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Humanoid Or Specifically Built Robots VS Human Workers


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2 hours ago, WestAir said:

I am not an expert in any of the discussed fields,

That stated, in my uneducated opinion, I can see a mechanized workforce becoming the norm - especially in response to the fragility of service based economies as a whole. You already have automated checkout scanners, automated phone lines, automatic trains. We're working on automated cars and buses and planes.There will come a time, probably in our life-times, when any occupation you can think of can be done better by a machine; up to and including public office.

Where does that leave us? Better off, I hope. As for large militaries using mechanized assets to fight each other, with super-intelligent computers out-strategizing each other, I can't say where we fit in the mix. It'll certainly be interesting to see.

Yeah, technological history has been one of humans saying "only a highly trained human can do my job", and then someone coming along and screwing things up by building something that can, or better yet, something that eliminates the job entirely. Then we say, "Well, huh. This machine is pretty handy! My job is so much better now; I almost have fun while I'm working!" And the cycle repeated itself over and over again. It still is repeating, but there is a limit somewhere. When we get to that limit, my guess is that almost all jobs will be finding things for robots and computers to do, building better robots, or scientific work (assisted by robots and computers to the maximum extent practicable). Drudge work will be almost nonexistent.

What I mean is, robots can't give a live performance of Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing or Franz Liszt's "La Campanella", or handcarve wooden furniture. It's things that have a human tag attached to them that will be prevalent. Other jobs will be dreaming up new items for robots to make, new games for people to play, and other things that really require a human.

I assume you are being facetious about public office? ^_^ And future war is gonna be *kinda* different from that of 1943, or even today.

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58 minutes ago, SOXBLOX said:

Robots can't give a live performance of Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing or Franz Liszt's "La Campanella", or handcarve wooden furniture.

Alright so, again let me clarify that I'm not an expert.

That said, it's been my observation that computers are very good at monkey see monkey do. There will come a point where computers will be used to create screenplay, will write books, and will create paintings and furniture based only on examples. In fact, there have been examples of all of the above. For instance, there's a webpage you can go to where you can draw a sketch and a computer will finish the painting for you. There are websites where a computer will write a story for you based on your own concepts. Moving forward - especially when decades turn to centuries and so on - we'll reach a point where computers will do these things far better than we could. That's just my opinion.

 

58 minutes ago, SOXBLOX said:

I assume you are being facetious about public office?

Sort of.

Today there are no computers that can think critically or, really, think at all. I'm assuming eventually - given enough time - we'll have computers that can. And how amazing will it be to have a Judge or CEO or Prime Minister that is programmed to follow the law, is completely selfless by design, is incapable of lying, and has only the best interests of the public in mind? I'm surely not the first to imagine peerless leadership, and I would be lying if I said I wouldn't support replacing humans with their fairer creations with that regard. Imagine a leader that can't be bribed and won't lie.

I guess I'm imagining Lt. Commander Data from Star Trek running for public office. And it's got my vote.

 

58 minutes ago, SOXBLOX said:

And future war is gonna be *kinda* different from that of 1943, or even today.

Absolutely. I can't pretend to know through what medium a hot war will be fought in 2040, let alone 2540. That said, there's an argument to be made about the absolute lethality and efficiency of a computer based "SkyNet" system. We already know no human chess player can beat the computer chess player that comes with every version of windows. In what way could a human General outsmart a computer General if said computer was designed well enough?

What happens when a computer can look at satellite data, social media, and other sources to accurately map enemy movements and distribution and can strategize against it in real time? When a computer can tell a grunt on the ground to duck because a sniper miles away is aiming at him? When a computer can coordinate individual assets in a manner we couldn't dream of today? I mean one day these small cheap unmanned robot vehicles are fast enough to shoot down individual bullets with their own bullets?

I'm just imagining a playing field where the human element isn't just irrelevant, it's obsolete. And I can't imagine that being a bad thing for us; but I've been wrong a lot of times before.

Edited by WestAir
Poor spelling.
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1 hour ago, Dragon01 said:

Computers won't be "super-intelligent" or doing any strategizing any time soon. They're still 100% deterministic machines, with no capability for thinking whatsoever, only computing. Mechanized workforce ends where intelligence begins. So you're right about public offices. :)Military officers (except maybe 2nd lieutenants :)) and scientists should be fine, though.

