some questions about robots and society

Eventually robots ( and computers) will become cheap enough and good enough to do most of the jobs that exist now. This may happen soon, or in decades. But it will happen.

What do people think will happen then ?

Will it be a utopia, with food for plenty and free time for most ?

Will other jobs be created that do not exist now, and most people still need to be employed ? ( if so, will these jobs be necessary? )

Will most people be jobless and dependent on subsidized food ? Handed out by governments and NPO's ?

If most people are jobless what happens to the tax base ?

If there is no tax base, what happens to the governments and NPO's ?

It seems complex, perhaps a mixture of all above ?

Will technology still be in the hands of most people: with unlimited and exciting advances ?

Will the powerful keep all control of robots and technology limited ? to keep social control and power ? or to prevent unrest and social breakdown ?

Will most people stay where they are living at ? or, , in times of crises, will people do mass movements in search of food or work ?

Will there ever be refugee camps if the food supply is effected by having no tax base and the farmers no one to sell food to ?

Again, all of this could happen too, both good and bad, in complex cycles.

Will a slow introduction of capable robots keep society from going through some bad times. Or does it matter ?

I would like people to talk to me about this, because I have been wondering.

Reply to
Loading thread data ...

This is an ancient, constantly-debated question. It's what most people reckoned in the early days of mechanisation and robotics, but while it may happen some day, it'll require a fundamental change to society first - there'll probably be some kind of revolution or something if that's the case. The problem is, the society we live in requires work to exist in order to function correctly, a constant amount of work in fact, and you get big problems like depressions and stuff otherwise.

For an incredibly trivial, heavily simplified example - a certain number of people are needed to farm enough food to feed themselves and everyone else, and they are each paid a certain amount for that. At the same time, others work in all the other industries for another wage, and let us assume everyone's wage is enough to pay for their fraction of the food produced and any other manufactured goods they need, and everything's more or less ok and everyone can afford just the right amount of stuff.

Now let us say someone invents a labour-saving machine that reduces the number of people required to produce enough food for the whole society by a factor of 10. This means food becomes 10 times cheaper, but in order to make it so 90% of the farming workforce must be laid off - they can now no longer afford anything, even the now-cheaper food, unless they can immediately get jobs somewhere else, which they can't get because everywhere else is unchanged and perfectly balanced without them. The same thing happens every time a technological or manufacturing innovation is made, to some degree.

In practice whenever this happens the system eventually evens itself out, whether by government intervention to create jobs for the increasing numbers of unemployed people (I believe the Hoover Dam is a famous example of this), wars (I gather these are brilliant for improving employment in many cases), independent start-ups taking advantage of cheap labour because of people's desperation for any job, no matter how poorly paid, etc etc, but the whole process is a haphazard mess, with no overall system to cope with changes caused by any kind of innovation, brilliant and desirable though such innovations undeniably are once the system has had time to adjust for them.

One theoretically possible (but totally impractical and undoubtedly unpopular) solution would require centralised control for employment, determining in real-time how much work actually needs to be done to keep society working and allocating employment accordingly (I think the Soviet system had something like this, but I'd have to read up to make sure) - rather than having a permanent occupation (something that hardly seems to exist these days anyway!), everyone with the necessary skills could be allocated just enough work to make up their fair share of what needs to be done overall (anything from an 8 hour day down to something like half an hour a day, in theory, although logistical impossibility, inefficiencies caused by shift-changing every 1/2 hour, and people's disinclination to follow instructions from the government put paid to this one, though). The other thing is, as things become ever easier to manufacture or produce, their "value" in terms of work done decreases, and to this the current, universal system of tokenised currency has no direct or reliable method of reacting - paying someone in terms of their percentage contributed to how much work actually needs to be done might work better (again, mathematically workable but in reality virtually impossible), and using said percentage to determine how much product they are entitled to.

The crucial advantage of this system over current capitalist ones is that, were it to work correctly (which it undoubtedly wouldn't), it would pave the way for a relatively painless transition to the roboticist's dream, the utopian society where no work at all would be required of human beings.

Despite the apparent madness of what I have just described, the interesting thing is it's actually remarkably similar to the current western capitalist society in many ways - for example, inflation and all that barely-comprehensible nonsense that goes on in stock markets and stuff, in short the variation in value of tokenised currency, is in effect a basically subconscious attempt by the system to behave like the percentage-of-work-done system described above. The entire, messy system adjusts the value of the very metal discs you have in your pocket to represent your earned fraction of everything manufactured to date, as manufacturing processes get easier, etc, though obviously it has its flaws, causing disasters such as the German hyperinflation after the first world war, among other things. A central, reliable computer program adjusting everything would be infinitely better than the current system, if only you could get people to have faith in it (impossible) present, if anything changes at all in the economy, you basically rely on countless other human beings, with their own interests at heart, adjusting many interlinked systems that they barely understand, in order to subconsciously adjust the perceived value of your own savings so that you can still afford the same amount of food today as you could were you to have bought it yesterday.

Obviously what I have described is naive, simplistic and basically daft, but I should stress it is only to illustrate the problems and some of the aspects a workable solution would need to have. I'm also extraordinarily bored and basically thinking aloud with my brain wandering, as I try yet again to download massive hardware drivers with a poxy modem :-( An actual intelligent discussion of the problem would require the strenuous effort of minds infinitely greater than mine, dealing with the very philosophical meaning of concepts such as "work", "value", "money" and "price", among many others.

