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If I Had a Hammer 732

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the bender-replaces-the-team dept.
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Tom Friedman begins his latest op-ed in the NYT with an anecdote about Dutch chess grandmaster Jan Hein Donner who, when asked how he'd prepare for a chess match against a computer, replied: 'I would bring a hammer.' Donner isn't alone in fantasizing that he'd like to smash some recent advances in software and automation like self-driving cars, robotic factories, and artificially intelligent reservationists says Friedman because they are 'not only replacing blue-collar jobs at a faster rate, but now also white-collar skills, even grandmasters!' In the First Machine Age (The Industrial Revolution) each successive invention delivered more and more power but they all required humans to make decisions about them. ... Labor and machines were complementary. Friedman says that we are now entering the 'Second Machine Age' where we are beginning to automate cognitive tasks because in many cases today artificially intelligent machines can make better decisions than humans. 'We're having the automation and the job destruction,' says MIT's Erik Brynjolfsson. 'We're not having the creation at the same pace. There's no guarantee that we'll be able to find these new jobs. It may be that machines are better than that.' Put all the recent advances together says Friedman, and you can see that our generation will have more power to improve (or destroy) the world than any before, relying on fewer people and more technology. 'But it also means that we need to rethink deeply our social contracts, because labor is so important to a person's identity and dignity and to societal stability.' 'We've got a lot of rethinking to do,' concludes Friedman, 'because we're not only in a recession-induced employment slump. We're in technological hurricane reshaping the workplace.'"
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If I Had a Hammer

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 14, 2014 @04:08AM (#45948565)

    Why shouldn't machines eventually take the jobs humans currently do, but could be done better by a computer? Wouldn't that leave everyone with the option to use their minds rather than muscles for those things humans are best at, such as true creativity? I personally think robots at McDonald's would be far superior and everyone's life will be so much richer there won't be the need for the concept of minimum-wage and grunt-work jobs. Except for those who really prefer the grunt part.

  • by phantomfive (622387) on Tuesday January 14, 2014 @04:15AM (#45948599) Journal

    Why shouldn't machines eventually take the jobs humans currently do, but could be done better by a computer?

    They already do 90% of the jobs that were done by humans 150 years ago.

  • by captainpanic (1173915) on Tuesday January 14, 2014 @04:25AM (#45948643)

    Computers and automated systems are not replacing any cognitive tasks soon, at least not economically. Sure, if you throw in a team of engineers, several years of research and a couple million euro/dollars, then you can build a computer that can defeat a chess grandmaster. But until engineering companies are actually laying off their engineers and designers and replacing them with computers, I am not worried.

    Computers are likely to replace the more simple jobs (as they always have). Driving a lorry or car is not exactly a highly skilled job, and I would be delighted if that is automated.

  • by Thanshin (1188877) on Tuesday January 14, 2014 @04:33AM (#45948691)

    They already do 90% of the jobs that were done by humans 150 years ago.

    There is no limit on the work that could be done. Even if machines did 100% of the work done by humans 150 years ago, we'd still have plenty to do.

    Why don't we have 95% of the population exploring one branch of science or another? Why can't more books be written? More movies be done? More people help those who need help?

    Would it be so bad to live in a world where there is 0% NEED to work and everyone just decides whether they want to be a medic, or an astrophysicist, or a script writer, or...

    Only amazingly lazy people believe everyone would stop "working" if it was voluntary. Even if the only payment was respect by the society, joy, or simply to fight boredom, most people would do something.

  • Re:Job limit. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Boronx (228853) <evonreis&mohr-engineering,com> on Tuesday January 14, 2014 @04:36AM (#45948703) Homepage Journal

    Only if the wealth is shared.

  • by bob_super (3391281) on Tuesday January 14, 2014 @04:36AM (#45948711)

    The problem with the goal of not having to work because the machines do all the menial stuff, is that pesky concept of Money.

    Everyone still needs to find a way to convince someone else that the latter will better off if they give the former some of the money they control.
    If too many tasks are automated, a huge number of people will lack the skills required for that age-old civilization arrangement.
    Which leaves the others either the choice to subsidize them for nothing, eliminate the concept of money, or eliminate those unable to earn it. Not highly appealing.