I'd expect automated buses to still have a person onboard, if only to oversee the passengers. Automated cars will likely be required to have manual overrides (even if it's just an emergency stop), just in case of something they weren't designed to handle. If not from the outset, then the moment the first accident occurs which would have been prevented by such a system. The fundamental problem with automated systems is that they're great at following rules to the letter, and if that's all that's required they work well, but the moment the best course of action is to break the rules, they fail miserably. As much as the authorities like to pretend otherwise, rules are never perfect, and it takes a human brain to recognize such moments. It's also good when the judge who decided whether breaking the rules was justified has a brain, too, but that's not always assured (what with them all being lawyers :) ).

 

Umm... so long AI lacks the ability to reason on new information by comparing with stored info (even animals have a good capacity for this), humans can use deception to beat them so long tech disparity is not too high.

The reason why animals do not rule the world is because they have no desire to do so like humans do. Eating prey is fine along withhaving offspring.

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It doesn't necessary need to be a direct human vs. machine confrontation. A machine is incapable of recognizing and dealing with a situation that does not conform to the rules. "Deception" can be just any situation that isn't what it looks like.

1 hour ago, SOXBLOX said:

 When we get to that limit, my guess is that almost all jobs will be finding things for robots and computers to do, building better robots, or scientific work (assisted by robots and computers to the maximum extent practicable). Drudge work will be almost nonexistent.

One thing to keep in mind: the more automation we'll introduce, the less unskilled human labor will be worth. Because of that, drudge work will still be a thing for a long time, as long as it's cheaper to hire a human than buy a machine. This is a moving target, and it will lead to exploitation of unskilled laborers. In fact, it's happening right now in some places. We already have the technology to automate many jobs that are currently done by humans, but it's not always the cheapest option. A sweatshop full of poor workers (often including children) in some 3rd world country is still a cheaper way of making T-shirts than a fully automatic production line in the 1st world. Eventually, this will change as machinery gets cheaper, and those poor workers will have to find another place to work at, probably for less pay and in worse conditions. That's what the original Luddites were on about, and what trying to compete with machines looks like from a human perspective. It would take a major paradigm shift and probably abandonment of capitalism to get away from that, because no matter what, most people are simply not intelligent enough to do useful work with their brains.

Scientists, engineers and designers are already using computers to maximum extent practicable. In fact, most serious work is done with them, barring some menial lab jobs that are easier to get a grad student to do. And even that can be automated:
https://blogs.sciencemag.org/pipeline/archives/2020/07/09/robo-chemist-the-latest-version
Now, I don't see it replacing grad students just yet (again, mostly because robots are expensive and students are cheap :) ), but compared to my father's time, there's far less stuff to do around the labs, especially for undergrads. Between increasing automation and more stringent regulations (liability and so on), it can be though to find something to get started on. Of course, it's not that big of a problem in itself, as long as the university is well run. It does, however, mean that it takes longer before a student can actually do something useful around the lab, and that fact needs to be taken into account.

24 minutes ago, WestAir said:

Today there are no computers that can think critically or, really, think at all. I'm assuming eventually - given enough time - we'll have computers that can.

The thing is, making a computer that can think is impossible, because there are fundamental differences between what human brain does and what computer does. All a computer does is implement a logical operation, in a mathematical sense. Critical thinking is not deterministic, and it involves imagination, which is very much outside the realm of traditional computing. Whether quantum computing can do that remains to be seen, but either way, it will take a fundamental breakthrough, because a logic machine has some limitations inherent in the very fact that it's a logic machine.

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18 minutes ago, Dragon01 said:

One thing to keep in mind: the more automation we'll introduce, the less unskilled human labor will be worth. Because of that, drudge work will still be a thing for a long time, as long as it's cheaper to hire a human than buy a machine. This is a moving target, and it will lead to exploitation of unskilled laborers. In fact, it's happening right now in some places. We already have the technology to automate many jobs that are currently done by humans, but it's not always the cheapest option. A sweatshop full of poor workers (often including children) in some 3rd world country is still a cheaper way of making T-shirts than a fully automatic production line in the 1st world. Eventually, this will change as machinery gets cheaper, and those poor workers will have to find another place to work at, probably for less pay and in worse conditions. That's what the original Luddites were on about, and what trying to compete with machines looks like from a human perspective. It would take a major paradigm shift and probably abandonment of capitalism to get away from that, because no matter what, most people are simply not intelligent enough to do useful work with their brains.

