Showing posts with label Martin Ford. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Martin Ford. Show all posts

Artificial Intelligence - AI And Post-Scarcity.


Post-scarcity is a controversial idea about a future global economy in which a radical abundance of products generated at low cost utilizing sophisticated technologies replaces conventional human labor and wage payment.

Engineers, futurists, and science fiction writers have proposed a wide range of alternative economic and social structures for a post-scarcity world.

Typically, these models rely on hyperconnected systems of artificial intelligence, robotics, and molecular nanofactories and manufacturing to overcome scarcity—an pervasive aspect of current capitalist economy.

In many scenarios, sustainable energy comes from nuclear fusion power plants or solar farms, while materials come from asteroids mined by self-replicating smart robots.

Other post-industrial conceptions of socioeconomic structure, such as the information society, knowledge economy, imagination age, techno-utopia, singularitarianism, and nanosocialism, exist alongside post-scarcity as a material and metaphorical term.

Experts and futurists have proposed a broad variety of dates for the transition from a post-industrial capitalist economy to a post-scarcity economy, ranging from the 2020s to the 2070s and beyond.

The "Fragment on Machines" unearthed in Karl Marx's (1818–1883) unpublished notebooks is a predecessor of post-scarcity economic theory.

Advances in machine automation, according to Marx, would diminish manual work, cause capitalism to collapse, and usher in a socialist (and ultimately communist) economic system marked by leisure, artistic and scientific inventiveness, and material prosperity.

The modern concept of a post-scarcity economy can be traced back to political economist Louis Kelso's (1913–1991) mid-twentieth-century descriptions of conditions in which automation causes a near-zero drop in the price of goods, personal income becomes superfluous, and self-sufficiency and perpetual vacations become commonplace.

Kelso advocated for more equitable allocation of social and political power through democratizing capital ownership distribution.

This is significant because in a post-scarcity economy, individuals who hold capital will also own the technologies that allow for plenty.

For example, entrepreneur Mark Cuban has predicted that the first trillionaire would be in the artificial intelligence industry.

Artificial intelligence serves as a constant and pervasive analytics platform in the post-scarcity economy, harnessing machine productivity.

AI directs the robots and other machinery that transform raw materials into completed products and run other critical services like transportation, education, health care, and water supply.

At practically every work-related endeavor, field of industry, and line of business, smart technology ultimately outperform humans.

Traditional professions and employment marketplaces are becoming extinct.

The void created by the disappearance of wages and salaries is filled by a government-sponsored universal basic income or guaranteed minimum income.

The outcomes of such a situation may be utopian, dystopian, or somewhere in the between.

Post-scarcity AI may be able to meet practically all human needs and desires, freeing individuals up to pursue creative endeavors, spiritual contemplation, hedonistic urges, and the pursuit of joy.

Alternatively, the aftermath of an AI takeover might be a worldwide disaster in which all of the earth's basic resources are swiftly consumed by self-replicating robots that multiply exponentially.

K. Eric Drexler (1955–), a pioneer in nanotechnology, coined the phrase "gray goo event" to describe this kind of worst-case ecological calamity.

An intermediate result might entail major changes in certain economic areas but not others.

According to Andrew Ware of the University of Cambridge's Centre for the Study of Existential Risk (CSER), AI will have a huge impact on agriculture, altering soil and crop management, weed control, and planting and harvesting (Ware 2018).

According to a survey of data compiled by the McKinsey Global Institute, managerial, professional, and administrative tasks are among the most difficult for an AI to handle—particularly in the helping professions of health care and education (Chui et al. 2016).

Science fiction writers fantasize of a society when clever machines churn out most material items for pennies on the dollar.

The matter duplicator in Murray Leinster's 1935 short tale "The Fourth Dimensional Demonstrator" is an early example.

Leinster invents a duplicator-unduplayer that takes use of the fact that the four-dimensional world (the three-dimensional physical universe plus time) has some thickness.

The technology snatches fragments from the past and transports them to the present.

Pete Davidson, who inherits the equipment from his inventor uncle, uses it to reproduce a banknote put on the machine's platform.

The note stays when the button is pressed, but it is joined by a replica of the note that existed seconds before the button was pressed.

Because the duplicate of the bill has the same serial number, this may be determined.