    While this has always been true, the path of innovation is such that it's no longer the lazy, the sick, or the idiots (in the medical sense) who find themselves unable to rejoin the workforce. Most people cannot fathom how to "recycle" the millions who are about to lose their jobs to ever-smarter machines, because the threshold for valuable work keeps rising, while the basic jobs keep shrinking.

    In the end, which is far from tomorrow, you end up with either a police state or a revolution, while those who either control the machines or have not been replaced yet try to hang on to what they have.

  • by hweimer (709734) on Tuesday January 14, 2014 @04:39AM (#45948713) Homepage

    I don't buy that the demise of the median worker has anything to do with technological progress. If the average income increases steadily and the median declines, it simply means that a society has problems to fairly allocate its resources. Since people making less than the median typically also make up 50% of the electorate, it looks like these people are voting against their own interests (or do not vote at all). One also has to keep in mind that the events that hurt the median worker the most (deregulation of banks, Bush-style tax cuts, and the whole war on terror) were all political descisions that were completely unrelated to technology.

  • by sjames (1099) on Tuesday January 14, 2014 @04:43AM (#45948723) Homepage

    It *IS* the goal. The problem is that we are apparently not mature enough as a society to not turn a potential utopian dream into a dystopian nightmare where the world is divided into a few haves and a huge number of have nots.

    If we were mature enough, we wouldn't have former middle class people joining the ranks of the long term unemployed while wall street makes record profits and retailers screech about how they must be open on one of the few national holidays we still observe.

    Those that think the first time around was easy and trouble free forget that it took the very real threat of global communist revolution to get the capitalists at the top to make the necessary concessions.

  • Re:Job limit. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by phantomfive (622387) on Tuesday January 14, 2014 @04:44AM (#45948731) Journal

    There is no limit to the total amount of possible "work" to be done.

    This is the crucial point. Remember right now we have people whose entire career is devoted, not to pushing a pointy ball across a line, but cheering for people who push a pointy ball across the line. And they work hard at it. []

    We have people who spend their entire lives painting other people's fingernails.
    We have people who make a good living by painting art, not great, but good enough that people are willing to buy it at fairs.
    We have people who live by playing live music
    There are people who live by teaching chess lessons. And people who make a living playing Starcraft.

    Since the computer was invented, and started taking over human jobs, the number of jobs in the US has more than tripled [], absorbing a huge number of immigrants and women coming into the workforce. Where did all the jobs come from? If you can't answer that, then you'll have trouble predicting the job market over the next 20 years.

  • by DiniZuli (621956) on Tuesday January 14, 2014 @05:17AM (#45948875) Homepage
    I agree, and I think one of the major problems in this is, when a robot replaces the workforce at some company the money (salary) that once went to many now goes to a lot fewer. The money shifts towards the people in 'higher' positions. So in the long run we need to reshape the economy, because continuing with the current model won't end well.
  • by SuricouRaven (1897204) on Tuesday January 14, 2014 @05:18AM (#45948881)

    Because we have no economic framework that could accommodate such a situation. It doesn't matter if machines can do all the work is there is no means to ensure access to their produce. Economics as we practice now is entirely centered around the labor market: People work for wages, use the wages to buy things, and producing those things pays wages back to the workers. Money circulates, everyone gets fed and clothed.

    Take away the jobs, and what are you left with? A few factory owners swimming in food and products they cannot sell because no-one has any money to buy it, and a load of ex-workers who have no money to buy even the essentials of life.

  • by taylorius (221419) on Tuesday January 14, 2014 @05:20AM (#45948885) Homepage

    Historically, technological revolutions have eliminated large categories of jobs. Many manual jobs are now performed by machines, even skilled manual jobs. An economist might say that these former manual workers are now free to retrain, and do other things - (or just grow old and die, and be replaced by youngsters who have never known the old way, and have learnt the right skills to get along in this new world whilst growing up).

    The question is, what happens when literally everything of economic value that a person is capable of doing, can be accomplish more efficiently by a machine? More and more resources come under the complete control of fewer and fewer people, and for the rest of the population, what is left?

