Tuesday, May 12, 2009

More getting there from here - baby steps

This past Sunday night, J. Storrs Hall was the guest on Fast Forward Radio (click on the link to listen to the recorded program) with the guys from The Speculist.

Early in the program, there is some discussion of how individual people might be effected by anticipated technologic change like nano-assemblers or AI. Dr. Hall professed not to have a good idea about how to begin that preparedness effort, but I think the strategic principle regarding alliances helpfully applies here.

Entities like the Foresight Institute are uniquely structured within the larger society to promote the framework for just such an alliance to address the individual transition problem - and do so in a fashion to facilitate the transition occurring that bit more quickly with less societal disruption. It seems a reasonable expectation that at least the initial adoption of assembler technology will involve robots operating at the established macro-assembly level that humans are gradually being supplanted from already and gradually incorporate greater refinement and adherence to tighter engineering tolerances as the overall size of the robots decreases. Not much room for human workers there, in fact they would basically be in the way. Dr. Hall could orchestrate a mechanism whereby ordinary people - some of them actual factory assembly workers like myself - could become involved in this development process while simultaneously preparing for their future financial security.

Visualize the 401(k) investment model; government regulates individual retirement initiatives in professionally managed investment schemes via tax policy. Now, imagine a specialized investment account that specifically seeks to invest in assembler technology (buy the current state-of-the-art technology) and rent it to industry with the income from that used to grow the fund further. As the state of the technology advances, the fund alters it's investment practices accordingly so as to remain as close as practical to the cutting edge. At some point the return generated by the rented robots exceeds the rate of individual investment. At some (individually variable) different point, individual investors will seek to draw income from the account as a replacement for their presumably by-then vanished employment income.

Via the national podium provided him by the Foresight Institute, Dr. Hall is in a position to coordinate such an effort among those with the expertise and wherewithal to evaluate and actualise such an expansive concept. Promoting such a transitional mechanism would permit him (and others) to expand the potential audience and resource support of the Institute generally as well as contribute to the Institute's established mission statement.

Needs more work, I admit; may not work at all. As Dr. Hall said on the show though, there will need to be a variety of mechanisms required to achieve the transition without utterly destroying our existing socio-economic structure entire. At the least, scrutiny of this concept seems a positive step towards mitigating the damaging potential inherent to such a fundamentally disruptive event as we are pursuing.

No comments: