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    Thread: Free Market and Automation

    1. #1
      Xei
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      Free Market and Automation



      This thread will take as read the (in my opinion uncontroversial) assumption that science will continue to progress, and at some time in the future we will have created machines which have physical dexterity and mental agility exceeding that of humans (at a lower expense).

      At such a point, the vast majority of the populace will be unemployed, due to automation of human jobs.

      This is sometimes claimed to be an economic fallacy. We will also take it as read that such a claim is a risible absurdity.

      The argument for the claim goes something like, "in past instances of automation, although the original jobs were superseded, the new abundance of energy and the technological progress that this engendered created a whole new echelon of higher-level jobs which were then occupied, stabilising employment rates. Therefore, automation will never create permanent high unemployment".

      This is, of course, not a rigorous argument, but just an extrapolation from events in different circumstances in a previous era. What is a rigorous argument, however, is that when machines can do everything that a human can but for less money, there patently be no rationale in hiring humans any more. New jobs will be created, but a priori, this time, the existing machines will already be able to do those, too.

      So, the question is this: how will the free market economy (where the companies creating these machines will presumably arise) deal with this situation, in which virtually all jobs are automated?

      It seems to me that a small number of people who own the 'means of production' will end up with all of the wealth and income. Everybody else will have a finite and dwindling wealth (actually a significant number will presumably have negative wealth, looking at the current economic situation), and no income, nor any means of ever attaining an income.

      The great irony is that labour will have been rendered obsolete; and yet with contemporary economic models, it looks like we will end up with a potentially nightmarish situation rather than a utopia.

      That's the focus, but feel free to discuss the effect on the state, and other types of economy.

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      A world government and world peace will arise before we reach this point in automation.
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    3. #3
      Xei
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      Why do you think that, and how would it solve the problem; what would the politics of the world government be?

      Also, what would you say if it transpired that that didn't happen? It's not impossible.

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      In my opinion, we are very close to an energy revolution. All current wars and conflicts between countries pretty much revolve around energy, except for a few select instances. I believe if we have world peace and a world government, the cutting edge of science will be lead by the government, not some companies.

      If my vision of the future does not hold true, then I will agree with you, a lot of people will be out of a job, without any means of getting a job.
      I suppose, when a man isn't needed in his environment anymore, he has no choice but to leave it.

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      Xei
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      I suppose you are referring to renewable energy generation, and some kind of battery technology?

      What do you mean by an environment 'needing' man? A man's purpose is to sustain himself and enjoy himself (and other nuances). We have economies to provide sustenance and enjoyment to man. If a man's purpose were to support the economy, that would be cyclical.

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      Precisely. If he can't sustain himself in a given environment, he has no choice but to leave it. Otherwise he will perish.

      edit: fuck you dreamviews
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      Xei
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      I understand what you mean when you say that a man must leave his environment when the environment can no longer sustain him, but I don't see how exactly that relates to the environment needing him. Africa did not need prehistoric man.

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      Quote Originally Posted by Xei View Post
      I understand what you mean when you say that a man must leave his environment when the environment can no longer sustain him, but I don't see how exactly that relates to the environment needing him. Africa did not need prehistoric man.
      That is true. I suppose the difference here, is that prehistoric Africa was run by lions, while dystopian future world is run by evil corporate robots.
      What I really meant with an environment needing a man, I meant a modern environment, that uses concepts such as money and trade.
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      Terminally Out of Phase Descensus's Avatar
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      I'm almost certain that the usual responses to the Luddite fallacy/"technological unemployment" cover the majority of your post, but I'm a little confused when it comes to this part:

      Quote Originally Posted by Xei View Post
      New jobs will be created, but a priori, this time, the existing machines will already be able to do those, too.
      Why would that be the case? Could you explain your reasoning?
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    10. #10
      Xei
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      That exact 'fallacy' is precisely addressed within the post...

      Quote Originally Posted by BLUELINE976 View Post
      Why would that be the case? Could you explain your reasoning?
      A more accurate way to put it would be, "but once any human is able to do the new jobs, the machines will already be able to do them better and cheaper [and therefore human unemployment will never be offset by these jobs as it was in the past]". This is obvious given the premises, right..?
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      Quote Originally Posted by Xei View Post
      That exact 'fallacy' is precisely addressed within the post...
      I know. And I said the usual responses to the presentation of the fallacy cover (as in, rebut) what you said in your post. Except for the part I quoted of course.

