# AI will lead to the death of capitalism?

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>>Capitalism is what happens when people are allowed to trade resources and services freely and it's >>how civilisations have been running themselves the past thousands of years.

Really? Thousands of years? Slaves and serfs were free to trade resources and services as they wished? Are we talking about the history of the same planet here?

Most people would place the dawn of capitalism between the 13rd-16th century; depends on your definition and feudalism dissolved in stages and not overnight, so the 2 systems co-existed for quite some time(and still do in some places), but capitalism certainly isn't something that existed since humans have existed. Unless of course by "capitalism" you mean "people produce and consume things", in which case yes, it has existed once we moved beyond hunter-gatherer society, but it's not what most people mean by it. In feudal societies people still produced and consumed things, but under a different framework and mode than capitalism. Let alone slave society.

I mean, if we're going to argue that the Roman Empire or Medieval Europe were...capitalists societies, I think we've stretched the term so much as to simply mean "things are produced, traded and consumed". In which case, I guess...yeah, Julius Ceasar and Genghis Khan were...capitalists.

Anyway, I guess it depends on what "school of thought" you belong to, and if you consider as "capitalism" any society in which trade is existent, even if it's not the primary source of wealth, then capitalism obviously stretches back to the paleolithic era. But in that cases we're just using the same word to describe different things.

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

>> In a post-scarcity world there is no need for it, but we are millennia away from the technology(ies) that will allow it, if it's even possible.

We are not talking about the Star Trek replicator here, so I don't think we are "millennia away from it". It's not a magic machine that prints anything we desire that we're talking about here, simply large-scale automation. We're pretty much very close to being able to automate most of the work needed to at least satisfy the most basic needs, such as food, clothing and housing. We're certainly not millenia away from being able to completely automate the construction of things such as houses, roads, cars, ships, etc - I'd say we're at most a few decades.

Anyway, some relevant news...

https://thenextweb.com/artificial-intelligence/2017/07/31/teamsters-convince-congress-to-block-driverless-trucks/#.tnw_2qcnmQeV

Edited by mikeman

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On 01/08/2017 at 5:08 AM, Aressera said:

Humans have created an explosion of technology in the last few hundred years which has been driven by global industrial capitalism and consumption of finite resources like fossil fuels. This technology has had untold negative effects on the environment and other organisms, and will continue to do so until we reach a tipping point and the whole house of cards falls down. The climate change induced by technology will be incredibly destructive to civilization as we know it and will probably be the straw that breaks our backs in the next few decades due to food/water shortage, wars over resources, and mass extinctions.

Well, I don't think that the problem is the technology itself but rather the people that are using it!

On 01/08/2017 at 6:42 AM, Aressera said:

What I foresee is not total annihilation of humanity, but rather that global technological capitalism will collapse (accompanied by a large fraction of people in cities dying due to lack of food/water that was usually transported over great distances), and as a result humans will be forced to revert to a semi-primitive subsistence agriculture lifestyle without unsustainable technology (which includes most tech). There will be at most a few billion people around living in small isolated communities. Like it or not, this will happen. There are too many compounding factors that create a perfect storm of climate, limited resources, and global conflict.

That's very apocalyptic. All predictions are false, the question now is to know at which degree your statement is true.

On 02/08/2017 at 10:45 AM, mikeman said:

I don't predict it has any more room to change again after that. The next change, if we assume we will have another change, will be something else altogether. And of course one other major change that will need to happen is that, whatever system we have, needs to be much more ecologically sustainable.

Yes whatever the system is, we must be more ecologically sustainable. That's not even a choice. Actually, we are experimenting the dumbest experiment in history which is knowing of much carbon dioxide the atmosphere can handle before there is an environmental crisis.

On 02/08/2017 at 8:18 PM, Aressera said:

This recent well-researched article gives a good overview of the current state of affairs. Absent any significant human action (abandon fossil fuels immediately, stop eating meat, start injecting SO2 into the arctic stratosphere, CO2 removal, etc.) we're lemmings headed off the climate cliff.

