In my last post, I presented some of my counterpoints to the idea that automation will take over all jobs. Even though it is feasible to automate everything, there will remain some jobs where humans will remain competitive if not preferred over machines. These jobs would be far rarer than jobs available now and many of the jobs are far from desirable, but some jobs will exist. Most people will be unemployed and society will need to do something to keep the population from becoming too restless. I imagine there will be a combination of a daily expense allowance with abundant free virtual-reality type entertainment. I assume it will become a culture of poverty except we’ll have free access tech with modern tech of a decade or so from now when automation will take over. We’ll be poor but we’ll be using virtual reality goggles for most of our daily experiences, or something comparable in high tech standards.
The end-state I am postulating will automate government where data algorithms replace all governing positions, robotic drones taking over policing, and punishment being some combination of a mark on one’s record that will impact future treatment or a form of corporal punishment. In this future era, long-term confinement would lose any value because there regular life will be nearly equally constrained. Besides, an automated government would conclude that the cost of a separate prison system outweighs any value it may have.
It may be that the conditions are not terribly impoverished. The automation may be efficient enough that basic daily rations may be of very high quality and with high variety. Similarly, there can be freedom of wide-ranging movement for entertainment or travel and so forth. Data systems are sufficiently capable of tracking everyone and keeping track of what each person is entitled to at any time.
I’ll assume the automation is efficient to provide a basic level of existence that closely resembles the free time of the middle class. But there will be an exception in that things will not change much, or the rate of change in terms of impact on human experience will be much slower. The innovation will be concentrated on improving the automation. Also, the economy will no longer be a consumer economy and this will remove the incentive to attract consumer dollars. Almost everyone will be unemployed and the unemployed will not have any disposable income.
Within such a world, life could devolve into something that people at the time may end up accepting as normal, but would horrify our modern sensibilities.
Consider the terrorist-ruled areas in various parts of the middle east and northern Africa. We frequently describe these as reverting to the conditions of many centuries ago. I propose that instead these are prototypes of the future. To explain these conditions, we may be misleading ourselves into assigning too much influence by religion and tribal cultures. I suggest an alternative explanation as a response to the daily-life conditions made possible by modern times. I’ll try to explain by showing how the same thing can arise in my futuristic scenario of total automation and complete leisure of the population.
In this future scenario, everyone is free from any work obligations and thus have complete leisure time. The policing is done by autonomous robots and any justice that occurs may involve some form of punishment we may be today consider to be cruel. For the most part, of course, most people are compliant and peaceful.
In such a society, people will congregate into groups that will define an identity. These groups may emerge through kinship or shared culture. Or they may be voluntary groups that has some shared ideal.
Over time, I would expect there to be some animosity emerge between certain groups. In an area with dozens of different groups, the conflict may start between just two of them. The conflict will start off as segregation or demanding obedience to certain rules in areas controlled by some group. Eventually, the conflict will become more violent resulting in fights between individuals and perhaps between gangs.
This can lead to similar conditions that currently exist in cartel-ruled areas in Mexico, for example. An automated government with robotic police would handle the situation differently than the current Mexican government is able to handle the condition. The automated government is not corruptible by direct human influence, but it conceivable that the cartels could corrupt the automation. Let me assume that the automation is so advanced that it has automated protections against human malware attacks (though I doubt that will ever happen).
The automated government will respond to the emerging conflict between groups using an algorithm that will identify specific individuals involved in the individual assaults or batteries or murders. The punishments for the individuals may be harsh or even lethal, but the algorithms will likely be fair in not punishing the groups the individuals came from. In so doing, the system will mistake the cause of the conflict as being the individuals instead of the groups. Also, the punishments by the government inevitably lead to perceptions of unfairness by both groups, thus heightening the conflict between them.
We see something similar to this today within the USA with the increasingly exaggerated complaints about policing among minorities. In this case, the states governments’ response to the growing conflict appears to be almost algorithmic and thus an analog to an automated government’s response. In my opinion, the sterile unthinking response by government contributed to the escalation of the problem. It is easy to imagine parallel escalation of problems being exacerbated by an automated government.
As the group conflict increases, the government will have to react with new laws and new enforcement rules. One model of an automated government is a punctuated libertarianism where the total number of laws are minimized but frequently reviewed to replace older rules with more urgent new rules. The government algorithms would determine the best rules to address the current conditions based on the observational data it has and on predictive models.
This government will have to come up with some new rules to address the situation indicated by the growing evidence of a tribal conflict between two groups. Algorithms will choose the rules that will optimize the current situation for the broadest benefit of the whole community. Even though this is an impersonal automated government, the ruling will end up incorporating some kind of compromise between both groups, allowing both groups to continue but adding some buffer to reduce the conflict. That buffer may be further isolating the groups, or by enforcement of certain conditions each of the groups demands from the other.
In either case, this could make the situation worse. The automated government of short-lived rules will adapt to new developments with new rules. Each time this happens, the government considered all of the available information including the most recent information. In other words, the government designs the rules to best accommodate the current conditions instead of comparing the current conditions with the historic conditions as an ideal. The conditions created by the groups becomes data that will influence future government. As a result, the groups can manipulate government to further their goals.
At some point, a group could introduce full out terror tactics on its neighbors starting with events of mass injury of destruction. Again the government will respond, but by this time it is already primed with the history of what got to this point, and it will again make some kind of compromise ruling after prosecuting any individual surviving perpetrators (I assume that robotic police-drones will continue to be successful to identify and comprehend them).
I imagine scenarios unfolding over multiple years that parallel the events occurring in parts of the middle east. One of the defining terms of the modern scenario is the idea of improvised weapons with materials that are available to civilians. While the future population of automated governments may not have access to military grade weapons and explosives, they will have access to numbers of human capital and raw materials to use as weapons that could threaten others when wielded by sufficient numbers. They could just as easily round up crowds to watch executions such as throwing people off of buildings. This is will in turn condition the population to obey their behavioral demands.
As the situation escalates, the automated government will continual to adapt and may even keep up its goals of fairness and optimizing the human condition. The problem is that each new set of rules adapts to the current conditions with an attempt to find the best case scenario that restores overall order with the least expense of resources or loss of life. The converged solution could lead to territories ruled by dominant (and more ruthless) groups. Eventually, things may settle down with some level of peace for the territory where the automated government tolerates the occasional exercise of violence by the now dominant group.
The end state will remain fully automated so the group will not have the benefit of controlling the production. However, will have control over the behavior of the people and consequent gain privileges that were not possible previously. They also have trained the automated government to give them certain privileges in addition to the tolerated violence. The group would need no religious or cultural predilection to this. They will get away with it because the economy doesn’t need anyone to run. The priority of government is find a way to preserve a reasonably placated unemployed population. It may find the best solution is to preserve a status quo of perpetual terror.
Of course there could be other outcomes, but I suspect all of the final outcomes would disturb our modern sensitivities even though the people at the time may learn to tolerate it and accept it as normal. The assumption is that the initial condition of the fully automated economy and government is ideal in terms of a modern middle-class experience for everyone with a guaranteed income and free entertainment. It can only get worse from there. Humans offer nothing to improve the future of the automation. Inevitably, they will segregate into groups. Those groups will strive for improvements of their condition where their best opportunity is at the expense of other groups. The automation will adapt.
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