      A more accurate way to put it would be, "but once any human is able to do the new jobs, the machines will already be able to do them better and cheaper [and therefore human unemployment will never be offset by these jobs as it was in the past]". This is obvious given the premises, right..?
      Not necessarily, no. Technological improvement occurs incrementally, as does its actual implementation into production processes. Unless I'm misunderstanding you (could be the case), the only way for that to be obvious is if you assume technological improvement (and implementation) occurs instantly.
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    12. #12
      Xei
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      Quote Originally Posted by BLUELINE976 View Post
      I know. And I said the usual responses to the presentation of the fallacy cover (as in, rebut) what you said in your post.
      But... my post doesn't just contain the assertion, it also contains a rebuttal of the common rebuttal to the assertion. :/

      Moreover it has a watertight counterargument, and yes, you haven't understood it;

      Not necessarily, no. Technological improvement occurs incrementally, as does its actual implementation into production processes. Unless I'm misunderstanding you (could be the case), the only way for that to be obvious is if you assume technological improvement (and implementation) occurs instantly.
      We're talking about the invention of machines which exceed humans in both mental and physical capabilities. By definition there is literally no physical or mental task you could beat these machines at. This includes envisioning and performing any newly created jobs.

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      The question of machines in economics has been around for several centuries. Generally it is associated with somebody whining about a newly created machine which can produce several times more than a human and stealing that person's job. But then, if it is more desirable to have a human do the work instead of the machine, can we not continue this logic and conclude that we would be better off having no machines at all? A good example are some of the "lights out manufacturing" factories that exist in the automobile industry. If we continue the line of thinking in the classical argument's logic against innovation and technology, it would be better to have several thousand men and women working to produce these modern cars by hand. How many people would it take to maintain current levels of production? It would probably take several hundred thousand people working by hand to maintain the level of automobile production of one single automated factory. And that is not even considering the fact that special robotic machines are necessary to build the computers in modern cars that cannot be produced any other way. If a company had to hire this many people by some government mandate, it would go broke within a week. Then nobody would have a job.

      But I digress...

      I think a world where humanoid robots are able to do all of the menial tasks that we humans do on a regular basis would be ideal. (I am assuming these robots are not "intelligent," but they are simply capable of the cognitive abilites required to do manual labor. A monkey could be trained to do these things.) These robots would be doing us a grand favor by saving us the very precious economic resource of time. By giving us the time that is normally taken up in doing menial tasks like washing dishes, cleaning, repairing cars, etc... we now have more time for thinking. As the robots take care of the lower-order tasks, we are free and enabled to spend our time on more important, higher-order thinking and planning. Even the poor man of this distant future would be envied by the Warren Buffets of today, very much as someone who is considered to be at the "poverty line" today is actually living a life replete with more material things than a medieval king could have ever dreamed of. (e.g. cell phone, car, indoor plumbing, refrigeration, airplanes, television, newspapers, skyscrapers etc.)

      I think the development of robots as a replacement for human labor is something that should be actively pursued and which will ultimately and drastically increase our standard of living. Now, the case in which said robots are made intelligent and capable of creating their own goals, desires, dreams, ambitions, vengance, hatred, etc. is altogether different and should be considered with caution. What if they became too powerful, and destroyed us? I think this is in a very distant future and isn't really something to worry about at present, but it is food for thought nonetheless.
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      Wouldn't your premise of having machines more intelligent (or "mentally agile") than humans lead to the technological singularity? In which case the question and its ramifications would go far beyond what's hypothesised, and I don't think that's your intent.

      As a result, I'm going to ignore that part for now and instead focus on the idea of automation that's able to replace humans in a physical capacity, and most mental ones as well; no need for air traffic controllers for example.


      Obviously this will pretty much spell the end for free market capitalism, but it's hard to imagine that the current prestige given to wealth will survive the transition as well. Many focus on gaining money despite it being little more than an arbitrary number, simply because they wish to be able to send out the social signals that wealth allows such as having a shiny new car.

