Mary Wakefield

I, robot. You, unemployed

The machines are taking over the world and we will be standing idly by

16 January 2016

9:00 AM

16 January 2016

9:00 AM

One evening last autumn, four experts in the field of artificial intelligence arrived in Westminster with an urgent message for our government. There’s a robot revolution on the way, they said, and unless we prepare for it we’re in trouble.

The briefing was a quiet affair — I was one of only a few journalists invited, for fear of headlines like ‘The Terminator is coming’. However, by the time the last A.I. expert had said his piece, it was hard to imagine how a hack could over-hype the story. Computers really are set to take over, it turns out. We’re rolling unstoppably towards servitude to machines.

The four experts spoke in turn, each about a different point in the future, like biblical prophets warning of the End Times. The most farseeing prophet was theoretically the most alarming. He talked about ‘the singularity’, the point at which a computer will be capable of recursive self-improvement; of designing and building machines cleverer than itself and far, far cleverer than us. He said this point might be only 45 years away.

How do we ensure these brilliant robots don’t turn against us? How do we program them to respect puny, human life? No one knows, said the prophet. No one’s come up with a way of teaching a computer human values, so should we let A.I. continue with no fail-safe? This is something for you to start considering (here he eyed the Westminster thinkers) right now, before it’s all too late.

I peered about in the hope of catching policy wonks scribbling memos such as: ‘Must action plan to prevent robot world domination.’ Both the wonk to my left and the right were playing on Twitter. It’s a fair bet that, come the robot revolution, our brightest minds will be too busy tweeting to notice.

The next seer had a less apocalyptic vision, but it was perhaps more frightening for being so immediate and inevitable. Within the next five years or so, he said, swaths of the jobs we take for granted will be done by robots — certainly the blue-collar ones: cleaning, washing up, driving vans, sorting post. He smiled. He was a very jolly prophet. I see it as a liberation, he said, a freeing of the toiling masses from manual labour. I saw it then, and still see it now, as a potential catastrophe.

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To grasp the scale of the problem and how very imminent it is, look at America. It is a continent defined and created by roads. In more than half of all US states, the top job, the one done by more people than any other, is truck-driving. There are 3.5 million truck drivers and a further 5.2 million employed in the trucking industry. Just think of all those men crisscrossing the country; rumbling from Savannah, Georgia to Sacramento, CA, sprinkling dollars like fish food along the way, in cafés, gas stations, motels. Whole towns depend on the appetites of truckers.

Now consider the fact that Daimler has just unveiled its first self-driving truck. The 18-wheel Inspiration has, on the quiet, been cruising the interstate highways with great success. It’s road-approved and, once purchased, needs no more than petrol money. Each human driver costs $40,000 a year.

The expert told us that many thousands of lives would be saved by robot trucks. He said 90 per cent of fatal accidents involving trucks were because of human error. I’m afraid this fills me with more gloom. Safer trucks mean lower insurance. Haulage companies stand to save billions, meaning mass redundancies are a done deal. I remember driving on Route 66 a decade or so ago, ogling the ghost towns that the interstate had bypassed in ’73. Pretty soon, more ghost towns will be created.

Hard on the heels of truckers will be waitresses and burger-flippers. A smart-alec company called Momentum Machines has announced that its robot can make a perfect hamburger — all toppings sliced, placed and cooked in less than half the time it takes a human. A burger every ten seconds — and no need to pay a machine, or let it smoke, pee or sleep.

‘The device isn’t meant to make employees more efficient, it’s meant to completely obviate them,’ says Momentum Machines. The nasty irony for America’s minimum wage earners, who’ve been striking recently for higher pay, is that the more they cost, the quicker they’ll be replaced by droids.

Bionic butlers, nannies, bionic legs, smart hearts, compliant robot sex dolls, robot nurses are already on the market. The revolution is here. Yes, technology is wonderful, it’s given us longer, happier lives. But what happens when the jobs begin to go? What will fill the yawning gap left by gainful employment?

The standard A.I. answer is that governments of the future will have to pay a ‘living wage’. Benefits such as pensions will have to be de-linked from earnings. Money for nothing and your beers for free. What of the self-worth work brings? What about what to do all day? Since that night last year, I’ve heard more than one A.I. expert suggest that most blue-collar workers will be thrilled at the chance to explore their creativity. There will be a surge in demand for handmade crafts, say some, as if several million former truckers have been waiting their whole lives for the chance to make rag rugs.

I’d like to say that, faced with this upheaval, a ripple of urgency went through our policy-makers. I’d like to tell you there was much talk afterwards about how the Tories’ great ‘make work pay’ programme was going to cope in this brave new world, about what students might do as starter jobs. I’d like to imagine that, since that night, a group of movers and shakers meet regularly to plan for the automated age — this was surely the reason the A.I. gurus had come. But I very much doubt it.

What I suspect the audience thought, if they paused for thought between tweets, is, ‘Thank God for that. Policy-making couldn’t possibly done by A.I.’

I wouldn’t be so sure of that. Imagine a robot with access to the entire internet; to the costs and findings of every policy ever enacted worldwide. Wonks, you’ll be first against the wall. Time to prepare.

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Show comments
  • davidshort10

    Great stuff. But I wish robots would take over the tasks that are put upon me almost every day now that secretaries and assistants don’t seem to exist any more. Photocopying and printing documents for one thing. And could a robot please scan my purchases at WH Smith and prevent the machine from telling me there is some unexpected item somewhere? And also put my passport in a slot that works at the airport.

    • Techutante

      One of the few jobs that will have security for a while is machine tenders.

      • davidshort10

        Until they have a machine to do it! I am reminded of the story of Henry Ford II in the early part of the last century showing a union leader around the factory and pointing to car making robots saying ‘they will never go on strike’ and the union man replying ‘they’ll never buy one of your cars, either’.