Scientists, engineers and designers are already using computers to maximum extent practicable. In fact, most serious work is done with them, barring some menial lab jobs that are easier to get a grad student to do. And even that can be automated:
https://blogs.sciencemag.org/pipeline/archives/2020/07/09/robo-chemist-the-latest-version
Now, I don't see it replacing grad students just yet (again, mostly because robots are expensive and students are cheap :) ), but compared to my father's time, there's far less stuff to do around the labs, especially for undergrads. Between increasing automation and more stringent regulations (liability and so on), it can be though to find something to get started on. Of course, it's not that big of a problem in itself, as long as the university is well run.

The thing is, making a computer that can think is impossible, because there are fundamental differences between what human brain does and what computer does. All a computer does is implement a logical operation, in a mathematical sense. 

Critical thinking is not deterministic, and it involves imagination, which is very much outside the realm of traditional computing. Whether quantum computing can do that remains to be seen, but either way, it will take a fundamental breakthrough, because a logic machine has some limitations inherent in the very fact that it's a logic machine.

(Edit: I went through a phase where I was writing my own sci fi and your threads really stoke my creative side. Keep it up, brother! These thought games are excellent.)

The current processing design used for modern computers, if history is any indication, will not be the same design used by computers two centuries from now. Everything changes, and I think the problem, Dragon, is "when" not "if" some college project or research team will invent a completely new and fundamentally different processing design that bridges the gap between modern computing and human computing and can learn and reason. There is a ridiculous demand for this sort of capability, and I assure you there are thousands of people feverishly pursuing computers that can think. We're a smart enough species to make it happen, eventually.

As for the other point on cheap labor versus mechanized labor, I also think that's a modern phenomenon and one that won't exist in, say, 2920 society. Sure, we might still have sweat shops in 150 years, but nothing lasts forever; Eventually the human element will get replaced, probably once the next iteration of future computers begin to design their own replacements better and faster than we can, and especially when said machines begin to operate everything from the acquisition of resources to the building of equipment.

In this example, there's no way a fully autonomous Nike can compete with a Nike that hires labor. Full stop.

Edited by WestAir
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3 hours ago, WestAir said:

Alright so, again let me clarify that I'm not an expert.

That said, it's been my observation that computers are very good at monkey see monkey do. There will come a point where computers will be used to create screenplay, will write books, and will create paintings and furniture based only on examples. In fact, there have been examples of all of the above. For instance, there's a webpage you can go to where you can draw a sketch and a computer will finish the painting for you. There are websites where a computer will write a story for you based on your own concepts. Moving forward - especially when decades turn to centuries and so on - we'll reach a point where computers will do these things far better than we could. That's just my opinion.

Sort of.

Today there are no computers that can think critically or, really, think at all. I'm assuming eventually - given enough time - we'll have computers that can. And how amazing will it be to have a Judge or CEO or Prime Minister that is programmed to follow the law, is completely selfless by design, is incapable of lying, and has only the best interests of the public in mind? I'm surely not the first to imagine peerless leadership, and I would be lying if I said I wouldn't support replacing humans with their fairer creations with that regard. Imagine a leader that can't be bribed and won't lie.
I guess I'm imagining Lt. Commander Data from Star Trek running for public office. And it's got my vote. Absolutely. I can't pretend to know through what medium a hot war will be fought in 2040, let alone 2540. That said, there's an argument to be made about the absolute lethality and efficiency of a computer based "SkyNet" system. We already know no human chess player can beat the computer chess player that comes with every version of windows. In what way could a human General outsmart a computer General if said computer was designed well enough? What happens when a computer can look at satellite data, social media, and other sources to accurately map enemy movements and distribution and can strategize against it in real time? When a computer can tell a grunt on the ground to duck because a sniper miles away is aiming at him? When a computer can coordinate individual assets in a manner we couldn't dream of today? I mean one day these small cheap unmanned robot vehicles are fast enough to shoot down individual bullets with their own bullets?

I'm just imagining a playing field where the human element isn't just irrelevant, it's obsolete. And I can't imagine that being a bad thing for us; but I've been wrong a lot of times before.