Thanks for sharing that with us, I really wasn't aware of how bad things are going. But I think we should remain optimistic no matter what, even if it's pretty much given that we will surpass the 2 degrees. By remaining optimistic, we can manage to find a solution

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Capitalism can never truly be ended in a free environment. I see someone selling used goods for cheap, I buy them, fix them up, and sell them higher. Profit, and capitalism.

But as we're talking about a truly smart AI, that changes everything. It will work on improving itself once it reaches a point, and then who the hell knows what happens once it's too smart for us to understand. Maybe it'll give us space ships, fusion power, and our own personal pocket dimension where we're god. Maybe it'll think our carbon is delicious and grind us all into soylent green. Who knows.

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7 hours ago, conquestor3 said:

But as we're talking about a truly smart AI, that changes everything. It will work on improving itself once it reaches a point, and then who the hell knows what happens once it's too smart for us to understand. Maybe it'll give us space ships, fusion power, and our own personal pocket dimension where we're god.

Is it possible for a fool to create machine that is more intelligent than himself? There may be a law of nature that prevents this.

Can we build a machine that understands how the universe works? Seems paradox.

On the other hand - could we treat it as a form of evolution if we build intelligent machines, see them as our children?

If so there is nothing stopping them to get smarter and smarter. But what makes a process like selfimprovement happen at all?

We do not know - we don't know how life works. And this brings me back to the first question.

So i guess AI will be just a tool in someones hands. It will help to invent and optimize, but i won't do this on its own.

It will be too complex to be understood, but not too smart.

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Capitalism can never truly be ended in a free environment. I see someone selling used goods for cheap, I buy them, fix them up, and sell them higher. Profit, and capitalism.

You can't get rich that way, in modern society, just by your own labor. That's how artisans worked 3 centuries ago, before industrialization. How much of this "fix them up" can you do, by your own, even if worked 24/7? Just how many used cars can you fix in a day? You need to hire people to do the "fix them up" thing, and of course you'll only get rich if you don't share the profits with them equally. Be a boss, in other words. Now why people would do that(come work for you, that is) if their livelihood was guaranteed by the abundant wealth that would be created by automation(assuming the "positive" scenario plays out)?  They are already having a good enough life, free to pursuit their own passions, productive or not, so they're also free not to work for you unless you pay them handsomely or make them partners.

You won't have much leverage to keep the wages down in order to maximize profits any more. Right now, I am "free" to choose not to work as a wage earner, assuming I'm willing to fall back to whatever life "no wage" means. For most people, this life is pretty bad, unless you have wealthy parents or accumulated enough wealth on your own. But if the "positive scenario" plays out, even in the moderate case of guaranteed healthcare + basic income, this life becomes pretty good. Now why would I want to let myself be employed by a boss that refuses to split the profits equally? That would be stupid. I would still be willing to work, sure, but I would hold on for a job which satisfies me and where I am not exploited. I'm not in the business of making other people rich any more, in other words.

That is, of course, assuming you can even do the "fix em up" better than the machines, and also that there are enough people left with jobs that the machines can't do, so they have money to buy what you're selling. Which is I guess what we're talking about here.

It depends on what "scenario" plays out. In the "nightmare" scenario, forget about this bootstrapping fellow that makes a fortune by buying used cars or TVs, "fixes them up", sells them for profit, hires other people, grows his business, etc etc. If that venture is truly profitable, the "big fellows" that own the machines will have the entire market. There is no room for that "little fellow" at all. Well, maybe getting hired greasing the machines or something, assuming there's not a greasing machine that does that better than him too. In this case, we have capitalism, sure, except it's kind of a monstrous version of it, and not much real "freedom" to be had in this place.

OTOH, in the positive scenario, where the abundant wealth created by the machines is divided more fairly(that probably means machines are public property) and everyone has a good life, free to pursuit their own creative endeavours(art, research, science, etc), that little bootstrapping fellow is again in a tough place : Not only what he does is probably done better by the public-sector machines already, but he won't really be able to hire employees and grow his business, since those employees have no reason to go work for him. Who in their right minds work for someone else's profits if they don't have to?