        • Techutante

          It’s a horse and buggy problem for sure. There’s no point in making anything if nobody can buy it. So everyone will have to go on a stipend and will probably be as poor as ever, but fortunately the machines will have made everything so cheap that you’ll still be able to afford most of the things in life, aside from the mega-millions line of stuff.

          • William556

            A Basic Income Guarantee would be unsustainable on such a large scale. Social Services are already breaking the Western budget, and if they were extended to 50%, or even 100%, of the people, there would be no way to pay for it. If robots made everything so cheaply, then there would be little tax revenue coming in, and if government started taxing robot labor like human labor, very quickly robots would lose most of their advantage.

            That means government would have to print the money and that would mean constant inflation. Regardless of how cheap things might be to production, and I think that is highly overstated given the whole chain of production, it still wouldn’t matter because inflation would keep pushing prices up. That would mean increasing the monthly dole, which would only increase inflation, and round and round.

            Machines will also replace white collar jobs as well, though not very well. Machines already do a lot of the trading on Wall Street and we’ve all likely had experience with robot help lines for tech support, etc., and that is usually slower and more frustrating that it is dealing with a human.

            I think it will be less what is seen in Star Trek and more like in many dystopian novels where society backslides into more listlessness, chaos, and violence. This might go to the point that the AIs decide to mass medicate everyone.

          • douglas redmayne

            What’s wrong with mass litkessness and medication? Life would be less stressful than now. Also why should printing money cause inflation if production costs are effectively zero? £359 bn of quantitative easing has yet to show up in rpi.

          • Weaver

            Williams inflation bit is just nuts. He doesn’t understand that supply shocks like this are profoundly deflationary. I don’t think he’s got an econ degree, to be fair.

          • Todd Unctious

            Huge oversupply is it too. The Baltic Dry index is down from 1220 to 380 in less than 6 months. Cheap oil, too many big new ships, too little trade. The media will not tell us this. They will conspire with Osborne’s lies. We have deflation, excess Government borrowing and crony capitalism leaders.

          • Weaver

            Almost none of that follows from the economics. Why are robots different from any other standard positive supply shock and increased returns to capital? There’s absolutely no reason at all a welfare/ transfer model would not work, even if all human labour is zero marginal product.

            We already have a whole load of ZMP workers; we call them pensioners.

          • douglas redmayne

            That is the future.

          • Weaver

            Econ Fallacy.

            It may move power from labour to the owners of capital, but this transformation says nothing about aggregate demand. Econ 201…you did that, right?

          • Techutante

            This is a meaningless statement. >.> What, pray tell, did you add to the conversation with this burble of econ vocabulary? This is the type of generalistic comment I’d see on a facebook post followed by a link to someone’s scam website, posted by a bot.

          • Weaver

            I’m real, and have an economics degree. What about you? Any econ qualifications?

            Improving robot tech (or any new production technology) increases returns to capital relative to labour. Right? Capital intensive production becomes more attractive and wages or employment are reduced. Prices also fall, and the supply curve shifts outwards.

            Very, very, very, very, basic economics. Right?

            But none of this effects the demand curves for robot products. It will tend to move money from people who own robot business (or shares in such enterprises) from people who don’t, but it doesn’t tell you that anyone will become absolutely worse off, even without a stipend. It doesn’t even tell you the demand curve changes if wealth becomes more concentrated in fewer hands.

            Remember, falling prices will to a greater extent compensate workers for the loss of wages; you have to really push the marginal value of human labour down to zero to get to a “robot owners have all the money” scenario. (And frankly, that will never happen; there will be prestige value in having human servants and flunkies).

            And robot owners will still presumably buy things from each other….

          • Techutante

            Econ is largely a hobby of mine, although I have a degree in Business Admin/Entrepreneurship so it’s related. I’m also an avid futurist.

            What you say is already largely the case in society, the only difference is there are not many robots yet. At the present, the work that robots would be doing at next to nothing is being done by foreign nationals.

            http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2016/01/super-rich-62-people-world-160118033855025.html

            To make a world in which everyone has a “living wage” work, you would essentially have to dismantle the capitalist economy. You’d be wanting primarily manufacturing on demand, not make a million and see how many sell, or the efficiency of production would swamp you in unwanted (and unsellable) products.

            The government, or world government, would have to take over the primary reins of control on robotic production. Without a large tax base, control of the production base would sustain government services. Since everyone would be given capital by the state, and would be paying that capital back to the state for living expenses and desires, the economy becomes something of a zero sum game. Natural resources are already basically owned by the government, so it would just cut out a step if the government owned the robots extracting them as well as the printers manufacturing with them. Efficiency of scale and all that.

            And yeah, a lot of people will still want to earn more money than they are provided with, or chits or whatever you want to call future not-really-money. So they would be happy to be artists, inventors, closet tinkerers, and yes, presumably servants too. There’s some pride in the service industry yet, at the higher end. People would have fancy catered parties still, and the fancier ones would want humans rather than androids or robots carrying the drinks around, for the atmosphere.

            Probably, if we established some sort of space industry, there would be rugged capitalism in the solar system, if not on the planet, unless the mother Earth funded constant resource exploitation of the belts and planets.

          • Weaver

            Well, Banksian futurist, eh?

            To make a world in which everyone has a “living wage” work, you would essentially have to dismantle the capitalist economy. You’d be wanting primarily manufacturing on demand, not make a million and see how many sell, or the efficiency of production would swamp you in unwanted (and unsellable) products.

            But none of this follows. Seriously; its just one non-sequitor after another. For starters, why can’t capitalist manufacture on demand? Also, its perfectly possible to have future capitalist states where everyone has sufficient invested capital to draw a “living wage” from dividends (Whatever that weasel term means).

            “The government, or world government, would have to take over the primary reins of control on robotic production. Without a large tax base, control of the production base would sustain government services. Since everyone would be given capital by the state, and would be paying that capital back to the state for living expenses and desires, the economy becomes something of a zero sum game. Natural resources are already basically owned by the government, so it would just cut out a step if the government owned the robots extracting them as well as the printers manufacturing with them. Efficiency of scale and all that.”