    I believe that once machines obviate the need for large human organisations, with their attendant inefficiencies, a form of democratic socialism will become the preferred way to run society. Resources owned collectively, with broad decisions made democratically, but organisational details left to machines to optimise and execute. People would be provided for, because it is easy to produce enough to do it.

  • Re:Job limit. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by roca (43122) on Tuesday January 14, 2014 @05:42AM (#45949005) Homepage

    The pace of innovation and automation is only going to speed up, but people's ability to retrain isn't going to speed up much. At some point, maybe not far away, we'll be eliminating classes of jobs faster than people can train for new ones. What happens if, by the time you've learned to do a new job well, it's likely to be obsolete? And then at some point we'll reach the situation where most people simply aren't capable of doing any useful job as well as a machine no matter how much they train.

    It's ironic that both extreme left-wing and extreme right-wing people believe the fallacy that people are endlessly reprogrammable labour units. Extreme right-wingers believe it because they want to believe people who aren't successful are lazy. Extreme left-wingers believe in a mythical world where every person is a special soul who can achieve anything if they're just given the right assistance.

  • by JonnyCalcutta (524825) on Tuesday January 14, 2014 @05:43AM (#45949015)

    I think you'll find that 99% of the populace see work as the only way they have to get the stuff they need to live (and the stuff they want to make life enjoyable).

  • by Thanshin (1188877) on Tuesday January 14, 2014 @05:44AM (#45949019)

    And you think it would be a huge problem for society if half the population didn't work, taking into account that maintaining them would be essentially free? (as no salaries have to be paid to produce food, shelter, etc...

    The arguments are similar to saying that the modern world is impossible because the feudal lords wouldn't allow it to exist and the farmer populace wouldn't know how to do anything other than farming.

    Sky scrapers are impossible because they wouldn't fit in the cave.

  • Re:Job limit. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by MtHuurne (602934) on Tuesday January 14, 2014 @05:50AM (#45949057) Homepage

    Sharing the wealth doesn't mean handing out money to whoever holds out their hands, it means having all people who were involved in creating the wealth benefit from it. If a company only sees its workers as "human resources", then "what they are worth" is the lowest possible price it can hire those resources for. If it sees itself and the workers as participants in a social structure, it can give them a fair share of the income the company generated.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 14, 2014 @05:55AM (#45949077)

    My sarcasm detector isn't working properly, but your implication that the set of all societal modes sans capitalism becomes a power seeking bloodbath is a bit under-thought. Dogma will be Dogma, whether it's through the eyes of a Markets Solve All (tm) capitalist, or a Marxist.

  • by maxwell demon (590494) on Tuesday January 14, 2014 @06:04AM (#45949103) Journal

    No, money is mot the problem. The problem is the way we distribute money. The current money distribution system is based on the basic premise that humans need to work in order to keep society running. If that premise falls down, the system simply doesn't work any more.

    And I also disagree that, as the article states, "labor is so important to a person's identity and dignity and to societal stability". What is needed for that is having an accepted place in society, and having an income you can depend on. In the current system, labour is generally a way to achieve both. But nothing says it must be.

    I've one read a very insightful comment: If you look at any depiction of paradise around the world, they have one thing in common: People all were out of work.

  • by MrKaos (858439) on Tuesday January 14, 2014 @06:24AM (#45949187) Journal

    The sincerity in this argument is an admission that, in reality, the 1% that make up the wealthiest of human beings consider the rest to be slaves, be it to labour, or interest rates or just putting food on the table.

    Consequently, the externality from their pursuit of automation is making more and more people slaves so that we are always competing with one another for a dollar instead of the market competing for our labour, which drives labour prices up. As long as there is a steady rate of unemployment around 10%, every person will fear for their job and be a subservient slave, too afraid to attend to matters of democracy or society. That's what that 1% want from their win-win situation.

    However I think it's 50's thinking that drives it and the fear. Technology is a gift that will either enslave or free the human race and most people can't comprehend what it means to them. So too many of the people who devise the technology. To me automation means I kick back a work for an hour or two while my automation does the work for me. That's because I control the technology I deliver and the reason I control it is because I have educated myself to do so. So the automation allows me to educate myself more - improving my life.