      With enough robotic labour, material goods reach a practically zero cost and thus even the poorest person would enjoy vast amounts of wealth. Perhaps this might require some charitable individual who possesses large amounts of wealth to give the means to them in the first place, but we already have plenty of those in the world. And since almost everyone enjoys some wealth at the moment, combined with economies of scale and production, it would surely mean that most could afford to get at least some robotic assistance for themselves.

      The transition might have some bumps along the way, but ultimately I don't see it being a problem.

      I think the bigger question is: just what would a society where no-one has to work look like? What would we all do with so much free time? No doubt there would be a huge amount of focus on entertainment and arts, as well as more people exploring new problems. Some people would work even with no need to do so simply because they enjoy it.

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      Xei
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      Quote Originally Posted by Photolysis View Post
      Wouldn't your premise of having machines more intelligent (or "mentally agile") than humans lead to the technological singularity? In which case the question and its ramifications would go far beyond what's hypothesised, and I don't think that's your intent.
      No, I don't want to talk about the singularity. At any rate it's possible to envisage a 'slow singularity', where there is a significant period of time where machines exist which are more agile than humans, but not hyper-agile; this thread is about the possible problems with the free market system. Although, it is possible to imagine that even in a world with hyper-intelligent servants owned by an elite class, we might see similar problems.

      Obviously this will pretty much spell the end for free market capitalism, but it's hard to imagine that the current prestige given to wealth will survive the transition as well. Many focus on gaining money despite it being little more than an arbitrary number, simply because they wish to be able to send out the social signals that wealth allows such as having a shiny new car.
      And I suppose the implication is that philanthropy will dissolve the problem?

      I have a couple of things to say about that. Firstly, granting that enough of the upper class are altruistic to support the global population, would it still not be wise in principle to enshrine this new economy in law, for all time? Also, it seems likely that there would still be some who hoarded their resources indefinitely and used them to do as they willed, at the expense of others, even though it conferred no real benefit. Should these people be left alone, forever?

      Secondly... I'm not entirely sure that the above would actually transpire on a large enough scale. As you say, history shows that humans have a strong desire for fame and power, despite receiving no practical benefits from it. Multibillionaires cling on to their wealth despite it making zero difference to their lives. This is probably biologically ingrained. And is there any reason to think this will stop, the moment that machine labour becomes less expensive than human labour? Couldn't a troublesome number of people keep very large quantities of land, resources, and power for themselves?

      With enough robotic labour, material goods reach a practically zero cost and thus even the poorest person would enjoy vast amounts of wealth.
      I believe this is a misconception, actually. There is a second component to cost other than labour, which is the material cost. After labour becomes cheap, resources will still be scarce. There will be a finite amount of materials in the ground, which can be extracted at only a finite rate, a finite amount of energy and food (and populations will multiply until this becomes an issue), and a finite amount of land. These things would still clearly be desirable, and thus competed for, which means they would still cost. In the case of land, it's particularly clear; the cost won't change in real terms. There will still be the same amount, and the relative cost of properties relative to one another. Land distribution is of course very uneven across the globe at the moment, and once labour became obsolete, this'd never change; except those with the means could keep expanding.

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      This pretty much reaches the point beyond which we cannot continue to live under the capitalist social paradigm. Money is even now a necessary evil, and by the time human society reaches the point you are describing, capitalism as we have known it in recent history will be dead if humanity is to make it that far.

      Or we could have total worldwide economic collapse. Or perhaps more likely, such labor will be banned (controversially of course).

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      It takes a lot of indoctrination and a very strained mind to actually believe that the abundance brought about by total automation would result in anything other than materialistic utopia, regardless of political regimes. That's all I have to say on this shameful topic.
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      When you get to the point that all work is done by automation, production is going to be very cheap. So it isn't like a person will need a factory to go into business. The people who make the money will be whoever comes with with new ideas. You get the idea and then you can cheaply produce the goods. There isn't going to be anyone in control of the means of production because it is going to be spread out all over on small local levels.

    19. #19
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      Quote Originally Posted by Alric View Post
      The people who make the money will be whoever comes with with new ideas.
      I've explained this a few times now... people won't be able to get employment this way.

