Skip to main content

Peter Schiff, the CEO of Euro Pacific Capital, recently summed up the conservative position about the value of human life:

I'm not going to say that we're all created equal... you're worth what you're worth.
He also said that "mentally retarded" people might only be worth "$2 an hour" and that the minimum wage should be eliminated to make this possible.

This is one vision of the human future. It is a vision in which the wages of most people -- not just those with intellectual disabilities -- eventually decline to the level of bare subsistence, or even lower than that required to continue living in poverty.

The conservative economic vision is a vision of mass death for the human race.

I realize this sounds like an exaggeration, but there's a reason it's not. We are entering an era unlike any before in history, because we are living on the cusp of the emergence of artificial intelligence (AI) and intelligent robotics. In a few decades from now, most human labor could be performed more cheaply and efficiently by self-learning computer programs or robots. An Oxford University study estimates that "about 47 percent of total US employment is at risk" from these new technologies. What this means is that the value of human labor is in terminal decline.

As MIT physicist Max Tegmark wrote in a recent article, Humanity in Jeopardy:

Exactly three years ago, on January 13, 2011, we humans were dethroned by a computer on the quiz show Jeopardy!. A year later, a computer was licensed to drive cars in Nevada after being judged safer than a human. What's next? Will computers eventually beat us at all tasks, developing superhuman intelligence?

I have little doubt that this can happen ... After this, life on Earth would never be the same. Whoever or whatever controls this technology would rapidly become the world's wealthiest and most powerful, outsmarting all financial markets, out-inventing and out-patenting all human researchers, and out-manipulating all human leaders.

In an economic system in which the value of a human being is defined by the economic value they can create through their labor, human beings themselves will be increasingly devalued in the age of advanced robotics and AI. There's a saying that "life is cheap." If we continue to live in an ultra-capitalist economy, that is about to become more true than ever.

I don't think it's going too far out on a limb to say that jobs for humans will be one of the greatest moral issues of this century. We are only at the beginning of the turning point that might be called "peak jobs." The labor force will continue to shrink as more and more jobs held by humans will become the province of AI and robotics.

This is what capitalism dictates will happen. We have to understand that capitalism is based on maximizing profit, and one of the most obvious ways to do that is to eliminate as many jobs as possible. When cheaper alternatives to human labor become available, human jobs are cut. Robots and computers don't require salaries, vacations, health care, sleep, lunch and bathroom breaks.

The technological "singularity" is every wealthy capitalist's dream. It it everyone else's worst nightmare, if living in a capitalist society as we know it.

The extremely unequal distribution of wealth in the world is soon going to become the big issue, rather than income inequality. This is how bad it is already:

The bottom line: 29 million, or 0.6% of those with any actual assets under their name, own $87.4 trillion, or 39.3% of all global assets.
Or as reported recently by Oxfam:
The bottom half of the world’s population owns the same as the richest 85 people in the world.
And that's while it's still possible for most people to have a job and earn an income. After the economy is thoroughly roboticized, most people will be unemployed and won't be able to make money anymore. In such a situation, the few people (and "corporate persons") who already own the assets of the world -- land, real estate, factories and machinery, patents and other intellectual property, and the robots and AI programs themselves -- are going to have absolute power. They won't need to employ many people anymore to do work, so there won't be any way for significant amounts of wealth to be distributed to non-asset-owners. The ownership class will be able to sit on their wealth and let the rest of humanity die in destitution.

What are the arguments against this nightmare scenario unfolding? They usually fall into two basic categories: the "new types of jobs will be created" argument, and the "people will rise up in revolution" argument.

Here's the problem with the claim that lots of new jobs will be created in other fields to replace the jobs being lost to robots and AI: The types of jobs that may be created will require a high level of creative intelligence and/or artistic ability -- the few things that will be more difficult to replace with machines -- yet most human beings only have an average level of those attributes. A functioning human-based economy requires ample jobs for people of average talents and abilities; not only jobs for the small minority of people who are very intelligent (engineers, software developers) or highly creative (arts and design). AI will render obsolete almost everything that the average human can do for profitable labor -- which means most humans. There will still be some jobs, but mostly the kind that most people will not be able to do.

As for the claim that people will rise up in revolution if most jobs disappear... how, exactly? How will people be able to fight back against police and military forces that will be comprised mostly of intelligent robots with superhuman athletic abilities -- robots programmed to execute the mission of the people in power without being hindered by a human conscience which sometimes stops human police and armies from brutally repressing people who are fighting for freedom? Furthermore, the power grid and the communications and transportation infrastructure will all be controlled by AI. Everything that people say and everywhere they go will be monitored by AI (think NSA domestic surveillance on steroids). Whoever owns the AI will be able to use it to suppress any attempts at revolution -- easily, literally no contest.

The only thing that can save humanity is a new type of economic system that includes aspects of moral conscience, human judgment and democratic decision-making -- an economic system that respects universal, progressive, humanistic moral principles such as:

1. The inherent worth and dignity of every person;
2. Justice, equity and compassion in human relations
From a materialistic standpoint, capitalism is perfectly suited to the age of robotics, because the central concept of of capitalism is the "invisible hand" making economic decisions automatically without the need for human deliberation and planning. In other words, capitalism is by nature a robotic economy. We are soon going to discover that we will be living in a world of robots, competing very efficiently, according to the principles of capitalism, to make humans go extinct. That is the natural endpoint of capitalism: the elimination of the human aspect from economic production and distribution of resources. If left unchecked, it eventually culminates in the elimination of human beings themselves, because humans are inherently "less efficient" than machines, and therefore (by capitalist standards), "worth less."

Capitalism as we know it will either devour the human race by the end of this century, or it will no longer be the economic system of this world. I'm betting that people will wake up and see this before it's too late, while they still have the power of the vote to elect a government that will rein in the excesses of capitalism and introduce a greater degree of thoughtful human planning, regulation, and conscience into the economy.

New technology is not going to go away, but how we deal with it is the issue. If our destiny is for most people to be out of a job -- for technology to do most of the labor -- then resources will have to be allocated to people in some way other than by "earned income." It's not as though that's some kind of revolutionary idea; the rich have been gaining most of their resources from passive income (i.e. wealth ownership and the fruits it naturally bears) since the dawn of history. This principle will simply have to be expanded to people in general, rather than only the rich.

The question is, will we have the intellectual courage to see this and the moral courage to demand it? How long will it take for enough people to see the dystopian, inhuman future we face without a new type of economic system that values human beings inherently rather than based on the economic value of their labor? How long will it take for people to demand a better future, one in which humans have the power to make the economic system serve us rather than serving a robotic economic system until it finally has no use for us and discards us in pursuit of its own nonhuman goals?

Note to DKos editors: Thank you for republishing this article to Community Spotlight!

Originally posted to Eric Stetson on Thu Jan 30, 2014 at 03:48 PM PST.

Also republished by Postcapitalism and Community Spotlight.

EMAIL TO A FRIEND X
Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags

?

More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (106+ / 0-)

    The most serious problem in American politics today is that people with wrong ideas are uncompromising, and people with good ideas are submissive and unwilling to fight. Change that, and we might have a real democracy again.

    by Eric Stetson on Thu Jan 30, 2014 at 03:48:37 PM PST

  •  An excellent analysis, (41+ / 0-)

    but I have to dispute one point. You say:

    "It is a vision in which the wages of most people... eventually decline to the level of bare subsistence".

    The thing is, most people already receive wages at or below the level of bare subsistence. Half the world's people have to subsist on two dollars or less a day; a third subsist on a dollar or less.

    This is not a "vision" of the future, it is the current reality. But I agree it is likely to get worse, for the reasons you argue and also as a result of excessive human reproduction on a planet of limited resources.

    •  True. Sometimes it's easy to forget this, (23+ / 0-)

      living in the relatively wealthy countries of the world. Thanks for the reminder that bare subsistence is already the norm for most human beings.

      The most serious problem in American politics today is that people with wrong ideas are uncompromising, and people with good ideas are submissive and unwilling to fight. Change that, and we might have a real democracy again.

      by Eric Stetson on Thu Jan 30, 2014 at 04:06:34 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Perhaps climate change will cull the population (7+ / 0-)

        before the end of the century...

        ...Son, those Elephants always look out for themselves. If you happen to get a crumb or two from their policies, it's a complete coincidence. -Malharden's Dad

        by slowbutsure on Thu Jan 30, 2014 at 04:13:22 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Already Underway. First Estimates of a Million (18+ / 0-)

          were out last year or the year before.

          With the NSA declaring climate change activism its enemy, ownership is determined to push for global mass dieoff.

          We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

          by Gooserock on Thu Jan 30, 2014 at 04:18:14 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Somewhere, Malthus smiles (7+ / 0-)

            He clearly has his followers.  It's becoming increasingly hard to argue that the moral arc of universe bends towards justice these days.

            Some men see things as they are and ask why. I dream of things that never were and ask why not?

            by RFK Lives on Fri Jan 31, 2014 at 08:26:58 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Increasingly indeed. I'm beginning to believe (9+ / 0-)

              that "the moral arc of the universe bending towards justice" was a brief 100-120 years or so after open ("free") lands and fossil fuels brought about increased economic prosperity which the wealthy could "afford" to share at all levels.

              That lent the perception of "bending towards justice," but there is simply no guarantee of that continuing.  The problem with perceptions is that a person is enveloped in cultural, economic, social and political views of the time.

              Witnessing wealth spread via "free land" (thank you American Indians), large markets, copious supplies of energy and raw materials while living in a democratic republic might lead one to have the perception of "bending towards justice."

              But we live in quite different times.  Raw materials are increasingly in short supply and environmental devastation is vast in order to obtain them.  Energy supplies are increasingly expensive to recover (deep sea oil, for example, although natural gas fracking is relatively cheap as long as everyone agrees to forget about the externalities). Land is no longer free to every settler who wants some. Jobs themselves are vanishing.

              We differ in vast ways from the days when it seemed "the arc of the universe bends towards justice." It's become a trite slogan to plaster in the White House while its occupant is engaged in bending the other direction.

              In the 1970s, there were many books and speeches about the population boom, coming shortages of raw materials, energy and food. Republicans liked to laugh at those ideas through the 1980s and 1990s, even into the 2000s.  But here we are.  

              The earth is a finite resource. A system like capitalism, which depends on perpetual growth, is unsustainable. Economic theory and faulty accounting will eventually run into the rock hard wall of reality. And when it does, the weather is apt to be fairly stifling.

              All this condensed down to a few words: If robots have all the jobs, who can buy whatever 1%-owned robots produce?

              Guillotine! makes an appearance at that stage. And perhaps before. Seven billion people won't vanish without horrific battles.

              The arc of the universe, forever it seems to me, has bent toward chaos.

              "The law is meant to be my servant and not my master, still less my torturer and my murderer." -- James Baldwin. July 11, 1966.

              by YucatanMan on Fri Jan 31, 2014 at 09:07:40 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

        •  Maybe, at least in the poorer parts of the world. (7+ / 0-)

          But in the wealthier parts of the world, I think we could survive a lot longer with the benefit of technology (at least temporarily, while the rest of the world burns). I'm no expert on the subject though, so it's just a guess.

          In any case, I agree that climate change is another major moral issue of our century.

          The most serious problem in American politics today is that people with wrong ideas are uncompromising, and people with good ideas are submissive and unwilling to fight. Change that, and we might have a real democracy again.

          by Eric Stetson on Thu Jan 30, 2014 at 04:22:30 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  The presumption that the wealthy will do better (8+ / 0-)

            because of technology and money is making a crucial presumption that food itself will always be in supply.

            Climate change does not guarantee that. In fact, disruptions in food chains are growing all around us now. Honeybees are vanishing. Monarch butterflies are down to 1/300th of what they were. Fish stocks are depleting and coral reefs are dying.

            Money might buy you a month's worth of the remaining food, but all the money in the world won't restock the oceans after they are too acidic for sea life. It won't push planting zones to prime soil. Technology won't create food from thin air. We depend on the natural cycles of our earth for our very survival, rich and poor alike.

            I think that is an enormous miscalculation that the wealthy are making today:  they think their money will protect them.  Well, they can't eat their money.

            "The law is meant to be my servant and not my master, still less my torturer and my murderer." -- James Baldwin. July 11, 1966.

            by YucatanMan on Fri Jan 31, 2014 at 09:12:14 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  If the ecosystem collapses to that degree (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              YucatanMan, chimene, bluehammer

              then yes, we're all in big trouble -- except perhaps the richest of the rich, who will still survive under just about any conditions (e.g. if there are widespread crop failures and the price of food goes up to 100x what it is now, the very rich will still be able to afford it, but nobody else will).

              The most serious problem in American politics today is that people with wrong ideas are uncompromising, and people with good ideas are submissive and unwilling to fight. Change that, and we might have a real democracy again.

              by Eric Stetson on Fri Jan 31, 2014 at 11:49:44 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  The food still has to get to them. They won't (4+ / 0-)

                be out in the fields harvesting it themselves. It would be a short game.  The wealthy holding out, keeping it all for only the wealthy only lasts as long as the masses allow themselves to be starved.

                The "Arab Spring" was caused to a great extent by increasing food prices. Those in power did not remain in power. And those were fairly mild price increases compared to widespread ecosystem collapses.

                "The law is meant to be my servant and not my master, still less my torturer and my murderer." -- James Baldwin. July 11, 1966.

                by YucatanMan on Fri Jan 31, 2014 at 12:37:12 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  Won't robots be harvesting and transporting food? (0+ / 0-)

                  Robotic crop pickers. Robotic, self-driving trucks. Robotic guards to prevent poor people from accessing the fields to steal the crops. And so forth. Why would a single human worker be necessary for the owner of a farm to eat well, in the age of intelligent robotics?

                  The most serious problem in American politics today is that people with wrong ideas are uncompromising, and people with good ideas are submissive and unwilling to fight. Change that, and we might have a real democracy again.

                  by Eric Stetson on Fri Jan 31, 2014 at 01:26:26 PM PST

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  Lots of land. Plus... hmmm.... where do the raw (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    IowaBiologist

                    materials come from to build and operate robots, fuel their operation, etc?

