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Our Race with Machines


Our Race with Machines

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Steve Jones
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Comments posted to this topic are about the item Our Race with Machines

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Indianrock
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I wonder what ever happened to the Star Trek vision of humans prospering and in many cases being "released" from the drudgery of certain types of work by machines. Somehow we have to adapt our economic system so it doesn't just leave millions behind.
If we just subscribe to survival of the fittest, the fittest need to be prepared to put down revolutions.



jay-h
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Indianrock (5/8/2013)
I wonder what ever happened to the Star Trek vision of humans prospering and in many cases being "released" from the drudgery of certain types of work by machines. Somehow we have to adapt our economic system so it doesn't just leave millions behind.
If we just subscribe to survival of the fittest, the fittest need to be prepared to put down revolutions.


Actually machines HAVE reduced drudgery, and improved the safety and quality of work.

In the early days of the US over 90% of the population was engaged in farming and food production. It was physically tough work (our storybook image of sunshine filled family farms is largely fiction), that left little time for anything else.

Machines replaced much of that, to the extent that the country is well fed by less than 5% of the population now. The other labor did not become (at least not permanently) unemployment, but moved on to other productive areas. The average family, including the remaining farm families, have far more possessions and personal comforts than the days when it was hand labor.

And this continues to happen. As labor is freed up on one area, it eventually finds a new area of endeavor. Labor is the big, fixed value in the economy. There is only so much of it on the whole, and there is only so much that each individual can provide in exchange. The more productive the enconomy becomes, the more goods and services are available for the same labor input, and the wealthier the society actually is.

As much as we may complain about our jobs, they are vastly easier, safer, and less physically destructive than most occupations in the non industrialized world.

[This enables us to enjoy things at a different level. Steve has, I understand, horses and some crops that he enjoys recreationally precisely because there is no need to actually survive by means of them. Technology provides income, and equipment (trucks, tractors, pumps etc) that changes the character of even traditional activities]

...

-- FORTRAN manual for Xerox Computers --
Indianrock
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I'm not sure that those of in the technology field can really speak to what is going on with the unemployed who don't have the right skills and no clear path to get those skills.

In an ideal world, some portion of increased profits due to automation would be taxed or otherwise used for the common good. Many who were or would have been replaced by machines did migrate to other work -- but it seems like a bit of corporate-speak to think that takes care of everybody. Its not clear going forward that the "migration to other work" is going to absorb the displaced.

Perhaps even more important is globalization. Reminds me of the old book Player Piano by Kurt Vonnegut, but at least there, the 75% or so of the populace permanently replaced by machines were put on some sort of government dole, not just abandoned as excess human baggage.

We should all ask ourselves what we would do when unemployment compensation runs out, and there is no clear path to gainful employment -- let your children starve, or pick up a gun. Sounds radical, I know, but the question needs to be dealt with.



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Ray Kurzweil has spent almost half a century thinking about this topic (among other things, of course). There are some interesting insights and opinions in the documentary "Transcendent Man".

http://dvd.netflix.com/Movie/Transcendent-Man/70117003?strkid=1945800981_0_0&strackid=698ff63f4630e045_0_srl&trkid=222336
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One big solar flare or geo-magnetic storm would make most technology and machines today on earth useless. So, please remember that before you become too dependent on it or praise technology. You all need to keep things in context.:-D

"Technology is a weird thing. It brings you great gifts with one hand, and it stabs you in the back with the other. ...:-D"
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Indianrock (5/8/2013)
...
In an ideal world, some portion of increased profits due to automation would be taxed or otherwise used for the common good. Many who were or would have been replaced by machines did migrate to other work -- but it seems like a bit of corporate-speak to think that takes care of everybody. Its not clear going forward that the "migration to other work" is going to absorb the displaced.


In an ideal world, profit gets pumped back into the economy. To a reasonable degree this is true. Profits get invested, investment creates jobs. Even when profits go to shareholders, those shareholders normally invest what they get.


...Reminds me of the old book Player Piano by Kurt Vonnegut, but at least there, the 75% or so of the populace permanently replaced by machines were put on some sort of government dole, not just abandoned as excess human baggage.


This is an unsustainable and destructive situation. Government dole (while certainly necessary in short term situations) is a non-productive drag on the economy, devaluing money and reducing everyone's wealth. What is needed is to pump the now unused labor into new constructive activities. The 80+% who once were farming did not go into permanent umemployment, they started doing other things with their labor. Even in the last 50 or 60 years or so, houses have become larger and more luxurious (room air conditining was a luxury and whole house AC was only for very rich), two and more car families far more common, we went from one TV to multiple color TVs to houses with multiple entertainment and computer devices (I notice, even in relatively lower income areas nearby, kids sitting on porches playing with laptops, smartphones and vid games). The range of foods available in markets is vastly greater, yet we are spending a smaller percentage of our household income on food than a few decades ago. Local department stores carry swimsuits year round, because so many mainstream middle class people can afford winter travel to warm locales (when I was a kid, that was the exclusive domain of the wealthy). Productivity frees up labor to do other things, things that couldn't afford to be done previously.



We should all ask ourselves what we would do when unemployment compensation runs out, and there is no clear path to gainful employment -- let your children starve, or pick up a gun. Sounds radical, I know, but the question needs to be dealt with.



That's a false dichotomy. The correct approach is to channel automation profits into new enterprises and products.

...

-- FORTRAN manual for Xerox Computers --
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Indianrock (5/8/2013)
I'm not sure that those of in the technology field can really speak to what is going on with the unemployed who don't have the right skills and no clear path to get those skills.

In an ideal world, some portion of increased profits due to automation would be taxed or otherwise used for the common good. Many who were or would have been replaced by machines did migrate to other work -- but it seems like a bit of corporate-speak to think that takes care of everybody. Its not clear going forward that the "migration to other work" is going to absorb the displaced.

Perhaps even more important is globalization. Reminds me of the old book Player Piano by Kurt Vonnegut, but at least there, the 75% or so of the populace permanently replaced by machines were put on some sort of government dole, not just abandoned as excess human baggage.

We should all ask ourselves what we would do when unemployment compensation runs out, and there is no clear path to gainful employment -- let your children starve, or pick up a gun. Sounds radical, I know, but the question needs to be dealt with.



Picking up a gun isn't all that radical. I live in a state in the U.S. where hunting is common. I know several people who hunt to feed their families. Hunting and fishing are passed down the generations and many people can do it. Whether they like to is another matter. But, if forced to hunt and fish, they could feed entire neighborhoods. Add personal or community gardens to the mix and one could eat pretty well in bad times. I'm not saying it would be pleasant but liveable.

There is something that is happening in families that used to be common. Multiple generations are living in the same house. For some reason, the U.S. went away from that where every generation lived in their own home. Now, families are seeing the benefit in multi-generational households. That can reduce espenses in bad times.
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From an AI research project in college, I discovered that our distint advantage over machines isn't our ability to be precise, but our inability. Our minds often retrieve data in a mixed up method that leads to flashes of creativity.

Our inability becomes our greatest ability.

Machines do not do this well.
Steve Jones
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Larry.Thompson 62346 (5/8/2013)
From an AI research project in college, I discovered that our distint advantage over machines isn't our ability to be precise, but our inability. Our minds often retrieve data in a mixed up method that leads to flashes of creativity.

Our inability becomes our greatest ability.

Machines do not do this well.



That's very interesting and a great observation.

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