Well, on the political office topic, someone has to program it. Their biases would creep in. If you're saying they wouldn't be programmed, then yeah, anything is possible in our imagination.

As for the piano playing, we already have computers that play music and even instruments, but humans still attend concerts and theatre productions. They do it because hearing a human play it (while the sound isn't very different) the intangible quality of attending a concert, performed by a human, cannot, by definition, be replicated by a robot. The idea I'm trying to convey is that "authentic" and "handmade" will carry more weight in the future. As for computer-generated art, it probably won't sell as well as human art. Why? It is meaningless. If one can crank out piece after piece, they are as cheap as common dirt, because they are as plentiful.

The playing field of the future you describe is real, but I would conjecture (meaning no offense, and not pretending to be an expert) that your conclusion is wrong. Humans are not irrelevant in this future, they simply have so much individual power with so little effort that they appear so.

3 hours ago, Dragon01 said:

One thing to keep in mind: the more automation we'll introduce, the less unskilled human labor will be worth. Because of that, drudge work will still be a thing for a long time, as long as it's cheaper to hire a human than buy a machine. This is a moving target, and it will lead to exploitation of unskilled laborers. In fact, it's happening right now in some places. We already have the technology to automate many jobs that are currently done by humans, but it's not always the cheapest option. A sweatshop full of poor workers (often including children) in some 3rd world country is still a cheaper way of making T-shirts than a fully automatic production line in the 1st world. Eventually, this will change as machinery gets cheaper, and those poor workers will have to find another place to work at, probably for less pay and in worse conditions. That's what the original Luddites were on about, and what trying to compete with machines looks like from a human perspective.

Scientists, engineers and designers are already using computers to maximum extent practicable. In fact, most serious work is done with them, barring some menial lab jobs that are easier to get a grad student to do. 

The thing is, making a computer that can think is impossible, because there are fundamental differences between what human brain does and what computer does. All a computer does is implement a logical operation, in a mathematical sense. Critical thinking is not deterministic, and it involves imagination, which is very much outside the realm of traditional computing. Whether quantum computing can do that remains to be seen, but either way, it will take a fundamental breakthrough, because a logic machine has some limitations inherent in the very fact that it's a logic machine.

But of course. Any company that makes the same product but has higher prices or lower margins due to the use of more expensive labor will not last long enough to be written about in the history books. When machines are cheaper than humans, human labor will not be economically feasible.

And we are using computers and data management. My point is that the "maximum extent practicable" will expand.

So far, you seem to be correct on computers being unable to think. Strong AI may never come to pass. I withhold my judgement on the possibilities of quantum computing.

3 hours ago, Dragon01 said:

It would take a major paradigm shift and probably abandonment of capitalism to get away from that, because no matter what, most people are simply not intelligent enough to do useful work with their brains.

If capitalism got us here and is taking us to this future we are imagining, it makes zero sense to abandon it once there.

Also, ouch.

Debates like these are the reason I love these forums! Pretty sure we all love your questions, @Spacescifi

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20 minutes ago, SOXBLOX said:

Well, on the political office topic, someone has to program it. Their biases would creep in. If you're saying they wouldn't be programmed, then yeah, anything is possible in our imagination.

As for the piano playing, we already have computers that play music and even instruments, but humans still attend concerts and theatre productions. They do it because hearing a human play it (while the sound isn't very different) the intangible quality of attending a concert, performed by a human, cannot, by definition, be replicated by a robot. The idea I'm trying to convey is that "authentic" and "handmade" will carry more weight in the future. As for computer-generated art, it probably won't sell as well as human art. Why? It is meaningless. If one can crank out piece after piece, they are as cheap as common dirt, because they are as plentiful.

The playing field of the future you describe is real, but I would conjecture (meaning no offense, and not pretending to be an expert) that your conclusion is wrong. Humans are not irrelevant in this future, they simply have so much individual power with so little effort that they appear so.

But of course. Any company that makes the same product but has higher prices or lower margins due to the use of more expensive labor will not last long enough to be written about in the history books. When machines are cheaper than humans, human labor will not be economically feasible.

And we are using computers and data management. My point is that the "maximum extent practicable" will expand.

