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Fri Oct 9, 2015, 07:02 AM

Stephen Hawking Says We Should Really Be Scared Of Capitalism, Not Robots


Stephen Hawking Says We Should Really Be Scared Of Capitalism, Not Robots
"If machines produce everything we need, the outcome will depend on how things are distributed."

Alexander C. Kaufman
Business Editor, The Huffington Post


Machines won't bring about the economic robot apocalypse -- but greedy humans will, according to physicist Stephen Hawking.

In a Reddit Ask Me Anything session on Thursday, the scientist predicted that economic inequality will skyrocket as more jobs become automated and the rich owners of machines refuse to share their fast-proliferating wealth.

If machines produce everything we need, the outcome will depend on how things are distributed. Everyone can enjoy a life of luxurious leisure if the machine-produced wealth is shared, or most people can end up miserably poor if the machine-owners successfully lobby against wealth redistribution. So far, the trend seems to be toward the second option, with technology driving ever-increasing inequality.


Essentially, machine owners will become the bourgeoisie of a new era, in which the corporations they own won't provide jobs to actual human workers.

As it is, the chasm between the super rich and the rest is growing. For starters, capital -- such as stocks or property -- accrues value at a much faster rate than the actual economy grows, according to the French economist Thomas Piketty. The wealth of the rich multiplies faster than wages increase, and the working class can never even catch up. .......................(more)

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/stephen-hawking-capitalism-robots_5616c20ce4b0dbb8000d9f15




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Reply Stephen Hawking Says We Should Really Be Scared Of Capitalism, Not Robots (Original post)
marmar Oct 2015 OP
RKP5637 Oct 2015 #1
el_bryanto Oct 2015 #2
ToxMarz Oct 2015 #4
el_bryanto Oct 2015 #5
stevenleser Oct 2015 #6
jtuck004 Oct 2015 #12
NonMetro Oct 2015 #13
a2liberal Oct 2015 #3
LiberalArkie Oct 2015 #14
Enthusiast Oct 2015 #7
Fumesucker Oct 2015 #20
Enthusiast Oct 2015 #21
Helen Borg Oct 2015 #8
navarth Oct 2015 #9
The2ndWheel Oct 2015 #11
hifiguy Oct 2015 #18
tavernier Oct 2015 #10
d_legendary1 Oct 2015 #15
MisterP Oct 2015 #16
hifiguy Oct 2015 #17
dreamnightwind Oct 2015 #19
smirkymonkey Oct 2015 #22
Octafish Oct 2015 #23
fadedrose Oct 2015 #24

Response to marmar (Original post)

Fri Oct 9, 2015, 08:00 AM

1. Exactly!!! n/t

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Response to marmar (Original post)

Fri Oct 9, 2015, 08:27 AM

2. Is such a system sustainable?

I wouldn't think so - i mean I guess if we go back to a feudal society with the robots replacing the peasants and everybody else on the fringe, than it could work economically speaking, but it's no longer really capitalism, on a grand scale. I mean if I develop a way to make a lot of comfy sweaters cheaply and quickly using robots, those sweaters do me very little good unless people have the means to buy the sweaters. I can only wear one or two sweaters before I get too hot. But if nobody has any money because they are replaced by robots, who is going to buy my sweaters?

Bryant

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Response to el_bryanto (Reply #2)

Fri Oct 9, 2015, 08:58 AM

4. I could trade you the shoes I made for a sweater.

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Response to ToxMarz (Reply #4)

Fri Oct 9, 2015, 09:01 AM

5. Hey that gets rid of one sweater

But . . . i still have thousands of sweaters. Those robots are fast.

Bryant

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Response to el_bryanto (Reply #2)

Fri Oct 9, 2015, 09:21 AM

6. It will require an entirely new economic and social order

 

I'm glad Hawking is talking about this. I mentioned during a casual discussion with some conservative pundits that the current arguments about economics are really besides the point considering what is coming with robotics and automation.

No one is going to have to work very soon (very soon being 20 years or so), not only that it will be inefficient for a human to do 99% of the jobs.

How are goods and wealth and land going to be distributed under that system?

I received a lot of shaking of heads because the conservative pundits knew what this meant. Wealth building as it exists now will not make sense.

Once that (how goods and wealth and land will be distributed under this system) is decided, and it will take a lot of the worlds smartest people to figure that out, how do we avoid overpopulation and using up all of our resources? When smart robots will be able to produce almost infinitely and churn raw foodstuffs and other raw materials into whatever we want at a frightening rate, when those robots can iteratively create smarter and faster robots to continue to speed all of this up, without some management with the ability to enforce population and consumption control, we will use every piece of resource up quickly.

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Response to el_bryanto (Reply #2)

Fri Oct 9, 2015, 10:06 AM

12. Yes. Look at India. 2.3 million people applying for 368 job openings as tea servers and security

 

guards in a recent story.

We aren't even 10% of the way there yet, but we have enough debt to make a good start toward it.

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Response to el_bryanto (Reply #2)

Fri Oct 9, 2015, 10:17 AM

13. I once suggested to my friends that since robots could build cars, why not:

Build the necessary number of factories and give a new car to everybody, meeting all our emission standards, relieving poverty since no one would have to spend thousands of dollars a year on transportation, and providing reliable transportation for everyone. Then, how about having a bunch of robots build everyone brand new energy efficient, completely modern and livable houses? I was laughed out of the room: people have to work for what they get was the gist of it!

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Response to marmar (Original post)

Fri Oct 9, 2015, 08:52 AM

3. There's an awesome short(ish) story everyone should read

Exactly along these lines. Manna by Marshall Brain, available free at http://marshallbrain.com/manna1.htm

Talks about 2 alternative futures -- both with machines doing most of the work.

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Response to a2liberal (Reply #3)

Fri Oct 9, 2015, 10:49 AM

14. Very good story. Thank you.

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Response to marmar (Original post)

Fri Oct 9, 2015, 09:31 AM

7. The concept that capitalism works best if left unregulated is just plain wrong.

Capitalism must be carefully regulated and fully scrutinized at all times.

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Response to Enthusiast (Reply #7)

Sat Oct 10, 2015, 06:07 AM

20. Yes, but who will watch the watchers?

A problem so old there is a Latin phrase for it..

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

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Response to Fumesucker (Reply #20)

Sat Oct 10, 2015, 06:24 AM

21. They couldn't get away with overt fraud until the media was thoroughly compromised.

A fair unbiased media is essential if we want to preserve a democracy and well regulated capitalism. We need to make that argument whenever we can.

I'm sure you remember after the crash the media was pretty easy on those actually responsible. What I'm saying is we need to return to the days of real investigative journalism, especially TV journalism. The war on whistle blowers must end.

Additionally, the miscreants need to be subjected to some prison sentences.

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Response to marmar (Original post)

Fri Oct 9, 2015, 09:36 AM

8. I think...

that capitalism is a giant robot, basically. The goal is to have the entire world being a giant robot.

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Response to marmar (Original post)

Fri Oct 9, 2015, 09:42 AM

9. greedy humans.....NAILED IT.

short-sighted greed is the soft underbelly of capitalism.

Capitalism will eat itself.

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Response to navarth (Reply #9)

Fri Oct 9, 2015, 10:00 AM

11. Short term beats long term every time

That's just how life works. You do what you have to do today, and then deal with the consequences. We've improved life expectancy through sanitation, medicine, and food availability. That's great. Now we have a lot of people, who all need more stuff. In the moment though, we're not worried about what issues may come down the line. It's all about right now.

You can make plans with your family to have a nice big dinner out at a fancy restaurant at the end of the month, but if you don't eat between the beginning and the end of the month, you're not going to make it to that big dinner.

Humans, like all forms of life, are about now, not 20 years from now. Partly because years don't exist anywhere but in our own minds. Sure, we're smart, we're clever, we're adaptable, but that just makes now all the more important to us.

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Response to navarth (Reply #9)

Fri Oct 9, 2015, 03:15 PM

18. Lenin was right about one thing:

 

the boundless greed of the capitalists will lead them to sell the masses the rope that they will use to hang the capitalists. It is their nature.