Davidson uses the equipment to comic effect, duplicating gold and then (accidentally) removing pet kangaroos, girlfriends, and police officers from the fourth dimension.

With Folded Hands (1947) by Jack Williamson introduces the Humanoids, a species of thinking black mechanicals who serve as domestics, doing all of humankind's labor and adhering to their responsibility to "serve and obey, and defend men from danger" (Williamson 1947, 7).

The robots seem to be well-intentioned, but they are slowly removing all meaningful work from human humans in the village of Two Rivers.

The Humanoids give every convenience, but they also eliminate any human risks, such as sports and alcohol, as well as any motivation to accomplish things for themselves.

Home doorknobs are even removed by the mechanicals since people should not have to make their own entries and exits.

People get anxious, afraid, and eventually bored.

For a century or more, science fiction writers have envisaged economies joined together by post-scarcity and vast possibility.

When an extraterrestrial species secretly dumps a score of matter duplicating machines on the planet, Ralph Williams' novella "Business as Usual, During Alterations" (1958) investigates human greed.

Each of the electrical machines, which have two metal pans and a single red button, is the same.

"A press of the button fulfills your heart's wish," reads a written caution on the duplicator.

It's also a chip embedded in human society's underpinnings.

It will be brought down by a few billion of these chips.

It's all up to you" (Williams 1968, 288).

Williams' narrative is set on the day the gadget emerges, and it takes place in Brown's Department Store.

John Thomas, the manager, has exceptional vision, understanding that the robots would utterly disrupt retail by eliminating both scarcity and the value of items.

Rather of attempting to create artificial scarcity, Thomas comes up with the concept of duplicating the duplicators and selling them on credit to clients.

He also reorients the business to offer low-cost items that can be duplicated in the pan.

Instead of testing humanity's selfishness, the extraterrestrial species is presented with an abundant economy based on a completely different model of production and distribution, where distinctive and varied items are valued above uniform ones.

The phrase "Business as Usual, During Changes" appears on occasion in basic economics course curricula.

In the end, William's story is similar to the long-tail distributions of more specialist products and services described by authors on the economic and social implications of high technology like Clay Shirky, Chris Anderson, and Erik Brynjolfsson.

In 1964, Leinster returned with The Duplicators, a short book. In this novel, the planet Sord Three's human civilization has lost much of its technological prowess, as well as all electrical devices, and has devolved into a rough approximation of feudal society.

Humans are only able to utilize their so-called dupliers to produce necessary items like clothing and silverware.

Dupliers have hoppers where vegetable matter is deposited and raw ingredients are harvested to create other, more complicated commodities, but they pale in comparison to the originals.

One of the characters speculates that this may be due to a missing ingredient or components in the feedstock.

It's also self-evident that when poor samples are repeated, the duplicates will be weaker.

The heavy weight of numerous, but poor products bears down on the whole community.

Electronics, for example, are utterly gone since machines cannot recreate them.

When the story's protagonist, Link Denham, arrives on the planet in unduplicated attire, they are taken aback.

"And dupliers released to mankind would amount to treason," Denham speculates in the story, referring to the potential untold wealth as well as the collapse of human civilization throughout the galaxy if the dupliers become known and widely used off the planet: "And dupliers released to mankind would amount to treason." If a gadget exists that can accomplish every kind of job that the world requires, people who are the first to own it are wealthy beyond their wildest dreams.

However, pride will turn wealth into a marketable narcotic.

Men will no longer work since their services are no longer required.

Men will go hungry because there is no longer any need to feed them" (Leinster 1964, 66–67).

Native "uffts," an intelligent pig-like species trapped in slavery as servants, share the planet alongside humans.

The uffts are adept at gathering the raw materials needed by the dupliers, but they don't have direct access to them.

They are completely reliant on humans for some of the commodities they barter for, particularly beer, which they like.

Link Denham utilizes his mechanical skill to unlock the secrets of the dupliers, allowing them to make high-value blades and other weapons, and finally establishes himself as a kind of Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court.

Humans and uffts equally devastate the environment as they feed more and more vegetable stuff into the dupliers to manufacture the enhanced products, too stupid to take full use of Denham's rediscovery of the appropriate recipes and proportions.