                    Other robots, right? Somewhere in the chain, there's a weak link.  

                    Honestly, if ever such a scenario does come to pass, I think there will probably be mass rebellion by the masses before the robotic regime is totally in place.  

                    Or the rich will have to provide the masses with a lot of bread and circuses.  We've seen how that worked out before.

                    "The law is meant to be my servant and not my master, still less my torturer and my murderer." -- James Baldwin. July 11, 1966.

                    by YucatanMan on Fri Jan 31, 2014 at 02:09:20 PM PST

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  The most likely scenario (1+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      chimene

                      is probably the emergence of a somewhat more socialistic economic system, voted into power by the people who are losing their jobs or at risk of losing their jobs (i.e. eventually the majority of people), once they wake up to what's happening.

                      I suppose some would say that's just a modern version of "bread and circuses." Maybe so. Maybe the new version will be "a free 5x10' room and board and a virtual reality helmet so that you can escape from the boredom of life without a functional role in the economy." Maybe this is what the rich will eventually give everyone else to keep them quiet and out of sight.

                      I hope the future will be something better than this. Hard to know what will happen.

                      The most serious problem in American politics today is that people with wrong ideas are uncompromising, and people with good ideas are submissive and unwilling to fight. Change that, and we might have a real democracy again.

                      by Eric Stetson on Fri Jan 31, 2014 at 02:23:15 PM PST

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  Life without a "functional role in the economy" (3+ / 0-)

                        isn't boring. Living off the land, relying on your skill and wits, is very exciting. The eight to five is what's boring. Take it from someone who has experienced both.

                        •  Yeah, I suppose so. I've thought about (1+ / 0-)
                          Recommended by:
                          ypochris

                          trying to live off the land and so forth. It certainly has its appealing aspects.

                          One thing, though, is that good arable land is getting more and more expensive, so most people wouldn't necessarily be able to afford it anymore. But those who can should definitely buy some while they still can, because eventually going back to the land might be the best option in economic hard times.

                          The most serious problem in American politics today is that people with wrong ideas are uncompromising, and people with good ideas are submissive and unwilling to fight. Change that, and we might have a real democracy again.

                          by Eric Stetson on Sat Feb 01, 2014 at 06:30:50 PM PST

                          [ Parent ]

                          •  Rereading your earlier comment, (1+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            Eric Stetson

                            I realize you were imagining a hypothetical city person, displaced by automation, living with their basic food and shelter needs provided (presumably) by the government, and therefor having nothing "meaningful" to do.

                            While I naturally think of my old life as the alternative, this vision would be more likely for many. Still, inquiring intellects will always find a way to keep themselves occupied, such as creating art and literature. Or just social interaction - perhaps the never ending party, since there is nothing else they have to do. Each will find what pleases them, what they consider a meaningful way to spend their time - but doubtless, yes, some will be bored, just as they are today.

                    •  umm, panem et cirences? or however you spell it (1+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      YucatanMan

                      is already in operation!

                      What are "circuses" but video games and reality TV?

                      What is "bread" but the debased, chemicalized pap of "manufactured" foods that the masses have been trained to consider edible and healthful?

                      "real" work : a job where you wash your hands BEFORE you use the bathroom...

                      by chimene on Fri Jan 31, 2014 at 06:12:06 PM PST

                      [ Parent ]

                  •  As the robots grow more intelligent... (0+ / 0-)

                    Will they continue to harvest food or would they see the humans as cattle?

            •  And then - of course ... (0+ / 0-)

              All those who will not simply "die off" - without a fight.

              A period of "law of the jungle" - in which these very types are ill equipped to handle.

              No one will win.

              “Those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities.” ... Voltaire

              by RUNDOWN on Sat Feb 01, 2014 at 08:27:52 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

          •  High tech makes you more vulnerable (4+ / 0-)

            Not less.

            If the world implodes, subsistence farmers in Africa will just going on doing what they've always done.

            Meanwhile, in the First World, there's no gas to be had for love or money.

            (-5.50,-6.67): Left Libertarian
            Leadership doesn't mean taking a straw poll and then just throwing up your hands. -Jyrinx

            by Sparhawk on Fri Jan 31, 2014 at 09:25:33 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  The middle class is the most vulnerable. (0+ / 0-)

              The very rich will probably find a way to use their money and technology to insulate themselves from much of the hardship from climate change, peak oil, etc. For example, if the price of gasoline goes up to $20/gallon, the rich will buy it anyway; the middle class, however, won't be able to. If the price of wheat goes up 10x what it is now, the rich can still afford all the bread they need; the middle class won't be able to. And so forth.

              The most serious problem in American politics today is that people with wrong ideas are uncompromising, and people with good ideas are submissive and unwilling to fight. Change that, and we might have a real democracy again.

              by Eric Stetson on Fri Jan 31, 2014 at 11:47:34 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  You're forgetting one thing (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                chimene, WheninRome

                Even Machiavelli saw it:

                Even princes bleed and die.  The very rich would probably be wiped out in the first wave of chaos.  They would cease to exist.  People get nasty when hungry.  They look for someone to blame, and they tend to blame the people who aren't hungry.

                In a nation of 300 million guns and 20-odd million with military experience, the rich would be the first to die in any sort of fatal economic collapse that left the majority so poor that they couldn't eat regularly.

                They tell me I'm pretty amusing from time to time working with 140 characters or less.

                by CharlieHipHop on Fri Jan 31, 2014 at 05:59:07 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

      •  Our family takes an annual trip (19+ / 0-)

        to Honduras, one of the poorest nations in the Western hemisphere, both to provide aid (infrastructure and medical), and also to remind us of how the majority actually live.

        It is, indeed, all too easy to forget - to think that the (relatively very well-to-do) "poor" of America represent the poor of the world. When little kids stretch a rope across the road to stop your car, then beg for a bottle of water, you have found the real poor.

      •  The Comintern promised us "One World." (4+ / 0-)

        And growing up, as I did, attending Pete Seeger concerts instead of Church, I thought this would be a GOOD thing ... equality for all, sharing the World's wealth.

        John Lenon had similar imaginings ...

        The counter argument of course was "average the world wage, and US Autoworkers will literally starve, because housing and heating cost so much in Detroit."

        Well, the failure of Revolutionary Scientific Socialism has been pretty well established.  The Vanguard Class of the Workers didn't exactly cover themselves with glory in the places where they did take congrol  (cough)Mao (cough)Stalin.  

        Why exactly did we believe that political adventurers whose skill set included "waging revolution" and "dominating in commitees"  and little else would produce Commonwealths "We", as Baby Boom Americans would care to live in?

        But ... the One World ideal, and the hope for "the Withering of the State is not yet dead.  It is simply being carried forward by the very Bourgoisie that refused to be Liquidated during the high water years of Marxist Leninism.  Once the Capitalist Class got it through their heads that "war" WAS a waste of time and resources and noticed that nationalism and ideology were no longer of real value to the sacred Bottom Line ...

        Their trade off, of course, was having some differently- pigmented multi-millionaires  in their exclusive country clubs.

        And so ... NAFTA, CAFTA, and the Pacific Trade Agreement -- of which,  neither Ms. Clinton nor Mr. Obama have anything bad to say.

        So ... the difference between life under the Internationale Soviet and the International Cartel ...  well, under the Communists everyone had a job to pretend to work at while the government pretended to pay them.

        In the Capitalist Ascendancy ... no one will have to pretend.

        Either way ... "lives of anxious obedience" for those lucky enough to have lives at all.

    •  great analysis...but this trend can only go for (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      greengemini, chimene

      long before it crashes on it's head
      here goes...yes capitalism is all about profits  and that means lowering cost as much as possible.
      -But for capitalism to thrive, there most be a corresponding demand in society for goods and services.
      -Imagine a society of 10 people and 8 are employed.
      -those 8 people collective earn $16 and can buy 8 cars
      -Now with computers and robots the car-maker cuts headcount to 4 workers
      -And because there is no upward pressure on wages (because of abundance of labor) those 4 now collectively make $6 dollars.
      -Society just lost $10 of wealth.
      -How many cars can $6 dollars now buy? 2 or 3?.
      -So the firm has gone from selling 8 cars to 3, because for all the savings that computers and robotics bring, in the end they won't buy cars.
      -For business/capitalism to prosper  it needs an expanding base of consumers not less and there is no consumption without jobs.
      -So it's a trend that would eventually ( in 50/60/70 yrs?)  lead to business cannibalizing itself...

      This is what capitalism dictates will happen. We have to understand that capitalism is based on maximizing profit, and one of the most obvious ways to do that is to eliminate as many jobs as possible.

      "When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in a flag and carrying a cross." Sinclair Lewis, 1935 --Talk of foresight--

      by tuma on Fri Jan 31, 2014 at 11:02:19 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Possibly, but low-demand economies have existed (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        bluehammer

        for long periods of time before. The consumer-driven economy of today, with a large middle class buying lots of stuff, is a relatively recent development. The rich will probably be able to adapt to an economy with much lower demand. They will just retreat into their own bank accounts and gated communities, producing only what they need for themselves and their fellow rich, and ignore most of the rest of the world. Or, more likely, they will allow some minimal reforms of the economy to enable the masses of people to avoid starvation, in order to prevent the rise of a new socialist movement to redistribute accumulated wealth.

        The most serious problem in American politics today is that people with wrong ideas are uncompromising, and people with good ideas are submissive and unwilling to fight. Change that, and we might have a real democracy again.

        by Eric Stetson on Fri Jan 31, 2014 at 11:56:18 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  Sent to Top Comments for the great reminder. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ypochris

      If you find a great comment or thread, send it to Top Comments. It's easy!
      Just email us at topcomments@gmail.com or message us on kosmail at Top Comments.



      Top Comments posts nightly at 10pm EST.

      "Those are my principles, and if you don't like them...well, I have others." --Groucho Marx

      by Dragon5616 on Fri Jan 31, 2014 at 03:05:21 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  They're Taking Their World Back. (13+ / 0-)

    We're returning to a tiny nobility and masses of working and unemployed poor.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Thu Jan 30, 2014 at 04:16:39 PM PST

    •  There is still a window of opportunity to take it (20+ / 0-)

      back from them. That window will probably close after another 30-50 years. Maybe sooner, if we're unlucky.

      People who see what's going on and what's coming had better get busy persuading everyone else and taking constructive action. It's beyond politics at this point. It's a question of the survival of a humane civilization.

      The most serious problem in American politics today is that people with wrong ideas are uncompromising, and people with good ideas are submissive and unwilling to fight. Change that, and we might have a real democracy again.

      by Eric Stetson on Thu Jan 30, 2014 at 04:19:51 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Nietzsche said that if one wants slaves, (18+ / 0-)

      one is a fool to educate them to be masters.

      Too many have been educated to be masters for them to easily make us all slaves again.

      They're trying to erase the legacy of the New Deal, but it's not happening fast enough. There are still too many people who remember how it was and who are raised to expect more. And too many skilled and educated people.

      And then there's the Internet, which allows people to communicate and coordinate their actions. Collective intelligences are forming, an emergent phenomenon resulting from high connectivity. Crowdsourcing and open-source design: anytime someone builds a better mousetrap, they can share their idea with others looking to improve on the mousetrap. In this way, they can pool their collective abilities. We're getting smarter, and it's harder to shut that down now.

      If the 1% could do it slowly, bit by bit, they might be able to gradually reduce us to serfdom. That has been their plan for a while now.

      But they're running out of time, soon they'll need to make their play for all the marbles all at once, rather than taking one at a time, and that will engender mass resistance.That might be our chance to break free.

      "In America, the law is king." --Thomas Paine

      by limpidglass on Thu Jan 30, 2014 at 04:45:39 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  If the Western economy goes into a new recession (25+ / 0-)

        in the next few years, I think all bets are off. The Millennial Generation in Europe and America won't just tolerate being condemned to a life of poverty -- which is exactly what would happen to them if the economy doesn't soon experience a genuine recovery. Many Millennials have never been able to find a decent job, or any job at all. Many of them have become very well educated (as you pointed out) and have much higher expectations than being permanently poor. They are deep in student loan debt, and they were expecting to eventually be able to use that education to get a good job, pay back their loans, and live a middle class life. If we have another deep recession soon, the Millennials will be screwed for life, unless they rise up politically and demand major change of the economic system (the kind of change that will make Obama look like a right-wing conservative by comparison). I wouldn't be surprised if there will be a rebirth of socialism among the younger generation. Europe is already on the brink of going full socialist in some countries, because of the ongoing severe unemployment problem.

        The most serious problem in American politics today is that people with wrong ideas are uncompromising, and people with good ideas are submissive and unwilling to fight. Change that, and we might have a real democracy again.

        by Eric Stetson on Thu Jan 30, 2014 at 04:58:44 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Great analysis (11+ / 0-)

          The truth of what you write can be seen in this first "jobless recovery" while Wall Street soars and the people are hardly even begun to rise. We are nothing but "labor cost" to them.

          I wouldn't be surprised if there will be a rebirth of socialism among the younger generation. Europe is already on the brink of going full socialist in some countries, because of the ongoing severe unemployment problem.
          Socialism is the only cure for runaway capitalism, I believe. It is the only way that capital will be forced to serve rather than rule.

          I am hopeful. I see more civic involvement and more communities trying to solve these problems since there is little to nothing coming to us from above. Pope Francis represents hope in a powerful voice for a humane economy. The future of the Church is people of color. No Pope has harnessed the social justice core of the Church until him.

          This future is not one I want for my child.

          We have it within our power to make the world over again ~ Thomas Paine

          by occupystephanie on Thu Jan 30, 2014 at 07:20:02 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  so check my off-the-cuff math: (7+ / 0-)

          from the numbers quoted, if 40% of the wealth=about $90 Trillion, then 100% of the wealth=about $225 Trillion.

          Divide $225 T equally amongst 8 Billion humans and I get about $28k of "assets"/human.