Edited by mikeman

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Working for profit is not going to be a thing with the way automation is going. This isn't to say there'll be nothing to do and that we're just gonna sit around, but the problems we'll be solving will be very different from things now.

There won't/cannot be a utopian post scarcity society. There will/can be a post scarcity society, just not utopian. It'll be very different from today's society in the sense that people won't be worrying about putting food on the table, or saving money for a car, but there will still be problems. We might not be able to envision those problems, but they will exist, and they will need solving. Life still won't be 'rosy' so to speak, just different. Right now, for example, we don't need to worry about random animals attacking and killing us like our ancestors did, but there's still other issues.

Probably people will have some notion of credits/monetary stuff, like they'll walk into a place, get what they need, and it'll be deducted from a balance (or perhaps added).

Sure it's entirely possible that humans will destroy each other or the environment in which case we'll have a dystopian future where AI just rations the remains to us, but there have always been crises in the past, and we have solved them. I'll bet we can solve this one too.

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On 8/4/2017 at 10:20 AM, mikeman said:

You can't get rich that way, in modern society, just by your own labor. That's how artisans worked 3 centuries ago, before industrialization. How much of this "fix them up" can you do, by your own, even if worked 24/7?

Lot's of people only aim to keep living not to get rich, getting rich is the carrot stick dangled in front of society.

Fixing things up and selling them is the basics of any industry, the difference is scale. A person with a skill for "fixing things up" will always have value in the work place, where a person who can't will depend on those who can.

Most companies make a extra dollar for each they spend, the same as any person who buys a $5 wooden chair, fixing it up and selling it for$10. The only difference is scale.

On 8/4/2017 at 10:20 AM, mikeman said:

assuming I'm willing to fall back to whatever life "no wage" means. For most people, this life is pretty bad

For most people this means death, which is no life at all.

Believe me when you reach the point where dinner is some tea and a day old bread, you understand very well why people work. At the moment not working means dying. Maybe AI will change that, I don't think it will.

On 8/4/2017 at 10:20 AM, mikeman said:

I'm not in the business of making other people rich any more

What being rich means will change and you will still be in the business of making others rich.

One thing I can think of that will replace money is fame.

Think about how many people want to be famous, maybe that will be the new economy. People with no fame becoming lackey/workers to people who have fame.

All the lackeys doing what the famous people tell them, all that in the hope that a few people will recognize them as X or Y's lackey.

1 hour ago, deltaKshatriya said:

Life still won't be 'rosy' so to speak, just different.

This is mostly thanks to human nature.

Think about it: there are people who where born into rich families, who commit suicide. Clearly having enough resources isn't enough for a happy life.

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>>For most people this means death, which is no life at all.

>>Believe me when you reach the point where dinner is some tea and a day old bread, you understand very well why people work. >>At the moment not working means dying. Maybe AI will change that, I don't think it will.

True. It depends where you live and what your family conditions are. For most people in the world, no wage means death, not only for you but for several people that depend on you. For most people in the Western world, it means falling back to whatever security net is in place - probably not literally starving to death, but an awful life, possibly homelessness. For me, with working class parents but that do own their own home, with no debts, pensions, are mostly healthy, and actually care about me(a lot of lucky stars aligned here, that is), it means the luxury of having a room to crush and 3 meals per day while I try to find another job. Which is a tremendous privilege. The money I have in the bank probably suffice for 6 months or something, but I never experienced the crippling anxiety of "if I lose this job, I will be literally out in the streets" because I know that, if things go really south here in Sweden, I always have my childhood room to wait for me in Greece. Heck, I took the "risk" of leaving a good gig in Prague and hopping to Sweden because I knew I had the safety net of my parent home. Of course, for others from even more well-off families, things are even better.

Hey, it's capitalism. We'll all free, but some are more free than others.

Edited by mikeman

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The title should be changed. It's plausible and Al will lead to death of human labor in its current form, AND how we understand it

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