    We have to ask ourselves what happens when the Western worlds labour becomes obsolete in a world that is competing for resources and corruption is inherent in every political system in the world. Personally, I want technology do better for people not profits, however it was my own naivety that blinded me to the fact that those who control the deployment of technology en-mass, aren't even people any more - they're company boards legally obliged to make a profit.

    Our role as technologist's is also changing with the automation. You can bet that people will begin to cast blame on those who devise technology so unless we are prepared to push back and be cognisant enough to take a lead role in society and educate them about the choices they make the consequences of that fear will be played out on us hapless geeks.

    If the cost of education goes down as the price of energy goes up we stand a chance to find a way to reduce our slavery and perhaps live better. My old mentor used to tell me 'You bleed on the cutting edge of technology' and, like a knife it will be used like a tool and a weapon to sculpt or subjugate our entire society.

  • by ledow (319597) on Tuesday January 14, 2014 @06:45AM (#45949239) Homepage


    A person requires two separate lives. Work life is but one and no matter how passionate about the subject I might be, it is primarily to earn money. You ensure you earn money and continue to do so in the future by doing a good, professional job of things, don't get me wrong. And you might well be passionate about your work. But it should not take over your life.

    Fact is, if you told the average person that they'd never have to go to work again, they would NOT do the things that they do as part of their working life. You are not going to see these people walking into their work at an insurance brokers and trying to arrange policies. You might, just might, find a scientist or maybe a passionate person offer their services after such an event but, in general, across the various workforces those people don't have to worry about their identity or robots coming in to do their jobs for them.

    There's a couple of countries that don't understand work-life separation and they are usually the ones where you can convince people with the "cheerlead" method of inspiration ("Woohoo! Let's go do this!") and not much else. But I'm not convinced that, even under the facade, this is a healthy option, or that over-dedication is rewarded.

    My previous boss basically worked himself into hospital, such was his dedication to the workplace, but it was never adequately recognised and he calmed himself down and moved on.

    Every employer I go to seems to want me, at some point, to prove I have a life outside work. Literally, they have application forms that ask about my non-work-related interests and specifically say things about it not drawing on your working skillset. They don't want mindless drones with a single interest. They want humans who are happy and have a life. And I work in IT!

    I don't want to work with, nor do I want to be, a corporate drone. I work as a payment to do the things I enjoy doing. Fortunately, I enjoy the majority of my work too. But even among my friends and family, my work life is a separate, mysterious thing that they don't see (unless they come work with me, like my brother did just recently).

    Work is not part of my identity - it's another identity that I assume in order to live my life comfortably. If it were not necessary, that persona would not exist. And if I ever find my work identity being all I have in life, I think I'd have to seriously consider what I'm doing with it.

  • Re:Job limit. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by rmstar (114746) on Tuesday January 14, 2014 @06:47AM (#45949247)

    Experiments in Europe with 35 and 38 work hours failed and were rolled back to nearly 40 hours or even more.

    These "experiments" did not really fail except in the sense that bosses and conservatives felt the employees and lower classes where having it too good.

    In theory, you cannot be competitive with that number of hours. In practice, a lot could be gained by having employees that are less stressed, less sleep-deprived, and generally happier. But there is a sadistic streak running in those well off that refuses to see it that way.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 14, 2014 @07:14AM (#45949329)

    Then you have a minority of super-rich people who have ALL the money and pay ALL the taxes, subsidizing the rest. At best this becomes a feudal society where the rich people have more rights - because they can buy them - or more possibly they have rights while the rest (colloquially dubbed "the herd") have not; at worst the rich complain about paying too much in taxes (they always do, no matter the real amount or percentage) and start a policy of population growth control - eugenesia, euthanasia, forced sterilization, gas chambers... plenty of possibilites.

  • by itsdapead (734413) on Tuesday January 14, 2014 @07:17AM (#45949343)

    "The only universal medicine (Marxists) have for social evils - State ownership of the means of production - is not only perfectly compatible with all the disasters of the capitalist world: with exploitation, imperialism, pollution, misery, economic waste, national hatred and national oppression, but it adds to them a series of disasters of its own: inefficiency, lack of economic incentives and above all the unrestricted rule of the omnipresent bureaucracy, a concentration of power never before known in human history". -- Leszek Kolakowski

    The current alternative to socialism: global hyper-capitalism - is not only perfectly compatible with all the disasters of the socialist world: inefficiency, lack of economic incentives and above all the unrestricted control of supposedly democratic governments by unaccountable multinational corporations , a concentration of power never before known in human history, but it lacks any of the redeeming qualities of either socialism or capitalism as they were in the time of Marx. Even the "omnipresent bureaucracy" helps protect large business from any true competition by building a regulatory thicket to discourage enterprising newcomers.