          Just for another perspective of "worth".

          don't always believe what you think

          by claude on Thu Jan 30, 2014 at 08:17:36 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  I thought there were currently 7 billion humans? (6+ / 0-)

            But in any case, yeah, each human would own roughly $30k in assets, maybe a bit more, if it were all divided equally.

            Seems like quite a lot compared to the horrific poverty that is found throughout the world. The wealth is extremely concentrated.

            The most serious problem in American politics today is that people with wrong ideas are uncompromising, and people with good ideas are submissive and unwilling to fight. Change that, and we might have a real democracy again.

            by Eric Stetson on Thu Jan 30, 2014 at 08:45:15 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

        •  Actually, that could be our unoffical motto... (7+ / 0-)

          The Millenial Generation of Europe and America - Currently Tolerating Being Condemned to a Life of Poverty

          •  With the emphasis on "currently" (0+ / 0-)

            How long "currently" lasts, we'll see!

            The most serious problem in American politics today is that people with wrong ideas are uncompromising, and people with good ideas are submissive and unwilling to fight. Change that, and we might have a real democracy again.

            by Eric Stetson on Fri Jan 31, 2014 at 11:59:04 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

        •  Re (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          SingleVoter
          The Millennial Generation in Europe and America won't just tolerate being condemned to a life of poverty -- which is exactly what would happen to them if the economy doesn't soon experience a genuine recovery.
          What are they going to do about it? Other developing countries aren't going to stop their own clamor for higher living standards.

          (-5.50,-6.67): Left Libertarian
          Leadership doesn't mean taking a straw poll and then just throwing up your hands. -Jyrinx

          by Sparhawk on Fri Jan 31, 2014 at 09:28:15 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  Have you seen the stock market reports (0+ / 0-)

          lately? Could this be the next recession?

          "The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power. Now do you begin to understand me?" ~Orwell, "1984"

          by Lily O Lady on Fri Jan 31, 2014 at 02:30:55 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  The recent decline has been caused by tapering (0+ / 0-)

            of the quantitative easing (QE) program of the Federal Reserve, or the decision to start tapering off the program this year. QE has pumped up the stock market a lot, because what the program is is the Fed creating money out of thin air, giving it to banks, and then the banks use most of it to invest in assets such as stocks, sending the market higher. The intention of the program is supposed to be to stimulate the economy, but mostly what it's doing is just funneling more money into the pockets of asset owners.

            The most serious problem in American politics today is that people with wrong ideas are uncompromising, and people with good ideas are submissive and unwilling to fight. Change that, and we might have a real democracy again.

            by Eric Stetson on Sat Feb 01, 2014 at 06:34:04 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

  •  people are not equipped to deal with the pace (25+ / 0-)

    of change these days. It's not just computers--biotech is another key source of change. High school students can now carry out feats of genetic engineering that it took whole laboratories years to perform just forty years ago.

    We're still having enough trouble with the 19th-century problem of racism--what about when we can CREATE superior breeds of humans, who are stronger, smarter, more gifted by any reasonable measure.

    So what if we manage to relegate the vaguely defined and unscientific concept of race to the dustbin--it will be replaced by a far more rigorous and ironclad concept of genetic caste. As a result inequality will potentially rise to levels undreamed of before. You can engineer a slave caste perfectly suited to specific tasks, and enhance a ruling caste with godlike abilities. The very conception of the human is being challenged.

    People have a 19th-century conception of progress, insofar as they believe it's gradual and manageable.  Tomorrow will be only slightly different from today. Change happens at a constant rate, or perhaps at most polynomial. If problems crop up, we can deal with them at a modest cost of resources.

    But in this century, the pace of change is increasing. We are entering a new regime, the era of exponential change. (Moore's Law being a famous example). Exponential change is so fast that you don't have time to realize what's happening before it's on you.

    If we don't anticipate the possibilities of what will happen and figure out more effective ways to respond to weak signals before they become amplified, we'll be overwhelmed by the tidal wave of change. Once the problems become manifest, it's already far too late to do anything.

    Look at how badly we screwed up the environment with our 19th-century fossil fuel technology--an artifact of the old regime of slow, manageable change. Now imagine what might happen with self-replicating AIs and mass releases of genetically engineered organisms, innovations that change exponentially fast and could fundamentally alter the ecosphere in the space of a few years.

    Sometimes I wonder--there are still a lot of people who can't deal with the idea of men having sex with other men. Their brains explode at the thought. And you're asking these very people to think seriously and imaginatively about the transhuman future of automated labor and genetically engineered superhumans?

    This is the true test of democracy, whether it can handle this new era of rapid change.

    "In America, the law is king." --Thomas Paine

    by limpidglass on Thu Jan 30, 2014 at 04:23:40 PM PST

    •  Excellent points. (13+ / 0-)

      I think what you said about the potential rise of "genetic caste" is particularly troubling. The human species could in fact diverge into two new species (the genetically modified rich, and everyone else), with extreme racism by the "enhanced" against the "non-enhanced."

      Also, your point about whether democracy can handle an era of exponential change: I'm honestly not sure, but we'll soon be finding out. It seems that democratic governmental institutions are not doing very well. They are becoming sclerotic and losing legitimacy. Whether that can be reversed remains to be seen.

      Some kind of techno-corporate fascism is the most likely future, but a revival of social democracy is a more hopeful possibility. Another possibility (a very slim chance of this ever happening though) would be a "rule by experts" kind of system.

      The most serious problem in American politics today is that people with wrong ideas are uncompromising, and people with good ideas are submissive and unwilling to fight. Change that, and we might have a real democracy again.

      by Eric Stetson on Thu Jan 30, 2014 at 04:33:20 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  read you some William Gibson (18+ / 0-)

        cyberpunk sci-fi distopia stories.  Plenty of other thoughtful and provoking authors in that genre, now a third of a century aged.

        It's not like any of this is a surprise.  I remember having conversations with contemporaries in the late 60s about the emerging "cybernetic" revolution.  Naively, as it has turned out,  we thought the robots would liberate humans from the drudgery of repetitive mindless manual work.  They have, but...

        We neglected to realize that the machines would not be working for the people they liberated,  they would be working for the people who owned them.

        The word "commonwealth" has been eliminated from modern American English.

        My question would be, who will be left to buy stuff, if most humans become unnecessary surplus labor?

        don't always believe what you think

        by claude on Thu Jan 30, 2014 at 09:04:35 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Re: buying stuff (11+ / 0-)

          Low money velocity economies are certainly possible. I suspect feudalism had relatively few people buying stuff, for example, compared to today's American consumerism.

          Of course, an economy with less buying and selling going on would tend to be stagnant and not allow as many people to participate and share the spoils of prosperity. Just like in feudalism.

          So, a post-consumerist ultra-capitalist economy might look a lot like feudalism or the "dark ages" for the majority of humans, while a tiny minority of humans would be richer than ever before, enjoying the products and services provided for them -- only for them -- by the robots which they own. No selling to non-rich people would be necessary; only trading among the rich themselves. Essentially, the majority of human beings would be "outside the economy," left to die or scratch out a meager living with what very limited resources they might still have.

          As long as there is democracy, such a dystopian economy could (and almost certainly would) be voted out of existence. But if democracy falls, it's game over for all but the non-rich. So let's hope we can keep our democracy!

          The most serious problem in American politics today is that people with wrong ideas are uncompromising, and people with good ideas are submissive and unwilling to fight. Change that, and we might have a real democracy again.

          by Eric Stetson on Thu Jan 30, 2014 at 09:18:35 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  correction (4+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Temmoku, YucatanMan, greengemini, chuckvw

            I meant to say "if democracy falls, it's game over for all but the rich."

            The most serious problem in American politics today is that people with wrong ideas are uncompromising, and people with good ideas are submissive and unwilling to fight. Change that, and we might have a real democracy again.

            by Eric Stetson on Thu Jan 30, 2014 at 09:20:59 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Discouraging: look at Europe, Ireland, UK. (5+ / 0-)

              Europe, Ireland, the UK are all democracies. Yet they have stubbornly stuck to austerity policies the last 6 years that reward the elite while screwing most ordinary people. I think people are so blinded by fear that they can't look beyond their own short-term self-interest to band together for their mutual long-term self-interest.

              "The true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals." - Barack Obama

              by HeyMikey on Fri Jan 31, 2014 at 06:05:00 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

          •  This is exactly my thinking (10+ / 0-)

            People who claim that they will always need us to buy stuff are not envisioning the logical outcome of all of the wealth transfer. They will not need us as workers, and they won't need us as consumers either.

            •  Yep, they'll just print what they need, from (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              greengemini

              houses to cars to guns, and maybe to food?

              But wait... they'll need the raw materials to go into those 3D printers.  There still might be a chance for the masses to choke them off.

              "The law is meant to be my servant and not my master, still less my torturer and my murderer." -- James Baldwin. July 11, 1966.

              by YucatanMan on Fri Jan 31, 2014 at 09:16:32 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  A very limited (0+ / 0-)

                scope of materials applies to 3D printing.

              •  Why should there be 'masses' at all (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Eric Stetson

                Allowing gradual population attrition without replacement would mean there would be comparatively few people living at an ultra-high living standard. Sounds pretty good to me!

                (-5.50,-6.67): Left Libertarian
                Leadership doesn't mean taking a straw poll and then just throwing up your hands. -Jyrinx

                by Sparhawk on Sat Feb 01, 2014 at 05:38:14 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  Yes, gradual population reduction would be good. (0+ / 0-)

                  But it has to be gradual, or else it would cause a lot of social upheaval.

                  The most serious problem in American politics today is that people with wrong ideas are uncompromising, and people with good ideas are submissive and unwilling to fight. Change that, and we might have a real democracy again.

                  by Eric Stetson on Sat Feb 01, 2014 at 06:35:11 PM PST

                  [ Parent ]

          •  Corporate Mercantilism with a Feudal framework. (6+ / 0-)

            Your point about the rich 'only trading with themselves', reminds me of mercantilism.

            I keep coming back to corporate mercantilism as our future economy, and I see a corporate colonialism in our future.

            I think we will be lucky to get feudalism.

            Democracy - 1 person 1 vote. Free Markets - More dollars more power.

            by k9disc on Fri Jan 31, 2014 at 02:47:35 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

          •  good but wrong. (4+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            YucatanMan, Ice Blue, greengemini, melo

            in feudalism, the working masses were not "surplus", they were the essential means of production. The wealthy didnt just tolerate them, they were dependent on their exploitation. That is radically different from your sketch.

            it seems claude has asked the same that I also asked below; and you ranswer is interesting but not sufficient. If the vast majority of wealthless people would be living "outside" of this economy, there wouldnt be much of an economy to speak of. "Low velocity" you mean: low volume, it would mean. The ultrarich can be ultrarich but still their personal consumption is only a minimal amount compared to the (potential) consumption of the vast number of other people. I find it on the face not credible to assume that covering the rich´s actual, physical needs (through robotic, nonhuman work) would claim the totality of Earth´s ressources - so that nothing would be left for others. And if it didnt, and there would be something left for others, for what reason should they withhold ressources from those others that they can not make any use of themselves? And if they didnt, how could those "others" not go on and have whatever society suits them (and is pssible) on those remaining ressources?

            economically this doesnt make sense. In terms of power it makes sense, such an elite might want to have power over the totality of the worlds ressources just to defend against the possibility of the rabble taking over. But you suggest that these multitudes would really not be useful for anything anymore (since any realistic use would be better done by roboters or AI). That would be a first in humanity´s history; and logically one would have to expect that the useless multitudes would be killed one way or the other. After such a kill, they wouldnt be there anymore, and the injustice embodied in their existence would also not be there anymore.

            •  Pandemics aren't that choosy (0+ / 0-)

              Maybe the AIs shall inherit the earth, but they are also subject to viruses!

              It always seems impossible until its done. -Nelson Mandela

              by chuckvw on Fri Jan 31, 2014 at 11:57:15 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  However a genetically engineered pandemic with (0+ / 0-)

                the treatment/cure only available to the super rich is.  Or perhaps once things get to that point how about a nanomechanical virus that can be programmed to kill or not based on a person's wealth?

                You have watched Faux News, now lose 2d10 SAN.

                by Throw The Bums Out on Fri Jan 31, 2014 at 01:38:53 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

            •  Yeah, this may be true: (0+ / 0-)

              As you said,

              logically one would have to expect that the useless multitudes would be killed one way or the other. After such a kill, they wouldnt be there anymore, and the injustice embodied in their existence would also not be there anymore.
              Although I didn't mention it in the diary itself (maybe I should have), a likely scenario is that a huge percentage of the population will be imprisoned for penury. Some form of "human warehousing" with minimal freedom for the masses of unemployed that will exist. But those people probably wouldn't be able to have children because of their lack of money, or wouldn't be allowed to, if they're incarcerated. So, the problem of excess population would burn itself out after a couple of generations.

              Basically, what might be the most likely thing to happen is a couple generations of hell on earth, with a constantly shrinking economy and population; and after that, a new world with maybe less than 1 billion people living in it, and probably a radically different type of society that will be created from the ashes of the one we know today.

              The most serious problem in American politics today is that people with wrong ideas are uncompromising, and people with good ideas are submissive and unwilling to fight. Change that, and we might have a real democracy again.

              by Eric Stetson on Fri Jan 31, 2014 at 12:05:55 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

      •  One problem at a time. (0+ / 0-)

        Ultimately, we can't solve all the problems of future generations.

        Even given the progress on that front, it's likely we won't live to be the ones who have to deal with significantly enhanced humans.

    •  I fear it is already too late. (7+ / 0-)

      We are already seeing the effects of trying to run a 21st Century industrial civilization with an 18th Century philosophical system.

      don't always believe what you think

      by claude on Thu Jan 30, 2014 at 08:25:05 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Yea this is a great and insightful comment. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      YucatanMan

      For what it's worth it doesn't have to be a political thing.  Asking anyone to dig in and consider these thoughts is tough, that's the core of the concept!