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      Of course, you are not going to work for anyone at all. If you come up with the idea you will either sell the information and people will create the item them self or you will make the item and then sell it to local people. More than likely you might just sell the information and not even produce anything. A good example would be the arts, you write a song or paint a picture then put it online and people can download it for a small cost. That is the type of jobs people will have.

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      No, I mean you won't be able to come up with any novel ideas...

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      Quote Originally Posted by Xei View Post

      This thread will take as read the (in my opinion uncontroversial) assumption that science will continue to progress, and at some time in the future we will have created machines which have physical dexterity and mental agility exceeding that of humans (at a lower expense).

      At such a point, the vast majority of the populace will be unemployed, due to automation of human jobs.

      This is sometimes claimed to be an economic fallacy. We will also take it as read that such a claim is a risible absurdity.

      The argument for the claim goes something like, "in past instances of automation, although the original jobs were superseded, the new abundance of energy and the technological progress that this engendered created a whole new echelon of higher-level jobs which were then occupied, stabilising employment rates. Therefore, automation will never create permanent high unemployment".

      This is, of course, not a rigorous argument, but just an extrapolation from events in different circumstances in a previous era. What is a rigorous argument, however, is that when machines can do everything that a human can but for less money, there patently be no rationale in hiring humans any more. New jobs will be created, but a priori, this time, the existing machines will already be able to do those, too.

      So, the question is this: how will the free market economy (where the companies creating these machines will presumably arise) deal with this situation, in which virtually all jobs are automated?

      It seems to me that a small number of people who own the 'means of production' will end up with all of the wealth and income. Everybody else will have a finite and dwindling wealth (actually a significant number will presumably have negative wealth, looking at the current economic situation), and no income, nor any means of ever attaining an income.

      The great irony is that labour will have been rendered obsolete; and yet with contemporary economic models, it looks like we will end up with a potentially nightmarish situation rather than a utopia.

      That's the focus, but feel free to discuss the effect on the state, and other types of economy.
      This is one of the major reasons I support a more collectivist attitude in regard to ownership. When the controllers of Capital refuse to support their labor with more than a temporary contract, they are not just refusing the labor their share for the time they gave, they are killing their legacy for the future. We built the future together, and we should all share it.

      Communities could run participatory governments with each other. Communities collectively keep watch over the industry and infrastructure within their control. With this smaller model, they are not forced to take care of individuals that feel entitled. Generally, there would be a lot less labor to go around, but just as much capability to maintain shelter, food, water and energy for large communities meaning a large group of people could live together without having to work very much at all. The fear people have right now is that if the state enables people to live without work, they won't do anything. Conversely if you reward people to live a lot better than the rest of society, he will be more ambitious.

      Competition does provide something for progress but historically cooperation has been just as imperative in all aspects of evolution. While societies should maintain capitalism, if communities were collectivist then they could compete together rather than amongst each other and when one of them is inspired by ambition to drive society forward then that person's community could benefit together from the invention and if they don't like that person's ideas he/she could migrate to a place that would. When people share their ambition, they double their potential. And simply because you remove a person's fear of losing their homes and starving if they fuck up, that does not mean no one will want to perform the work that is still required. You're still driven by the ambition to survive, you would just be driven by the ambition to survive as a community rather than an individual. The community would regulate this themselves and run their own government to maintain its own requirements and even threaten people with exile who refuse to lend substantiate aid; essentially a "have a broomstick or the door" policy. Social safety nets would take the form of community empathy, more or less. The disabled, pregnant, sick, injured etc. could excuse themselves as necessary. Because it would be so easy to survive, there would be no reason to hold back from helping these people. The only reason to even maintain regulations is for a sense of fairness. Maybe you're a police officer two days a week and that's all you're asked to do, but you also volunteer at the school as a councilor at your leisure and you would be out hunting right now but you're busy directing a school play. People like to be busy. They choose to be busy. Maybe you're required to sit behind a security camera for the three nights a week you work and you spend the rest of the time playing video games and smoking pot. Should the cop be angry at your lifestyle just because you don't do any of the stuff he's just doing for fun anyways?