    Worse, we have a world where even capitalist governments such as the US recognise the need for some sort of social welfare and infrastructure program, but with the multinational corporations paying the absolute minimum in tax this has to be funded primarily by punitive taxation of middle-income earners. Moreover, most of this money is actually spend protecting the interests of those same corporations, either overtly (like the state underwriting the casino bankers when their pyramid schemes collapse) or indirectly (in welfare payments that allow businesses to employ workers without paying them enough to live).

    Meanwhile, the managerial elite enjoy more "feather-bedding" than the inhabitants of the most unrealistic workers' paradise, with annual salary and bonus packages any one of which would secure a typical person for life, seeming total immunity from the consequences of their actions, any failure rewarded by windfall severance and pension packages, and all sins forgiven after a "decent interval". Yet, with a few exceptions, these are largely managers and administrators, not entrepreneurs who have created wealth by building new businesses.

    As for TFA - its hard to say how much of any reduction in jobs in Western countries is connected to automation rather than the offshoring of work to developing countries still experiencing their first industrial revolution fuelled by former agriculture workers/subsistence farmers.

    If you look at science fiction - particularly Iain Banks and the like - what you see is a post-scarcity form of anarcho-socialism where the means of production not only automated and virtually cost-free but distributed and democratised. That the sort of thing we need - but whether it is attainable without the fantasy plot devices available in a SF story (e.g. humanity effectively ruled by hyper-intelligent and benevolent AIs who might as well be called gods - who usually go bad in order to drive the story).

  • by N1AK (864906) on Tuesday January 14, 2014 @07:26AM (#45949387) Homepage

    If you do away with minimum wage, things could be even cheaper, and people could actually compete with machines.

    And achieve what? Have people doing boring repetitive work that could easily be automated for $3 an hour because it would cost $3.10 for a machine to do it. Then next year $2.90 because the machines got cheaper? With the state having to top that income up a liveable amount. It's a race to the bottom and it isn't sustainable or desirable.

  • This is ridiculous (Score:5, Insightful)

    by thisisauniqueid (825395) on Tuesday January 14, 2014 @07:43AM (#45949439)
    This is ridiculous. The capabilities of man + machine will always be greater than the capabilities of a machine by itself, so we're not going to run out of intellectual jobs just because machines can do smarter things. Machines, including computers, are just power tools for the brain. (And I say this even as a full-time AI researcher with a PhD in the field, developing new AI algorithms for my day job at a major tech company.)
  • Re:or maybe (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ibwolf (126465) on Tuesday January 14, 2014 @07:44AM (#45949449)

    ... the amount of potential work is limitless.

    Is it?

    That's no easier to prove than the assertion that jobs are disappearing.

    Us humans have considerable appetites, but they are not infinite. We only require so much living space, clothing, food or entertainment. If automation continues to improve productivity there will come a time when the labor of some fraction of the population is capable of fully satisfying every human being alive. The only question is at what point does that happen.

    It will happen a lot sooner if you define it as "fully satisfying all basic needs". But if we ever crack real AI, the only constraining factor on what we can provide each individual will be energy, not human labor.

    This tipping point may be centuries in the future or it may be a few decades away and we're seeing the start of it. It's impossible to tell until after the fact. But denying that it can ever happen isn't helping. Increased automation will inevitable lead to the redundancy of human labor if automation continues to grow unbounded.

    There is, of course, the possibility that automation will stop growing for some, as yet, unknown reason.

    TL;DR We can't know how much of an issue automation replacing human labor will be. But blithely ignoring the issue isn't helpful.