      When we talk about war, we're really talking about peace.

      by genethefiend on Fri Jan 31, 2014 at 08:07:01 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  What an excellent comment. Thank you. n/t (0+ / 0-)

      "The law is meant to be my servant and not my master, still less my torturer and my murderer." -- James Baldwin. July 11, 1966.

      by YucatanMan on Fri Jan 31, 2014 at 09:14:47 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  I wish I could be more optimistic (0+ / 0-)

      And, of course, the planet may well intervene... or the asteroid belt...

      It always seems impossible until its done. -Nelson Mandela

      by chuckvw on Fri Jan 31, 2014 at 11:46:41 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  To add a touch of irony, much of the progress that (11+ / 0-)

    we have seen, and will probably see in the future, in this field can be traced back to our very own, taxpayer-funded, space program. So, not only will we be further victimized by the "job creators" use of robotics and AI, we will have had the honor of paying for it as well.

  •  Following you now, Eric. (6+ / 0-)

    Looking forward to your diaries.

    We have it within our power to make the world over again ~ Thomas Paine

    by occupystephanie on Thu Jan 30, 2014 at 07:22:54 PM PST

  •  Do human beings have inherent worth? (6+ / 0-)

    And why? Who says? And what makes them right? Good questions.

    http://callatimeout.blogspot.com/

    by DAISHI on Thu Jan 30, 2014 at 07:40:41 PM PST

    •  This is one of the biggest questions of life. (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      bluehammer, qofdisks, wa ma, HeyMikey

      I suspect it's a question that we can choose to answer any way we wish; it might not have a "correct" answer.

      What is certainly true is that how we answer it, as a species, will determine our destiny.

      The most serious problem in American politics today is that people with wrong ideas are uncompromising, and people with good ideas are submissive and unwilling to fight. Change that, and we might have a real democracy again.

      by Eric Stetson on Thu Jan 30, 2014 at 07:47:23 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Manna (5+ / 0-)

    http://marshallbrain.com/... Here, read this.

    A technological singularity can be awesome or nightmarish, depending on how it starts.

    I am an electrical engineer, run a reasonably high traffic server, and build autopilots and drones for a living. If you have technical questions, ask away and I will try to give a cogent answer.

    by spiritplumber on Thu Jan 30, 2014 at 09:34:02 PM PST

    •  Wow. I just read the first two chapters, and (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      qofdisks

      it feels as though I'm reading a description of what real life will probably be like in America in 20 or 30 years, if we don't change the high-tech, ultra-capitalist path we're on. Scary stuff, but very realistic.

      I'll keep reading. Thanks for the link!

      The most serious problem in American politics today is that people with wrong ideas are uncompromising, and people with good ideas are submissive and unwilling to fight. Change that, and we might have a real democracy again.

      by Eric Stetson on Thu Jan 30, 2014 at 09:56:54 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  The technology (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Eric Stetson

        is available now. In fact, I have been asked to work on a similar system in 2010.

        I am an electrical engineer, run a reasonably high traffic server, and build autopilots and drones for a living. If you have technical questions, ask away and I will try to give a cogent answer.

        by spiritplumber on Fri Jan 31, 2014 at 02:03:18 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Any thoughts on when it will become common (0+ / 0-)

          in workplaces? How much more refinement of the technology is needed before it could be deployed in fast food restaurants as described in "Manna"?

          The most serious problem in American politics today is that people with wrong ideas are uncompromising, and people with good ideas are submissive and unwilling to fight. Change that, and we might have a real democracy again.

          by Eric Stetson on Fri Jan 31, 2014 at 12:08:33 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Pretty much done (0+ / 0-)

            the main issue at this point is battery power, and the impressio

            I am an electrical engineer, run a reasonably high traffic server, and build autopilots and drones for a living. If you have technical questions, ask away and I will try to give a cogent answer.

            by spiritplumber on Sat Feb 01, 2014 at 03:12:40 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

      •  I finished reading Manna. I think its predictions (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        melo

        are likely to be very close to reality, especially the negative part of the story. The idea that masses of unemployed people will be warehoused in cheap housing by the government, with most of their freedom taken away, seems especially likely if we remain in a capitalist system.

        As for the positive vision of a heavenly world made possible by robots owned collectively by society, it could prove to be true, but I am somewhat more skeptical. I'm guessing there are various unforeseen problems that would arise in a world where work would be optional, because of the nature of human psychology. For one thing, it's quite possible that in such a world, most people would have difficulty finding meaning for their life, and would end up playing virtual reality games all the time (as briefly discussed at the end of "Manna"). I don't necessarily see that as a positive future for humanity; it could be a form of escapism. How do we know that we aren't already living in a virtual reality right now, and that in order to complete the game properly, we are supposed to experience the challenges of authentic life on earth rather than escaping into a nested VR within the VR universe we're already in?

        Anyway, I found "Manna" to be an incredibly thought-provoking read. Thanks again for sharing the link!

        The most serious problem in American politics today is that people with wrong ideas are uncompromising, and people with good ideas are submissive and unwilling to fight. Change that, and we might have a real democracy again.

        by Eric Stetson on Fri Jan 31, 2014 at 12:20:38 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  Wow, after reading just the first page (0+ / 0-)

      I felt like the 'robot', or Manna in this case, was the human and the humans were the robots.

      ... like tears in rain

      by bladerunner on Fri Jan 31, 2014 at 05:25:00 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Keynes: optimist & pessimist. RFK: questioner. (8+ / 0-)
      The day is not far off when the economic problem will take the back seat where it belongs, and the arena of the heart and the head will be occupied or reoccupied, by our real problems — the problems of life and of human relations, of creation and behaviour and religion.

      John Maynard Keynes
      First Annual Report of the Arts Council (1945-1946)

      <<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<
      When the accumulation of wealth is no longer of high social importance, there will be great changes in the code of morals. We shall be able to rid ourselves of many of the pseudo-moral principles which have hag-ridden us for two hundred years, by which we have exalted some of the most distasteful of human qualities into the position of the highest virtues. We shall be able to afford to dare to assess the money-motive at its true value. The love of money as a possession — as distinguished from the love of money as a means to the enjoyments and realities of life — will be recognised for what it is, a somewhat disgusting morbidity, one of those semi-criminal, semi-pathological propensities which one hands over with a shudder to the specialists in mental disease ... But beware! The time for all this is not yet. For at least another hundred years we must pretend to ourselves and to everyone that fair is foul and foul is fair; for foul is useful and fair is not. Avarice and usury and precaution must be our gods for a little longer still. For only they can lead us out of the tunnel of economic necessity into daylight.

      John Maynard Keynes
      "The Future", Essays in Persuasion (1931) Ch. 5, JMK, CW, IX, pp. 329 - 331, Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren (1930); as quoted in "Keynes and the Ethics of Capitalism" by Robert Skidelsy

      <<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<
      In the long run, we're all dead.

      John Maynard Keynes

      <<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<

      Too much and for too long, we seem to have surrendered personal excellence and community values in the mere accumulation of material things. Our Gross National Product, now, is over $800 billion dollars a year, but that Gross National Product—if we judge the United States of America by that—that Gross National Product counts air pollution and cigarette advertising, and ambulances to clear our highways of carnage. It counts special locks for our doors and the jails for the people who break them. It counts the destruction of the redwood and the loss of our natural wonder in chaotic sprawl. It counts napalm and counts nuclear warheads and armored cars for the police to fight the riots in our cities. It counts Whitman's rifle and Speck's knife, and the television programs which glorify violence in order to sell toys to our children. Yet the gross national product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages, the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials. It measures neither our wit nor our courage, neither our wisdom nor our learning, neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country, it measures everything in short, except that which makes life worthwhile. And it can tell us everything about America except why we are proud that we are Americans.

      Robert F. Kennedy

      "The true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals." - Barack Obama

      by HeyMikey on Fri Jan 31, 2014 at 06:18:43 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Too bad we don't live in a Star Trek universe (2+ / 0-)

    Where energy and space are essentially limitless.  Then humans could do anything they wanted.  We wouldn't NEED to have this obsession with turning a buck and being economic slaves.  
    If only we had a vision we could all follow.  If only we had a space program to execute that vision.  If only...

    What's the difference between the Federal government and organized crime? One's legally sanctioned.

    by FrankenPC on Thu Jan 30, 2014 at 09:48:33 PM PST

  •  Time to have fewer babies. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    NoMoreLies, SingleVoter
  •  People do not successfully "rise up in rebellion" (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    marsanges, HeyMikey, NoMoreLies

    on their own.  All successful revolutions are led by the (monied) upper middle class.  Those who do not know this have neither read Orwell nor understand history.

    It is only AFTER the lower classes are empowered by (monied) organization that they are successful.

    The Tea Party is a small American example, but they are everywhere.  Yes, there were slave rebellions in the US (unsuccessful) and serf rebellions in Russia (also unsuccessful), but they are not significant--in the sense of accomplishing their goals.

    Successful rebellion requires organization; organization requires leisure time; leisure time requires wealth.

    Until we understand this and stop romanticizing revolution, we will continue to die in large numbers.

    Old Hippies Never Give Up!

    by ravenrdr on Fri Jan 31, 2014 at 12:06:31 AM PST

    •  Unemployment creates rebellion (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      chuckvw

      It's unemployment and poverty that creates the "leisure time" for protest, not just financial patrons - though some segment of the population with money will always support the cause of equality and social justice. Look at Spain, Greece, and the Arab Spring, the protests and rebellions and counterculture comes from youth unemployment and economic inequality.  In the time of the robot workforce, the unemployment would cause so many angry young bodies that we would need a universal basic income (hopefully that happens way before the A.I revolution); there's nothing else for it but violent oppression, which would have to self-reinforce into an authoritarian state.  The question of whether rebellion is successful without financial backing is debatable, but also subjective, because some rebellion and protest is intentionally overcompensating for relatively modest aims, like to pass a bill or force an election.

  •  Question: (4+ / 0-)

    How does Peak Oil (and a lot of other resources) and Climate Change figure into this decline?

    "Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell." ~ Edward Abbey

    by SaraBeth on Fri Jan 31, 2014 at 02:47:50 AM PST

    •  "Peak jobs" meets Peak Oil? (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      SaraBeth, NoMoreLies, greengemini

      If much of the economy is heading toward robot automation, then how would this trend affect energy consumption?  It requires energy to power robots, and it seems to me that this prediction depends upon us continuing to have the abundant inexpensive energy that we have relied upon throughout much of the past century.  But with the advent of peak oil and our slowness to adopt renewable energy, this possibility is decreasing by the day.

      So I suggest that it's more likely that this trend could fizzle out fairly quickly as energy supplies decline.  Instead of us all being replaced by machines, it could very well be that we could end up not having enough machines.  Rather than this brave new world of the singularity, we could instead be going back to using and riding horses.

      Thoughts on this?

      FOX News: For entertainment purposes only. Not to be confused with actual news broadcasting.

      by IowaBiologist on Fri Jan 31, 2014 at 08:15:41 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Have you been reading my mind? (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        greengemini, IowaBiologist

        I too think that any predictions of a robotic utopia (for the rich) and a dystopia (for the rest of us) is so much smoke and mirrors.

        The reality of "Peak Just About Everything" is just too great. It would take vast amounts of energy and other resources to even build, let alone operate and maintain a robotic army of worker drones...

        "Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell." ~ Edward Abbey

        by SaraBeth on Fri Jan 31, 2014 at 08:38:37 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Which trend might predominate? (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Eric Stetson

          A better-case scenario could be that we actively take charge of our own collective behavior and our economic institutions, and thus manage to avoid much of the worst of both resource depletion/climate change and the automation crisis. For worse-case scenarios, there are at least two possibilities.  One of these might be what we both described above, that is, resource decline occurs first and effectively prevents the robotic dystopia from ever happening.  But in another bad scenario, the move to excessive, counterproductive robot automation would occur first, and then, once underway, would actually speed the race toward resource depletion and collapse even as it expands the amount of human misery.

          I agree with the diarist that basically, we must take charge of tradition.  I also think that we have the understanding and imagination we need to do just that - but only if we don't let ourselves become sidetracked by our own ancient fears and prejudices and our obsolete, hidebound institutions.
           

          FOX News: For entertainment purposes only. Not to be confused with actual news broadcasting.

          by IowaBiologist on Fri Jan 31, 2014 at 11:30:59 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  My guess is that technology can enable the rich (0+ / 0-)

      to overcome many of the obstacles of peak oil and climate change. For a very small percentage of humans, it may be quite possible to live well on an environmentally ravaged earth, within high-tech "bubbles" (either metaphorically, or literally if the climate worsens enough).

      The problem is for everyone who is not rich, i.e. most humans.

      However, if peak oil and climate change -- combined with the rise of AI/robotics and the coming large increase in unemployment -- cause people to have fewer children (seems like a no-brainer), then after a few generations things could return to a relatively stable condition, both economically and ecologically. The human population would be much smaller (maybe less than 1 billion). Most of the people without wealth would have gone extinct, leaving only the rich (who would then be just "normal", since nobody else would exist anymore).

      So, it's possible that the 21st century will be a time of incredible upheaval, both in terms of economics, the environment, and demographics; but that after that, things will reach some kind of new stable equilibrium.

      The most serious problem in American politics today is that people with wrong ideas are uncompromising, and people with good ideas are submissive and unwilling to fight. Change that, and we might have a real democracy again.

      by Eric Stetson on Fri Jan 31, 2014 at 12:32:19 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Nice piece here, but I think the elephant in the (6+ / 0-)

    room needs a little more focus.

    7,8,9 Billion people on this planet and growing. Every day each of us is worth less. It's just supply and demand.

    Then of course it's important to realize that humans are a cost of doing business. Employees are no longer assets, they are costs.

    With so many people, and our population growing, it's a given that each human is worth less.

    Perhaps it's time to look at humanity and our planet through something other than an economic lens.

    There is more to life than the bottom line.

    Democracy - 1 person 1 vote. Free Markets - More dollars more power.

    by k9disc on Fri Jan 31, 2014 at 02:54:21 AM PST

    •  Agree. Hardly anyone talks about population (4+ / 0-)

      Overpopulation is one of the many reasons why I, as a 27 year old, am already lean no on having my own children. Al Gore had it right in An Inconvenient Truth: When world population goes from 2 billion to 7 billion in one generation, ours, something profound is happening right now.