            I’m sorry, I know what you’re getting at, this plan is not original. And I mean really, really, not original. A futurist should recognise a future which is over 100 years old. This system will fall over. Here are the standard (I.e. stuff in textbooks for the last 80 years) responses:

            1) Massive corruption/conflict within the “government” for control of the resourcing process. (Think North Korea – when you make the state the sole source of rents, all efforts are devoted to seizing control of the state. Public Choice 101).
            2) No price mechanism; waste will be endemic. The information problem.
            3) Initial budgets will be unstable in the face of third party-transfers or savings. Basically, you’ll have rich and poor again within a week.

            Also, you use the terms “zero sum game” and “efficiency (sic) of scale” incorrectly here.

            Look, in a kindly way, I recommend you take a formal course in Econ. The stuff you’ve picked up is substantively wrong and not believed by the vast majority of economists. To be honest it looks like a primer in Marxism 101, and that’s not really an economics education. At the very least read the detailed critiques of Marxism including the information problem.

          • Techutante

            That’s mostly an initial ramble off the top of my head. *Economy of scale yes sorry, I have a synonym swapping problem in my head. I often get a not quite right substitution when I’m jotting off the top of my head. Also, I used zero sum game correctly, the inputs match the outputs because they originate from and eventually return to the same source. There wouldn’t really be a lot of hoarding of income in a future where you’re guaranteed a regular paycheck, just enough to pay for the occasional larger purchase or requisition from the supply base. After a generation or so when people who are used to unstable income have been removed from the “workforce”. (countering your third bullet point)

            Presumably in such a world personal savings would be considered to be absorbed back into the government coffers, in the cause of making everyone equal. I’m not saying I’d really enjoy that future precisely, I’m actually fairly well off, so I would probably be lessened by a leveling of that sort.

            In any case, I’m just spit-balling on the future. One thing leads to another and so on. Obviously in the realistic world, where we are headed is abject poverty on a massive scale, with a probably less than 1% upper crust that either rules or just does whatever it wants. We’re pretty close to there already. Your textbook response #1 is pretty much invalid in the face of that pretty much already being the case. It will probably always be the case on some scale. Every petty office warlord has some sort of power, some perks, and it makes their life interesting. There is undoubtedly a challenge in balancing personal incentive versus public welfare, as usual.

            Your textbook response #2 is pretty much invalidated by, again, the already endemic waste. As much as 60% of our food supply is generated just to be thrown away. There are billions of unsold plastic trinkets, non-digital media, computer parts, appliances, and so on. Some of the resources to generate those products are common and virtually worthless, but produce pollution to manufacture. Some of them are filled with gold and silver and rare earth elements that may of cost as much as a life per product, incidentally, from stress or extreme environmental degradation and unsafe working conditions.

            Of course, if everyone could buy everything demand would go up, yes I know that too. Products will get cheaper, less resource inefficient to produce, more recyclable. This won’t for sure be a good thing either, as quality is the hallmark of some of the things we enjoy the most.

            We haven’t even talked about population problems in such a world of course, or if they would self correct if we gave everyone and education and said no more than 2 kids unless you are a certified genius. (A traditional sci-fi solution to the problem.)

          • Weaver

            Thanks,

            Respectfully; I know my way about game theory pretty well and this is NOT a zero sum GAME. There is no strategy element or players to make it a game. I think you mean “steady state” or “zero growth” economy instead.

            Your post deserves a thoughtful reply though. Later.

          • Weaver

            Techuante

            Respectfully, there’s a real mix of errors here. Some things are simply factually wrong; those are easy to fix. But most of your argument fails due to logical non-sequitors; you believe things that don’t logically follow from your previous statements. Again, this may be due to a lack of a formal econ education; it would help you formalise your arguments and use tighter definitions of terms, and make the syllogism a bit more obvious.

            > There wouldn’t really be a lot of hoarding of income in a future where you’re guaranteed a regular paycheck, just enough to pay for the occasional larger purchase or requisition from the supply base

            I’m afraid this is a total non-sequitor. Formally; why would the savings rate –> zero if everyone got the same rationed income? Even a generous one? It simply doesn’t follow at all. No reference to income level or real interest rates….

            >Obviously in the realistic world, where we are headed is abject poverty on a massive scale, with a probably less than 1% upper crust that either rules or just does whatever it wants. We’re pretty close to there already.

            This is simply completely untrue, though widely believed outside the economic profession. All measures of human wealth inequality and poverty are trending down and have been for decades, and absolute poverty is falling as both a percentage world population and absolute number. Economic history 101 stuff; this is why you should take a proper course!

            http://ourworldindata.org/data/growth-and-distribution-of-prosperity/world-poverty/

            > Your textbook response #1 is pretty much invalid in the face of that pretty much already being the case. It will probably always be the case on some scale. Every petty office warlord has some sort of power, some perks, and it makes their life interesting. There is undoubtedly a challenge in balancing personal incentive versus public welfare, as usual.

            The problem here is the logical construction of argument; there isn’t one. Your sentence 1 in above para simply does not follow from your previous statements on income inequality and poverty (which are false, in any event, but the real problem is that they have no logical relationship – your syllogism is missing intermediate terms; “If all cats are Chinese then today is Tuesday” sort of stuff.)

            >Your textbook response #2 is pretty much invalidated by, again, the already endemic waste. As much as 60% of our food supply is generated just to be thrown away. There are billions of unsold plastic trinkets, non-digital media, computer parts, appliances, and so on. Some of the resources to generate those products are common and virtually worthless, but produce pollution to manufacture. Some of them are filled with gold and silver and rare earth elements that may have cost as much as a life per product, incidentally, from stress or extreme environmental degradation and unsafe working conditions.

