Imagining a future when machines have all the jobs

Jan 24, 2013
In this Monday, Jan. 14, 2013, photo author Martin Ford, 49, poses for a portrait in San Francisco. Ford's book, "The Lights in the Tunnel" describes a nightmare scenario where machines leave 75 percent of American workers unemployed by 2089. Consumer spending collapses. Even those who are still working slash spending and save everything they can; they fear their jobs are doomed, too. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

Martin Ford saw it everywhere, even in his own business. Smarter machines and better software were helping companies do more work with fewer people. His Silicon Valley software firm used to put its programs on disks and ship them to customers. The disks were made, packaged and delivered by human beings. Now Ford's customers can just download the software to their computers - no disks, no packaging, no delivery workers.

"It is getting easier and easier to avoid hiring people by taking advantage of technology," Ford says.

An ordinary might simply have welcomed the cost savings. But something nagged at Ford: He wondered how a consumer economy - and 70 percent of the U.S. economy consists of - could function if kept dislodging the workers who did the vast majority of the spending.

"At some point you simply will have too few viable consumers to power a healthy economy," he says.

So in 2009 he thought through what would happen to the economy if machines kept replacing human workers. The result was his book, "The Lights in the Tunnel."

Ford, 49, describes a nightmare scenario. Machines leave 75 percent of American workers unemployed by 2089. Consumer spending collapses. Even those who are still working slash spending and save everything they can; they fear their jobs are doomed, too. As people lose work, they stop contributing to Social Security, potentially bankrupting the retirement system.

Ford knows that his apocalyptic vision defies history. For two centuries, - from steam power to the - have delivered more , more wealth, more and better jobs. "The historical argument is compelling," he says. "It's been going on for 200 years."

But this time is different, Ford contends.

Machines can do more and more human work. They don't just replace human brawn the way older machines did; increasingly, they substitute machine power for human .

And their powers will only grow. Computing power doubles every 18 months to two years. "Information technology continues to advance exponentially," Ford says. "So the future impact is potentially going to be much greater than anything we have seen thus far."

Just look at what the military is doing: waging war with drone aircraft, deploying robots to sniff out bombs in Afghanistan. "If you can build machines that operate autonomously on the battlefield, you can build machines that operate autonomously in a warehouse," he says.

In this face of such relentless competition, what can mere humans do?

Don't fight technology, Ford says. Smarter machines will make life better and increase wealth in the economy. The challenge, he says, is to make sure the benefits are shared when most workers have been supplanted by machines.

He suggests imposing massive taxes on companies, which would be paying far less in wages thanks to automation, and distributing the proceeds to those left unemployed by technology. That would give them money to spend to keep the economy spinning.

To prevent the creation of a massive, idle underclass, Ford suggests paying incentives for people to keep going to school and to behave in ways that benefit the environment and society.

He admits his ideas are "fairly radical and political untenable. ... But I don't believe there are any easy conventional solutions."

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bottomlesssoul
4.1 / 5 (13) Jan 24, 2013
I dream of the day of 100% unemployment and a life of leisure for all. Bring it on, this wage slavery life I live sucks.
antialias_physorg
4.1 / 5 (13) Jan 24, 2013
I could think of a lot of stuff I'd do without getting paid for it.
Without the need to make a halfway decent living I'd be back doing research like a shot.

And I certaily can't see a life free of work getting boring.
VendicarD
3.1 / 5 (19) Jan 24, 2013
It is self evident that the pursuit of money is the principle reason people are enslaved, unhappy, and unproductive.

Leisure is the ultimate Liberty, Free Markets the ultimate form of slave labor.

FrankHerbert
2.9 / 5 (21) Jan 24, 2013
I'm wondering how capitalists expect the free market to function when nobody has a job.
Argiod
1.7 / 5 (17) Jan 24, 2013
The trouble with a labor-free society is that labor is how we earn our salaries. Without jobs, we have no income. Without income we cannot pay rent, buy a house, buy food, etc. The more we eliminate menial tasks, the more poverty we impose upon the populace. Leisure time is great; but somehow we still have to feed, clothe, house and transport ourselves. Without jobs/income; how are we supposed to do this?
FrankHerbert
2.9 / 5 (18) Jan 24, 2013
You do realize money itself is an artificial construct? Ideally, in a post-scarcity society, there would be no money.

That's an obvious solution without touching on anything more nuanced. I'm baffled you would expect people to work for money in a world where all labor was done by machines.

So you would artificially limit automation? Isn't that against free market principals? If you do start to limit automation, where do you stop? Do you ban all computer controlled robots? Conveyor belts? (Someone could carry the product.) Beasts of burden? (That ox took my job!) Et cetera ad nauseum ad infinitum.
djr
3 / 5 (8) Jan 24, 2013
"He suggests imposing massive taxes on companies, which would be paying far less in wages thanks to automation, and distributing the proceeds to those left unemployed by technology"

Doesn't that sound like something that Rygg would say?
VendicarD
2.8 / 5 (11) Jan 24, 2013
Wouldn't Rygg say...

"Let the unemployed starve to death in a ditch somewhere, as long as I don't have to smell their rotting stench."

I'm sure he has said it already.

His hero, Ayn Rand was fond of saying such things, right up to the point where she started to collect welfare. Then she went silent.
VendicarD
3.3 / 5 (15) Jan 24, 2013
It is a good question.

In a society where robots do all the work, how are the populace fed, clothed and housed.

"Without jobs/income; how are we supposed to do this?" - Argiod

Isn't it self evident that the robots will do it?

Money becomes valueless in such a society.

Always remember, money exists today to LIMIT YOUR CHOICE, and RESTRICT YOUR ACTIONS.

Think of all the things you could be doing but are prevented from doing so by a lack of money.

Do you want to create art? Money generally prevents it.
Do you want to create music? Money generally prevents it.
Do you want to return to school? Money generally prevents you.
Do you wish to travel the world? Money restricts your movement.

Money is the slave masters tool for keeping you a slave.
Whydening Gyre
2.3 / 5 (16) Jan 24, 2013
As much as I am loath to admit it, VD - your last two comments together equalled NO arguable points...
Hat's off to you.
Whydening Gyre
1.8 / 5 (13) Jan 24, 2013
If I could add just one more thing to your statement -
If money gets to no value, the only limiting factor would be time.
I think great amounts of energy could then be appied to THAT little issue...
Ergo - The White Rabbit must die...
gopher65
4.1 / 5 (9) Jan 24, 2013
Whydening Gyre (and everyone else;)):
The limiting factors in an economy are Labour, Knowledge, Energy, Resources, and Time. Eliminating Labour definitely changes the equation, but it doesn't completely eliminate scarcity or the need for an economy.

I've actually thought about this problem myself, and I came to a similar conclusion to Ford: in the medium term, the only solution will be to allow mass unemployment to happen, change the tax code to place the balance of the burden on corporations, and then modify the social contract such that basic needs are taken care of. IE, basic food, shelter, clothing, etc are automatically provided to everyone (probably through some kind of "credits" system). If you want anything beyond the basics, find a way to create enough economic activity to pay for your wants (enough money for a big house, or to buy expensive food that isn't soylent green, etc).
trekgeek1
3.2 / 5 (5) Jan 25, 2013
...in the medium term, the only solution will be to allow mass unemployment to happen, change the tax code to place the balance of the burden on corporations, and then modify the social contract such that basic needs are taken care of. IE, basic food, shelter, clothing, etc are automatically provided to everyone (probably through some kind of "credits" system). If you want anything beyond the basics, find a way to create enough economic activity to pay for your wants (enough money for a big house, or to buy expensive food that isn't soylent green, etc).


That is the biggest problem I've seen; what you do during the transition between human labor and a mechanized society. My solution: When robots get cheaper, employees save up and buy a robot with their own money, send it to work for them and collect their paycheck. Employees pay for repairs from their own salary. When 90 percent of the population sends robots to work in their place, we then make the switch simultaneously.
lengould100
1.7 / 5 (12) Jan 25, 2013
I guess there's several ways to resolve the problem.

a) Reduce the population to only the 25% for which work is available.

b) reduce the length of the workday from 8 hrs to 2 hrs, keeping same gross pay per day per worker.

c) reduce the length of the workweek from 5 days to 1.5 days, keeping same gross pay per week per worker.

d) reduce the length of the workyear from 220 days to 55 days, keeping same gross pay per year per worker.

e) Keep 75% unemployment, impose a government tax on the work of machines, and have a government department accept proposals for the unemployed to do govt. supported projects for pay (art, science, ecological improvements, etc...) Those 25% still actually working would earn somewhat more than the unemployed but not a lot more.

Personally, I thing option e), or a combination of e) and d), would be the most effective and efficient.

(cont'd)
trekgeek1
1.8 / 5 (5) Jan 25, 2013
One of the other problems is resources that are not easily manufactured. Let's say everyone wants to live on the coast. How much coastline do we have? If it is not enough, how do we distribute that land? Do we take turns, perhaps intervals of five years each?

My ultimate solution:

The Matrix. Machines run society, mine energy sources, create food that is nutritionally rich, but not necessarily tasty. You spend the majority of your time neurally linked to a simulation where you can eat whatever you want, live wherever you want, live the life you want and only leave the simulation to dispose of waste and eat. You could even interface with as many friends as you wanted so you could live in a virtual world with the people of your choice. Live in a perfect world alone with your spouse and then meet your friends on a different planet for dinner. Machines maintain the servers indefinitely. Innovations created in your virtual world can be ported to the real world to prevent stagnation.
lengould100
1.4 / 5 (10) Jan 25, 2013
Difficulties.

1) Immigration, assuming the strategy doesn;t cover the entire earth (which I think probably it should but that will make it completely impossible politically to implement).

2) Many of the remaining work will be those functions for which people now expectto be paid far more than the average (doctors, investment managers, auditors, computer specialists, programmers of robots, chem. engineers etc). How to maintain that balance at the right level to attract the best people over the long term?

3) Avoiding friction with competing jurisdictions across borders who may be using different systems, often appearing designed to exploit the local people. Free trade? Tariffs at borders?

4) Decisions on what to import v.s. what to produce locally.

5) Maintaining virus-free robots. Malware? Deliberate back-doors built into imported equipment, or equipment produced locally by foreign-controlled entities.