  • by mosb1000 (710161) <> on Tuesday January 14, 2014 @07:56AM (#45949501)

    The solution, up to this point, has been busy work. Based on my experience, 90% of the work being done today is unnecessary. Almost all of the paperwork being done could be replaced by competent automation (though a lot of it has been replaced incompetently and actually lead to more work), most service sector jobs are entirely unnecessary but provide some convenience to those with money. Many engineering jobs are just repeating work that's been done before (but the information was lost, kept secret, or poorly maintained), a lot of the work that is necessary is done very inefficiently. Basically, the only reason most of us even have jobs is the greed or incompetence of some moneyed person or politician or criminal.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 14, 2014 @08:09AM (#45949549)

    What the poster however many levels up was getting at is that the USSR was communist in name only. It was really a totalitarian regime run by a small ruling class that used the peoples' clamouring for reform and the promise of communism as a means to take power for themselves and then do what they felt like with that power. It was not communism that killed millions of people, it was a sadistic totalitarian regime that did, and people that contiue to conflate communism with the USSR (or North Korea, or whatever other dictatorship that abuses the majority for the benefit of the few while calling itself socialist or communist) are ignorant at best, but more likely intentionally disingenuous.

  • by maple_shaft (1046302) on Tuesday January 14, 2014 @08:20AM (#45949599)

    Why don't we have 95% of the population exploring one branch of science or another? Why can't more books be written? More movies be done? More people help those who need help?

    With the exception of helping others, I think the real problem is that the remaining work to be done requires significant training, natural talent, or high intelligence. Most people don't possess these skills and are incapable of obtaining them with any amount of effort or drive. As sad as it sounds I very much believe we are reaching the upper limits on the capabilities of humanity as a whole.

    We see it plain as day in the software industry. Probably 8 out of 10 software developers or business analysts are completely incompetent and even with years of education and multiple certifications seem to be unable to not only be productive, but instead be a net drain on productivity and quality of software as a whole. Many of these people are doing this job because the demand for even mediocre software talent is so high and the lack of mindless blue collar work forces people into IT fields that they have no natural talent or ability for. Fifty years ago many of these people would be pushing brooms in a steel mill.

  • by AmiMoJo (196126) * <> on Tuesday January 14, 2014 @08:56AM (#45949805) Homepage

    More than half the population didn't work not too long ago. Between housewives and children less than 50% of people were employed, but a single person could provide for their family on an average wage. Wages have been depressed heavily since then so that a couple with children both need to work.

  • by Grishnakh (216268) on Tuesday January 14, 2014 @09:29AM (#45949969)

    Robots can't build real estate. Fundamentally, there's still a big problem of scarcity, no matter how much automation there is: even if all labor is automatable, there's three things which are scarce: raw materials (perhaps some of them rare, such as lithium, tantalum, etc.), energy, and real estate. The first two can be mitigated: we could build automated mining missions to mine asteroids or the Moon for more raw materials; and we can build better energy-collection systems to gather more energy (such as orbital photovoltaic stations). However, one thing you can never fully mitigate is the cost of real estate. There's only so much land area on the planet, and some of it is much more valuable than other parts. Everyone wants to live in a picturesque coastal location (or mountain location, etc.). No one wants to live in the middle of the Sahara, or in Fargo ND. And as the population expands, the demand for real estate rises and the value goes up. So money can never be obsolete, at least until the environment is wrecked and we all have to resign ourselves to living in pods in the Matrix.

  • by Lord Lemur (993283) on Tuesday January 14, 2014 @10:05AM (#45950231)

    Babies! Or, robot-miners that have already been paid for. Each generation builds on the last after all.

    In all seriousness the issue is Demand side for this problem. The price of labor per widget declines as the capitol cost per widget increases. That means that labor can buy fewer widgets per unit of labor even though the price of widgets may be falling. The demand for widgets declines as effiency increases, curtailing demand for more widgets and further depressing the need for Labor. The unit price of Labor declines. The iron law of wages would leave us to belive that the value of labor will move close to zero, and that is only if there is a method of employment. The barriers to entry climb as capitol requirements increase, preventing workers from migrating into job creators. There isn't an equalibrium if the price of Labor is zero and you keep a free market economy.