    •  Why does everyone ignore the DEMAND side? (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      greengemini, Eric Stetson, k9disc

      The question in this reply's title has bothered me for DECADES now.  The REAL deficit in today's economy has nothing to do with the national debt, or anyone spending money they haven't yet earned.  The reason there are no jobs available nowadays is that the policies favored by the wealthiest 1% (the ONLY people that most government officials give a damn about) have caused the wages of most workers to stagnate, or fall, even while the productivity of those workers has steadily increased.  Because our economy is essentially based on consumer spending (70%+ of GDP) , when the wealth of those consumers decreases due to wages falling relative to cost of living, or to job loss, they become less effective consumers - in other words, they can't spend the money that they don't make.

      That's why, with all the tax cuts in the world, with the 1% capturing 95%+ of all income gains since the '08 meltdown, there's STILL been no significant job growth - because the unemployed have no money to buy products, demand is low, and there's NO REASON to hire more workers if you are satisfying the demand for your product at current staffing levels.  The ONLY market justification for hiring new workers is if you CAN'T satisfy current demand with current staffing.

      I see the above as the saving grace for the robotic nightmare scenario illustrated by Eric.  If a company wants to sell product, it needs buyers.  As the jobs dry up, so do the buyers, and the owners (if they have ANY business sense at all) will come to realize that their businesses cannot survive in this scenario, either.

      OF COURSE the New Right is wrong - but that doesn't make WRONG the new RIGHT!

      by mstaggerlee on Fri Jan 31, 2014 at 11:05:29 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I hope you're right about this: (0+ / 0-)
        If a company wants to sell product, it needs buyers.  As the jobs dry up, so do the buyers, and the owners (if they have ANY business sense at all) will come to realize that their businesses cannot survive in this scenario, either.
        I suppose the unanswered question is whether so much wealth will be concentrated by that point that there won't be much of any incentive anymore for the rich to bother with producing and selling things to anyone else.

        The upper middle class and the "lesser rich" will be the ones who could still stop the robotic nightmare train, because these people will be the ones with some degree of economic clout who will still need a functioning consumer economy with businesses. The "super rich" probably won't care that much if the consumer economy dries up due to lack of demand; they are so wealthy that it wouldn't matter to them, since they don't need to earn any further business income in order to remain rich.

        The most serious problem in American politics today is that people with wrong ideas are uncompromising, and people with good ideas are submissive and unwilling to fight. Change that, and we might have a real democracy again.

        by Eric Stetson on Fri Jan 31, 2014 at 12:37:40 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  I strongly believe ... (0+ / 0-)

          ... that if EVERY package of Brawny paper towels, Angel Soft toilet paper & Mardi Gras napkins currently sitting on Supermarket shelves were to simply remain there, unsold, until after the 2014 elections, that Chuck & Dave Koch WOULD take notice, and that they'd spend considerably less in subsequent election cycles.  When your politics hit your bottom line, it's time to re-evaluate.

          Of course, I could be wrong ... it COULD, indeed, motivate them to spend MORE (How DARE those rubes boycott our products??!! - We'll show them!)

          OF COURSE the New Right is wrong - but that doesn't make WRONG the new RIGHT!

          by mstaggerlee on Mon Feb 03, 2014 at 09:54:51 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  The Practical Libertarians Will Only Be Upset (5+ / 0-)

    When the pigs at the trough on Wall Street are replaced by intelligent computers doing their jobs better and quicker than they do them. Then you'll hear a cry from the hedge fund geniuses and VC moguls about how unfair the world is.

    Remember, the road to victory is paved with big words and professorial arrogance. Passion need not apply.

    by The Lone Apple on Fri Jan 31, 2014 at 03:12:24 AM PST

  •  Attack of the droids? (0+ / 0-)

    If the past is any guide, the droid army of the super-rich won't be able to stop shit.

    The USA has perhaps the best, most capable army in the world, yet we've been at a complete standstill in Afghanistan, despite all our sophisticated weapons systems. Our opponents are using improvised explosive devices, commandos with rusty guns, cheap sabotage tricks, aging Soviet RPGs, and low cunning. Not one drone or ROV or armored vehicle in their arsenal.  We're not fighting the Russians, or the British, or even the Indian or Pakistani armies, or anybody with any resources, just a bunch of guys with too much time on their hands.

    We also forget, here in the land of firearms mayhem, what a dedicated assassin can accomplish with a knife up his sleeve.  I'm of course referring to the man who almost assassinated Imelda Marcos.  All it takes is a little low cunning and a lot of motivation for someone to be placed with the right weapon in the right place to kill even the most protected rich person on the planet.

    What about exclusive compounds guarded by robot patrols?

    I'd counter with: the mortar attack on Ten Downing Street, London, 1991.  The mortars and their ammunition were all improvised - homemade.

    Humans have been killing each other for thousands of years, we're very good at it.  You think T1000's gonna keep all the rich fucks safe, up there in the post-Singularity future?  Not hardly.

    The rich should realize that it's either one or the other, they give up some of their power and a little of their money or they lose it all, even their lives.

    No, I am not a advocate of violence, but I am well-read in the violent shit we as a species have been up to. It doesn't take a genius to see that we have a talent for killing.

    Join Essa in a revolt against the gods. Continue the fight, Causality.

    by rbird on Fri Jan 31, 2014 at 03:44:00 AM PST

    •  That's not a technological problem. (0+ / 0-)
      The USA has perhaps the best, most capable army in the world, yet we've been at a complete standstill in Afghanistan, despite all our sophisticated weapons systems. Our opponents are using improvised explosive devices, commandos with rusty guns, cheap sabotage tricks, aging Soviet RPGs, and low cunning. Not one drone or ROV or armored vehicle in their arsenal.  We're not fighting the Russians, or the British, or even the Indian or Pakistani armies, or anybody with any resources, just a bunch of guys with too much time on their hands.
      We could slaughter the entire population of Afghanistan without too much trouble were we so inclined.

      Our unwillingness to do so is not something a better, smarter bomb can "fix."

      Humans have been killing each other for thousands of years, we're very good at it.  You think T1000's gonna keep all the rich fucks safe, up there in the post-Singularity future?  Not hardly.
      I'd argue it will.  The "rich" are vulnerable now because they consider themselves part of society, and live amongst the rest of society.  If they had killer robots and a complete disregard for their fellow humans, they'd be pretty safe, all things considered.
      •  The future won't be the movie you think it will be (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        melo, linkage, Jesse Douglas

        You've taken the plot to Terminator and substituted rich people for Skynet.

        By the way, the Soviets mostly tried that, constrained only a little bit by not being able to use nukes against the Afghan people.  They bombed villages into dust, dropped mines disguised as children's toys, did shit like you couldn't imagine.  Didn't work out for them.  It wasn't working out for them before we began smuggling arms to the Afghans, and it most especially didn't work out afterwards.

        The Assad regime was - and is - so ruthless, they've gassed their own people, bulldozed entire towns into rubble, killed thousands.  It never closed down the resistance to their rule.

        I was never for the Iraq War, unlike several Democratic leaders.  But even I have to admit, Saddam was an evil shit.  His willingness to do anything to the Iraqi people, torture, mass executions, poison gas, kept him in power no matter how much we weakened him.  He wasn't unique in this.  The Kim regime in North Korea is the same way. Yet there were people who continued to resist in Iraq and people who resist in North Korea.

        The French had controlled Sicily for sixteen years by 1282, they thought they could do anything they wanted to the people of Sicily.  They found out differently on Easter.  Six weeks later, not one French person was alive on the island.

        The French are rather unfortunate in this.  Check out their oppressive, no-holds-barred rule of Algeria.  Algeria's been an independent country for a long time now.

        There were resistance movements inside the death camps.  Did you know that?  Mass escapes.  Gas chambers blown up.

        I can do this all day, that's how long the history of human resistance is, as long as the history of the species.  It also reveals something about the USA.

        As a group, we're a passive bunch of shits.  No wonder the rich like us here.  We'll swallow everything they dish out.  Look around outside the USA, you'll see not everyone is as passive as we are. How many civil wars are going on right now? Five? Unrest in Kiev, which hasn't yet risen to the level of a civil war. Angry voices and labor action in places like Australia, Germany, France.  Rich men held hostage by their workers in China, India, and elsewhere.  We might bend a knee, but the rest of humanity?  Not fucking likely.

        Join Essa in a revolt against the gods. Continue the fight, Causality.

        by rbird on Fri Jan 31, 2014 at 02:37:59 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  Can you tell a rich person from a "middle class" (0+ / 0-)

      person?

      A five-story townhouse on the Upper East Side may be divided into ten apartments housing nurses, medical technicians, and a few traders making say an average of $200,000 per year on Wall Street.

      An eight-story apartment building nearby might actually have a lavishly decorated four-floor maisonette of 8,000 square feet occupied by a rich person and his family.

      And many townhouses in the most affluent areas of London and New York house diplomatic personnel. These people and their bodyguards have diplomatic immunity. If they start shooting scruffy Americans or Brits the worst that happens is that they are told to leave the USA or the UK.

  •  Don´t agree. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    IowaBiologist

    This is just one side of a paradoxon and it doesnt do to leave it at this side only. In a world where all work is done by robots, where are profits supposed to come from? For who, or for what, are robots supposed to do the work they do? I. e. there is a demand side to a capitalist economy and where there is no demand, there will be no production, and no profit. That is why the other side of the same paradoxon have been predictions that soon, consumers would be paid just for consuming, because only that way profit-generating production could be kept up.

    societywide robotization makes sense only in the context of an actual functioning society in which there is a role and a place for the destitute multitudes too. If there isnt, then there is also no role for the automatisation in the first place. If 1 million of humans own the complete means of production for all humanity, and 6999 million of humans own totally nothing, then the means of production that the 1 million have are worthless too. The 6999 million would simply die, and then what for would the remaining 1 million have all the means to produce for the needs of 7 bn people?

    They would have to throw all their precious owned robots and AI´s onto the scrap heap, keeping only whats needed to supply themselves in whatever luxury they can cime up with.

    Thus pauperization sets a limit to this tendency.

    •  But that takes a LONG time. (0+ / 0-)

      You are undoubtedly right in the long run. But as Keynes said, "In the long run, we're all dead." It can take a LONG time for humanity to realize it needs to do things differently.

      "The true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals." - Barack Obama

      by HeyMikey on Fri Jan 31, 2014 at 06:08:39 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  I see yr point about lack of demand, but remember (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      IowaBiologist

      that if the owners get rich enough, they don't need a broad-based consumer economy to remain rich. That is why the concentration of wealth is such a big deal. A person who owns $100 billion in assets doesn't need to produce and sell anything. With the benefit of robots, such a person wouldn't need any economy to exist, for the most part. That's the danger. If nearly all the wealth flows upward to such people, then the economy will shrink to almost nothing -- without significantly hurting the people with the wealth. This is the nightmare scenario that must be avoided by society. It can be avoided, but only if people vote for redistribution of wealth before it's too late, basically.

      The most serious problem in American politics today is that people with wrong ideas are uncompromising, and people with good ideas are submissive and unwilling to fight. Change that, and we might have a real democracy again.

      by Eric Stetson on Fri Jan 31, 2014 at 12:46:58 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Does anyone remember... (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    wa ma, NoMoreLies, TracieLynn, melo

    ...The Incredible Shrinking Man ?  or the futuristic schism proposed by HG Wells (?) between the Morlocks and the Flower (?) people (and I don't mean the last movie)?  The conflict between Animus Man and Civilization Man (Civ Man) will spell the end of Modern Man, who can be viewed as the end result of civilized caveman.  "In the Year 2525, if Man is still alive..." (sorry this long term unemployed no longer has good recall, for the song name, that is).

    Obama seeing Biz employing the long term unemployed is his own wet dream and he needs to stop talking because his ineffectiveness, no matter whose fault it is, is insulting.  Somehow talking about it is enough for him.  The jobs are NEVER coming back, not as long as there are safe havens like The Caymans, Switzerland, or anywhere else that is "special" to THEM.

    •  It is in fact "In the Year 2525" (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      melo

      In the year 2525, if man is still alive
      If woman can survive, they may find

      In the year 3535
      Ain't gonna need to tell the truth, tell no lie
      Everything you think, do and say
      Is in the pill you took today

      In the year 4545
      You ain't gonna need your teeth, won't need your eyes
      You won't find a thing to chew
      Nobody's gonna look at you

      In the year 5555
      Your arms hangin' limp at your sides
      Your legs got nothin' to do
      Some machine's doin' that for you

      In the year 6565
      Ain't gonna need no husband, won't need no wife
      You'll pick your son, pick your daughter too
      From the bottom of a long glass tube

      In the year 7510
      If God's a-coming, He oughta make it by then
      Maybe He'll look around Himself and say
      "Guess it's time for the Judgement Day"

      In the year 8510
      God is gonna shake His mighty head
      He'll either say, "I'm pleased where man has been"
      Or tear it down, and start again

      In the year 9595
      I'm kinda wonderin' if man is gonna be alive
      He's taken everything this old earth can give
      And he ain't put back nothing

      Now it's been ten thousand years,
      man has cried a billion tears
      For what, he never knew, now man's reign is through
      But through eternal night, the twinkling of starlight
      So very far away, maybe it's only yesterday

      -  Denny Zager and Rick Evans

      If it's
      Not your body,
      Then it's
      Not your choice
      And it's
      None of your damn business!

      by TheOtherMaven on Fri Jan 31, 2014 at 07:55:41 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Blah ... I heard this argument for decades now (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    MGross

    We already have considerable automation yet the jobs are out there ... only they are not being created fast enough in this country.  That's a matter mainly of stupid tax and trade policy.

    "The real wealth of a nation consists of the contributions of its people and nature." -- Riane Eisler

    by noofsh on Fri Jan 31, 2014 at 04:18:39 AM PST

  •  Stunning (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    NoMoreLies, greengemini, melo

    Do ppl expect an even distribution of wealth and income? Of corse not, but when it's lopsided to this degree it's an injustice akin to genocide of the poor. We should be outraged!