      There's this weird assumption that if you decide to be a lawyer or a doctor you should have a better life than your neighbors. Basically, you need to make more money so you can buy a bigger house and a better car and a jacuzzi and a cruise. I don't understand this philosophy, but I do believe competition drives you to be the best and progresses society forward. Football players drive themselves to be the best so they can get traded to the richest team that can offer them the strongest contract. Communities could also offer contracts in order to compete for the best doctors, entrepreneurs, lawyers, and other vital assets. These contracts wouldn't need to be for cash, they could be for the best living conditions possible. So communities would be driven to let certain individuals to live much better off than the rest because that's the only way to get them to come live there.

      The next questions I would like to address are these:

      1. Shouldn't the cop be living at least slightly better off than the lazy stoner required to do nothing else but stare at a screen from the corner of his eye while he plays video games? (He's not even required to pay attention or stay awake, an alert system goes off when the automated sensor detects movement.)

      2. If currency is eliminated from individual communities how do they trade with each other? For example, what does a community built around a steel mill get for the steel they trade, and why should they bother? For another example, what would store owners give for products they import, and why should they give these products to the community?

      A single occupation could overlook both facets of trade. The store owner would be the same job (or shared work) as the steel trader. Regional Capitals would take the form of trade cities, as regions could haul goods to a single epicenter where middle-men would purchase the steel in order to sell to another community which uses it to build treadmills. (This community may also delve in cheese processing, circuit boards, etc.) This middle man exists, just as the trade city exists, in order to bottle neck stock so that the trader from the steel mill community can exchange all the steel at once in return for all the necessities the community doesn't have plus whatever luxuries they asked him/her to get.

      This is where I get back to question one. If a member of a community is just partying all the time then dragging herself to a restaurant to wait people for her required eighteen hours a week, hungover every single day, even dropping her four kids off at the day-care center to feed and entertain so she can go drink, should this be enabled? Should she live just as well off as everyone else despite the fact that she's forcing them to look after all her kids and she doesn't even have to motivation to do her job well?

      If the town has one export, then the hours a person puts into work and the type of work they do could entitle them to a share of that export. Individuals can make requests to the local trader for certain luxury items, and their item cap depends upon the value of the product they partially own. There's no reason to impose statewide measures to take care of the town drunk. If they aren't bad enough to face exile, that doesn't mean they deserve the same lifestyle as people that work much, much harder. They simply won't be granted as much ownership over the community's export to afford any of its imports.
      Last edited by Original Poster; 12-28-2012 at 09:38 PM.

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    23. #23
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      Automation is both the best and worse thing to ever happen to mankind. But its a problem only because of the system we live in. Runaway automation in this system means the whole system could collapse! (will)

      The steps are as follows: First we lose industry jobs to machines. No one cares because it increases profit (for the 1%). Service jobs increase instead. But service jobs require little to no skills so most are low wage. Unemployment, under-employment and the income gap increase.

      But thats not what collapses the system.

      Next we lose intelligent skill labor of all kinds to the digital automation that no one is paying attention to! Architects won't need engineers when computer programs can do the complex math for them. Contractors won't need architects when programs can design entire cities. Eventually a job that once required a huge task force of highly educated, highly skilled, highly payed people could be replaced by 1.

      No industry is safe from the digital automation. The creative industries are already pulling their hair because they can't control the internet and illegal digital trade.

      Medical technology is advancing so fast thousands of skilled medical jobs could be replaced. Machines could make better surgeons. With laser technology virtually all surgery can be non-evasive and only last minutes. Programs will be able to analyze, diagnosis and choose the best medication. I've already witnessed doctors input symptoms into a program so the program can LITERALLY DECIDE the best medication.

      When medical technology advances what hospital wants to hire expensive doctors when unskilled labor can pat your head and push some buttons?

      Even the programmers of the digital automated world are going to lose out. They want to make lots of money with their invention? Well too bad because china totally downloaded the information like yesterday and already made millions of cheap copies - with their unpaid robot workforce.

      The digital automation will be revolutionary. But it'll collapse our system entirely. It's not the automation that's the problem. Its this system that requires us to be in debt so we work all day long. Lack of ownership of the home you live in is the real problem.

