‘The big education for me is that civilisation is fragile and can be destroyed in a heartbeat' - Jeremy Brade, former peacekeeper in Sarajevo.

Saturday, November 03, 2018

Technology and socialism

When robots take over much work previously done by human beings, how will the distribution of wealth be decided?

After decades of Western nations "offshoring" manufacturing to the Far East (so causing growing financial and social strains at home), the trend has begun to reverse in recent years, but without necessarily improving the prospects for well-paid industrial employment. Automation is taking over, not just on the assembly line but increasingly in the back office as well.

Now, the Engineer magazine reports on a "reconfigurable modular robot" that can change its shape and functioning to adapt to varying tasks and conditions (htp: Demetrius.)

This has implications for blue-suited management, too: “I want to tell the robot what it should be doing, what its goals are, but not how it should be doing it,” said Kress-Gazit, the leader of the research team. (Over 40 years ago operational analyst Stafford Beer held that management should set goals and provide resources, but leave it to the relevant department to decide how best to use those resources - a lesson still to be learned in many quarters!)

It could be argued that human labour will be re-employed in other fields but that is not guaranteed - did the Luddite weavers find other work in time to avoid destitution? - and the alternatives may be menial and lower-paid. I seem to see a lot of tattoo parlours and nail bars, fast-food outlets and discontinued-line shops in my neighbourhood these days. Billionaire Hugo Salinas Price predicts somewhere (I haven't found the reference yet) the return of domestic servants.

It may become harder to criticise the unemployed when work is not available. The question of economic justice will raise its head.

And at that point we will wonder how to restrict the multiplication of "useless mouths," limitless payouts of financial benefits and social-worker support etc., before the weight of public debt causes the economy to collapse.

Will the franchise revert to property-owners only? Will we need a militia to keep down the unfortunate? Will there be Chinese-style rules on breeding?

Or will Red Santa overthrow the whole system for a millennial age which will certainly never arrive?




Sackerson said...

JD comments:

I followed your link again to Hugo Salinas Price and browsed through a few of his thoughts. He believes in gold or silver as being the only store of wealth and that paper money, fiat money, is a fraud.
When you ask the question about "redistribution of wealth" we must first have a clear definition of what 'wealth' actually is.
Alan Watts wrote "By contrast with money, true wealth is the sum of energy, technical intelligence and raw materials" https://www.beezone.com/alanwatts/moneyversuswealth/moneyvswealth_book.html
Hugo Salinas Price is of the same opinion but his 'store of wealth' in gold or silver is subject to market manipulation - "Of course the gold and silver markets are manipulated. You have to be either blind or a Harvard Graduate with doctorate in Economics to ignore the fact" http://www.plata.com.mx/enUS/More/229?idioma=2
So reward for our labour, or gor our enforced idleness after AI, is going to be at the mercy of those who are empowered with distribution of 'rewards' i.e. the money changers. So we are back to square one I think. I have never understood economics, I got stuck on day one when I asked the obvious question "What is money?" There has never been a satisfactory answer to that. I think Fritz Schumacher wrote about what he called Buddhist Economics, I'll have to go and find it.

The 'problem' of AI and robots taking all our jobs is a myth as far as I am concerned. If you had seen and understand the complexity of the process of loading an oil rig onto a barge for transportation you will understand that AI is not intelligent enough to cope with such a process because those who design and create the systems are not themselves intelligent. As Niels Bohr might have said to the inhabitants of Silicon Valley "You're not thinking; you're merely being logical."

Sackerson said...

The prices of precious metals are manipulated so as to disguise the effects of the vast increase in notional money; when that fails, the manipulation will probably break down.

HSP writes elsewhere of the energy foundation of society and believes there will be a catastrophic decrease in world population.

AI/robots won't take over all jobs, but could take over enough to create an economic crisis. How are the dis-worked to buy the products made so efficiently, unless we start giving away money?

Sackerson said...

JD ripostes:

I saw HSP's articles about equating energy with wealth and a reduction in the population. What he is looking for is a reduction in economic activity which would mean abandoning the current drive to use robots and AI. They are not necessary, I have often thought that "laziness is the mother of invention, not necessity" and that applies to most labour saving devices. Is that Amazon Echo thing anything other than laziness?

And I often wonder at the waste of electricity in modern life such as those illuminated advertising things next to roundabouts in the city centre. They are a road safety hazard! And my own personal bete noire - air conditioning! That is completely unnecessary; a well designed building does not need it not even in hot climates. A complete waste of energy.

You will find the idea of Buddhist Economics in Shumacher's book "Small is Beautiful" And then there is the idea of a Gift Economy which is Christianity in action - to give without expectation of any reward. Probably too difficult for homo sapiens (lack of sapience?) This site outlines the idea http://gift-economy.com/ but appears to have been hijacked by feminists!