So far, you seem to be correct on computers being unable to think. Strong AI may never come to pass. I withhold my judgement on the possibilities of quantum computing.

If capitalism got us here and is taking us to this future we are imagining, it makes zero sense to abandon it once there.

Also, ouch.

Debates like these are the reason I love these forums! Pretty sure we all love your questions, @Spacescifi

 

Haha... I think they like some of them more than others... namely the ones that are less far out and more down to Earth.

 

 

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6 hours ago, WestAir said:

There will come a point where computers will be used to create screenplay, will write books

http://www.non-volio.de/pup/sf_horror_movie_pocket_computer.html

Spoiler

movie_generator.gif

 

6 hours ago, Spacescifi said:

so long AI lacks the ability to reason on new information by comparing with stored info

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heuristic

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12 hours ago, SOXBLOX said:

Eh. Maybe, but it seems to be going in the direction of either "no more tanks" or "tanks have active defenses", like Israel's Trophy or Russia's Arena. Airborne drones are being launched from tanks to scout ahead, but these are only a few inches long, and aren't weaponized.

Much better than small drone tanks would be active defense-equipped (manned) tanks with tons of CAS from UAV platforms.

We're more likely to see loitering munitions first. A.k.a. miniature cruise missiles.

The Chinese have put a bunch of then on QN-506, it's just this thing looks like a thermal optics manufacturer's own concoction without official backing.

1_b432a1ce.jpg

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5 hours ago, SOXBLOX said:

But of course. Any company that makes the same product but has higher prices or lower margins due to the use of more expensive labor will not last long enough to be written about in the history books. When machines are cheaper than humans, human labor will not be economically feasible.

You missed my point. When machines are cheaper than humans, humans will become cheaper. Market forces 101. Without regulations to prevent that from happening, the costs of human labor can be almost zero. In theory, all you need to let a human do some simple task is a building and a supply of feedstock, things that machines need, too. In fact, in some climates you can dispense with a building unless your feedstock needs protection from the elements. Human laborers are capable of lowering their requirements massively if they're desperate. This means that as long as it's not forbidden and enforced all across the world, someone out there will work in hellish conditions, for starvation wages, just because hiring them at any other conditions would be too expensive, and they have to earn a living somehow. If they need to sit in a cattle pen sewing T-shirts with thread and needle in order to get something to eat, they will.

That's why I mentioned abandoning capitalism. It got us where we are, but it also got poor factory workers where they are, and it'll continue dragging them down. We will eventually reach a point when there are more humans than there are "brain" jobs. In straight capitalism, people not capable enough to get paid for thinking will simply starve to death, because they will be unable to generate any value that would earn them any money. Essentially, human life becomes worthless (unless that human is very intelligent), and that's a rather scary thing. In fact, this was Marx' original point, communism started out as an answer to the question "what happens when we're all replaced by robots"? This specter had been looming over the working class ever since the Jacquard loom, the Bolsheviks jumped the gun a bit on that one (they tried to make it happen, though, the Soviets were actually quite good at automating things, but it turned out not to be enough), but the question is still very real, and it will have to be answered someday. 

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17 minutes ago, Dragon01 said:

You missed my point. When machines are cheaper than humans, humans will become cheaper. Market forces 101. Without regulations to prevent that from happening, the costs of human labor can be almost zero.

OK Ned Ludd

/s

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As I mentioned two posts above, that's exactly what Ludd was on about. :) He was right, too, the Jacquard loom decimated the ranks of weavers and made many jobs obsolete, putting many skilled craftsmen out of work, many of whom ended up as much poorer menial laborers, because their skills suddenly became worthless. Of course, back then, there was plenty of other work to pick up the slack, but ultimately, automation reduces demand for human labor, while supply is the same as before. This causes price of labor to go down. Again, free market 101, it worked like that then, it works like that now. 

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29 minutes ago, Dragon01 said:

That's why I mentioned abandoning capitalism. It got us where we are, but it also got poor factory workers where they are, and it'll continue dragging them down. We will eventually reach a point when there are more humans than there are "brain" jobs. In straight capitalism, people not capable enough to get paid for thinking will simply starve to death, because they will be unable to generate any value that would earn them any money. Essentially, human life becomes worthless (unless that human is very intelligent), and that's a rather scary thing. In fact, this was Marx' original point, communism started out as an answer to the question "what happens when we're all replaced by robots"? This specter had been looming over the working class ever since the Jacquard loom, the Bolsheviks jumped the gun a bit on that one (they tried to make it happen, though, the Soviets were actually quite good at automating things, but it turned out not to be enough), but the question is still very real, and it will have to be answered someday. 