    So we either:
    a. Throw progress in reverse. - Insane and futile to attempt.
    b. Develop new things that people need to do to get compensated as Labor. - Looking at the trend in STEM wages, I'm guessing that direction isn't working so well.
    c. Develop a ways to share the benifits of the increase in return on Capitol. - Widely seen as theft, and amoral by the right.
    d. Curb population to decrease the Labor pool - Genocide is looked down on, generally.
    e. Accept that 98% of the population (in the US, EU and GB) is going to do worse then the generation before them, and the next will do worse then them. - Sad, but most likely outcome.
    f. Revolution! - It doesn't solve anything, but people really like a good revolution.

  • by CanHasDIY (1672858) on Tuesday January 14, 2014 @10:29AM (#45950521) Homepage Journal

    But the robots will be owned by someone who does want payments.

    Years ago "they" talked about how in the future machines would do the work, and our problem would be figuring out how to handle our leisure time. What appears to have happened is that the machines do the work, the machine owners capture the revenue, and all of that "free time" essentially translates to lack of income.

    To further clarify, there's a cultural issue - the concept of machines doing, literally, all the work doesn't mesh with the ideology of humanity in it's current iteration. We, as a species, put a certain value not on work itself, but on the mere fact that a person is doing some kind of at least somewhat meaningful job. If machines did all the work, everyone who didn't own machines would, essentially, be on welfare.

    Now, consider how the currently working population in general views people on welfare. It's not a flattering image - they're largely considered lazy, shiftless, ambition-less layabouts who would rather sit around a cracked-out government project smoking reefer and playing Call of Duty than bother to make something of themselves, and thus deserve less rights than everyone else. Not that this stereotype is universal, or even represents but a small minority of actual welfare recipients, but that's the common perception. You'll never convince society at large to accept this lifestyle as reasonable without a major sea change in how we view the non-working class, the world over.

    And, of course, there's the fact that since this system is born of capitalism, those who own the means of production are not going to give the fruits of their labors away in exchange for nothing. How does a person pay for things when there's no work to be paid for?

  • by CanHasDIY (1672858) on Tuesday January 14, 2014 @10:33AM (#45950563) Homepage Journal

    Ain't gonna happen. Robots/AI owners have no reason to share their wealth.

    Many people said the same thing about cars and computers: that only "the rich" would have them. It didn't turn out that way.

    It was that way at first, you know.

    But consider why it didn't stay that way - most people have jobs that provide them income with which they can purchase products like cars and computers.

    We're currently discussing the concept of no one having a job because machines do all the work. So how, precisely, are people supposed to own production machines if they have no income?

  • by kilfarsnar (561956) on Tuesday January 14, 2014 @11:11AM (#45951011)

    Except that they have nothing to lose by doing so. All it would take is a single person sharing their robot robot-builder. Money would be obsolete.

    And those who control the money and derive their power from it will fight to make sure that doesn't happen. Our situation is not the way it is by accident.

  • by noh8rz10 (2716597) on Tuesday January 14, 2014 @11:22AM (#45951133)

    With the exception of helping others, I think the real problem is that the remaining work to be done requires significant training, natural talent, or high intelligence.

    or interest! believe it or not 95% of people don't WANT to devote their lives to exploring the sciences!

  • by Immerman (2627577) on Tuesday January 14, 2014 @12:13PM (#45951703)

    We've also tried capitalism - that didn't work out as well as it did on paper either. And we've tried it a lot more often, and it always seems to break down in much the same way, so the evidence suggests that it's a systemic flaw rather than any implementation details (or feature, if you're one of the 0.1% that reaps most of the rewards).

    Communism works great on a small scale, and in fact is usually the default economic system for personal households and many tribe-sized social organizations like monasteries, etc. We've only tried a few times on a large scale and the results are heavily mixed - The Soviet Union didn't do so well, China on the other hand has incorporated a few capitalistic principles as well and seems to be doing quite well, though the proof will be what happens once it can't profitably siphon wealth from richer nations.

    And we have never, ever, even had the option before of trying Communism supplemented by a massive robotic workforce without desires or needs beyond energy and routine maintenance. We can say pretty certainly though that Capitalism will be an utter failure in such a scenario - a man can't survive in a capitalist society without some kind of capital of his own - take from him even the value of the sweat of his brow and he will starve to death.

"Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler." -- Albert Einstein