Letter from the post-work dystopian future

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This kind of stuff freaks me out, because there’s a good chance the automation apocalypse will happen well within our lifetimes, and it’s probably going to happen so quickly we won’t even see it coming. Hopefully the Basic Income people will push their agenda into the public sphere while there’s still time, so we can look forward to Star Trek instead of Blade Runner.

The other half of my brain says that’s all just bushwa, an atheist eschaton predicted by the same people who predicted moon colonies by 1980 and superhuman AI by 2001.

And the first half of my brain replies that, well, assuming we really do reach a critical mass of automation and dumb AI, it’s literally going to come out of nowhere — one day we’re chuckling at Vines of Google cars clumsily bumping into fire hydrants, the next day we’re getting our prostates examined by a robot doctor monitored by a single human who is simultaneously monitoring 24 other robot doctors.

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Grim, very grim indeed…

Truly interesting. I don’t often think too much about a post-scarcity future but I’ve never considered what the transition might look like

I’m not sure I understand the suggestion that people will jizz and shit everywhere once they have nothing to do.

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Obligatory link to the classic of the genre:


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A good read. Themes around Marx’s ideas of the falling rate of profit and eliminationism.

This is the natural outcome of the in vogue form of capitalism when the value of human labor is eventually devalued by privately owned machines which no longer upgrade physical labor 1-1 to tending the machines.
In Rome the introduction of human working slaves lead to bread and circuses for the unemployed and idled citizen class. It is only difficult to implement now because there is a quasi-religious cult around the sacrament of leaving anything which a private individual has somehow acquired or grabbed in their hands.
(edit)If you want to see an example of a badly(or diabolically) managed and possibly not even fully intentional massacre of the serfs by the lords look to the Irish potato famine, where Ireland was a net exporter of food every year of the famine. There is no reason that the idled less than citizen class citizens in the west couldn’t ‘accidentally’ be eliminated or perhaps conveniently sterilized once the income inequity becomes so great that no matter how many votes they have they still have no influence over the pre-chosen candidates.
(edit2)This story also covers the guilty white liberal can’t(wont) help problem of being so embarrassed with their hoarding that they are unable to help, for fear of a continuing lifeline. Except at charity events which often spend more to entertain, boost reputation, and subsidize struggling wealthy friends than to help people presented by these events as in real need. And what of the people without 1%er friends or relatives, it becomes a nepotism problem again with a lower class.
We need to create a system where those who were able to take at the highest levels are not allowed to feel smug and entitled, while also allowing those who were not fortunate to be born in a wealthy family to not feel lazy or bad about accepting a citizens payment rather than accepting to most the demeaning concept of charity out of the goodness and pleasure of their social superiors.


Fuck Basic Income, I want Culture-style post-scarcity anarchist communism.


I think Basic Income — or something like it — is going to be part of a necessary transitionary period, when the economy can autonomously produce most goods for essentially zero dollars, but services like housing still cost money.

I don’t think very many people alive today — certainly not most americans over the age of 40 — would be able to jump straight from worrying about their debt and/or retirement funds to a world where money is largely meaningless. They need a step in between.


Do you mean in a “why the hell did I spend all those evenings and weekends working rather than with my kids” kind of way?


That story continues to horrify me. The one question utopians never reply to is: why should the owners share? When everything is automated and 300 people own all the factories, they’re going to buy the government and eliminate the safety net and the rest of us can go starve. Is there any reason they wouldn’t?

Seems to me like the only guaranteed career is the one the machines can’t do - and those are becoming harder to invent.


There’s that, there’ll be a lot of resentment if/when the change happens.

Middle-class white guys already resent poor people who have iPhones and flatscreen tvs, because 15 years ago only middle-class white guys could afford that sort of consumer item. Consumer luxury is already starting to flatten out dramatically, and we’ve only just barely begun the automation revolution.

Imagine how those same middle-class white guys are going to feel when all of the “low-end” labor and service jobs evaporate — this is already beginning to happen, but it will accelerate dramatically when critical-mass automation occurs — and suddenly their mid-level desk job is the new bottom tier, with algorithmic obsolescence on the horizon. A lot of them are going to lash out in a way that makes the Tea Party look like rational adults.

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I’ve been thinking about this very problem for a while now, and the only answer I’ve been able to come up with is, “Let’s hope those 300 people grew up watching Star Trek.”

If the people who end up in charge are people like Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates, they’re going to push us towards a post-scarcity society where individuals are free to pursue fulfilling and productive lifestyles and hobbies without low-level Maslow concerns that currently hold most people back. They’re going to want to do that because they grew up watching Star Trek, and that’s the future they always believed in and now have the means to create.

Here’s the real scary part though — the nerds growing up today aren’t watching Star Trek, or anything like it. Nobody is making that story right now, they’re making The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones, feudal worlds more concerned with survival than self-actualization.


You raise an interesting point. I hear people saying, “what if we’re going back to feudalism,” but I’m beginning to think we’re already there. The Koch brothers may not call themselves princes, but in what way are they differeent? Roll up the last of the labor unions, raise the price of a plane ticket, and you’re done.


Right, but here’s the thing — the Koch Brothers are 75 and 79 years old. Most of the people like them are around that age, a little younger, maybe. They’re mostly going to be dead or incontinent by the time the automation apocalypse starts rolling through. The question is — who’s going to be in charge by then, and what kind of world are they going to want to live in?

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The firstborn sons.


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Can communism, with at least part of its foundation being “ownership by the workers” be a useful model when the problem being addressed is the lack of work to be done? This isn’t so much a tension between exploited workers and capitalist owners, as literal haves and have-nots…

I’ve said it several times, but it bears repeating: What we need is a second Great Experiment.

In the same way our Founding Fathers took a monarchy, a Roman senate, a tribal council, and a charter colony and created a presidency, congress, and court bound by the Constitution; We need to take planned, command, and traditional economic models and combine them into a brand new system designed for the modern world.

I can’t see why not. I understood communism to be based on common ownership, not workers’ ownership per se. In a society where most or (nearly) all people work, the two will overlap; but not, obviously, in a post-work society.

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They’ll need to keep the rest of alive so they have someone to feel better than.

Or else they need to keep us around as consumers. What good is owning a factory if no one buys the stuff your factory makes?

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