Food for thought.
Shakescene21
3.5 / 5 (8) Jan 25, 2013
My proposed solution is to have a ROBOT TAX, similar to the income taxes that human workers pay now. Robot taxes would fund welfare programs and social security, just as taxes on humans do now. As robots become relentlessly more efficient, they will eventually displace virtually all workers, and humans will be freed from wage slavery. Because of the enormous efficiency of robots, they will be able to generate huge tax revenues, and welfare payments to unemployed humans can be very generous.
trekgeek1
2.3 / 5 (3) Jan 25, 2013
I guess there's several ways to resolve the problem.

(cont'd)


The problem would be reduced production which would result in a shortage of goods and a sharp increase in the cost of living. At any point in time, given that current state of technology, there is a given cost for goods. You'd have to carefully balance the reduced hours worked and increases in production efficiency to make sure the amount of goods produced remained unchanged. That is definitely doable. However, many companies would just figure they'd go 100% automated and keep the paychecks. Why pay the same salary to someone working only 25% of the time? They'd just figure that if the machine was doing 75% of their job, they'd just program it to do the rest at a fraction of the cost of the salary.It really seems as if a system of capitalism, though functional, prevents you from ever leaving that system. It seems to have a very robust negative feedback control system.
lengould100
1.7 / 5 (10) Jan 25, 2013
My proposed solution is to have a ROBOT TAX ...

I suspect that a sufficient tax on the machines would make them so expensive as to never be economical for business to implement.
A bit smarter than taxing the machines themselves is to tax the production of the machines. Most countries already have such a tax in place, the V.A.T. (value added tax,in Canada, the H.S.T. at 13%) But it's unlikely that will produce sufficient revenue either, as if it were increased enough to provide the needed % of GDP, no-one could afford the products. e.g. presently in heavy industry, the workers are paid about 15% of gross sales, investors and lenders get about 15%, and the remaining 70% goes to raw inputs, external services, etc. Could a V.A.T. be increased enough?
trekgeek1
3 / 5 (4) Jan 25, 2013
Looks like geokstr carpet bombed the comment section with ones. Which is funny because in my other tab I was watching a video about Benford's law. Judging by geokstr's comments on other videos, he doesn't seem to appreciate a more progressive thought process.
lengould100
1.5 / 5 (8) Jan 25, 2013
... However, many companies would just figure they'd go 100% automated and keep the paychecks. Why pay the same salary to someone working only 25% of the time? They'd just figure that if the machine was doing 75% of their job, they'd just program it to do the rest at a fraction of the cost of the salary...

You misunderstand. The only remaing work for the 25% of workers would be those functions impossible to automate, such as negotiators for purchased inputs, fraud auditors and investigators, systems planners, top corporate managers. Most industrial manufacturing would be totally automated, almost no workers. Some types of service providers would hardly automate at all, eg. firefighters, police, teachers, etc.
Whydening Gyre
1.4 / 5 (9) Jan 25, 2013
Well, somebody has to rule the world, why not robots?
Sounds like a push towards Utopia - in the short outlook. And possible (probable) extinction in the long.
We can't forget that somewhere in the whole process we would actually DEvolve as the robots evolved.
For film buffs,this was conceptually considered in 1928 by Fritz Lang - Metropolis.
Ahh, the White rabbit strikes again...
lengould100
1 / 5 (5) Jan 25, 2013
Rule the World, Whydening Gyre? I think you should actually read the thread.
trekgeek1
3 / 5 (2) Jan 25, 2013
... However, many companies would just figure they'd go 100% automated and keep the paychecks. Why pay the same salary to someone working only 25% of the time? They'd just figure that if the machine was doing 75% of their job, they'd just program it to do the rest at a fraction of the cost of the salary...

You misunderstand. The only remaing work for the 25% of workers would be those functions impossible to automate, such as negotiators for purchased inputs, fraud auditors and investigators, systems planners, top corporate managers. Most industrial manufacturing would be totally automated, almost no workers. Some types of service providers would hardly automate at all, eg. firefighters, police, teachers, etc.


Hmmm....interesting. I look forward to such a world.
djr
4.7 / 5 (6) Jan 25, 2013
Whydening: "We can't forget that somewhere in the whole process we would actually DEvolve as the robots evolved."

Or not - there are plenty of other paths - many imagine we will co-evolve - becoming cyborg (see today's article on artificial limbs) - eventually dropping the organic thing all together - and becoming super intelligent machines. I would love to get out of this fragile shell called a body,
alfie_null
2.3 / 5 (6) Jan 25, 2013
We are likely to end up with a small group of people owning the machines, the manufacturing capability. Significantly fewer consumers, so the price of manufactured things goes up.
Things that would have been developed aren't. Inexpensive electronics, for instance, happens only because the tremendous development costs are amortized over millions of units. And that's not even considering the lack of creation and innovation that otherwise would have come from having a competitive market, easy entry, lots of players. So, even the relatively well-off owners of these machines lose.

You need to have a situation in which most of the stuff that is manufactured is affordable by most of the people.

I can't imagine how taxation can help solve the problem. At best, it will make a temporary, unstable "fix". Stupidly applied, it might even make the problem worse.

