Monday, April 12, 2010

How Do We Get There From Here?

Stephen Gordon has a post up at The Speculist that begins:

Forbes has published an excellent series of articles grouped together as "Your Life in 2020." You'll want to read the whole series - its excellent.

The Forbes link Stephen provides is here. Stephen then goes on to focus attention on one article in particular having to do with the likely-seeming potential for disruption in the employment model familiar to modern humans in a technological society.

It's good to see this matter of concern becoming a mainstream topic. The tendency is to focus attention upon the immediate issue or objective; 2010 elections in the US and likely the UK, taxes and employment concerns, etc. But allowing those to occupy our sole attention guarantees that issues which might be resolved otherwise are left until they reach crisis proportions before we attempt to confront them.

Getting any politician (of any ideological bent) to fore go a short term political advantage in pursuit of a multi-electoral cycle solution requires either an overwhelmingly broad political base focused upon the long-term goal or an extraordinary external threat that forces pursuit of the objective. More frequently we humans end up inflicting an internal threat upon ourselves (Luddites, civil wars and revolutions, prohibition(s), etc) and ignore the opportunity in favor of seeking advantage over one another instead.

Stephen Gordon again:

But the more I think about it, it seems obvious that we are destined to live through an awkward adolescence. The transition from the old human-powered industrial model to a robotics/AI-powered model is probably going to be rough.

Given that the industrial model is predicated on centralised control over the individual and the robotics/AI model stipulates a maximisation of individual expression, I don't believe we have yet begun to plumb the roughness our awkwardness is going to inflict. In his Future History novels, Robert A. Heinlein stipulated a period of extreme experience in human society and called it "the crazy years". I loved his stories because RAH was such an optimist.

I don't think we're going to actually get that lucky.

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