    Any politician that accepts this is immoral, really. Children go hungry, schools are crumbling, ppl living and dying on the streets should be a moral and economic outrage. The rich, their politicians, and lobbyists feed at the taxpayer trough, then when we ask our government to help those left behind in our capitalistic economic system, they invoke coded words like 'communism" and "socialism" to obfuscate the masses.

    I really enjoy the line about the rich packing up their assets and fleeing the United States (some ppl actually believe this). So this implies the rich are economic terrorists. Another line is "expanding the pie", but expanding the pie without getting a larger proportion of the pie leaves the distribution the same: ppl still die from lack of money to live. Good lord, look at how ridiculously low the poverty line is.

    Are you outraged?

  •  I hate to say this but it seems that we (0+ / 0-)

    are heading more and more towards the 'vision' of Bladerunner as described by the Great Philip Dick.

    ... like tears in rain

    by bladerunner on Fri Jan 31, 2014 at 05:28:13 AM PST

  •  Excellent diary (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    NoMoreLies, greengemini

    Eric Stetson has done a great job outlining a frightening possible future.

    As for the idea, however, that super intelligent AI can outsmart revolutionary efforts to attack it, humans are ridiculously clever. Especially when it comes to breaking stuff.

    One example: During the Vietnam War, the U.S. had a massive technological advantage over the Viet Cong in South Vietnam. A major element of this was airmobility using helicopters. One method the Viet Cong used to attack U.S. UH1 (Huey) helicopters was to fix explosives to a bamboo pole. The pole was thrown into the chopper blades and it exploded, destroying one of the blades and bringing down the aircraft. A cheap, simple tool for taking out a much more expensive machine.

    Just an example of many from history that humans are smart and adaptable when they need to be.

    The all knowing ... knows all

    by hypernaught on Fri Jan 31, 2014 at 05:32:04 AM PST

  •  3/5ths a person seems awfully generous... (5+ / 0-)

    ...to a Rethug.

  •  A very thought provoking diary (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Eric Stetson

    My two word gut reaction was...

    food production. But then I thought, if three quarters of the world is allowed/left to starve, then small, wealthy and elitist family farms could feed the remaining one percent. Anyway, I would like to hear your thoughts on the food variable, which Lester Brown quite awhile back identified as the tipping point for an awakening to our plight.

    To the hungry, God is a loaf of bread. - Gandhi

    by bisleybum on Fri Jan 31, 2014 at 06:07:59 AM PST

    •  Don't need to grow food... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      linkage

      ...for the people that can't afford it.

      Those who support banning cocaine are no better than those who support banning cheeseburgers

      by EthrDemon on Fri Jan 31, 2014 at 10:22:03 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  My thought re food production (0+ / 0-)

      is that the population will decline enough so that it won't be a problem, even with the severe ecological problems that are coming down the pipe.

      Realistically, I doubt that the rich would just let the poor (of their own nation) die, but they would probably warehouse them with a subsistence standard of living in facilities similar to prisons. In such facilities, the poor would not have children. Thus, after one generation, the poor would be gone, without actually killing any of them or even letting them die of poverty.

      The most serious problem in American politics today is that people with wrong ideas are uncompromising, and people with good ideas are submissive and unwilling to fight. Change that, and we might have a real democracy again.

      by Eric Stetson on Fri Jan 31, 2014 at 12:52:51 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Back in the 1970s I had a job where I audited the (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    greengemini

    payrolls of about 3 companies every day for 3 years.

    What I noticed was the pay rates for people doing the same type of work varied greatly between companies in most cases, for employees in industries which paid more than the minimum wage, of course.

    In these brief visits I couldn't really judge the quality of work of anyone except the bookkeeping/accounting staff, and with them there didn't seem to be much correlation between pay and quality of work.  

  •  This really IS the issue now (6+ / 0-)

    It's the reason for a lot of the problems we are having now.

    The first thing that needs to be done is make sure that all girls/women have reproductive freedom, and are educated, in the world. By doing that, they will control population growth, and likely reverse it. Do not allow men to force them to give birth.



    Women create the entire labor force.
    ---------------------------------------------
    Sympathy is the strongest instinct in human nature. - Charles Darwin

    by splashy on Fri Jan 31, 2014 at 06:27:50 AM PST

    •  The cruel and mindless absurdity of conservatism (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      NoMoreLies, splashy

      Conservatives want unhindered business activity, which is leading among other things to this trend toward full automation and little need for workers,

      and yet, they want to force women to have more children and, by doing so, to eventually further increase the competition for people to find work?

      Do they have any idea of what they want to do or what that implies?  It seems they aren't just satisfied with death - they are striving toward megadeath.

      FOX News: For entertainment purposes only. Not to be confused with actual news broadcasting.

      by IowaBiologist on Fri Jan 31, 2014 at 09:19:40 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Life will improve.. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Eric Stetson, IowaBiologist

    We've got to stay positive.  Change is never easy.  We are shifting to a new paradigm.  We must embrace it.

    If you acknowledge it, you can change it.

    by Raggedy Ann on Fri Jan 31, 2014 at 06:55:31 AM PST

    •  Assuming this happens at all (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      NoMoreLies, melo

      before the economy runs up against resource limits, if we want to benefit from this trend, we can't just passively "embrace" something that could well turn out to be an unstoppable juggernaut.  Instead, we've got to think in considerable detail about where we want to go as a society.  

      That implies a great deal of thoughtful planning, which in many ways is the opposite of capitalism.  No longer can we rely on the old market chestnut that anything and everything that individuals do in their own selfish interest will somehow add up to the greater good for everyone.  We already have plenty of counterexamples where the unrestrained market has clearly done the opposite.  

      This could be the ultimate perverse outcome in which we ourselves are eliminated and the machines keep running things on their own - that is, until some critical component shorts out and everything simply comes crashing down.

      FOX News: For entertainment purposes only. Not to be confused with actual news broadcasting.

      by IowaBiologist on Fri Jan 31, 2014 at 09:07:24 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Perhaps I misunderstood Raggedy Ann (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        melo

        and read her statement too quickly at first.  I think she is saying that what we must embrace as a new paradigm is not the trend toward robotic dystopia itself. Rather, the new paradigm includes a new perspective that posits sweeping institutional changes and rejects the idea that the economy determines all that matters.

        FOX News: For entertainment purposes only. Not to be confused with actual news broadcasting.

        by IowaBiologist on Sat Feb 01, 2014 at 12:40:19 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  We must embrace the human choice of a future (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      IowaBiologist, Parthenia, melo, linkage

      that we want to have, collectively, as the human species.

      As long as we have democracy, it is indeed possible for people as a whole to choose a better future. But if people passively accept that negative changes must be accepted, and don't use the power of democracy to implement different rules and systems to create positive change instead of negative change, then life will get worse.

      Either way, as long as humans have the ballot box, and the willingness to use it, we can choose. And if no politicians on the ballot see the problems or have the right solutions, then people will just have to get other people to run for office and vote for them instead.

      The question is, will people bother to use the power they still have?

      The most serious problem in American politics today is that people with wrong ideas are uncompromising, and people with good ideas are submissive and unwilling to fight. Change that, and we might have a real democracy again.

      by Eric Stetson on Fri Jan 31, 2014 at 12:57:00 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  I'd propose a maximum value... (0+ / 0-)

    ...of a human life to the government, which necessarily must be around how much in tax dollars the average citizen would generate over their lifetime.

    That'd put an (American) individual citizen's worth somewhere between 1-2 million dollars before NPV calculations.

    That's by no means a universal value of human life, but it does tell you how much the government (in total lifetime spending) can afford to spend per life it saves/maintains.

    An average value is more convenient and practical than calculating someone's individual value, as any given policy may not know who precisely it's saving, and it saves you the rather difficult task of calculating someone's individual value (which requires a lot of assumptions.)

    (or was this a rhetorical question?)

    •  Well in that case some rich person should be able (0+ / 0-)

      to shoot you dead with no punishment as long as they are willing to pay a couple million in damages, right?  So how would you adjust the value if a rich person wants to torture someone to death over a couple of days?  Perhaps 10 million?

      You have watched Faux News, now lose 2d10 SAN.

      by Throw The Bums Out on Fri Jan 31, 2014 at 02:05:33 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  One generally doesn't take a purely economic... (0+ / 0-)

        ...approach to governing.  It could rather easily be argued the breakdown of society that would follow legalizing killing people for a fine equal to their value would significantly eclipse the mere "value" of their life to the government.

        •  Well there is legal precedent in the matter, have (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          melo, linkage

          you ever heard of a weregild?  In fact, before Holy Roman imperial law came about it was the standard.  Hopefully we won't be going back to that but once a person's life is given a dollar amount then you can bet that the super rich will claim that it isn't really fair to demand more than that amount (such as a lifetime prison sentence or the death penalty) when a person's life is taken.

          Weregild (also spelled wergild, wergeld, weregeld, etc.) was a value placed on every human being and every piece of property in the Salic Code. Also known as "man price." If property was stolen, or someone was injured or killed, the guilty person would have to pay weregild as restitution to the victim's family or to the owner of the property

          The size of the weregild was largely conditional upon the social rank of the victim. There used to be somewhat of a "basis" fee for a standard "free man" that could then be multiplied according to the social rank of the victim and the circumstances of the crime. The weregild for women relative to that of men of equal rank varied: among the Alamanni it was double the weregild of men, among the Saxons half that of men.

          You have watched Faux News, now lose 2d10 SAN.

          by Throw The Bums Out on Fri Jan 31, 2014 at 09:16:06 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  Even discussing capitalism and the singularity (0+ / 0-)

    in the same sentence hamstrings vision of what's likely, both the good and the bad.

    It's not capitalism that's suited for the AI world to be.

    It's the AIs that are so niche-specific to capitalism that they'll shove Humanity out of it completely, optimize it to the priorities (monopolization of control of matter and energy and harnessing both at rapidly-greater efficiencies to purposes of information acquisition, analysis, archiving and application to do even better at the start of the cycle I just described.

    We've zero danger of being part of the party of what Charles Stross described in Accelerando as "Economics 2.0".

    We're not invited, and like newborn young of mice at a society gala, our presence would be entirely inappropriate.

  •  This trend is already happening, and no one (4+ / 0-)

    in a position to do anything about it seems to have any awareness of it.

    Globalization and the mass outsourcing to use cheap labor are already making the average person's labor worth less.  Automation will send that trend to warp speed.

    The economic situation in the US and some other rich nations where the majority were in the middle class seems to have been a temporary historical anomaly.

    The average person only experiences this as some sort of massive external force like the weather that no one can control.  They have no frame of reference to understand what is happening or if there is anything that can be done about it.

    The biggest problem is that really dealing with the situation will require a large measure of consensus and cooperation by society, and such consensus will be very hard to build.

    "The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt." Bertrand Russell

    by Thutmose V on Fri Jan 31, 2014 at 07:54:26 AM PST

    •  Do you have ideas for how to build awareness? (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      IowaBiologist, linkage

      The main problem I see is that the big picture issues such as technology, ecology, and the future of civilization are not part of the political debate right now.

      Somehow, those of us who see what's going on have to get these issues into the political debate.

      The question is, how so?

      The most serious problem in American politics today is that people with wrong ideas are uncompromising, and people with good ideas are submissive and unwilling to fight. Change that, and we might have a real democracy again.

      by Eric Stetson on Fri Jan 31, 2014 at 01:01:00 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Traditionally the help (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    NoMoreLies

    lived with the employer, either in the upper floors of a city mansion or the outbuildings or slave cabins of a farm.

    In 1900, the rich had plenty of live-in helpers.

    City helpers could in 2015 say live on the third floor and have an electronic device that computes the time employed when in the employer's kitchen or employer's living quarters.

    Is $6/hour in 2015 plus a third floor room with all utilities employer paid including high-speed internet actually worse than $10.10/hour with the duty of paying apartment rent in cities where rents are $1,200 to $3,400 per month.

    If $1,200 is split two ways with another worker that's $600 or about 15 hours a week of $10.10/hour work tax-free or about 20 hours a week taxes taken out. Twenty hours is half of say a 40-hour work week, so $10.10/hour effectively becomes $5.05/hour just because of high city rent. High transit costs and utilities might take another $1/hour averaged pushing that $10.10/hour to $4.05/hour net. And it should be noted that at $7.25/hour the net after expenses and deductions can easily be a mere $1.05/hour.

  •  The conservative economic vision? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Eric Stetson

    Have a job market that resembles a carcass thrown  down for packs of hungry hyenas to fight over.

  •  If killing is done by machine (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Eric Stetson, melo

    It is game over. I have real problems with the trend toward mechanized war and this diary adds a serious boost to the issue.

    Humans are social animals. What we call an ego, our sense of identity, is a social construct. And what separates humans is our capacity to choose.

    The ultimate choice is life versus death, lesser choices good versus evil. Inherent within that is the definition of "good". Every second of every day of every human is loaded with these choices.

    So the 64 billion dollar question is what will artificial intelligence think is "good"?

    Looking back at the only intelligence we can examine, which is human intelligence, it seems to follow
    As your desire is, so is your will.
    As your will is, so is your deed.
    As your deed is, so is your destiny.

    It seems to me if machines are to become intelligent, really able to choose, they will need an ego, a sense of identity. I have my doubts that this will happen for the simple fact of how they are made. They have no social life, they are immortal. ANd thus they will have a warped sense of "good", if any.

    Anyway - bottom line - I loathe drone warfare because it is dehumanizing for everyone involved.

    I am all in favor of robots, but we need that prime directive that they must not harm humans. Why? Because humans have social intelligence, which needs to evolve.

    Sorry for the ramble. Good diary.

  •  I 100% agree with this as a theme of our time (3+ / 0-)

    I think Vonnegut does a great job of illustrating the concept.  It's been a theme of humanity since the beginning it seems.  It's like there's a streak in us that wants to get rid of us.  A general self destructive streak.  We will take the humanity out of humanity.

    When we talk about war, we're really talking about peace.

    by genethefiend on Fri Jan 31, 2014 at 08:04:17 AM PST

  •  It is well past time to tax the daylights out of (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    WheninRome

    these people......

  •  Color me a cynic, but I find this outlook (4+ / 0-)
    I'm betting that people will wake up and see this before it's too late, while they still have the power of the vote to elect a government that will rein in the excesses of capitalism and introduce a greater degree of thoughtful human planning, regulation, and conscience into the economy.
    wildly optimistic, at least when viewed with history and the current state of global affairs in mind.

    I'd love to be found wrong.

    The "Masters of the Universe" are all suffering under something called the Dunning-Kruger Effect, wherein they are convinced of unregulated capitalism's infallibility and ignore externalities because they are too stupid to know that they are stupid, and vastly overestimate their abilities to successfully run the planet "like a business."

    I think it's just as likely that a war on members the lower classes will be waged in order to "save the environment" when the effects of carbon pollution begin to become unbearable for the chosen ones. Maybe unleash a plague on the unwashed so as to avoid damaging so much infrastructure.

    Dear future generations: Please accept our apologies, We were roaring drunk on petroleum -Kurt Vonnegut

    by Anthony Page aka SecondComing on Fri Jan 31, 2014 at 08:09:55 AM PST

    •  The stock market (3+ / 0-)

      was driven higher because of Federal Reserve action.

      Artificially low interest rates also triggered a commodities boom that nearly doubled food prices.

      Zoning regulation can strangle the housing market and cause housing prices to approach and exceed $1 million/unit.

      I'd estimate that over 50% of vulture capitalist funding is public pension fund money.

      Capitalism can become very malignant with government help.

    •  I try to remain conscious of the possibilities (3+ / 0-)

      for both negative and positive change.

      I wouldn't say I'm an optimist, but I try not to assume that the worst will happen. People are not powerless yet. We can still vote for our leaders. In theory, we still have the power to elect leaders who see the big picture, have a conscience, and care about something other than funneling most of the wealth of the world to the already-rich.

      Do I think it's likely that we will ever be able to elect such leaders who will make the kind of major positive changes that are needed? Honestly, no. Not very likely. But still possible. And while it's possible, I suppose we have a moral duty to try. Or if we don't want to try for positive change through politics, then in some other way, such as by forming worker-owned businesses, intentional communities based on principles of ecological sustainability, etc.

      One way or another, we can't give up on what is good, and accept the evil. To do so would be to lose our soul.

      The most serious problem in American politics today is that people with wrong ideas are uncompromising, and people with good ideas are submissive and unwilling to fight. Change that, and we might have a real democracy again.

      by Eric Stetson on Fri Jan 31, 2014 at 01:07:20 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Wholeheartedly agree as regards to duty (0+ / 0-)

        And even "possible" with the current state of this country at least. If it gets done in the near future.

        Yet I feel that we're getting worked (played?) - and the Shock Doctrine is in play.

        Dear future generations: Please accept our apologies, We were roaring drunk on petroleum -Kurt Vonnegut

        by Anthony Page aka SecondComing on Fri Jan 31, 2014 at 02:33:23 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  When people become worthless - Holodomor (2+ / 0-)
    He also said that "mentally retarded" people might only be worth "$2 an hour" and that the minimum wage should be eliminated to make this possible.
    So what happens when people become worthless? I'm reminded of the entirely man-made Ukranian famine of 1932-33, when as many as 12 million people starved to death, as a direct result of Stalinist policy.
    The Holodomor (Ukrainian: "Extermination by hunger" ... ) was a man-made famine in the Ukrainian SSR in 1932 and 1933. During the famine, which is also known as the "Terror-Famine in Ukraine" and "Famine-Genocide in Ukraine", millions of citizens of Ukrainian SSR, the majority of whom were Ukrainians, died of starvation in a peacetime catastrophe unprecedented in the history of Ukraine. Since 2006, the Holodomor has been recognized by Ukraine and several other countries as a genocide of the Ukrainian people.
    This is what human beings are capable of. There is nothing in Peter Schiff's "You're worth what you're worth" anti-ethic that makes this impossible in a capitalistic society.

    “Hardworking men and women who are busting their tails in full-time jobs shouldn't be left in poverty.” -- Elizabeth Warren

    by Positronicus on Fri Jan 31, 2014 at 08:15:16 AM PST

  •  In Detroit (0+ / 0-)

    "Downtown Detroit apartment rents spiking higher, even pricing out middle class"

    http://www.freep.com/...

  •  The industrial economy will become like the (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    IowaBiologist

    farm economy in that only a few percent of the population will work in it.

    Ours will be mainly a service economy.

    One might do landscaping, practice medicine, and fix buildings and cars when young.

    When one gets older one will use one's savings or housing equity to pay others to do those things.

    •  But what happens when the robots do all this? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Eric Stetson

      Many of the service positions could be among the first to be taken over by robots.  Even practicing medicine may eventually be largely robotized.

      If that happens, how can anyone even consider accumulating savings or housing equity?

      It's ironic that what could be a means to relieve ourselves of some of the more onerous types of labor is itself turning into an enormous problem.

      It's not just a problem resulting from our market economy that requires that something, whether needed or not, be produced in order for someone to have the means to live.  It's also that there eventually may not be a need for anyone's talents whatsoever.  Part of a fulfilled life is having meaningful and creative work.  But if machines can do absolutely everything, what do we do with ourselves?  Will we simply fade out in a wave of unrelieved gray ennui?

      How, for instance, could anyone be a comedian when there's a robot comedy-generator that is programmed with the precise definition of a joke?  And once such a thing exists, will anyone even feel like laughing any more?

      FOX News: For entertainment purposes only. Not to be confused with actual news broadcasting.

      by IowaBiologist on Fri Jan 31, 2014 at 01:54:39 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  You hit the nail on the head. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        IowaBiologist
        Part of a fulfilled life is having meaningful and creative work.  But if machines can do absolutely everything, what do we do with ourselves?  Will we simply fade out in a wave of unrelieved gray ennui?
        It may be quite possible that this is how biological civilizations go extinct:

        1. Advance technologically to the stage of being able to create AI and robotics.
        2. Thus make themselves obsolete, stripping their lives of meaning.
        3. Use their technology to create virtual reality worlds for themselves to live in, to relieve the boredom, while intelligent robots take care of their "brains in a vat."
        4. Eventually the brains in a vat die, and the species dies out.

        Just speculating, but as a natural endpoint for biological evolution of intelligence, it seems pretty logical to me.

        The only way to avoid it might be to consciously choose not to use robotics. Maybe some kind of neo-Amish philosophy could save the day. Simple Gifts:

           'Tis the gift to be simple, 'tis the gift to be free
                'Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,
            And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
                'Twill be in the valley of love and delight.
            When true simplicity is gained,
                To bow and to bend we shan't be ashamed,
            To turn, turn will be our delight,
                Till by turning, turning we come 'round right.
        Will those who choose moderation in technology inherit the earth? Who knows, but it seems as likely as anything else.

        The most serious problem in American politics today is that people with wrong ideas are uncompromising, and people with good ideas are submissive and unwilling to fight. Change that, and we might have a real democracy again.

        by Eric Stetson on Fri Jan 31, 2014 at 02:03:01 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Then even the rich might eventually succumb (0+ / 0-)

          If it were simply a matter of widespread unemployment, with the rich being able to live off their own accumulated wealth, then they might well be able to benefit at the expense of the rest of us.  But if total automation makes even our wealthiest citizens obsolete and leaves their lives empty and devoid of any challenge whatsoever, they, too, could be just as susceptible to such unrelieved boredom. In that case, any advantage they might have initially could prove to be short-lived.

          FOX News: For entertainment purposes only. Not to be confused with actual news broadcasting.

          by IowaBiologist on Fri Jan 31, 2014 at 10:33:01 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  Voting alone will not address the issue. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    IowaBiologist

    Regarding your doubts about the ability of a people's uprising putting enough pressure on the system to force it to change, all I will say is stay tuned and watch what happens.

    There is no getting around the fact that just like in any other struggle for social justice in American history (without fail), popular uprisings have been an integral part of the equation when it comes to any gains we've achieved in the past.

    This time it will be no different.

    •  Maybe, if it happens before robotic police (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      IowaBiologist

      and another major expansion of NSA domestic surveillance.

      But try street protests 20 years from now, though, and I think you'd be out of luck.

      The ballot box might be our only hope... if people choose to use it to its full potential of effectiveness. That might mean voting out of office most of the politicians from both parties who are in there now -- all Republicans, and the many status-quo corporatists among the Democrats. I don't know if people will ever do that, but will millions of people ever rally in the streets of this country either? I'd say one is about as likely as the other, and the ballot bot would probably work better.

      The most serious problem in American politics today is that people with wrong ideas are uncompromising, and people with good ideas are submissive and unwilling to fight. Change that, and we might have a real democracy again.

      by Eric Stetson on Fri Jan 31, 2014 at 01:12:27 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  People who aren't worth a city apartment rent (0+ / 0-)

    will live in the Nowheresvilles of the USA.

    I do all my own work with respect to the house and I cook my own food.

    I could prescribe my own drugs if allowed by law. I could pay say $2 and get a digital x-ray in a foot scanner booth in the self-serve area of a hospital. The self-serve MRI foot scanner there might cost $20 per scan.

  •  Not Mass Death: The Iron Law of Wages (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Eric Stetson, melo

    A 19th century economist, whose name you've heard many times, but few here have ever read, described the Iron Law of Wages.  This is the level of pay to workers sufficient to maintain the subsistence survival of the existing needed work force, and its replacement with a future generation.  Not a penny more, except to keep alive an Industrial Reserve Army of unemployed workers whose presence can be used as leverage to maintain wages at barest subsistence level.  The only way for workers' wages to rise above the level defined by the Iron Law is for workers to organize in combination and force prospective employers to negotiate for that labor power.  For this method to succeed, the workers, as owners of that labor power, must act in unity, in  soliudarity, with an awareness of their status in the process of production, that is, with class consciousness.  Of course, once workers achieve class-conscious solidarity, whole new ideas above and beyond the minimum demand for "more" quickly spread among them.  This is why every element of our society seeks to suppress those concepts and offers us the redemptive power of "rugged individualism" within the Iron Law of Wages instead.

    "Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will." ~Frederick Douglass

    by ActivistGuy on Fri Jan 31, 2014 at 08:53:35 AM PST

  •  We need to break open the medical and legal trades (0+ / 0-)

    We could go to the dental shopping center.

    One woman might make a digital x-ray for my back teeth for $6.

    Another woman in the office next door might read the x-ray for $5.

    A cavity man nearby might place a filling for $25.

    If I need a root canal the "Canal Gal" might charge $75.

  •  There still are conventional jobs (0+ / 0-)

    https://jobsearch.direct.gov.uk/...=

    There are also a lot of "jobs" only a right-winger would think highly of:
    https://jobsearch.direct.gov.uk/...

    Can you spot them?

  •  Re (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    hmi, Eric Stetson
    What are the arguments against this nightmare scenario unfolding? They usually fall into two basic categories: the "new types of jobs will be created" argument, and the "people will rise up in revolution" argument.
    The third argument is "people will have fewer children". The lower population will enjoy all the fruits of automation and have sufficient employment.

    (-5.50,-6.67): Left Libertarian
    Leadership doesn't mean taking a straw poll and then just throwing up your hands. -Jyrinx

    by Sparhawk on Fri Jan 31, 2014 at 09:09:05 AM PST

    •  Yes, but for a couple of generations in transition (0+ / 0-)

      things could be very bad. After the population is much reduced, maybe 100 years from now, then society could reach a new stable equilibrium.

      The most serious problem in American politics today is that people with wrong ideas are uncompromising, and people with good ideas are submissive and unwilling to fight. Change that, and we might have a real democracy again.

      by Eric Stetson on Fri Jan 31, 2014 at 01:14:41 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  There is also the problem (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    NoMoreLies

    of landlord greed that my Detroit article makes clear.

    Many things such as manufacturing can be global. When local greedbags push up rents many employers can't keep up.

  •  Remember the "rich" can take it easy (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Eric Stetson

    do nothing about generating income.

    You can't rely on income taxes because the better off don't have to work or generate taxable income in 2015.

  •  The conservative position (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    nextstep, Whatithink

    Just curious as to how some statement by a businessman about labor markets turns into "the conservative position" on rights. Strangely, I had the impression that U.S. conservatives are generally all for individual rights (even if given to different interpretations of these principles than leftists stress). Or is Mr. Stetson simply proposing that all people should be paid exactly the same for whatever they do? And would that then be the liberal position?

    •  Most conservatives are against the minimum wage. (0+ / 0-)

      So, I think Peter Schiff's point of view is pretty much representative of "the conservative position."

      Without a minimum standard of living for all people -- either in the form of a minimum wage with guaranteed employment, or else a guaranteed minimum income (or negative income tax as some on the right prefer to call it) -- millions and millions of people are going to suffer destitute poverty in the age of intelligent robotics.

      So, I think the liberal position would be that we need to have a minimum standard of living for all people. I don't believe everyone should be paid the same, just that there should be a floor below which you cannot fall, no matter how unlucky you are in the economy.

      The most serious problem in American politics today is that people with wrong ideas are uncompromising, and people with good ideas are submissive and unwilling to fight. Change that, and we might have a real democracy again.

      by Eric Stetson on Fri Jan 31, 2014 at 01:18:26 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Yes, and no (0+ / 0-)

        I'm with you on the liberal position and the necessity for a safety net.

        But the headline for the diary speaks of human worth (not the value of labor) and of moral crisis. In addition, you claimed that Schiff's statement is, without exaggeration, "a vision of mass death for the human race" and that this all amounts to the conservative position. Certainly the rhetorical force of the diary is toward making it appear as though Schiff  and conservatism reject both the concept of human rights and anything short of pure slavery and mass starvation.

        Simply put, this does not seem to me to be a reasonable restatement of any version of conservatism I've ever run across.

  •  Haiti might have (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Eric Stetson, melo

    about one million ocean view quarter acre home sites, enough for every Haitian household to have a stone "Provençal" house with a lovely view in a bougainvilla filled yard.