You need to have a situation in which most consumers are motivated to have a role in production in some way. Not from welfare handouts.
Ryan1981
3.7 / 5 (3) Jan 25, 2013
There will always be the need to control the "most advanced" machines. As soon as machines are smart enough to work without a controller, the machines will be able create themselves and then money will become obsolete because everything is free.
Xascent
3 / 5 (4) Jan 25, 2013
Up to the development of these machines during the next 50-100 years there will be a steady decline in employment and rise in poverty with only an ultra rich minority with any kind of lifestyle. This gradual subsequent breakdown of society will prevent any planning for the well fare of most ordinary citizens.
ShotmanMaslo
2.3 / 5 (9) Jan 25, 2013
As was said in the article, we already have a solution - welfare. The process has already started, there is a reason for the rise in welfare spending. There will still be an economy and money, because you cannot automate all the jobs, and there will be constraints due to time, resources etc. Its just that this smaller economy will be so productive that it will produce more than enough to ensure good quality of life for everyone and fat profit for the producers.

Thats the good scenario.
jalmy
2.3 / 5 (9) Jan 25, 2013
This article brings up a good point. At some point mankind will be forced to adopt a utopian or perfect socialistic society. We will have to replace greed with a will to work for the betterment of mankind and our own personal growth as a sentient being. Personal enlightenment and social heirarchy will rule. The bartering system we have always used will become obsolete when everything is essentially free. Governments will have to decide how best to use the raw resources, basically what to make toasters or tvs, or food.
grondilu
1 / 5 (2) Jan 25, 2013
As soon as machines are smart enough to work without a controller, the machines will be able create themselves and then money will become obsolete because everything is free.

Even in a society where machines are capable of creating themselves, everything will not necessarily be free, because those machines will need materials and energy that might still be scarce. At some point in the future energy and matter might become abundant as well but it can happen much later than self-replicating machines. Until then, machines will have to compete for resources and the pacific way of dealing with this competition will still a be a market with money and prices.
PJS
3 / 5 (2) Jan 25, 2013
it's sad how attached people are to money. robot tax is exactly the WRONG idea. more taxes means higher consumer prices which only prolongs our global addiction to the concept of money. the goal should be a world where everything is produced by robots.
grondilu
3 / 5 (6) Jan 25, 2013
The goal should be a world where everything is produced by robots.


Production is not the only reason why money exists. We can't produce gold nor diamond (on first approx that is), and yet these commodities are not free. At all.

As I wrote above, even in a world where all production is done by robots, resources can still be scarce and money will still be the only pacific way to deal with this scarcity.
FrankHerbert
1.7 / 5 (11) Jan 25, 2013
Right, because we've had money for millenia and things are totally 'pacific'.
jalmy
1 / 5 (7) Jan 25, 2013
It will be like I wrote above. Governments will decide how resources are allocated. Which they basically already do. aka mineral rights. There will always be supply and demand, but there does in fact not need to be money or bartering at all. It will be very socialistic. There is nothing to debate here if you think about things to their logical conclusion. There simply is only one way it can possibly work. The taxation idea the article mentions will only get you so far. It may be a good interim solution, but in the end you have input and output, supply and demand. Raw minerals and resources are the finite input. Products are the output. The law of supply&demand mixed with government oversight will regulate that output. This is the only logical conclusion. That or the complete colapse of society. Take your pick.
Dichotomy
1 / 5 (3) Jan 25, 2013
Being a finance professional who focuses on the impact of new technologies I figured I'd weigh in.

1) Labor is subject to the laws of supply and demand just like products and services. More people on the planet adds to supply while machines lower demand, and there are a finite number of resources on this planet. Free trade =s global labor market =s global problem.

2) Money is meerly a means of exchange, it replaced the barter system, money is not the issue. The issue is individuals need to create "value" to exchange for life's essentials. Most of the "value" we create is through our labor in some form or fashion.

Mental labor is far harder to replace than physical labor in the modern era, so people can adjust by changing career fields to a certain point. The issue being when numbers of people seeking work exceed the number of available jobs, people become homeless, hungry, and angry. History is clear, when many people are like this, governments get overthrown / go to war.
Dichotomy
1.8 / 5 (5) Jan 25, 2013
As for the utopian expectations...

1) There is already more than enough food grown to feed the planet, yet many die of starvation everyday. (Obesity in Egypt is 30% /-)

2) Governments' ability to fairly distribute resources among the masses (welfare) is questionable at best (U.S. tax code / Corruption in Soviet Union and now Russia)

3) Productive individuals are productive because they are motivated to be, in many cases that motivation comes from their expectation of benefit from their efforts. When the individual knows the benefit they create will be taken from them and given to those who aren't motivated/productive they either relocate, or quit being productive. (who wants to be another person's serf under the guise of welfare and taxation?)

As for a solution, we need to be off this rock to expand our available resources and labor demands (a second age of exploration / settlement) or in the long haul humanity will economically implode and suffer greatly.

TheGhostofOtto1923
1.4 / 5 (11) Jan 25, 2013
""It is getting easier and easier to avoid hiring people by taking advantage of technology," Ford says."

-And also to avoid hiring the WRONG people. There has been a quiet social information revolution in the last few years. Social media, credit bureaus, and insurance companies have made it impossible for those who do not fit in, to get meaningful work. Companies are more efficient as a result.
ROBOT TAX, similar to the income taxes that human workers pay now.
But what are 'robots' and why should we need to wait for their appearance? Many machines are already capable of recording exactly the amount of work they do and the resources they consume. Why not just pay them directly for this work and deduct the appropriate taxes immediately?

