Tuesday, September 23, 2014

K Shanmugam: Competition from robots

Yes, this is coming and it isn't new. However very few people could imagine in a detailed fashion the shape it will take. Driven mostly by techies and approved by the top bosses who don't understand they forgot something very important. Who is going to buy the stuff produced by these jobs displacing intelligent machines?

If you can only think like playing chess, you are at risk. That's lots of people.

The social compact will have to change. Politics itself will be turned on its head and economics will enter no-man's land.

Alas, Kyenes idea of little work and much leisure might finally arrive if we successfully navigate the transition.

My simple minded idea is to give everyone a robot. In many situations a community may share an ecosystem of robots. These will be used to produce goods and services to sell or exchange (the currency system will be transformed beyond recognition) with others. We still need human demand for goods and services or the robots would have no demand to meet. Mind you millions of people will lose their jobs and we cannot allow them to stop being consumers.

The end point is easy, the transition is full of treachery as most unimaginative people could only see a dark age falling on them because they do not know how to think in new ways. They continue to extrapolate the past into the future which must point them to abysmal dystopia triggered by mass unemployment.

Which society would make the trip successfully depend as much on its leaders as its people. I hope to see more people writing about the social economic dimension of this transformation with greater clarity and depth. And there will be a new generation of political philosophers to create another intellectual bedrock for us to build upon as we had before in the Enlightenment.

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