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Response to marmar (Original post)

Fri Oct 9, 2015, 09:56 AM

10. That's when the guillotine comes back

into fashion.

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Response to marmar (Original post)

Fri Oct 9, 2015, 02:31 PM

15. Why fear the take over of machines

when a couple of meat bags with money have already done that?

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Response to marmar (Original post)

Fri Oct 9, 2015, 03:10 PM

16. eh, I don't think an automated socialized future would be that good either

and I don't mean the old loss of purpose in labor: people should read more Eastern Bloc SF!

the whole notion that machines are nice and neutral and that morality lies entirely in the system or the user is itself a Cold-War fantasy to balm scientists' involvement in the Arms Race; even Old Left analysts popped that little technocratic bubble

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Response to marmar (Original post)

Fri Oct 9, 2015, 03:13 PM

17. Piketty's wealth tax is an excellent idea.

 

Can you imagine the Kochs having to hand over 3% of their total wealth each and every year? I can. That would more than put a hitch in the git-along of the parasite class.

I am not going to try to recount it all here, but if you haven't read Piketty's book yet, go read it NOW.

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Response to marmar (Original post)

Sat Oct 10, 2015, 04:25 AM

19. The plan is to let them (us) die off

The ownership class in no way cares about the worker class. They will work to expedite automation, simultaneously removing any and all social safety nets for the rapidly increasing jobless, and let nature take its course. From their perspective, the worker class has value only as workers, not as humans, and any value they have as workers will soon disappear with automation. Add to the equation things like needing less resources by eliminating the 99%, leaving a sustainable path to life on this planet when we are newly aligned with the human carrying capacity of Earth, and you have their plan.

Too cynical? Probably not. Obviously such a generalization is not universal, but for that future to manifest it needn't be universal, merely dominant in the views of the few truly powerful. If we don't want to accept it, and we mustn't, it's going to take wresting control from the ownership class.

Hard to imagine that actually happening, but possible paths to getting there are direct democracy rather than representative (this would have to be accompanied by democratizing information, breaking up the media conglomerates, if a few corporations are informing the masses then direct democracy will still be informed by the propaganda of the wealthy), or perhaps an enlightened representative democracy could work if we completely decouple money from political campaigns. Another path of course is for all hell to break loose in violent revolution, destroying industrial society entirely, I suppose this is the path of the jihadis (I don't know enough of their vision to really say so), anyway this is a path that would perhaps postpone climate disaster but whose results would be only slightly more desirable than the meltdown we are rushing towards by default, as its main features would be violent death and death by starvation and lack of disease control.

Sanders wants to democratize the workplace, which is an excellent place to start towards a positive solution. When businesses represent the interests of their employees rather than the interests of a small group of owners and shareholders, labor savings from automatizing could conceivably be distributed equitably. It's not enough (businesses also need to represent the interest of society as a whole, not just maximize their value to the marketplace) but it is an achievable first step.

I find the idea that "the smartest people in the room" (paraphrasing a ridiculous post upthread) will get together and work this out to everyone's benefit to be absurd. Our current trajectory is the let-us-die-when-our-labor-is-not-needed path, it's how capitalists see the world, and they don't much like us common folk around to remind them of the failures of their economic system anyway. Not to mention the annoying problem that we're rapidly passing climate change tipping points that will eventually, if not already, lock us in to a path for extinction, and one way of addressing that is depopulation.

That's why these are not normal times, and business as usual is suicidal. We either very quickly find a way to live sustainably, or we face the unthinkable. It's way too important a decision to leave in the hands of a few smart elites, who really aren't that into us.

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Response to marmar (Original post)

Sat Oct 10, 2015, 08:22 AM

22. +1000

 

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Response to marmar (Original post)

Sat Oct 10, 2015, 08:22 AM

23. Yeah. Especially Capitalism's Robots.

Controlled by Capitalism's Invisible Army.



The Perverse Rise of Killer Robots

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Response to marmar (Original post)

Sat Oct 10, 2015, 09:38 AM

24. Hawking sounds like a Bernie voter nt

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