The problem is that it has already been answered, both in the form of rentier states like the Gulf oil monarchies, and the Western concept of a post-industrial economy with a huge services sector (that pays horrendously low wages). Both tend to feature flooding the labor market by bringing in even more and more people from abroad.

Advanced automation will merely merge both into a dystopia.

What are the alternatives? Well, any sort of system that pays people for existing is unsustainable, both because it encourages idiocracy. Pretty much the only way out of this pit is a combination of intelligence enhancement, and something to absorb a huge surplus of economic output. There is one activity that fits the bill.

1516889651_8884.jpg

Neverending peripheral or expansionist warfare. Something akin to the backdrop of 1984, if I recall correctly.

...Can we please go back to the dystopia of permanent unemployment?

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30 minutes ago, Dragon01 said:

You missed my point. When machines are cheaper than humans, humans will become cheaper. Market forces 101. Without regulations to prevent that from happening, the costs of human labor can be almost zero. In theory, all you need to let a human do some simple task is a building and a supply of feedstock, things that machines need, too. In fact, in some climates you can dispense with a building unless your feedstock needs protection from the elements. Human laborers are capable of lowering their requirements massively if they're desperate. This means that as long as it's not forbidden and enforced all across the world, someone out there will work in hellish conditions, for starvation wages, just because hiring them at any other conditions would be too expensive, and they have to earn a living somehow. If they need to sit in a cattle pen sewing T-shirts with thread and needle in order to get something to eat, they will.

That's why I mentioned abandoning capitalism. It got us where we are, but it also got poor factory workers where they are, and it'll continue dragging them down. We will eventually reach a point when there are more humans than there are "brain" jobs. In straight capitalism, people not capable enough to get paid for thinking will simply starve to death, because they will be unable to generate any value that would earn them any money. Essentially, human life becomes worthless (unless that human is very intelligent), and that's a rather scary thing. In fact, this was Marx' original point, communism started out as an answer to the question "what happens when we're all replaced by robots"? This specter had been looming over the working class ever since the Jacquard loom, the Bolsheviks jumped the gun a bit on that one (they tried to make it happen, though, the Soviets were actually quite good at automating things, but it turned out not to be enough), but the question is still very real, and it will have to be answered someday. 

However it has not worked like that during the last 250 years. 
With more efficient production  you increase the wealth produced for each person, this is why we are so much wealthier that 200 years ago. 
Yes the work you do will obviously change first most was farmers but this changed to factory work and then to service work.
Employment will change again with technological changes and more wealth. 

And more wealth is created, factories relying on cheap labor can no longer operate in China, and the last 20 years has increased global wealth a lot. 

Now we do not know how long this will work, having cheap humanoid, human intelligence robots who only need power to run would break it for sure but then an robot rebellion would be an larger problem. 

 

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16 minutes ago, magnemoe said:

However it has not worked like that during the last 250 years. 
With more efficient production  you increase the wealth produced for each person, this is why we are so much wealthier that 200 years ago. 
Yes the work you do will obviously change first most was farmers but this changed to factory work and then to service work.

Yes, at which point you get into the question of inequality and different living costs...

The problem is that the Industrial Revolution, combined with a population boom, did lead to an appreciable drop in quality of life as cities became overcrowded and labor did become cheap when it became less artisanal. It was somewhat obfuscated by the Enlightenment era anti-Medieval propaganda, but it was very real.

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49 minutes ago, DDE said:

What are the alternatives? Well, any sort of system that pays people for existing is unsustainable, both because it encourages idiocracy.

Not necessarily. If you have machines that can, hands-off, produce way more basic necessities than the entire humanity could use, why not give them away for free? Paying them would indeed be trouble, but expanding unemployment benefits to include everything one needs to live would probably be the most ethical way of getting out of that fix. In fact, Europe is well on the way of doing just that, though they, too, jumped the gun on that and resulted in immigration problems. That's another issue, a socialist system can't effectively coexist with capitalist ones. Either it can provide for everyone, and everyone else moves there until it can't or it stops taking them in (Europe), or it can't and it gets outcompeted (USSR). The only way socialism can last is if it can provide for literally every person on Earth, which was the idea that early communists had in mind, but it has significant practical obstacles to implementation.

