I love a good techno-topian fantasy, and I've got to say that I've invested considerable thought in the idea of conquering you all (and then
releasing you and treating you very well after I've settled a few scores on behalf of myself, my family, and my social class) with the help of a
massive military-industrial-robot-Vagabond complex. So allow me to walk you through a few of the finer points.
So, assuming you already have the robotics technology and the algorithms or even full on AI to effectively manage it in a "hands off" mode (which I
think is a realistic point for us to reach within 50 years or less), here is your agenda:
Goal 1: Introduce and Allocate Robotic Labor (Transition)
- A. Building enough robots over a realistic period of time and at a realistic expense The production of robots must not displace the
production of necessities, or we won't live to enjoy the robots.
- B. Assign priority to certain fields of work for robotic replacement of human labor Fix what's broken first: fill unfilled jobs, delaying
the problem of displacing human workers.
- C. Assure every person of their ability to control some portion of the economy, either in the form of labor or materials needed by others.
Each human worker, at the time of their displacement, but receive a new stake in the economy equal to or greater than their former one.
The logical first step for 1st generation robots is to bring about the second generation of robots. The second step is to fill unmet basic needs. By
keeping the emerging field from ever becoming dependent upon human labor, and then beginning the move into existing fields in areas already at a
deficit of labor and materials you prevent an initial largescale displacement of workers and the accompanying destabilization of the economy and
A few key details of this transition are as follow:
i. Robots must procure materials with which to make more robots, preferably by the recycling of materials which cannot practically be accessed for
recycling by humans. In short, they are emplaced at landfills to sort and achieve maximum recycling of our waste materials.
ii. Robots must produce a power infrastructure capable of meeting the new demand for power which they present. This means building the infrastructure
for a hydrogen economy (or, failing the advent of fusion power or some equally abundant and clean system, robots would have to be much more limited in
their scope of application and be powered by vegitable-derived sugars and alcohols supported by their own agriculture, giving them a sort of
jury-rigged animal biology and symbiosis with the rest of the planet). That last idea would go nicely with another early-stage use of robotic labor:
establishing local agriculture in underfed regions of the world.
iii. Robots must assemble more robots.
iv. the next phases of automation would be in fields where human-powered production is either too inefficient to be profitable (sweatshop labor) or
too limited to be affordable (fields like medicine where prices are high in part because there isn't enough to go around)
v. the robots are organized into small to medium sized companies, owned by the consumers they supply (through stock issued according to the
consumer's amount of consumption), paying ALL PROFITS as dividends to those stockholders, and despite their small size, partially cooperating in a
guild to take advantage of economies of scale, while also exercizing enough autonomy to allow for competition in innovation within the developing
field. The effect of this is that the consumer owns the means of production and is refunded all profits, and consequently recieves goods at cost-
furthermore, if the stockholder reduces consumption and for that reason transfers some of his shares to others who are increasing their consumption,
the consumer is effectively receiving a further refund (which may even represent a net profit, since this is effectively a future's market regulated
by the requirement that you actually buy and use the goods before you can trade the futures) [this system does not apply to the sale of the robots
themselves, as explained next]
vi. with robots first being used to supply the needy, who cannot at first pay for them, you have no doubt deduced that this will effectively close the
wealth gap on a global scale and is unlikely to happen as the result of profit motive. Thus we can conclude that the most likely way this will ever be
implemented is by a non-profit academic or philanthropic organization operating world-wide, not by a corporation or state. This does not eliminate but
merely consolidates the problem of a status quo upheaval. Completely eliminating that upheaval requires that the people (and not the organization
implementing the automation) forcibly keep government and corporate interests at bay during the transition. Thus highly functioning democracies with a
fairly low degree of corruption are a prerequisite for the transition, barring our reliance on a technocratic Charlemagne.
From Transition to Mainstream:
So now we have a world with a quickly closing wealth gap, where an ever increasing number of the things that
people depend on to live are recieved at-cost or sometimes even cost-repaid basis. This works on a free market system that encourages thrift in high
demand areas (which is how you achieve cost repaid or even cost-repaid plus profit conditions). This expands, with total production (and thus average
standard of living world wide) preceding reduction in human workforce, causing a series of small expansions and contractions of supply as production
peaks, then backs off as humans move out of the workforce. Until finally, we reach a limit:
Goal 2: Sustainable living in a world where raw materials run out before labor supply
- A. The fundamental basis of wealth must continue to be human labor and accomplishment
- B. Rendundancy must be eliminated and Long-lasting possessions and utilities must be heavily preferred over disposable ones, especially for
i. While I have spelled out that one's consumption habbits form a baseline that can be altered by thrift or excess via the futures mechanism, what
has not been covered yet is what establishes the initial budget on which that consumption is based. This is logically based on human labor, beginning
with what ones wealth was before the transition, and of course subject to change based on how one acquires wealth by his own industry after the
transition. If you were one of the needy who didn't have a job before the transition and were in poverty, you would begin at a subsistence level, and
by thrift would have to improve that, or else would have to capitalize on your newfound security as an opportunity to start working on other things.
You might entertain, you might invent, you might blow glass so that those who don't like assembly line goods can have the little luxuries. This also
continues to impose personal responsibility on reproductive trends, to prevent a locust effect.
ii. The above would require a separate currency (probably the respective currencies used before the transition, as opposed to the standardized
stock-based currency that would be used for the fruits of automated labor) allowing for a degree of democratically directed economic policy to balance
against the laissez faire system that would be widely insisted upon as the individual found himself to be the primary holder of wealth.
iii. the smaller companies of the developing phase would eventually probably be integrated at least in many areas, reducing redundancy by reducing the
uncertainty generated by competition (which is less necessary when the consumer is also a supplier, and cannot practically engage in predatory
commercial practices against himself). This reduction in variety would logically favor permanent objects rather than disposables, so that consumers
could get a cost-rebate when they stopped consuming and sold their shares of the production. This would also create a growing second-hand market,
reducing the likelihood of a full cost rebate on sale as time went on, and thus sustaining some impetus for development and avoiding the tendency of
people to buy things they don't necessarily want just because it's their turn to get it. The limited variety would of course also drive up demand
for individually produced goods and services that have seen human hands and human minds at some point in their conception.
Anyway, I'll probably come back to this at some point because the organization didn't hold up as well as I hoped. I'm sure I missed a few points
and didn't articulate others well enough.
But long story short, you have to account for phased implementation, distribution of the means of production, continuation of market forces, continued
limits imposed not by labor shortage but by energy and material shortage, environmental impact, population growth, etc.
And all of that means that a completely free economy is unlikely.
A free economy, where opportunity costs do not prevent us from wanting one of everything, requires enormous waste. There has to be enough steak,
chicken, lobster, and fish for everyone at dinner- so that if everyone wanted lobster they wouldn't run out. But then all that steak and chicken and
fish just get thrown away. That's seriously multiplying your waste generation, energy consumption, raw material consumption, and thus reducing the
capacity of the earth to support humans. Thus instead of depriving the currently living of wealth, we end up depriving future generations of the
opportunity to live- still a case of haves and have nots. We are far better off to focus on striking a better balance between work and play while
continuing to make at least some of the difficult economic choices that are and always have been a part of life.