Adam smith

The balance of power between humans and machines

The twin poles of the modern imaginarium about technology and society can be represented by two masterpieces of popular culture. In James Cameron’s film The Terminator (1984) and its sequels, a global computer system called Skynet becomes sentient and proceeds to try to exterminate the human race by means of time-travelling Austrian bodybuilders. In Iain M. Banks’s ‘Culture’ novels, by contrast (beginning with Consider Phlebas, 1987), a space-faring humanlike species has created superintelligent machines, known as Minds, which automate all the labour of production, leaving people free to pursue artistic activities and extreme sports. As our tech-bro overlords race to create proper AI, then, the present question is whether engineered

How to increase your home’s value – with a sandwich

It is a tenet of neo-liberal economics that there is no such thing as a free lunch. This is obvious baloney. There are free lunches everywhere. The problem is that those free lunches are no longer served to people doing useful work. They are instead handed out to the owners of a few favoured asset classes through untaxed gains. We have created far more tax breaks for rent-seeking than for productive work… and then we wonder why Britain has a productivity crisis. Under a future Sutherland regime, there would be no tax paid on beer drunk in a pub I must admit I enjoy a few free lunches myself –

Why Edinburgh’s Adam Smith statue should stay

In the wake of the Black Lives Matters protests last year, Edinburgh Council announced the creation of the ‘Slavery and Colonialism Legacy Review Group’. Headed by Sir Geoff Palmer — an academic and human rights activist — the group is looking at all public memorials on council land that ‘perpetuated racism and oppression’ with the option of ‘removal or re-interpretation’ for problematic monuments. The grave of Adam Smith, as well as a statue dedicated to the Enlightenment thinker, have both been identified by the review due to a passage in which Smith, according to the body, ‘argued that slavery was ubiquitous and inevitable but that it was not as profitable