            Well, IIRC, I think the food waste proportions for the west are actually about 35%, and most of this is post-consumer (so super-efficient production would NOT help at all! The production chain is very efficient already – do you really know your way around food economics?) But I won’t quibble. The problem here is again logical construction of argument. If you’d permit me to parse for you:

            1) Current practises are wasteful (to some meaning of wasteful)

            2) Current practises are capitalist

            3) Therefore a central planner with robots will do better.

            “3” simply does not follow from “1” and “2”. There’s simply no logical connection; you just segue into a discursion on waste without addressing the information problem faced by a central planner. Now, you may have an argument that “on demand manufacture is less wasteful”, but totally fail to show such a system wouldn’t or couldn’t be better implemented by capitalists (who, I repeat, are doing it already) rather than some benevolent government.

            >Of course, if everyone could buy everything demand would go up, yes I know that too. Products will get cheaper, less resource inefficient to produce, more recyclable. This won’t for sure be a good thing either, as quality is the hallmark of some of the things we enjoy the most.

            First bit is broadly ok, but I’m afraid you have a basic confusion about quantity / quality terms in economics. There is no necessary trade off between the two, and formally an increase in supply means quality remains the same, Ceteris Paribus. Unless you were making some kind of elliptical point about rivalrous luxury goods, (“Urgh – Flying is just not the same now that everyone has a private jet, Darling”) but I don’t think so….

            >We haven’t even talked about population problems in such a world of course, or if they would self correct if we gave everyone and education and said no more than 2 kids unless you are a certified genius. (A traditional sci-fi solution to the problem.)
            One of the enduring problems of sci-fi is its common failure to model human behaviour and society in realistic ways whilst changing the technological means; to assume that social problems have technological/planning solutions. As you raised overpopulation, have you ever read “The Lathe of Heaven?” 🙂

            Anyway, thanks for the civil reply; there’s a lot here to cover and I don’t intend to be too didactic. I just think you would enjoy taking a formal course in economics to clear up some misapprehensions here and tighten up your arguments.

        • greencoat

          The version I heard involved a fellow trying to persuade Henry Ford to buy a labour-saving production tool.

          ‘It does the work of five men,’ said the salesman.
          ‘Yeah?’ said Ford. ‘Any how many cars does it buy?’

          • Weaver

            Yes, and this is probably anecdotal and certainly a fallacy from Ford.
            His wages were good, but were not sufficient for his average employee to buy one of his cars. Ford’s workers, in any event, were only a small proportion of the total US consumer market. If Ford depended upon his workers for a significant share of his sales, he would have been bankrupt in a week.

    • davidshort10

      In the meantime, I will make sure I buy my books and newspapers from an independent store before going to the airport. I suggest the rest of you do the same and remember that the London News Company is WH Smith. Time for a government that believes in competition and ensures there are two differently owned newsagents and pharmacies at airports.

      • Brian Jones

        The government don’t decide what shops are allowed at airports that’s the airport owners.

        • davidshort10

          Don’t be silly. A government can change this unacceptable state of affairs if it wants to.

          • http://edomacalister.wordpress.com/ forever_rachel

            Why would they, while they can get, hmm, contributions, from the monopolist company? lol

  • Bob339

    Robots will only do the jobs that migrants are now doing. Anyone thought that through?

    • douglas redmayne

      Yes and it is a good point.

    • Brian Jones

      Except of course that robots have been replacing humans in industry for decades particularly in production environments. The motor industry has been doing it for almost as long as I can remember.

      • gunnerbear

        Not just robots but technology in general. Near where I live, until the ’80s there used to be in effect 4 steelworks employing around 35,000 people…..now there is one, employing around 3,800 and it makes more in total, to higher standards, than the original 4 ever did.

    • Thanks Tank

      Not so, mid level jobs are going to be affected as well.

      Look at the list of jobs Bill Gates predicted to be be done my robots/computers in decades to come.

      Many professional jobs will go as well.

      • Weaver

        I can live with that. I dislike overpaying for professional help as much as I dislike overpaying for tradesmen.

        Move up the value chain.

  • Cobbett

    Create robots/computers that can make humans totally redundant..makes perfect sense.

  • Bluesman_1

    So we don’t have to worry about our ageing and shrinking population then?

    • Pioneer

      Of course you don’t have to worry about that. A smaller population is the way to go

    • Hagen vanTronje

      If you look at the vast numbers of black skinned and coloureds in our primary schools then you will see what Blair and his successor Cameron planned for Britain.
      By 2050 we will have a larger population than Germany, this statistic so alarmed Merkel that she decided to import a million fast-breeders just to keep the numbers up.
      That’s Globalism for you.

  • UnionPacificRX

    Since these machines mimic humans laws have to be passed clearly stating the impact they would have on mankind. The more “human” they become the more regulations as to what they can do.
    There are a number of jobs that are hazardous to human including toxic cleanup, waste management, mining (undersea and out of space) etc. that Robots can do. They even can be a new add on to a car to repair it when it breaks down.
    But like any technology that has the capacity to change society in fundamental manner, laws have to be created and enforced for the betterment of mankind.

    • gunnerbear

      “Ladies and Gentlemen….I give you the Nexus Six…..” 🙂

      • UnionPacificRX

        Does the “Nexus Six” abide by the laws of man? if it does not please take this machine back to the assembly line

        • gunnerbear

          I’m not sure that the Nexus Six types would buy into that….. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eogpIG53Cis

          • UnionPacificRX

            IT is subservient to the mind, soul and spirit of mankind. IT was created by Man and IT can be destroyed by Mankind. The worst IT will become irrelevant to Mankind.

    • Johnny Foreigner

      You really think they will recognise and comply with our laws?

      • UnionPacificRX

        There are 2 aspects to Laws
        Passing them
        and
        Enforcing them.
        there were 3 types of Government
        One that had few laws but enforced all of them. That was the Roman Empire
        One that had a lot of laws but enforced few of them. that was the British Empire
        One that had a lot of laws but enforced all of them That is the USA
        I will add one more
        One that has a lot of laws but does not enforce them. That is India.