This bothers Denham, who had hoped that the machines could be used to reintroduce modern agricultural implements to the planet, after which they could be used solely for repairing and creating new electronic goods in a new economic system he devised, dubbed "Householders for the Restoration of the Good Old Days" by the local humans.

The good times are ended soon enough, as humans plan the re-subjugation of the native uffts, prompting them to form a Ufftian Army of Liberation.

Link Denham deflects the uffts at first with generous helpings of bureaucratic bureaucracy, then liberates them by developing beer-brewing equipment privately, ending their need on the human trade.

The Diamond Age is a Hugo Award-winning bildungsroman about a society governed by nanotechnology and artificial intelligence, written by Neal Stephenson in 1995.

The economy is based on a system of public matter compilers, which are essentially molecular assemblers that act as fabricating devices and function similarly to K. Eric Drexler's proposed nanomachines in Engines of Creation (1986), which "guide chemical reactions by positioning reactive molecules with atomic precision" (Drexler 1986, 38).

All individuals are free to utilize the matter compilers, and raw materials and energy are given from the Source, a massive hole in the earth, through the Feed, a centralized utility system.

"Whenever Nell's clothing were too small, Harv would toss them in the deke bin and have the M.C. sew new ones for her." 

Tequila would use the M.C. to create Nell a beautiful outfit with lace and ribbons if they were going somewhere where they would see other parents with other girls" (Stephenson 1995, 53).

Nancy Kress's short tale "Nano Comes to Clifford Falls" (2006) examines the societal consequences of nanotechnology, which gives every citizen's desire.

It recycles the old but dismal cliche of humans becoming lazy and complacent when presented with technology solutions, but this time it adds the twist that males in a society suddenly free of poverty are at risk of losing their morals.

"Printcrime" (2006), a very short article initially published in the magazine Nature by Cory Doctorow, who, by no coincidence, releases free works under a liberal Creative Commons license.

The tale follows Lanie, an eighteen-year-old girl who remembers the day ten years ago when the cops arrived to her father's printer-duplicator, which he was employing to illegally create pricey, artificially scarce drugs.

One of his customers basically "shopped" him, alerting him of his activities.

Lanie's father had just been released from jail in the second part of the narrative.

He's immediately inquiring where he can "get a printer and some goop," acknowledging that printing "rubbish" in the past was a mistake, but then whispers to Lanie, "I'm going to produce more printers." There are a lot more printers.

There's one for everyone. That is deserving of incarceration.

That's worth a lot." Makers (2009), also by Cory Doctorow, is about a do-it-yourself (DIY) maker subculture that hacks technology, financial systems, and living arrangements to "find means of remaining alive and happy even while the economy is going down the toilet," as the author puts it (Doctorow 2009).

The impact of a contraband carbon nanotube printing machine on the world's culture and economy is the premise of pioneering cyberpunk author Bruce Sterling's novella Kiosk (2008).

Boroslav, the protagonist, is a popup commercial kiosk operator in a poor world nation, most likely a future Serbia.

He begins by obtaining a standard quick prototyping 3D printer.

Children buy cards to program the gadget and manufacture waxy, nondurable toys or inexpensive jewelry.

Boroslav eventually ends himself in the hands of a smuggled fabricator who can create indestructible objects in just one hue.

Those who return their items to be recycled into fresh raw material are granted refunds.

He is later discovered to be in possession of a gadget without the necessary intellectual property license, and in exchange for his release, he offers to share the device with the government for research purposes.

However, before handing up the gadget, he uses the fabricator to duplicate it and conceal it in the jungles until the moment is right for a revolution.

The expansive techno-utopian Culture series of books (1987–2012) by author Iain M. Banks involves superintelligences living alongside humans and aliens in a galactic civilization marked by space socialism and a post-scarcity economy.

Minds, benign artificial intelligences, manage the Culture with the assistance of sentient drones.

The sentient living creatures in the novels do not work since the Minds are superior and offer all the citizens need.

As the biological population indulges in hedonistic indulgences and faces the meaning of life and fundamental ethical dilemmas in a utilitarian cosmos, this reality precipitates all kinds of conflict.

~ Jai Krishna Ponnappan

Find Jai on Twitter | LinkedIn | Instagram

You may also want to read more about Artificial Intelligence here.

