Like I said, we might end up with a lot of busy work, with maybe a 20 or 30hr work week. Certainly some people would be doing work for “fun”, things that interest them. Other might be content playing Xbox all day. But honestly, a lot of people, (and I hesitate to say especially men, but especially men) tie their self worth and success to their jobs.

But in the other thread we had about this a week or so ago, it will be much different because you can’t have even half the people not working, as who is going to buy your goods? Somehow they will need a way to get goods.

This isn’t a totally new idea/worry, although unlike in the past, it is going to affect more people. But I remember a Twilight Zone where everyone was slowly fazed out from automation, and then the owner couldn’t even get a beer hardly at the bar next door, as he as closing down as no one could afford to come in, etc.


#17

Well, that and it might be a legitimate worry for the first time if we fail to build a future where there is some way for people to have ways not only to make money, but to save money and improve their economic situation. I’m reminded of Asimov’s Robot Series, with the wealthy Spacers few in number controlling an automated economy while the numerous poor Earthers subsisted in poverty. The Spacers used their political influence, gained through personal ownership of the means of automation, to deny Earthers personal ownership of the means of automation.


#18

Yeah that was the premise of Elysiym as well. I dunno, I just don’t see that happening. Maybe I am being too optimistic.


#19

Probably, but I hope you’re right and I’m wrong.


#20

Well, the projected turmoil has already been externalized. What is Trump-ism if not hyperbolic Luddite-ism?