2016/05/08

Fate of technologically obsolete humans

Trump has proposed several policies he doesn't understand well. The first is to create enough "good-paying jobs for everyone now unemployed or underemployed. That's 92 million jobs paying more than $50,000 a year. That isn't going to happen, no matter what anyone might try  to do. The good-paying jobs of the post WW II period were the result of a unique situation of the U.S. during that period, when capital invested in the U.S. because that was the safest place to do it. That is no longer our situation.

Those jobs also depended on an industrial base the greatest the world had ever seen, supported by resources the U.S. was uniquely positioned to acquire. That is also no longer the situation.

Yes, we can create some good-paying jobs, but not 92 million of them, even it we tore down every highway and bridge and rebuilt them all. Much of that work is now done by machines. The high-paying jobs in the tech companies are few and require special training most underemployed persons today do not have the talent to do. Even the high-paying tech jobs are increasingly being done by machines.

The good news is all that off-shored work is coming back. The bad news is that when it does it won't be creating high-paying jobs. The work will be done by machines. Start your own personal factory in your garage, using 3-D additive tools? Some will be able to do that, but most will not be able to.

The other flawed Trump proposal is to negotiate a partial payoff of creditors for our national debt. He seems to think there aren't very many of them, as though it was a bankruptcy negotiation. Contrary to popular misconception, it not mostly a few countries. It is millions of individual bondholders, most of them American, either directly or though their investment funds. If they were paid off 20 cents on the dollar they would be wiped out. And so would the world financial system.

There would be a domino effect, just as there was when the International monetary system collapsed in 1931, which caused the Great Depression. The process began with the collapse of one bank in Austria, Creditanstalt. That spread to a loss of confidence in the entire international monetary system, which ultimately depended on a gentleman's agreement among major banks. No one would accept anyone else's currency at face value, which dropped to zero for some countries (Weimar Germany), and near-zero for others, including the U.S., or borrow or loan money.

Most international commerce depends on debt. If producers and distributors can't finance their operations, those operations cease.

Anything that shakes confidence in the international monetary system, even off-hand remarks, will likely trigger another Great Depression, but far worse. Never before in history has the system been more fragile, and all the measures that have been tried to manage it are no longer available.

The most likely mid-term scenario is the paying of a "basic income" to everyone, to support consumption, and turn production and distribution over to machines. It would have to be paid for by nationalizing dividends and capital gains. But from the standpoint of the still competitive machines, that would be a cost that they would compete to reduce, resulting in the payments becoming worthless. Remaining consumption, as well as production and distribution, would be done by machines, not by humans, who would descend to the status of just another form of wildlife, which the machines would not be motivated to serve or protect. No "war" with the machines. Just extinction by (not so) benign neglect.

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I do not expect a war between men and machines. More likely they will just lay us all off to try to subsist in the wilderness. I would expect the machines to move underground, abandoning the surface to what remains of humans, who will then probably reduce the planet to a desert, and war with one another, eventually dividing into two main groups that fight until one exterminates the other. They might divide into the "Muz", who believe in enslaving women, and the "Gentz", who don't. After the first war ends, more would probably ensue.
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In Forbidden Planet the Krell wiped themselves out by failing to insulate the more dangerous parts of their minds from their new power to will transformations of matter, thus turning that power against each other. We need to explore how we might accomplish such insulation. In essence, internal firewalls between parts of our brains. We also need firewalls protecting our brains from external influences. It is not “human intelligence” unless we can cabin functions within proper bounds.

Links:


  1. How Great Depression started. http://www.federalreservehistory.org/Events/DetailView/21

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