See also: 

Ford, Martin; Technological Singularity; Workplace Automation.

References & Further Reading:

Aguilar-Millan, Stephen, Ann Feeney, Amy Oberg, and Elizabeth Rudd. 2010. “The Post-Scarcity World of 2050–2075.” Futurist 44, no. 1 (January–February): 34–40.

Bastani, Aaron. 2019. Fully Automated Luxury Communism. London: Verso.

Chase, Calum. 2016. The Economic Singularity: Artificial Intelligence and the Death of Capitalism. San Mateo, CA: Three Cs.

Chui, Michael, James Manyika, and Mehdi Miremadi. 2016. “Where Machines Could Replace Humans—And Where They Can’t (Yet).” McKinsey Quarterly, July 2016.

Doctorow, Cory. 2006. “Printcrime.” Nature 439 (January 11).

Doctorow, Cory. 2009. “Makers, My New Novel.” Boing Boing, October 28, 2009.

Drexler, K. Eric. 1986. Engines of Creation: The Coming Era of Nanotechnology. New York: Doubleday.

Kress, Nancy. 2006. “Nano Comes to Clifford Falls.” Nano Comes to Clifford Fall and Other Stories. Urbana, IL: Golden Gryphon Press.

Leinster, Murray. 1964. The Duplicators. New York: Ace Books.

Pistono, Federico. 2014. Robots Will Steal Your Job, But That’s OK: How to Survive the Economic Collapse and Be Happy. Lexington, KY: Createspace.

Saadia, Manu. 2016. Trekonomics: The Economics of Star Trek. San Francisco: Inkshares.

Stephenson, Neal. 1995. The Diamond Age: Or, a Young Lady’s Illustrated Primer. New York: Bantam Spectra.

Ware, Andrew. 2018. “Can Artificial Intelligence Alleviate Resource Scarcity?” Inquiry Journal 4 (Spring): n.p.

Williams, Ralph. 1968. “Business as Usual, During Alterations.” In 100 Years of Science Fiction, edited by Damon Knight, 285–307. New York: Simon and Schuster.

Williamson, Jack. 1947. “With Folded Hands.” Astounding Science Fiction 39, no. 5 (July): 6–45.

Artificial Intelligence - Who Is Erik Brynjolfsson?


The Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Initiative on the Digital Economy is directed by Erik Brynjolfsson (1962–).

He is also a Research Associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research and a Schussel Family Professor at the MIT Sloan School (NBER).

Brynjolfsson's research and writing focuses on the relationship between information technology productivity and labor and innovation.

Brynjolfsson's work has long been at the focus of debates concerning how technology affects economic relationships.

His early research focused on the link between information technology and productivity, particularly the "productivity conundrum." Brynjolfsson discovered "large negative associations between economywide productivity and information worker productivity," according to his findings (Brynjolfs son 1993, 67).

He proposed that the paradox may be explained by effect mismeasurement, a lag between initial cost and final benefits, private benefits accumulating at the expense of the collective benefit, or blatant mismanagement.

However, multiple empirical studies by Brynjolfsson and associates demonstrate that investing in information technology has increased productivity significantly—at least since 1991.

Information technology, notably electronic communication networks, enhances multitasking, according to Brynjolfsson.

Multitasking, in turn, boosts productivity, knowledge network growth, and worker performance.

More than a simple causal connection, the relationship between IT and productivity constitutes a "virtuous cycle": as performance improves, users are motivated to embrace knowledge networks that boost productivity and operational performance.

In the era of artificial intelligence, the productivity paradox has resurfaced as a topic of discussion.

The digital economy faces a new set of difficulties as the battle between human and artificial labor heats up.

Brynjolfsson discusses the phenomenon of frictionless commerce, a trait brought about by internet activities such as smart shopbots' rapid pricing comparison.

Retailers like Amazon have redesigned their supply chains and distribution tactics to reflect how online marketplaces function in the age of AI.

This restructuring of internet commerce has changed the way we think about efficiency.

Price and quality comparisons may be made by covert human consumers in the brick-and-mortar economy.

This procedure may be time-consuming and expensive.

Consumers (and web-scraping bots) may now effortlessly navigate from one website to another, thereby lowering the cost of obtaining various types of internet information to zero.