Machines can pay for their own storage, maintenance, and recycling with the money they earn. This accounting can all be done automatically, thereby circumventing owners who are currently pocketing revenue previously paid by human workers.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1.4 / 5 (11) Jan 25, 2013
1) There is already more than enough food grown to feed the planet, yet many die of starvation everyday. (Obesity in Egypt is 30% /-)
Malthus told us that this is a losing strategy. The cultures which were designed to extend their reach by forced overgrowth must be destroyed, as they were in europe in the world wars, and in asia by communism.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1.3 / 5 (12) Jan 25, 2013
Of course this gentlemans nightmare scenario would not happen if there were far fewer people on the planet, and if the people who remain were devoid of the compulsions and insanity which causes so much waste.

The Great Rarifaction has commenced.
http://www.youtub...TxRuq-uk

-Only those who have proved their worthiness will be allowed into the promised land.
lengould100
1 / 5 (4) Jan 25, 2013
IMHO the issue is quite simple. Workers need an incentive to work, investors need an incentive to invest (who will build and install the robots) and governments job is to manage the balance of power between these two competing interests so that dissatisfied populations don't rebel and expropriate by force or destroy the investor's acquired property or lives. The interests of each competing faction is obvious but many still cannot see facts.
lengould100
1 / 5 (3) Jan 25, 2013
Government as we know it, was invented and designed basically to protect and enforce property rights. Property rights in the european tradition were invented from "whole cloth" for the purpose of maximizing government (the king's) revenue, as kingdoms became too large for a single taxing agency to manage, subordinate Viscounts and Earls were assigned properties to "own" in return for submitting taxes and militaries back to the king. The king then guaranteed to protect the subordinate's interests in his property from any challengers.

Gradually over time, the property rights have been progressively extended to the entire population, to the situation we have today. So does government have the right to re-define property rights? Definitely, they invented them. Should they? Perhaps, or not. If so, very carefully and thoughtfully.
Modernmystic
1 / 5 (6) Jan 25, 2013
So does government have the right to re-define property rights? Definitely, they invented them.


Really? Inventing something gives you the right to re-define it for everyone? Could you explain further please?
lengould100
1 / 5 (4) Jan 25, 2013
Mm. Basically agree, but you're discussing a point much further down the development pathway.
Modernmystic
1 / 5 (6) Jan 25, 2013
There is no need for money in such a society. The only thing of real value will be information. Coming up with new designs to do new things. This is the root of all wealth, not labor...Marx couldn't have been more wrong. The possibility of the automation of labor crystallizes this point quite nicely.

Everyone will own their own means of production essentially. The basics like food, medicine, education, housing will all be a GIVEN, even most "not so basics" will be a given. It will radically change the role of government and basically obliterate capitalism along with every other extant economic system.
Shakescene21
1 / 5 (1) Jan 25, 2013

I suspect that a sufficient tax on the machines would make them so expensive as to never be economical for business to implement.
A bit smarter than taxing the machines themselves is to tax the production of the machines. Most countries already have such a tax in place, the V.A.T. (value added tax)


@lengould -- I agree with you that a Robot Tax should be on the output of the robot rather than the purchase price. A VAT in the USA is a good idea, but it will not happen until the International Monetary Fund forces it upon us. (Both Dems and Reps agree that they hate the VAT.) The robot tax would need to be specifically levied on the value added of each robot's output, to make it politically feasible.
peter09
5 / 5 (2) Jan 25, 2013
Everyone forgets one word 'DEMAND'. Without demand in the economy it will not work. People need to be able to buy goods that are produced.
We should also recognize that the only reason we need an economy is to make our lives better. If it doesn't do that why support it.

ECONOMY -> REASON TO LIVE is not true.
lengould100
1 / 5 (4) Jan 25, 2013
So does government have the right to re-define property rights? Definitely, they invented them.


Really? Inventing something gives you the right to re-define it for everyone? Could you explain further please?


Specific to property rights, yes of course the government can re-define them. eg. patent laws. Should software be protected by them? Depends what government you talk to. US says "yea", Germany and France say "nay". Its an ongoing fight now. Or mineral rights. Should the purchaser of land surface automatically own any valuable minerals found beneath it? British tradition is "no" (must be explicitly purchased separately from the "crown"), in the US it depends on which state. Apple recently used the courts to define a whole raft on "new" property rights, such as the physical design attributes of the I-phone, such things as rounded corners, specific thickness, etc. They're now trying to collect for infringement against Samsung, though Korean's disagree.
lengould100
1.7 / 5 (6) Jan 25, 2013
The only reason a patent is protected for (?19 or 21?) years is because the government arbitrarily decided that. They could (and given the fast pace of business today probably should) decide to reduce that time to something more rational like 8 or 10 years. Shell still owns the patents on arguably the best auto battery technology for autos, (NiMh) but have only ever used them to sue Toyota and force them to change the Prius battery to a less useful technology.

Could the economy work as well with less stringent property protection? I think that Linux proves that most highly capable software engineers could care less about such questions.
Modernmystic
1 / 5 (6) Jan 25, 2013
I never disputed the government CAN re-define property rights. My question was do they have the right to.

