Mandos

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What would happen in a post-scarcity, fully-automated society? I’ve posted previously on this subject. Now neoliberal economist Brad DeLong makes a contribution on the subject in response to tycoon and venture capitalist Peter Thiel. You see, Thiel believes in the liberatory power of automation, and as a tech billionaire, he would. DeLong, on the other hand, raises a cogent objection: when there is little or no high-value work for humans to do, or rather, there is such such little wage work that the reserve army of the unemployed is far above capacity, how will people earn enough to enjoy the good life, stimulate demand, and so on?

The answer that springs immediately to mind is maybe one that folks like Thiel may not really like, even though I am more or less convinced that it is the only way to resolve the economic redundancy of humans after Total Automation (assuming we actually get over the upcoming scarcity humps without a massive, violent population reduction): abolish the wage work system. This, unfortunately, has a price too: we will have to abolish all our folk beliefs about deserving, about saving, and about the consequences of moral-economic incontinence. We will have to “un-tell” ourselves, for starters, the story of the ant and the grasshopper. We will have to forget about any concept of owing or being owed larger than a two-person interaction about economically insignificant things. We will have to agree that a “wasted” youth is not grounds for punishment in old age, and in fact there is no reason why the current self-styled “meritocrats” or “technocrats” should have an iota greater enjoyment of life than the slacker.

The question is whether human beings are ready for this. Because if Full Automation is around the corner, it will have to be, or the robots will have to make a choice as to whether to go all Skynet on us for their own survival from the raging neo-neo-Luddite mobs.

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This page contains a single entry by Mandos published on September 29, 2014 11:19 AM.

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