Capitalism + Aritifical Intelligence & Robotics = Socialism (Universal Basic Income)
Breaking down an entire lifetime of beliefs
As I have dived deeper and deeper into the future of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Robotics and their impact on life, society and work, I have reached a conclusion that has shattered me.
For the majority of my 44 years, I have always been a capitalist. My capitalist ideals informed my governmental preferences, smaller government and less government involvement in markets of all kinds. I always made exceptions for certain elements, like border security and the military - those were clearly the domain of the Federal Government. In 1787, I would have been a staunch Federalist standing beside Alexander Hamilton arguing that the Federal Government was uniquely qualified to solve THOSE problems. However, since 1787, the Federal government’s power has grown exponentially into all facets of our lives. During the majority of my 44 years, having lived amidst this pervasive federal government, I have been a staunch anti-federalist. Jefferson and Madison would have been proud as my frequent, if not constant, answer to a problem has been “that’s best solved by individuals, the community and free markets. The federal government has no place and is probably distorting that market”.
So on this capitalist foundation, as I have considered a service like Welfare, I have understood its rationale and disliked it from a far. I believed that the markets could sort out support for the unemployed, and welfare probably encouraged some amount of unemployment. But unfortunately I no longer am able to hold out hope that free-markets can solve the problem of unemployment because NOW and in the FUTURE, capitalism will CAUSE substantial unemployment.
Saying that last sentence hurt. A robust economy should create jobs (says my 44 years of capitalist training) and create wealth for all , even if the owners of capital profited handsomely. But in a world of AI & Robotics, those centuries old ideas, starting with Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations, are now broken.
What is work? Well I see it as a combination of two things: Physical Effort + Intelligence. Some jobs are easier on one half of the equation, for instance being a college professor is fairly easy on the physical labor side of things and requires substantial portions of Intelligence. While stocking a shelf doesn’t require a lot of mind power, but certain requires plenty of Physical Effort. Since we discovered fire, humans have developed tools that aided our work. Calculators and Personal Computers simply assisted on the intelligence side, while Bulldozers and Farm Combines allowed us to physically accomplish more. These tools were compliments to our intelligence and our physical effort. With the advent of AI & Robotics, we are no longer employing a complimentary tool, we are now fully replacing both intelligence and physical effort. And that is where it all breaks down.
Now don’t get me wrong, we are in the early stages of AI & Robotics. There is still substantial work to be done. Today, Humans are driving the development. So in the near term, we have new jobs being created. It’s just that they aren’t sustainable. Machines are already programming machines. Robots are already building robots and when the two are combined, there is no further need for human involvement. Or even if there were a need for a human, the leverage that he/she could achieve is nearly infinite. It is fairly easy to envision one or two people overseeing the entire manufacturing run of an automobile today for example.
So that gets me to the breakdown. Capitalism will drive AI & Robotics all the way to the end. All the way to the marginalization of human work. It has to, it is simply doing what it does, which is to maximize profit for the owner of capital. As the owner of capital, I can employ someone and pay them a wage and they will work for me for about 8 hrs per day and 250 days a year. They will need vacation and sick days, they will need health insurance and workers compensation and next year they want slightly more wages to do the same job. Or, I can replace the job with a robot, which requires an upfront investment that is substantially higher, but my return on investment is immediate. The robot will work 24 hrs per day 365 days per year. That is more than 3x more productive. No sick days, no workers comp, no wage increase next year. When it comes to the capitalist perspective, this is what we call a “no-brainer”. Granted this is a simplified cost-benefit analysis and in many cases TODAY, the human remains the BETTER choice for the work, but that is simply a function of reducing the cost of the automation and creating automation that can accomplish more and more. Both of those things are progressing, so it is simply a matter of time.
Thus… the breakdown, the place where my head exploded. Capitalism will lead to 60–80% unemployment in the future. Said differently, Capitalism is now DESTROYING jobs, we have reached the turning point and it kills me to say it, because there is a follow on. Substantial structural unemployment of this kind is a problem that can ONLY be solved by the federal government. Universal Basic Income becomes the only solution. So Capitalism + AI & Robotics = Socialism (Universal Basic Income).
Mind completely blown.
More to follow as we dive deeper into many of these elements. Question assumptions covered above and challenge ourselves to think about solutions.
I started Forhumanity.org to raise awareness for the masses about the expansion of AI & Robotics (not to fight it), to proactively examine rules, laws and practices to protect humanity’s rights in this new world and to always advocate for humanity. I hope you’ll join me.
Future topics include:
- Won’t AI and Robotics create a whole bunch of new jobs, like all previous Technology?
- Sure AI & Robotics can replace some work but not MY JOB
- What is Universal Basic Income (UBI)? Is it the only solution
- What is society like without work?
- Many many more topics