Any government can essentially do anything it wants. It has a legal monopoly on the use of physical force to enforce arbitration. It also has a legal monopoly on final arbitration as well. There are checks and balances and they work to varying degrees depending on education, culture, and other factors. Ultimately though if you get the wrong person in the wrong office you can have arbitrary government and/or revolution.
Sean_W
1.5 / 5 (8) Jan 25, 2013
He suggests taking a large portion of the wealth from the few companies that will still be creating it and going on a never-ending government spending spree. Sounds familiar. Well, maybe it will work this time.

Here is an idea: prices will be dropping so eliminate minimum wage. Then eliminate payroll taxes and the many barriers to starting up businesses. This will let people come up with new services that we haven't thought of yet and so haven't designed robots for. You might get a dollar a day for some job that doesn't exist yet (minstrel herder? Conversational companion to bored computers? Smart clothing systems beta tester?) but prices will be so low that that will be a really good wage.
lengould100
1 / 5 (4) Jan 25, 2013
Shakescene21. The tax regime a government uses is another good example of governments setting and re-defining property rights. My income is my property (i believe), yet the government will chose to appropriate much of it for their purposes, by rules which change over time and according to the prevalent philosophy. Rules can vary from the completely equal "head tax" (flat amount per person) to a highly progressive income tax where the low-earners pay little or nothing and high-earners may pay up to 80% of their income. A V.A.T. strikes a decent balance (those who spend more pay more) but still doesn't capture high incomes which are immediately re-invested, or which are immediately moved offshore.
lengould100
1 / 5 (4) Jan 25, 2013
I never disputed the government CAN re-define property rights. My question was do they have the right to ....

You pose the question as though there existed some arbitrarily higher authority which needs to approve such actions. I can see no higher authority than the will of all the people collectively, expressed through an accepted democratic government. It's in no case a "moral" issue that I can see. As soon as you start bringing "morals" into the question, you start needing to justify eg. starving some injured worker's children to death; accepting that some very intelligent child of a very poor family should end uneducated in menial labour because parents can't afford university tuition; etc. etc. Morals cannot serve your purpose.
Modernmystic
1.6 / 5 (7) Jan 25, 2013
Well either higher authorities follow their own rules or they don't. If they're going to be arbitrary I see no good reason to lend them my authority, moral or otherwise. It's axiomatic and doesn't require a moral framework, just a logical one. FTR I do think that there are some things that are moral and some that aren't and none require a god OR a state to define them.
reallynow
2.2 / 5 (6) Jan 25, 2013
What a bunch of tripe. There will, for as far as we care to project, always be meaningful jobs for human beings, no matter how far technology advances. Some of those jobs we can't even imagine right now, but some we can quite readily.

1. Anything requiring high degrees of creativity or discretion. This means everything from writer to soldier to artist to programmer.

2. Anything where human social interaction is required or highly desirable. Bartenders, cooks/chefs, servants, etc.

More importantly, advanced self sufficiency technology development is rapidly outpacing the kind of advanced automation required to replace even less future-proof jobs. Desktop milling and 3D printing, home power generation, and so on will be commonplace realities by 2025, forget 2089. Just about the only things that won't be easily DIY are food production and new housing construction.

By the time the massively automated robots are here to ruin the economy, we will not need them.
ForFreeMinds
1 / 5 (5) Jan 26, 2013
The false assumption in Ford's analysis, is that people won't want more. And there will always be opportunity in figuring out ways to do more with less.

Consumer spending will only collapse when consumers don't produce to earn some spending money. Robots can only do so much. I've yet to see one that doubles as a comic, live musician, or singer. People even pay to see singers lip sync, like at the inauguration of Obama.
Thrasymachus
1 / 5 (1) Jan 26, 2013
Anything humans can do, eventually, computers will be able to do better, including discretion, creativity, social interaction, and so forth. The only thing computers can't do, yet, is value things. They're quite good at pricing things, but pricing is not the same thing as valuing.

Information is not, in and of itself valuable. Neither, of course, is labor. The source of all value is desire over supply. Money is not a source of value, it is merely a carrier of value, a placeholder, and it is good at doing this because there is no innate desire or need for money, as there is for things like food and shelter. Information, like food and shelter, is often desired for its own sake, and as such, that value interferes with its capacity to function as a mere placeholder for value.

Money is going to continue to be required as a placeholder for value. The distribution of incomes is what will have to change.
Judgeking
not rated yet Jan 26, 2013
If all products are produced by automation, including other robots and assuming they can mine & produce raw materials, wouldn't everything be free? Why would be need money? You'd just walk into a robot-run store and leave with everything you need, right?
VendicarE
2.3 / 5 (3) Jan 26, 2013
Because Money Grubbers and other social parasites can't imagine a life without it.

"Why would be need money?" - Judgeking

Thrasymachus
2.3 / 5 (3) Jan 26, 2013
That presumes an unlimited supply of everything, which even full automation wouldn't ensure. All it would do is ensure the absolute maximum of supply, but real supply is finite. There's only so much stuff in the world/solar system/universe. But our desires, even if not infinite themselves, are not bounded by supply. There could still potentially be quotas and limitations on what and how much you could buy. Money is the traditional way those limitations have been enforced, and there is no reason those limitations would go away merely because no human is implicated in the production of the supply.
VendicarE
4 / 5 (4) Jan 26, 2013
The problem is...

"Money is going to continue to be required as a placeholder for value." - Thrasymachus

Most values can not be measured in terms of dollars.

Do you love your Wife? Children? Parents? Sister? Brother? Lover?

How many dollars of love do you have for them?

How many dollars of self respect do you have?

How many dollars of life do you have left?

How many dollars of beauty is there in a piece of art?

How many dollars of personal liberty can you afford?

Dollars do have utility. But never forget that value is a vector and that dollars are a minor component to that value.
VendicarE
3 / 5 (4) Jan 26, 2013
Possibly because you haven't looked.

"I've yet to see one that doubles as a comic, live musician, or singer." - free minds

youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=DTXO7KGHtjI

youtube.com/watch?v=9vwZ5FQEUFg
Pkunk_
1.6 / 5 (7) Jan 27, 2013
It is self evident that the pursuit of money is the principle reason people are enslaved, unhappy, and unproductive.

Leisure is the ultimate Liberty, Free Markets the ultimate form of slave labor.

Look back enough and you see pretty much everything the left opposed was DEAD WRONG.
They were against computers in banks and they were wrong.
They were against computers replacing ANY jobs and they were wrong.
They were against offshoring work through the Internet and they were wrong.
They were against "globalization" and they were wrong.
They were against the concept of Multi-national corporations and they were wrong.
They were against capitalism and they lost.

What will finally bring about ultimate liberty is the free market with its relentless pursuit of the bottomline through use of technology. It is a self-fulfilling prophecy since a free market is what allows the governments to raise BILLIONS in taxes to feed the poor and invest in technology.
Pkunk_
1.7 / 5 (6) Jan 27, 2013
That presumes an unlimited supply of everything, which even full automation wouldn't ensure. All it would do is ensure the absolute maximum of supply, but real supply is finite. There's only so much stuff in the world/solar system/universe. But our desires, even if not infinite themselves, are not bounded by supply.

Every single "apocalyptic" scenario which had been invented in the past by Malthusians has FAILED miserably. Peak oil is repeatedly being broken and there are continuous discoveries like Shale Gas which will probably lead some more kooks to come up with the term "Peak Gas" . Coming soon is Shale oil.
IMO we will keep discovering more hydrocarbons to serve the billions of people rising out of chronic poverty in Asia and South America. Armchair intellectuals will keep sitting in their Air-Conditioned offices talking about how we should use less energy.
All until we discover the secret of fusion or how to do Space Solar when we will get practically unlimited energy.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1.4 / 5 (11) Jan 27, 2013
Every single "apocalyptic" scenario which had been invented in the past by Malthusians has FAILED miserably.
You disregard the great depopulators; war, revolution, famine, plague, and economic collapse, which is typical. And of course you fail to appreciate the greatest depopulator ever invented, that being the ONE BILLION ABORTIONS which took place within the last century.

A country the size of India and it's descendants to the 3rd and 4th generation, never born to starve, and fight, and kill, and die. Not to mention the 100s of millions more prevented through contraception.

This Activity being the DIRECT result of the destruction of the religionist cultures throughout Eurasia which would have prevented it, during the world wars.

So easy to discount Malthus without all the FACTS isn't it?

Everywhere these prewar cultures remain, chaos, misery, starvation, and war reign. So many obsolete cultures - so little time.
VendicarE
3 / 5 (2) Jan 27, 2013
Pkunk shows us once again that Conservatives just fabricate their own facts.

There of course was NEVER any objection from Liberals to computers being used in the banking industry. In fact in the U.S. computerized banking was pioneered in the Liberal Blue states, and only adopted later by the backward Conservative Red states.

"They were against computers in banks and they were wrong." - Pkunk

People like Pkunk will just manufacture any lie they need to support their sick conservative Liedeology.

I have never encountered a Conservative who wasn't a congenital and perpetual liar.

Pkunk is no exception to that rule.
VendicarE
3.7 / 5 (3) Jan 27, 2013
Phunk is falling past the 49'th floor and claims all is fine.
Phunk is falling past the 48'th floor and claims all is fine.
Phunk is falling past the 47'th floor and claims all is fine.
Phunk is falling past the 46'th floor and claims all is fine.

"Every single "apocalyptic" scenario which had been invented in the past by Malthusians has FAILED miserably." - Pkunk

Just 10 more floors to go, and all is still fine.

There is just a lot of wind.

The funny thing is that Pkunk can already hear the splatter of the people who jumped before him.

But rather than admit to his fate, he blames those sounds on unionized workers below who must be raising the height of the ground.
VendicarE
3.7 / 5 (3) Jan 27, 2013
Yup... Prices are at all time lows.

"Peak oil is repeatedly being broken" - Phunk

http://dlb8685.fi...mp;h=341

Ahahahahahahahaha......

Evidence that Oil Limits are Leading to Limits to GDP Growth

http://www.theoil...343#more
ShotmanMaslo
1.7 / 5 (6) Jan 28, 2013
There are three resources which need to be automated and (in practice) unlimited in order for post scarcity economy to work. Matter, energy and intelligence.