        • Todd Unctious

          Excellent post. Spot on. There is a fifth. No laws at all, Somalia.

          • UnionPacificRX

            There are always laws, even in chaos. But true
            As for Johnny foreigner and the concept of the Robot mankind continues to evolve. It is my opinion that we will soon “engineer” our evolution. Then the need for Robots and that field of technology becomes an “apendage” to our deliberate evolutionary process
            Need to grow your own limbs after losing them? there are animals with the genetic material that can be retrofitted so we can do the same. That also goes for
            breathing under water with lungs that can filter oxygen from water
            Capacity to avoid Hypothermia as in Fish
            regrow teeth as in Sharks
            etc. the human race can evolve faster and more acutely than the field of Robots.

          • http://edomacalister.wordpress.com/ forever_rachel

            Problem is, humanity will use such kind of power to continue and highen the struggle for supremacy and command, rather than what you foresee.

          • UnionPacificRX

            The aspect that makes humans unique is the development of the brain. to date, it is the best “computer’ ever created,

            what I was saying is ‘engineered evolution”. there are times in evolution when it takes a leap. Humans are that “leap”. When we can engineer our evolution, the field of robots, genetics, nanotechnology, and Physics, biotechnology, will merge

            as for “problems” everything we have done so far comes with its own set of problems. overcoming them is yet another way to evolve. A scientist never makes a mistake. That scientists simply learns not to do it that way,. and try another method. the :”mistake” then becomes a lesson.

          • UnionPacificRX

            I would not knock “supremacy” and “command” that much for they are the qualities of leadership.
            Just thought of something. Our concept of the divine has those qualities and we admire them.

          • http://edomacalister.wordpress.com/ forever_rachel

            Of course, divinity has always been a projection of our wishes, hopes, wills, and likes.

          • UnionPacificRX

            yeah but I have theory about that. It is kind of Schizophrenic in concept.
            first you truly have to believe in the Divine.
            Second you have to do what it takes to reach the goals set by that divine.
            example. In order for you to “go home” you have to believe you have a home to go. In the process you invent the laws, lay the infrastructure, and do all the scientific things to get to your “home” once you reach that place you may or may not find it exists,
            but then you look back at what you achieved in order to get there and you are amazed

            for 4 thousand years the Egyptians spent a good deal of their time preparing for the after life. from that sprang the Ziggurats. Pyramids, vast temples, art and architecture that went on to influence Greece and Rome. Then they eventually died off (around 600 AD when the last temple to Osiris fell). Now their Gods are nothing but museum pieces and their greatest achievements are the heritage of mankind. I really do not know if Ra to Osiris to ISIS to Seth are really Gods like ours. But they believed it and look at what they achieved.

            But the trick for me is to know and to believe.

          • http://edomacalister.wordpress.com/ forever_rachel

            You may find

            Mortality, Immortality and Other Life Strategies by Baumann an interesting read — if you haven’t read it already

          • UnionPacificRX

            I love to read study learn One time in California when I was selling my art at a very high price a lady who was the CEO of many companies, was asked if I should be sent to an art school. her reply was why do that for it will only limit him.

          • http://edomacalister.wordpress.com/ forever_rachel

            She was wise 😉

          • UnionPacificRX

            Yes she was. She was a black lady who was married to a white man way back in the 1940’s She came from a rich Texas oil family and her husband was a journalist and writer in China at that time
            Their house was similar to a museum of great collections. They went through extremely difficult times being of mixed races, but they were inseparable. When he died she lived for another 6 to 8 months (I believe) before she passed away.

          • http://edomacalister.wordpress.com/ forever_rachel

            Of course having a faith is essential. The advanced social classed of the advanced West have got the only one that leads to fading away: nihilism, the faith that everything is nothing, that the being is non-being

            All other faiths help to live amd overcome opposition as well as opponents.

          • UnionPacificRX

            A version of Nihilism is the essence of Zen Buddhism. to empty the mind, to still the breath is powerful for it is supposed to lead to the realization of the divine within us. (not a divine being separate from us though that too can exist but most of us concentrate on that and not :”this”

            Being “mindfulness” is the center of modern life. to be focused on what you are doing and yet fully aware of your surroundings means training the mind. that is very hard to do. It does not negate faith.

          • http://edomacalister.wordpress.com/ forever_rachel

            All of what you said is out of the reach of: masses; vanity-driven peolpe (the large majority of the elites). Not going to save the West.

          • UnionPacificRX

            I did not know our chat concerned the masses. It was just an exchange of ideas. We could have been discussing about how to use Chop Sticks or why Ballerina’s dance of their tippy toes.

    • http://edomacalister.wordpress.com/ forever_rachel

      Until the Singularity will occur, and they’ll start to regulate humans. Lol

      • UnionPacificRX

        No it will not. Take our chat. the moment you presented that aspect I negated it. Humans do not usually comply that completely; we question everything. and perfection is simply a goal. We are never satisfied with the status quo and always want to change something. Humans are probably the most incorrigable species that has ever evolved on this planet. (i really do not know of other species millions of years ago so it is a guess)

  • douglas redmayne

    This is good news because it means we don’t have to import immigrants. It also means that the marginal cost of production will be zero so the government can give every free money to purchase goods. It also means that I will have a robot to care for me in old age and I won’t need to draw my own bath. Typical of privileged reactionary turds like Mary Wakefield wanting to stop it: she probably hates the idea of poor people having servants.

    • Johnny Foreigner

      Mary a turd? Bit harsh don’t you think?
      For God’s sake Redmayne take that dress off.

    • Weaver

      But think what that dreadful automobile did for her ostler and local farrier!

    • http://edomacalister.wordpress.com/ forever_rachel

      You are joking, aren’t you.

  • John Andrews

    There is nothing new about this. It happened with the plough and the spinning jenny. Then Leon Bagrit delievered the 1964 Reith lectures on The Age of Automation.

    • http://edomacalister.wordpress.com/ forever_rachel

      What’s going to be quite now, if I can say so, is the Singularity. I bet you have never heard of it — or could you sound so relaxed?