Also, idiocracy is the rule of idiots. It can be prevented by implementing a system that would prevent those without work from gaining power. Of course, that would require a system that disenfranchises those unable to contribute. OTOH, remember that being in government would also constitute a job, and even in a democracy, a random idiot has little chances of winning an election. The sort of people who do would be the exact sort that win them now, which is to say, power-hungry manipulative sociopaths. It wouln't be any worse than it is now, at any rate. :) 

27 minutes ago, magnemoe said:

And more wealth is created, factories relying on cheap labor can no longer operate in China, and the last 20 years has increased global wealth a lot. 

Cheap labor is still going strong in other places in SE Asia, in Africa and South America. The reason it doesn't seem like it worked like that is that we don't have unrestrained capitalism in most of the Western world. Just look at how jobs changed in the US, things like mining and manufacturing were in deep decline before the pandemic, and the economy was shifting to a service-heavy model which still had many low wage jobs, just not in hard labor. Also note the US reliance on low-paid illegal immigrants for the lowest of those jobs, who are exempt from protections against exploitation that are afforded to citizens. Misery is just being shuffled around the world, not eliminated.

We are much wealthier, but notice that not everyone benefits from increase in global wealth. It mostly goes to those already wealthy, in developed countries. The reason China had changed is because it had recently-ish joined that club. These countries restrict cheap labor from becoming too cheap, and wealth produced for each person increases there, but at the same time, things are outsourced to places which do allow labor costs to drop. We're far from running out of such places, but it'll happen someday. 

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13 minutes ago, Dragon01 said:

Not necessarily. If you have machines that can, hands-off, produce way more basic necessities than the entire humanity could use, why not give them away for free?

Well, Europe's actual problem is that the appetite for welfare grows over generations. You can never sate the appetite.

And of course, coming at it from the other corner of the political spectrum, something given has no value.

13 minutes ago, Dragon01 said:

Either it can provide for everyone, and everyone moves there until it can't or it stops taking them in (Europe), or it can't and it gets outcompeted (USSR).

You missed the more obvious tendency of capitalist states of becoming interested in "unlocking" new markets )

Spoiler

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The Soviet Union did not exactly have an immigration problem. It did have a problem with inefficiency as well as pumping vast resources into the underperforming peripheral republics (even worse than the EU).

It would be interesting to see how it would function with that ballast jetissonned and GosPlan's internet ambitions realized.

Many socialist states do have an unfortunate tendency to be or become oil rentier states, however. I've yet to explore that association further.

13 minutes ago, Dragon01 said:

Just look at how jobs changed in the US, things like mining and manufacturing were in deep decline before the pandemic, and the economy was shifting to a service-heavy model which still had many low wage jobs, just not in hard labor.

I am sure the survivors of retail jobs would disagree. Sticks and stones may break their bones, but working in customer-facing jobs is a soul-destroying experience.

Or so I, a cubicle rat, hear.

Edited by DDE
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1 minute ago, DDE said:

And of course, coming at it from the other corner of the political spectrum, something given has no value.

Indeed. However, notice that from purely capitalist standpoint, if something can be produced for effectively no cost, in an amount that exceeds all possible demand, it also has no effectively no value, either. If the initial investment can be made by an entity whose end goal is not profit (such as a government), such fully automated factories could produce free stuff to be given away for free. Of course, it all hinges on operating costs of those factories being low enough that it wouldn't make too much of a dent in the budget, and on initial investment not being beyond what the country is willing to pay.

10 minutes ago, DDE said:

You missed the more obvious tendency of capitalist states of becoming interested in "unlocking" new markets )

That happens, too, but only when there's a significant strength disparity. The US famously did that to Japan and clashed with the USSR over that during Cold War, but it never seemed to harbor ambitions of doing the same to USSR itself. Military solutions are notorious, but actually quite uncommon, especially today, when the overall paradigm in Western geopolitics seems to be "don't rock the boat".

USSR did not have an immigration problem, which is why I put it in the second category. The peripherals especially dragged it down, so it was an example of "couldn't provide for everyone" without having anyone come in. 