Brynjolfsson and coauthor Andrew McAfee discuss the impact of technology on employment, the economy, and productivity development in their best-selling book Race Against the Machine (2011).

They're particularly interested in the process of creative destruction, which economist Joseph Schumpeter popularized in his book Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy (1942).

While technology is a beneficial asset for the economy as a whole, Brynjolfsson and McAfee illustrate that it does not always benefit everyone in society.

In reality, the advantages of technical advancements may be uneven, benefiting small groups of innovators and investors who control digital marketplaces.

The key conclusion reached by Brynjolfsson and McAfee is that humans should collaborate with machines rather than compete with them.

When people learn skills to participate in the new age of smart machines, innovation and human capital improve.

Brynjolfsson and McAfee expanded on this topic in The Second Machine Age (2014), evaluating the significance of data in the digital economy and the growing prominence of artificial intelligence.

Data-driven intelligent devices, according to the authors, are a key component of online business.

Artificial intelligence brings us a world of new possibilities in terms of services and features.

They suggest that these changes have an impact on productivity indices as well as our understanding of what it means to participate in capitalist business.

Brynjolfsson and McAfee both have a lot to say on the disruptive effects of a widening gap between internet billionaires and regular people.

The authors are particularly concerned about the effects of artificial intelligence and smart robots on employment.

Brynjolfsson and McAfee reaffirm in Second Machine Age that there should be no race against technology, but rather purposeful cohabitation with it in order to develop a better global economy and society.

Brynjolfsson and McAfee argue in Machine, Platform, Crowd (2017) that the human mind will have to learn to cohabit with clever computers in the future.

The big difficulty is figuring out how society will utilize technology and how to nurture the beneficial features of data-driven innovation and artificial intelligence while weeding out the undesirable aspects.

Brynjolfsson and McAfee envision a future in which labor is not only suppressed by efficient machines and the disruptive effects of platforms, but also in which new matchmaking businesses govern intricate economic structures and large enthusiastic online crowds, and vast amounts of human knowledge and expertise are used to strengthen supply chains and economic processes.

Machines, platforms, and the crowd, according to Brynjolfsson and McAfee, may be employed in a variety of ways, either to concentrate power or to disperse decision-making and wealth.

They come to the conclusion that individuals do not have to be passively reliant on previous technological trends; instead, they may modify technology to make it more productive and socially good.

Brynjolfsson's current research interests include productivity, inequality, labor, and welfare, and he continues to work on artificial intelligence and the digital economy.

He graduated from Harvard University with degrees in Applied Mathematics and Decision Sciences.

In 1991, he received his doctorate in Managerial Economics from the MIT Sloan School.

"Information Technology and the Reorganization of Work: Theory and Evidence," was the title of his dissertation.

~ Jai Krishna Ponnappan

You may also want to read more about Artificial Intelligence here.

See also: 

Ford, Martin; Workplace Automation.

Further Reading

Aral, Sinan, Erik Brynjolfsson, and Marshall Van Alstyne. 2012. “Information, Technology, and Information Worker Productivity.” Information Systems Research 23, no. 3, pt. 2 (September): 849–67.

Brynjolfsson, Erik. 1993. “The Productivity Paradox of Information Technology.” Com￾munications of the ACM 36, no. 12 (December): 67–77.

Brynjolfsson, Erik, Yu Hu, and Duncan Simester. 2011. “Goodbye Pareto Principle, Hello Long Tail: The Effect of Search Costs on the Concentration of Product Sales.” Management Science 57, no. 8 (August): 1373–86.

Brynjolfsson, Erik, and Andrew McAfee. 2012. Race Against the Machine: How the Digital Revolution Is Accelerating Innovation, Driving Productivity, and Irreversibly Transforming Employment and the Economy. Lexington, MA: Digital Frontier Press.

Brynjolfsson, Erik, and Andrew McAfee. 2016. The Second Machine Age: Work, Progress, and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies. New York: W. W. Norton.

Brynjolfsson, Erik, and Adam Saunders. 2013. Wired for Innovation: How Information Technology Is Reshaping the Economy. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

McAfee, Andrew, and Erik Brynjolfsson. 2017. Machine, Platform, Crowd: Harnessing Our Digital Future. New York: W. W. Norton.

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