      People don't understand this concept because millions own a mortgage and still suffer. They don't understand, owning a mortgage doesn't mean you own a home - it means you own debt.

    24. #24
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      Quote Originally Posted by Hercuflea View Post
      The question of machines in economics has been around for several centuries. Generally it is associated with somebody whining about a newly created machine which can produce several times more than a human and stealing that person's job. But then, if it is more desirable to have a human do the work instead of the machine, can we not continue this logic and conclude that we would be better off having no machines at all? A good example are some of the "lights out manufacturing" factories that exist in the automobile industry. If we continue the line of thinking in the classical argument's logic against innovation and technology, it would be better to have several thousand men and women working to produce these modern cars by hand. How many people would it take to maintain current levels of production? It would probably take several hundred thousand people working by hand to maintain the level of automobile production of one single automated factory. And that is not even considering the fact that special robotic machines are necessary to build the computers in modern cars that cannot be produced any other way. If a company had to hire this many people by some government mandate, it would go broke within a week. Then nobody would have a job.

      But I digress...

      I think a world where humanoid robots are able to do all of the menial tasks that we humans do on a regular basis would be ideal. (I am assuming these robots are not "intelligent," but they are simply capable of the cognitive abilites required to do manual labor. A monkey could be trained to do these things.) These robots would be doing us a grand favor by saving us the very precious economic resource of time. By giving us the time that is normally taken up in doing menial tasks like washing dishes, cleaning, repairing cars, etc... we now have more time for thinking. As the robots take care of the lower-order tasks, we are free and enabled to spend our time on more important, higher-order thinking and planning. Even the poor man of this distant future would be envied by the Warren Buffets of today, very much as someone who is considered to be at the "poverty line" today is actually living a life replete with more material things than a medieval king could have ever dreamed of. (e.g. cell phone, car, indoor plumbing, refrigeration, airplanes, television, newspapers, skyscrapers etc.)

      I think the development of robots as a replacement for human labor is something that should be actively pursued and which will ultimately and drastically increase our standard of living. Now, the case in which said robots are made intelligent and capable of creating their own goals, desires, dreams, ambitions, vengance, hatred, etc. is altogether different and should be considered with caution. What if they became too powerful, and destroyed us? I think this is in a very distant future and isn't really something to worry about at present, but it is food for thought nonetheless.
      I think this post pretty much nailed it. Humans will always have some other wants to satiate, so much so that the pursuit of those desires may lead to new industries. There will never be a state of full contentment.

      Quote Originally Posted by cmind
      It takes a lot of indoctrination and a very strained mind to actually believe that the abundance brought about by total automation would result in anything other than materialistic utopia, regardless of political regimes. That's all I have to say on this shameful topic.
      I don't know if it takes indoctrination or a strained mind. Personally I think the relative material abundance brought by total (or near-total) automation would be an enormous benefit to the human race, though perhaps not utopian on the grounds that, well, utopia is impossible to reach. But I can see why others would be worried. Would life for us just turn into some sort of realization of Wall-E? Personally I don't think so, but some might. I don't know why you'd consider this a shameful topic.
      The worst thing that can happen to a good cause is, not to be skillfully attacked, but to be ineptly defended. - Frédéric Bastiat
      I try to deny myself any illusions or delusions, and I think that this perhaps entitles me to try and deny the same to others, at least as long as they refuse to keep their fantasies to themselves. - Christopher Hitchens
      Formerly known as BLUELINE976

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      This predicted circumstance might seem like a big problem, but I definitely see a way to look at it positively. Along the lines of where Hercuflea was getting at, it could present an inevitable societal evolution. Humans would be left with their creativity in using these robots to make a living. Competitive and quality striven businesses would be one of the only salvations, aside from engineers producing, selling, and improving these robots, scientists, artists, and whatever else a robot wouldn't have the imagination or sentience to do. If we ever do find it possible to create robots with innovation and sentience indistinguishable from a human's (one's that would be able to do things like start businesses, own land, and marry lady robots) then I'd really wonder if it would be wise to build much of them considering building one would have the same effect as unnecessarily birthing another human into the world, which doesn't seem very fitting in today's world.

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