    Is Haiti really poor?

    Is Haiti simply poorly organized?

  •  My neighbor is a skilled tradesman (0+ / 0-)

    His ladyfriend lives in a very modest house on a lot that is six times the average size of the rich folks' lots in the fancy subdivision to the north of us.

    He and she make enough money for them to be living in a mansion on a blooming bougainvilla paradise there in just a few years.

  •  It should be realized that many fast food (0+ / 0-)

    jobs can be eliminated by automation.

    The McDonald's twelve miles to the south has been torn down. Its replacement is supposed to open in March.

  •  Should we continue to try to (0+ / 0-)

    have above world average wages and generally absurdly high housing prices?

    Should we try to break open the housing market and lower housing costs below the world average by making all possible land open for development at developer selected density compatible with waste management technology?

    Cheap housing and modest wages and salaries make for a diverse and abundant employment marketplace.

    If 50% of possible jobs are not economically feasible then unemployment will be high and government attempts to create employment will drive up asset prices and price low earners out of metropolitan area housing.

  •  Are the well-paid really worth it? (0+ / 0-)

    Perhaps large stadiums and arenas should be torn down and replaced with public housing.

    Perhaps companies should adopt Japanese consensus management methods. My stocks have suffered from the mistakes of stupid CEOs.

  •  Should the upper middle class lose their (0+ / 0-)

    housing tax deductions.

    A $600,000 house in California or metropolitan Boston at 4% interest and 1% taxes costs $30,000/year if one disregards paying down the principal, which is merely forced savings.

    A couple making $110,000 can easily pay that since it basically means the equivalent of making $80,000 and living rent-free and forced savings of $10,000 to $20,000/year via principal reduction payment.

    Perhaps a non-refundable 15% tax credit (less one's tax percentage) should be used. A middle class couple paying a 23% average tax rate would lose their housing tax deductions and the non-refundable tax credit.

    When housing prices are high, a new $600,000 house means $25,000 in construction wages and $575,000 of other things such as landowner financial windfall and builder profit.

  •  Perhaps affluent people should be barred (0+ / 0-)

    from buying or starting to rent older housing that should be more affordable.

    Say a couple making $100,000 or more would be barred from buying or renting a dwelling built prior to 2013 that is smaller than 1,500 square feet.

    Say a couple making $X or more would be barred from buying or renting a dwelling built prior to 2013 that is smaller than X/66 square feet.

    The affluent would choose to live in new housing (or big old houses) if they wish to move. That would stimulate the construction industry and create construction jobs.

  •  When labor is valueless (0+ / 0-)

    Capitalism becomes impossible

    Those who support banning cocaine are no better than those who support banning cheeseburgers

    by EthrDemon on Fri Jan 31, 2014 at 10:23:48 AM PST

    •  Labor is almost never valueless (0+ / 0-)

      Almost all people employed for over a year and not disabled have a value between $10 and $200/hour. Very few people (maybe 1% of the labor force) have a value of over $50/hour.

      A plumber charging $90/hour has expenses and downtime. He also benefits by legal restrictions in the form of licensing and mandated liability insurance.

      •  Unskilled labor is going that way (0+ / 0-)

        Wasn't that the point of the diary?

        Those who support banning cocaine are no better than those who support banning cheeseburgers

        by EthrDemon on Fri Jan 31, 2014 at 11:24:09 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  People making $20/hour (0+ / 0-)

          (with tax rates of less than 50%) will probably want people paid $10/hour (or less) to do unpleasant tasks such as raking leaves, mowing lawns, pulling weeds, housecleaning, etc.

          My affluent neighbors pay people to do many things.

          At $8/hour for possible work for me I don't hire anybody for anything if at all possible.

          I last hired a plumber in 1998 to drill through concrete to replace a leaking pipe.

          I had my air conditioner replaced in 2001.

          Inequality is important to create jobs.

          If I could make $250+/hour like my father normally did, other people would mow my lawn, pull my weeds, and clean my house.

          My father refused to learn to do anything except to run businesses and buy stocks.

          •  Common inequality at more than three to one (0+ / 0-)

            or more starts to have problems - the less skilled struggle to survive and find housing. The affluent upper middle class workers ($25/hour or more) need to be taxed at marginal rates of up to 80% as was common in 1960's Britain.

            Common top-level inequality among the business class of three to one starts to have problems. A person could never start a business that could enable that person to buy a house on the beach, so that person doesn't start a business.

    •  Most of the sucessful capitalistic economies (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      melo

      had deep roots in slavery. Under a capitalistic system, corporations are mandated by law to reduce labor costs to the absolute minimum for the shareholders.

      BTW, labor costs in third world countries are considerably less than the cost of owning and looking after slaves. These workers can be discarded once their usefulness is gone.

      America, the greatest capitalistic nation the world has ever seen was founded on slavery and indentured labor. Once slavery was abolished, there was a steady supply of cheap domestic labor. As domestic labor increased in cost, the corporations turned to cheap, disposable labor from other countries. Resources from foreign countries have always depended on cheap labor.

  •  If somebody is worth $7 an hour (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    fastwacks

    and needs $8/hour to get a place of his own, it may behove the better off to contribute $1/hour via taxes so the view from $600,000 to $5 million housing units is not disturbed by sleeping bags and cardboard houses on the sidewalk.

  •  On a very cold and rainy night (0+ / 0-)

    (last night) here in my Florida county a man of obvious quality spoke of over a decade of military service, "pain like getting kicked in the [dangling bits]" and of spending the night in a sleeping bag rather than in an overcrowded Salvation Army shelter.

  •  A Post Capitalistic World (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    melo

    The world system of capitalism will come to an end only when people no longer chose to be willing participants.  It will probably happen on a Tuesday.  The elite ownership society will not see it coming.  People will simply decide one beautiful morning not to participate in the system any longer.  They will do this by not going to work and not spending money, any money, until their demands for change are met.

    What will those demands be?  Who knows.  How long will it take for the elite ownership to acquiesce to those demands?  Not long.  But one thing is for certain - the world system of capitalism will collapse quickly if people withdraw their support for the system.  

    Poof.  The 500 year world system and its sociopathic elite ownership society will be gone with the wind.  

    It will probably happen on a Tuesday.  No one will see it coming.  It will be peaceful.  
     

  •  Kudos for including (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Eric Stetson

    two of the seven principles of our faith in this diary.  Tipped and rec'd.

    When the United States becomes a low wage country, only bobbleheads shall go forth from American soil.

    by amyzex on Fri Jan 31, 2014 at 12:22:37 PM PST

    •  Thanks. I'm also a UU. n/t (0+ / 0-)

      The most serious problem in American politics today is that people with wrong ideas are uncompromising, and people with good ideas are submissive and unwilling to fight. Change that, and we might have a real democracy again.

      by Eric Stetson on Fri Jan 31, 2014 at 01:22:49 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  I think you erroneously equate units of labor (0+ / 0-)

    with human worth.

    I don't think anyone who espouses a minimum wage less than the one you espouse should be judged as devaluing humanity.

    The argument for a low base minimum wage is worth of the labor performed in a given unit of time - an hour, let's say.

    A widget manufacturer can only sell widgets for maximum $2 a piece.  He has a very real calculation that gives him the maximum amount he can pay a laborer to produce widgets.

    An hour of widget making labor is only worth x dollars per hour given a fixed number of widgets produced by that laborer.

    Now, the manufacturer can innovate and make the worker more efficient with improvements to the assembly line, etc.  Then he can offer more per hour.

    Or, as most here at dailykos feel, the owner takes less profit.  But that isn't always do-able.

    Or.. the gov't forces a higher wage.  In which case the owner has several choices - Charge more, go out of business,offshore or automate - something you cover in your diary.

    These are all cut and dry decisions that do not depend on a moral judgement of the worth of life.

    In an economic system in which the value of a human being is defined by the economic value they can create through their labor, human beings themselves will be increasingly devalued in the age of advanced robotics and AI. There's a saying that "life is cheap." If we continue to live in an ultra-capitalist economy, that is about to become more true than ever.
    You are completely wrong here.  The economic system doesn't care about the value of life either way.  The "system" produces goods and services in response to demand.. nothing more, nothing less.

    Yes.. as we automate more, keeping people working and fed will be a challenge.  But how come no one ever proposes the easiest solution of all?  Less people.  We could reduce the strain on resources and available jobs in less than 100 years by producing much less offspring.

    •  i agree with you (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      JJ In Illinois

      but here's the downside people will use to argue against that wisdom

      "you mean with shrinking pensions and rising prices you want me to forego having children who may hopefully help me in my old age (comfort and dignity), so the descendants of others' children reap the benefits of my sacrifice?

      you want me to end up in a care facility drugged on junk food and cheap meds for the sake of the future human race?

      exactly how are you going to surgically remove my ego from that equation, by telling me i'll go to heaven when i die?"

      lotta thorns on that rose!

      great diary eric, we need to think these things through very well indeed and make plans accordingly...

      why? just kos..... *just cause*

      by melo on Sat Feb 01, 2014 at 05:29:46 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  I have to disagree with two things (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Tchrldy
    As for the claim that people will rise up in revolution if most jobs disappear... how, exactly? How will people be able to fight back against police and military forces
     When things get bad enough the police and military finally stop defending the status quo.
      This is how it has always been and how it will always be.

      As for half the population not being able to get a job, that can't happen in an economy as big as America's. The global capitalist system would collapse from the lack of demand.

    None are so hopelessly enslaved, as those who falsely believe they are free. The truth has been kept from the depth of their minds by masters who rule them with lies. -Johann von Goethe

    by gjohnsit on Fri Jan 31, 2014 at 06:26:08 PM PST

  •   I already encountered my singularity (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    melo

    the day I met my wife.

    It's not about winning Jeopardy or parallel parking at the Nevada DMV.

    I would wager that it's probably possible to teach some elephant to drive and pass a test.

    And I bet the elephant would agree with me that as far as quality of life is concerned, having a loving, committed mate has more significance than all the humpty dumpty technology of all the humans combined.

  •  Great Post. Who is going to build and maintain (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    melo, Eric Stetson

    the Robots?

    You have identified a definite problem

    We need to be thinking long and hard on solutions so that human kind doesn't disappear from the earth

    Any way you look at it it would seem that we need to slow labor growth by having fewer babies.

  •  This diary treats a subject (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Eric Stetson

    with potentially very serious implications for our future as a republic, and even as a species.

    "The threat of automation" lends itself very well to a hysterical, alarmist diary, which we see often in this venue. But you haven't succumbed to that temptation.

    Quality work, thanks.

    Tipped and recommended.

    It's here they got the range/ and the machinery for change/ and it's here they got the spiritual thirst. --Leonard Cohen

    by karmsy on Sat Feb 01, 2014 at 05:50:59 AM PST

  •  My former neighbor (0+ / 0-)

    occasionally hired a guy with a chainsaw for $15/hour.

  •  In Florida couples occasionally take (0+ / 0-)

    an elderly person into their home at about half the cost of a nursing home placement.

    This means making about $35,000/year here.

  •  And I guess we will fall in love with them too (0+ / 0-)

    I saw the movie' Her"and I get it.  We all want some one who will listen and with empathy and if it is an OS then we can all have that.  Except see the movie.  Second thought we will need writers play writes musicians as well as artists.

  •  The Rebellion of the AI... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Eric Stetson

    One thing that is never considered is that the AI will simply develop it's own will and consciously decide to not work or to only work to it's own ends.

    Which may or may not lead to the extinction of the human race. Or the keeping of us as pets or forms of amusement. Assuming AI would ever develop some sort of "emotion."

    AI is fundamentally Alien in nature. It would have an intelligence that is, well... unfathomable. Like a Cthulhu made of micro-chips and wires. We have no idea if this consciousness is even controllable by humans. These wealthy families may become pets to the future AI. Or it develops a benevolent nature, who knows.

claude, TXdem, melo, Geenius at Wrok, cotterperson, genethefiend, RFK Lives, gjohnsit, hubcap, TracieLynn, cskendrick, Wee Mama, susakinovember, Nate Roberts, splashy, k9disc, SneakySnu, coldwynn, Hawksana, HeyMikey, papercut, SingleVoter, zerelda, ybruti, Hillbilly Dem, bibble, NoMoreLies, qofdisks, chimene, run around, YucatanMan, Kevskos, FutureNow, Sun Tzu, lotlizard, Ice Blue, Yamara, wbr, hypernaught, tarheelblue, cookseytalbott, sleipner, Briney Remark, Cassiodorus, Ian Reifowitz, nhox42, Temmoku, The House, Aaa T Tudeattack, wa ma, Positronicus, yoduuuh do or do not, karmsy, FishOutofWater, Mary Mike, rontripp, on the cusp, Mighty Ike, MKinTN, Ezekiel in Exile, revm3up, Justus, also mom of 5, chakadog, amyzex, Tchrldy, limpidglass, Buckeye Nut Schell, Tam in CA, exdiplopat, Parthenia, Mayfly, WearyIdealist, Throw The Bums Out, greengemini, bsmechanic, banjolele, CamillesDad1, histOries Marko, Thutmose V, Dragon5616, Words In Action, Susan Grigsby, marsanges, cordgrass, pixxer, legalarray, Oh Mary Oh, soaglow, Onomastic, slowbutsure, Quackerz, Mistral Wind, deeproots, thomask, Claudius Bombarnac, muddy boots, bluehammer, tardis10, Be Skeptical, myrmecia gulosa, DRo, Regina in a Sears Kit House, Laurel in CA, BlueDragon, IowaBiologist, The Lone Apple, a2nite, FloridaSNMOM, BusyinCA, rat racer, peptabysmal, Hammerhand, Ray Pensador, Lily O Lady, Blue Bell Bookworm, HedwigKos, alice kleeman, Alhambra, helpImdrowning, bob152, Liberty Equality Fraternity and Trees, occupystephanie, moogoo, VoteWisdom, JustBeKos, Skyye, Miss Bianca, Azehav, joegoldstein, scribblingTiresias, ypochris, nicestjerk

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site