  • Sue Smith

    Cf Charles Chaplin “Modern Times”. And not ‘idly by’ exactly; far from it. More like ‘dangerously ideologically by’.

  • Eques

    “This is something for you to start considering (here he eyed the Westminster thinkers) right now, before it’s all too late”

    Ha ha ha

    To think that mere governments have any say in things like this is like thinking that ants had any say in the ascent of man.

  • jeremy Morfey

    The new technology that must be understood and improved is human/machine interface. Never mind about speaking to interstellar aliens “take me to your leader”, we need to be able to relate and communicate with these robots while we still can, and can still guide their progress benignly.

    Which hits the first problem. Is human progress that benign? There are those who actually believe that Islamism represent a purer form of humanity than anything else. What if they get to the robots and guide them before we do, because we don’t like to get too deep about these things, and much prefer ideas that can be kept to 140 characters? Twitter has made us stupid, which is one reason I choose to comment in prose, and am sometimes heavily criticised for doing so.

    The other thing concerns our capacity in a commercial global free market to improve on human/machine interface. Take for example the Windows operating system. Few would argue that XP,’s human interface which is now 15 years old, has been improved on in later versions of Windows. Commercial interests and loss of coding skills in a new generation have all taken a toll. I certainly find XP easier to live with. It does what I want it to do, rather than telling me what it thinks I should be wanting of it, and not offering any alternative I can work out.

    Even the simple phone, whose handset in the 1950s could be perched between head and shoulder, is now a cumbersome slab now that it tries to do the same job as a laptop with a screen and keyboard far easier to read and type on. How far must we compromise the interface simply to provide a machine that will sell, and find ourselves then at a serious disadvantage when negotiating the terms of our own viability with the machine?

    • douglas redmayne

      We will get robotics before Islam and we can the build an army to annihilate them without risk to ourselves.

      • jeremy Morfey

        Is that before or after the Islamists hack our robots and turn them on us? They already do a pretty nifty job of YouTube propaganda.

        • Rex

          Posting videos on Youtube equates with elite hacking skills now?

  • Weaver

    Wow. Mary Wakefield needs to be taken to a small, dark, room and taught basic economics.

    Oooh; the machines are taking jobs and liberating people to go and do something else. How terrible. Look at how the automobile made all those ostlers and farriers unemployed. We should probably ban that too whilst we are at it. The whole article is mostly one long “broken window fallacy”. (“Dollars like fish food along the way….whole towns depends upon the appetites of truckers”)

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parable_of_the_broken_window

    Also, she needs to understand how public traded companies work. Does she think they pile the notes up in the personal vault of Scrooge McDuck? Those new billions in corporate profits she deplores are her pension scheme.

    • Hagen vanTronje

      “”Look at how the automobile made all those ostlers and farriers unemployed

      Look at how the Musket made Mr. Fletcher, Mr. Bowyer and Mr. Arbalast unemployed. !

    • http://edomacalister.wordpress.com/ forever_rachel

      By far and large it’s not as simple as you envisage it.

  • Brian Jones

    It started with using machines to do the unpleasant jobs and the rest was , and is , simply natural development which has been happening since the invention of the cotton gin. The problem now is that with computers people are able to design more efficient equipment more quickly.

    • jeremy Morfey

      Indeed. They will also soon be able to design better people than we can. Did you watch that much-hyped Channel 4 series ‘Humans’, and the interplay between the very beautiful robot who was a much better wife and mother than the real one, who was actually quite toned down from the assertively-trained feminist career woman humanity normally now has to offer a man for companionship, if she deigns to accept him for a while as a recreational facility or sperm donor? Programmed love is better than no love at all.

      There was an article here about China’s One Child policy and the traditional practice of strangling baby girls at birth. This has led to tens of millions of Chinamen unable to find wives, and who might themselves be content with a robot. There is a culture of Japanese men who already prefer virtual companions, even before robotics has made them humanly tactile.

  • Harryagain

    This idea has been around in science fiction for around a hundred years.
    So, nothing new.
    It was assumed that the result would be everyone working a five hour week.
    Not 90% of the population being unemployed while 10% lord it over the rest.
    But the five hour week is the one to aim for.
    And robot workers in China are no cheaper than robot workers over here.

    • jeremy Morfey

      Where does our beloved high bonus and tax cuts for the hardworking executive, and welfare sanctions and Council Tax for the feckless fit in? We keep voting for this formula don’t we?

  • http://www.ukipforbritain.co.uk/ ukipforbritainwebsite

    If true, then the main argument of this piece provies that mass immigration is insanity.

    • douglas redmayne

      Indeed

    • http://edomacalister.wordpress.com/ forever_rachel

      It’s an invasion, not immigration.

  • douglas redmayne

    We are better at hacking than them thank god. I can’t wait for my personal servant in 20 years tine: aligns well to my retirement

  • Tamerlane

    I have been hearing this cr@p, or a variation on it, for as far back as I can remember. I’ll bet there are articles like this stretching right back to the 1930s. Can we please move on from this sort of thing? Nothing like a slick presentation to put the fear of God in people (and hands in deep investment pockets) but a little perspective please.

  • Tuskar Rock

    They work, they should be taxed – just like everything else.

  • Chris Hobson

    Good they will churn out products and services for nothing. Then we get a universal basic income in place and voila utopia….

    • http://edomacalister.wordpress.com/ forever_rachel

      Heaven would be possible.. if only there were no humans to prevent it from existing ;).

  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frédéric_Bastiat#Views Andrew ✓ᵛᵉʳᶦᶠᶦᵉᵈ

    Automation and labour saving inventions have enriched our lives immeasurably. Work sucks, we all have better things we’d rather do than labour 8+ hours a day away from a friends and families. Imagine a robot that could do all the labour, we’d have so much more free time to pursue our passions!

    • Cobbett

      And where will the money come from?

      • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frédéric_Bastiat#Views Andrew ✓ᵛᵉʳᶦᶠᶦᵉᵈ

        Eh, what do you mean?

        • Cobbett

          If robots do all the work how will the multitude earn a living?

          • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frédéric_Bastiat#Views Andrew ✓ᵛᵉʳᶦᶠᶦᵉᵈ

            In a utopia of robots do all the work, why do you need money to buy things produced for free?

          • Cobbett

            So, you think it will be free do you? Private companies investing billions for the common good…

          • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frédéric_Bastiat#Views Andrew ✓ᵛᵉʳᶦᶠᶦᵉᵈ

            A business can only get profit by pleasing you, or do you reward businesses with profit who don’t please you over those willing to?

          • Cobbett

            If I don’t have any income due to automation then it’s not going to be an issue.

          • doodaa

            Recreational drugs(among other things)will be very, very popular. The black market will be booming.

          • Weaver

            I will employ you at 1p/hour to stand with a sign saying “Zero Marginal Product Workers is a stupid theory”. That 1p will then allow you to go off and buy yourself a robot-built house or something.

          • http://edomacalister.wordpress.com/ forever_rachel

            lol

          • Cobbett

            What’s that…cretin?

          • http://edomacalister.wordpress.com/ forever_rachel

            I guess it’s a cretin. Usually, people who first resort to words like “cretin” are just cretins. Life happens to be simple.

          • Zalacain

            Well, Google and Facebook are free. How many man made things were free 50 years ago compared to now?

          • Cobbett

            What about mortgages/rent/food? That has to be paid for.

          • http://iteror.blogspot.nl/ F Gerard Lelieveld

            Interesting question!
            “How many man made things were free 50 years ago compared to now?”
            Airplane meals is the best example the Google robot found on the web.
            http://www.moneytalksnews.com/15-things-that-used-free-but-now-cost-money/
            Not really free of course, as flying became a lot cheaper by dropping the extras.

          • Weaver

            The generic reply to this non-problem.

            1. Prices will fall faster than wages. Unless you can make the vast majority of humanity literally worthless, this is a non-problem (note that I can think of lots of things for people to do at 1p/hour, so frankly I don’t think you can get to zero marginal product workers).

            2. It’s not a straight split between displaced workers and robot capitalists. Workers can own capital too and share the profits of the robot revolution. Relatively small sums of capital may be enough for people to live their whole lives without working.

      • Marvin

        Corbyn and Livingstone have it all sorted out. They tax the wealthy, but find that they have all left this cesspit, and sell Trident to ISIS, and put all 150million people on benefits. SIMPLES!

      • http://edomacalister.wordpress.com/ forever_rachel

        Who says money will be need any longer? If we return to masters (owners of machines) and slaves (the rest of population) all goods can belong to the former. As it has been for many centuries in the West, and still is in other areas of the world.

      • Zalacain

        Money is just a way of measuring wealth. If wealth is created by robots, the problem then becomes one of distribution.

  • Nick the Greek

    In the near (foreseable) future, everything gets automated…robotics take over everything, from manufacturing to construction and from road transportation to air travel – life won’t be too bad though, believe me!

    Work shall be a thing of the past for a great many people. Civil society will learn to live (function) without work. The working day shall be replaced with leisure day(s) – free time for all. Volunteering one’s talents and skills for good causes shall keep the caring and kind-hearted busy, whilst those who don’t care, get to spend their free time as they wish. Learning institutions and Leisure industries thrive, but they are not cheap. In this future to come, money and wages still exists, banks too. Leisure taxes exist for sure.

    Benefits, unemployment benefit and other similar (support) type benefits will be replaced with one ‘Universal Civil Society Credit’ payable to everyone on weekly or monthly basis, straight into your bank account. You can even supplement your ‘UCSC’ income by trading in goods and services that you created.

    This future to come is bright because you live to work…not work to live!

    • Marvin

      Sounds like Utopia, but the planet will be destroyed by a sandstorm of primitive medieval savages encouraged and invited into the midst of ignorant civilised extreme left wing suicidal fools and will be engulfed and destroyed for the simple reason that they have not inherited the altruistic bleeding culture of their victims.

    • michael t

      And, who pays into the Universal Civil Society Credit, and where does that money come from ?
      Really ?

  • Grandito

    My car has AI. When I turn the wheel to the left the car knows to turn to the left also. When I press my brakes the car knows to turn on the brake lights. Having designed and programmed embedded computer systems I would like to assure the gullible that the AI exhibited by computers is no nearer actual intelligence than that exhibited by my car. Most people can grasp that there is no genuine intelligence in a car or relatively simple electronic devices (your heating system does not actually decide it is too cold and turn on the heating) but many are willing to believe there is some kind of intelligence within computer systems because they have no idea how they operate. There isn’t any intelligence though.. There isn’t any. None whatsoever.
    There are no robots that can clean your house and there won’t be robots that can clean your house in the foreseeable future. Aside from the fact that there are no robots around that can even navigate a typical domestic environment, there is no computer that can decide what is and is not dirty, what kind of cleaning action is appropriate (scrubbing, brushing, dusting, wiping etc) that can go and fetch a cloth or select the appropriate cleaning fluids, that can do that extra bit of scrubbing needed in the corner of the window sash, that could differentiate between paint showing through and actual dirt or that could decide what needs to be thrown away or put away or determine where to put it. The lowest of low-grade morons is capable of cleaning your house better than any robot and things are going to stay that way for a very long time indeed.
    Driverless cars already exist but of course there is no real intelligence there, artificial or otherwise, and for that reason they are likely to be restricted to motorways – you need genuine intelligence (conciousness) to drive safely on all roads and take the correct course of action in real world situations because the real world is just so incredibly complex.
    This article is nothing more than sensationalist tripe.

    • Weaver

      The robot technology we have NOW would have appeared magical to people in 1915. When did Metropolis come out?

      Are you confident that robot technology/AI in 2115 won’t appear magical to you?

      • http://edomacalister.wordpress.com/ forever_rachel

        EVen before 2115. Seems he or she has never read about the singularity, expected as a possibility by at least half of the most knowledgeable scientists, and far sooner than in 2115.

        • Weaver

          Please, spare me the “knowledgeable scientists” appeal to authority. It is clear that, like Nuclear Fusion, no one has a clue.
          The prediction dates have been shifting for 40 years and window is not getting shorter.

        • Grandito

          I love terms like “knowledgeable scientists”. Most scientists are rather second-rate just as are most people in every walk of life, be it teachers, doctors, lawyers, bankers or office workers so what the majority think is neither here nor there, as in any area. In fact it tends to be the second-rate people that make the most outrageous claims whilst the more able and rational do not tend to say anything that makes good news copy.

          There is nothing, and I do mean absolutely nothing, currently that is even the first baby step towards demonstrating AI. If you think there is please send me a link. I will explain to you then how the trick is done.

      • Grandito

        Absolutely confident. I was saying that the robot technology we have now appears magical to most people *now* because they don’t understand how it works. That leads them to believe that anything is possible no matter how fanciful but there is no such thing as AI. Actually computers have not, in any fundamental sense, changed since they were first invented in the 1940’s. They still operate on the same principles but execute the instructions many, many times faster whilst storage (and so possible program complexity) has also increased dramatically. Human beings are not capable of creating AI any more than a rabbit is capable of understanding Fourier analysis or creating mathematical proofs.

        • Weaver

          I have personally led a small research team in creating 2 novel intelligences. The oldest one has just started school.

          If you accept children exist, then the only question is the engineering, not the feasibility, of creating new intelligences. The “artificial” rider, the confusion between intelligence and self awareness, and the association with computers and robots has completely distorted the layman’s debate….

        • Weaver

          I have personally led a small research team in the creation of 2 novel intelligences. The oldest is just starting school.
          So it’s clearly possible for humans to create intelligences of at least one type. The only question is will we ever understand the engineering…
          I find the whole debate dispiriting. The confounding of AI work with developments in computation and (even more irrelevant) robotics . Confounding intelligence with self-awareness. The wretched Turing test. Failing to define intelligence meaningfully and consistently. Even the “artificial” tag seems to lead people down conceptual dead ends and into arguments about iota.

          • Grandito

            Intelligence as discussed in this article and generally in the media is understood in the sense of something that can “think”. I am trying to disabuse those who have been hoodwinked.
            AI in the generally understood sense simply does not exist. Period.
            In the sense of a complex program that can drive a car (in real world situations) it does not exist either.

          • Weaver

            Intelligence as discussed in this article and the media is a running joke in professional circles…
            With this kind of article, there’s deep semantic problems with just what intelligence actually is. The “artificial” tag probably doesn’t help. Expert systems, for example, can be intelligent in a technical sense, but not conscious.

    • Dan

      The answer to your last few questions re. driverless cars can be found by analogy, by asking how, in the 1950s and 1960s, would anyone think that computers could ever read all those little handwritten price labels on paper sweet bags in corner shops? The answer, of course, is that the way was smoothed for the new tech by introducing bar codes. So it will be with things like ad hoc signals at accident obstructions (not that there’ll be many accidents if any at all once DCs really take over).

      • Grandito

        They were rhetorical questions. Creating special marking on roads and installing special equipment on roads does not mean we have driverless cars or AI. Rails could be installed on all roads but that is obviating the need for driverless cars in the first place! Likewise with barcodes – clearly nothing resembling AI there. There is no chance whatsoever of creating a car that could drive from point A in one town to point B in another on real roads but that is what most people think driverless cars will be capable of. If it could be done there would be a plethora of videos available showing it being done and there are none. What you can find are nothing more than cheap tricks using simple roads and preprogrammed routes. The same kind of simple tricks used to demonstrate robots navigating about an area in a lab. There is no such thing as AI, period.

  • Hagen vanTronje

    If all the work is going to be done by Robots then why are we importing fast breeding Foreigners ?

    • http://edomacalister.wordpress.com/ forever_rachel

      We are not importing them by years. They are forcefully coming here, and we are so decrepit as to be unable to prevent anyone from breaking our borders.

      • Hagen vanTronje

        But we are importing them or at least the Government is, they want us to be truly multicultural and that means the demise of white skinned folk and the rise of halfcastes.
        To break the Nations spitit you need to water down the inhabitants with foreigners who have no love or ties with the Country they came to.
        Gibbon explained this all too well in his masterpiece, we are going down the same road.

        • http://edomacalister.wordpress.com/ forever_rachel

          It all comes from a subconscious will for self-destruction lying in the élite’s mind, I think you and I agree.

          • Hagen vanTronje

            There is a tendancy for some )not all), of the elite to self destruct, look at Burgess, Maclean, Philby, Blunt, etc. all well born and well bred but no hesitations in selling their Country down the river and lately we have the classic example of Blair and Mandelson who engineered the import of around five Million foreigners, Cameron another Million plus foreigners, the purpose being to deliberately ruin our Anglo-Saxon heritage.

  • Smudge

    I’ve long been saying, regarding the employment of technology, just because we can do something doesn’t mean we should. Companies need a relatively well off society to buy these things that they produce. No workers, no consumers. If we want sustainable long term growth, not short cut profits, then we need to employ more people on larger wage packets.

  • Zalacain

    There are two main aspects to this article. The first deals with machines becoming cleverer than us and “taking over” from us. I think that this is a very possible danger and we should beware of it. There is no reason for something that is far more intelligent than us to treat us better than we treat animals.

    The second is whether machines doing jobs will create unemployment. This is a modern version of the Luddite argument, and just like the original, is utter tripe. If trucks self drive, and transport costs go down, the prices of products go down, freeing cash to spend on other things. Do we have enough teachers for our children? Or carers for older people? Entertainers, artists, sport personal trainers, in fact anything that requires a personal/human touch will grow.

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