We do not yet have automated abundant energy production, but we are on a good course to have it (both advanced fission, renewables and eventually fusion would probably allow us to have abundant energy sometime in this century).

Matter is more tricky, but in priciple, the whole process mining and processing raw materials (as well as recycling) can be automated with present technology (given cheap energy). Ocean floor mining and eventually asteroid minning and efficient recycling (enabled by cheap energy) would alleviate the threat of diminishing resources for a long time.

The biggest problem is intelligence. In order to substitute humans in ALL positions, we need to develop computers as intelligent as the human brain (strong AI). Advocates of post-scarcity often overlook this fact. We are not there yet, and wont be for decades.
antialias_physorg
3.7 / 5 (3) Jan 28, 2013
Matter is more tricky

With abundant energy the matter aspect becomes less tricky. All the elements you could want are there in shovelfulls of dirt Mining is only done because getting them from a pre-concentrated site is currently cheaper.

It's "just" a matter of extracting them. If you realy have massively abundant energy then simply heating the stuff into a plasma state and separating it according to mass will give you pure elements (though you may not want that in all cases, since some of these elements are rather reactive in their pure state)

In order to substitute humans in ALL positions, we need to develop computers as intelligent as the human brain (strong AI).

I'm sure we could find a couple of people who'd donate a few hours of their intelligence per week to keep such a system going - until the AI research catches up.
(Though I think we'll achieve AI before we get abundant energy/materials, since no one curently, actively hinders research in that area)
Pkunk_
1.4 / 5 (9) Jan 29, 2013
Pkunk shows us once again that Conservatives just fabricate their own facts.

There of course was NEVER any objection from Liberals to computers being used in the banking industry. In fact in the U.S. computerized banking was pioneered in the Liberal Blue states, and only adopted later by the backward Conservative Red states.

I'm talking about the commie-left . Liberals tend to be centrist in their economic views and generally pro-free markets unlike you.

And if you see the history around the rest of the world, pretty much everywhere the left campaigned against computers since people were afraid of losing their jobs.

The US was an exception since the commie-left was always insignificant. Now when people think left all they think is liberals, but actually liberals are quite rational unlike the commie-leftist jackasses who held back progress for decades in the rest of the world. All thanks to their opposition to free markets.
kochevnik
1.8 / 5 (5) Jan 29, 2013
I'm talking about the commie-left . Liberals tend to be centrist in their economic views and generally pro-free markets unlike you.
Yes looking at the communists they are not left at all. They are bolshevek zionists and Vatican jesuits making a religion of economics. History shows that what is commonly labeled "left" is indeed the centere while the far right and "far left" are one and the same: religious nutters

Only the "left" supports recursive growth, while the extreme right and left see the economy through the lens of collectivism. This is an adjunct to the old mercantilism which preached that prosperity is a zero-sum game
Pkunk_
1 / 5 (7) Jan 29, 2013
Yup... Prices are at all time lows.

"Peak oil is repeatedly being broken" - Phunk

http://dlb8685.fi...mp;h=341

But the graph only shows to prove that oil production has not fallen. And as http://belfercent...ing.html argues , at a higher price point for oil there are a lot of other sources like Shale oil and Tar Sands which can enter the market to meet demand.
Ahahahahahahahaha...... Evidence that Oil Limits are Leading to Limits to GDP Growth http://www.theoil...343#more

Just wait for Iraq and Libya to once again firm up output beyond their previous peaks and 2013 is setting up to be another "peak" year. Fact is if there is enough demand, the capitalists will always find a way to meet it.
http://www.usatod...1652937/

Oil/Coal will rule until we find the next great energy source.
VendicarE
5 / 5 (1) Jan 29, 2013
False

"My income is my property (i believe)" - Lenq

Your income is a business transaction, your labor in exchange for money.

That business transaction is taxed before the money is "yours".

Don't like it? Change your nation's constitution.

VendicarE
5 / 5 (2) Jan 29, 2013
Maugeri is a fool who has been arguing that oil production will rise since at least 2003 when oil production reached it's peak.

"And as Leonardo Maugeri argues." - Pkunk

"But the graph only shows to prove that oil production has not fallen." - Pkunk

Ya, that kind of thing happens when production reaches it's peak.

"Just wait for Iraq and Libya..." - Pkunk

Or the space aliens come and give us magic boxes that convert water to oil.

Boy will my face be red then.
VendicarE
5 / 5 (2) Jan 29, 2013
I estimate that 15 percent of the American population are cancerous Conservative WhackTards like Pkunk.

"I'm talking about the commie-left." - Pkunk

Imagine if 15 percent of your brain is cancer.

You aren't going to live much longer.
full_disclosure
1 / 5 (7) Jan 29, 2013
The 'Coward Herr Vendicar' has childishly changed his personal login profile, slightly, to avoid people following his name back through past comments..... Anyone interested in his cowardly death threats towards posters in the past comments section, follow them through the link below. http://phys.org/p...ndicarD/
VendicarE
5 / 5 (1) Jan 29, 2013
FullDiaper needs a shave.

If he refuses to do it for himself then the coming National Razor will do it for him.

Have your Freedom lists ready people.

full_disclosure
1 / 5 (8) Jan 29, 2013
Link fixed....check out the 'Green Murder Porn' this guy wanks to....

http://phys.org/p...ndicarD/

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