One thing I am convinced of, however, is the present system of tokenised currency, in use in pretty much every society of human beings on the planet, is horribly flawed, dangerous and unpredictable, especially during and immediately after any change at all to a country's economy, whether through political change, technological innovation or anything else, and a better system must be found sooner or later - I'm basically ignorant of the subject of economics, but a cursory glance at almost any textbook will probably find predictions of ever increasing booms followed by depressions, not generally good for society. There are certain things one can do to dampen or avert depressions - as an engineer who strives for perfection I find planned obsolescence is a particularly loathsome one, where a manufacturer of a product ensures their products will become obsolete or break down in a certain amount of time, so there will always be demand for their products and keeping them in business - Microsoft appear to have this one down to an exact science!

Here's a good one for you (not one of my own - I forget where I heard it, I'm afraid) - if there was a pound coin on the surface of the moon, would there be money on the moon?

OK, enough incoherent ramblings, I'll go do something productive now.


Reply to
Tom McEwan

It will take a while ...

Well, is not about the hardware as much as it's about the "software" ... for now these machines are nothing but an extension of ourselves.

To put this in different words - a robot is more sophisticated tool(take an electronic hammer for example:). The real difference will be made

when artificial intelligence will be fully understood - as for now we wonder at it and get intrigued by it the same way stoneage people wondered at fire thousands of years ago. It seems so close yet we cannot get good grip of it because we don't know enough about ourselves as yet and this most of the time somes in conflict with

our own image.

Our own preconceptions is a show stopper, fear and lack of understanding of our selves or life in general. We need first to evolve in this matter to be able to either accept or create "machines" which can do what we do.

Understanding AI and therefore life will change dramatically our perspective and understanding. We will then value things differently and then I presume this kind of discussion will be in a different note.

Then, whenever that will be, majority of humans will already realize that our big "A" as a race is intelligence

or even more, creativity. So, I see people in future working more with their brain and using robots as their "muscle".

Intelligence, creativity and therefore technology is what makes the difference between caveman and what we are now. Else we share the same "animal" values as any mammal on this planet.

There are so many questions to answer, so many worlds to explore and so many things yet to discover - and that is our future. To do this we need to understand and overcome our natural limitations.

Food - :) a basic need for every living been - yet still a major problem in this world where a majority of humans will spent most of their live just to ensure this. An intelligent race should not worry of primary needs as this is.

You don't want free time - doing nothing is like being dead. The beauty of or live is that we can creatively interact with our environment.

Yes. Jobs where people use their brain and creativity. I think then natural selection will be done slightly different then now is.

There is so much that can be done in this world/universe - that think we will never manage to cover it all or get bored. So there will jobs/work to be done forever. Money as an exchange will disappear. Most of things will be "free" - an exchange for you being part of society and perform various tasks. There will be different criteria to evaluate fitness of individuals for various tasks. And the reward concept will be different as well.

Jobless - it's a wrong concept. So long you are part of a society and you interact with it you will provide feedback and therefore work in away or other

with that society. Tax as much as money it's a virtual concept - in the end what it matters is what you do with that money. So to speak the materialization of the money is what we are after in the end. Looking in what tax money go now(or should go), mainly to support the infrastructure of society, and given that you have robots

and energy "cheap" then tax concept will have to be reviewed - maybe that tax will be more the object rather then a bunch of cash which we throw at the government to waste.

Governments will exist. There is always a need for a brain - and that is what the governments in the future will be as opposed to what they are now. As people become more educated and use their brain more often the demand for politicians will be based on what that politician can do rather then the way it look, smile or speak.

It's "complex" in the way that technology is not something different but, as I said before an extension of ourselves. If you don't know to use a drill you might very well get hurt.

There is a catch - as technology becomes more available and so the power of every individual. In future anyone will have to power to destroy the world if they want to. Then all depends on how evolved we are as a species at that time, on our understanding of life's values - else our race will fail.

For example if that technology becomes available tomorrow to everyone in this world - there is little chance that we will live another day.

In a way technology should becomes available at the right time - no sooner or latter. The first step is to make sure that there are no people left in the world with their basic human rights revoked, no dictators , people are not killing each other, no human without education and basic needs fulfilled.

Else, we all take a risk - if a hundred years ago we didn't care what happens on the other side of the world, today, thanks to technology people can move easy anywhere and communicate even easier - which puts us all in the same big boat, a boat which will sink us all if anywhere cracks.

Work will be done for everywhere - anywhere. Already people are working more from home(at least in informational related jobs) there is no need to be in a specific place.

No refugee will exist.

I don't think technology will reach that level of evolution if we don't evolve first.

Else we will destroy ourselves at the very beginning and never get to enjoy it.

Well, I think the speed at which technology evolves or implemented is not something which can really be controlled.

Take internet - an idea will spread at speed of light in every corner of this world.

In a different perspective, the sole existence of a nuclear bomb isn't not the real issue. Whoever is ready to press the button is.

Now, there is a reason (cause/effect) in everything - people don't kill themselves (they don't take the decision to destroy their lives) for nothing.

So, what we want to do first is making sure people are educated, understand and respect life before a powerful technology becomes available.

At least this is my humble opinion on this subject.


Reply to

I wouldn't necessarily say that the replacement for human labor will be electro-mechanical computer controlled andrioids. I know a little about robotics, and even less about biotech; but my guess is that a general purpose human clone will be on the market before a mechanical android. What may start as a source for transplant organs will eventually suscumb to market pressure and wind up pushing my lawn mower.

- James B

Reply to
james b

But can they make a martini?

Reply to
Crazy Bastard

On the contrary, the future will be a bleak death-scape inhabited by our robotic overlords who power themselves on the medicine of the elderly.

Reply to
Chris S.

Please, cloning martinis is just plain silly.

Reply to
Chris S.

PolyTech Forum website is not affiliated with any of the manufacturers or service providers discussed here. All logos and trade names are the property of their respective owners.