7 minutes ago, DDE said:

I am sure the survivors of retail jobs would disagree. Sticks and stones may break their bones, but working in customer-facing jobs is a soul-destroying experience.

Yeah, should have said physical hard labor. :) That said, retail is also in decline, services are subject to automation, too, just at a slower pace. 

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@Dragon01, actually, let me tell you something about Soviets and unemployment. Belarus still runs under state socialist principles. How do they achieve near-total employment? Artificial non-automation, and splitting one job to cover multiple people part-time. Oh, and denying welfare and benefits to the "work-shy", and eventually sentencing them to community labor.

They still sweep streets. By hand. With brooms.

And the whole country is actually a very interesting case study, because much of the frustration underpinning the recent protests is because the economy is very stagnant and wages, especially for the professional class, are a fraction of what they are in our bigger hyper-capitalist half of the Union State.

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1 hour ago, DDE said:

Well, any sort of system that pays people for existing is unsustainable, both because it encourages idiocracy.

It is sustainable, because there is no such thing as idiocracy.
The fact that "95%" of population will be in state of suspended intellectual activity does mean neither that the top 5% will be idiots, nor that you have to be an idiot if you don't want to.

Upd.
Just you need to have an inner motivation, rather than economical stimulation.

Example. Almost nobody at this forum is actually employed in Martian colonies development.

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19 minutes ago, DDE said:

And the whole country is actually a very interesting case study, because much of the frustration underpinning the recent protests is because the economy is very stagnant and wages, especially for the professional class, are a fraction of what they are in our bigger hyper-capitalist half of the Union State.

It's an example what happens to those that follow a dogma without truly understanding where the principles come from. :) The "right" way of doing that would be to create useful work for everyone, for example by massively expanding industry until there's enough workplaces to everyone. The problem is, it can't be done without some starting capital (and competence on part of the government, but that's a problem just about anywhere). 

Also, while life for Belarussian middle class is undoubtedly much worse than in the US, I suspect the poor are actually just as if not better off, especially if we compare them to illegal immigrants and the like. The US had been characterized as "misery and poverty in a land of incredible wealth" for a reason. They flaunt their wealthy elite, but it's all built on top some very impoverished and indebted lower classes.

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44 minutes ago, DDE said:

Yes, at which point you get into the question of inequality and different living costs...

The problem is that the Industrial Revolution, combined with a population boom, did lead to an appreciable drop in quality of life as cities became overcrowded and labor did become cheap when it became less artisanal. It was somewhat obfuscated by the Enlightenment era anti-Medieval propaganda, but it was very real.

Here I agree, now I guess this was far more an problem in UK than later comers. And yes its easy to overlook then you look back. 

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2 minutes ago, Dragon01 said:

The "right" way of doing that would be to create useful work for everyone, for example by massively expanding industry until there's enough workplaces to everyone.

Most of people are taking goods from one shelf and putting them to another one.
Or digging pits with a shovel and undigging them back.

The "usefulness" of work is a subject of many centuries long economist wars, and it can not be defined that easily.

Example: Dead civilizations get useless. Were they useless?

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4 minutes ago, kerbiloid said:

Just you need to have an inner motivation, rather than economical stimulation.

And this is where we arrive to the issue of motivation. Unfortunately, the situation here is quite rubbish. Early socialists had a pretty romantic notion that humans like to work. Friedrich Engels isn't entirely wrong when arguing that alienation from the product of labor is a societal ill - we already see the crisis in the post-industrial economy, because you can no longer point to something and say 'I built that'.

Even if your job was tightening the nuts on a Lunokhod's rear wheel.

Unfortunately, past a certain level of complexity, it's also inevitable because of the sheer number of people involved. It's simply impossible to go back to non-stratified cottage industry.

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3 minutes ago, kerbiloid said:

The "usefulness" of work is a subject of many centuries long economist wars, and it can not be defined that easily.

Useful work is one that creates value. Tightening nuts on a Lunokhod's rear wheel is useful work, because a rover with all the wheels is worth more than a rover with one missing. Trading stocks, speculating on currency market or being a politician is not useful work, lucrative as it might be. This is actually a serious problem with modern economy, though not all economists acknowledge it as such.

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