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back to article I, for one, welcome our robotic communist jobless future

Various of the concerned intelligensia seem to be worried at present that the computers and the robots are going to come and take all our jobs. None of us will have anything to do, we'll starve and the capitalists who own the robots will end up with everything. Often, the solution offered is that we should therefore tax capital …

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Deja vu

Reminds me of discussions in Europe in the 1980's, same debates. Then globalization happened, and instead of robots taking over the jobs, the Chinese and Indians did. And no, it did not increase the leisure time in Europe, unless you count being on the dole as such.

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Re: Deja vu

"And no, it did not increase the leisure time in Europe, unless you count being on the dole as such."

That's just an inequitable distribution of leisure, isn't it? But this is exactly what Tim is talking about - how do you sort out distribution of "stuff" in a low labour society? Even is we dismiss (as I do) the Malthusian doomists, we aren't all going to be able to live in a huge mansion on Malibu beach, so there does need to be some way that we control consumption of goods and work, and in this future we may be less concerned about the inequitable distribution of leisure than the inequitable distribution of work.

And although we could relatively quickly move to a low labour society, it isn't going to be a labour free society for quite a few decades. I could be wrong, but I don't expect computers to be doing "creative" stuff, which means that there's a few jobs for artists, designers, musicians, and a very small number of engineers (maybe even a few programmers). Will those jobs be paid, or will people pay to do them? How will humans cope moving rapidly from having to work to get what they want to a world of largely idle leisure? Many pensioners cope, and hardened career doleys, but will that suit the rest of us?

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Re: Deja vu @ledswinger

I can't see the need for teaching, nursing and caring disappearing any time soon. Ditto plumbers, builders and electricians who are doing repairs (effectively, creative tasks). We might still engage in some face-to-face-shopping and want human assistants.

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Re: Deja vu

"But we don't have monopoly capitalism: we have capitalism combined with free markets."

That'll be why energy prices keep going up, food prices keep going up, and things like the cost of mobile roaming only go down when the EU whacks the carriers with a big legal stick.

Of course, it's nonsense. Corporates compete to tout their profits to shareholders, not to lower their profits by selling more cheaply to customers. Customer cash and worker sweat are the products, not the economic end point.

As for robots - didn't we hear this kind of thing before in the 60s? What actually happened is that working hours have risen steadily since the 70s, and most of the income from increased productivity has been concentrated in fewer and fewer hands.

Since we know corporates never willingly share profits unless forced to, only someone who knows nothing about history could pretend that suddenly this will change and there will be free stuff for everyone. Yay.

Or something.

And yes, globalisation was the trial run. We know how that worked out, don't we, boys and girls?

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Re: Of course, it's nonsense.

Quite right.

"But we don't have monopoly capitalism: we have capitalism combined with free markets."

Yes, which just means the money goes into the pockets of 10 capitalist heads out of a 100 million population rather than 1 out of 100 million. That's 9 more people out of a 100 million that you've raised out of poverty - all hail the free market.

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Re: Deja vu @ledswinger

I would suggest that those tasks would be handled internally, i.e. between myself, my wife, grandparents, neighbours etc. After all, how do many of us spend our weekends already?

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Re: Deja vu

we aren't all going to be able to live in a huge mansion on Malibu beach

Unless we all live in same huge mansion on Malibu beach! See you by the pool.

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Re: Deja vu

"And no, it did not increase the leisure time in Europe, unless you count being on the dole as such."

I think it did. The amount of time I had to work to continue to buy all the things I was buying went down a lot as all the things became so much cheaper. It's all so cheap now that I can quit my job every few years and just take a few months off.

Most people choose to not to work less, but to simply take the savings they make and waste them on more junk; they could have had more leisure time, and chose instead to keep working.

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Re: Deja vu @Brewster's Angle Grinder

We can argue about the detail, but the advance of the machines is undeniable, and I wasn't suggesting a labour free world, merely a low labour world (and probably continuing to move lower).

For the forseeable future I agree that the low volume and low standardisation of property maintenance, nursing et al make them weak candidates for automation, but ultimately all are rule and process based activites. We glamourise the "judgement" that we add to our daily grind, but if you can explain to an apprentice how to diagnose, repair and remediate an electrical fault, then you could program a machine to do the same, but with better quality.

The tasks you mention will probably remain human tasks until machines have the versatility of a human. Not sure how soon we'll see cybermen knocking on the door to do home repairs, but the functional basics of these tasks are very simple. And I'll bet my electrician doesn't know the Regs inside out, a robot would have them programmed in by default.

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Re: Deja vu

half of the comments on the reg are from robots.

I am perceived therefore i am

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Re: Deja vu

> How will humans cope moving rapidly from having to work to get what they want to a world of largely idle

> leisure? Many pensioners cope, and hardened career doleys, but will that suit the rest of us?

You will be assimilated. Your biological and technological distinctiveness will be added to our own. Resistance is futile.

Resistance is futile.

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FAIL

@The OtherHobbes Re: Deja vu

"Electricity will be too cheap to meter"

Remember that old saw lie about nuclear (or, as one well-known dufus says it, "nookewler") power. How well did that work out?

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@Ledswinger

The most important experiment in this utopianist fantasy thinking was conducted about 385 years ago by a group of Englishmen. It has been assiduously ignored by commies and other parasites ever since. It proved that all redistributionist fantasies are ultimately doomed to failure because they do not account for rudimentary human behavior. When the masses can take without producing they do so to the point of threatening the destruction of the societal group engaged in the redistribution. You might have heard of it, but not thought it through. It was called the Massachusetts Bay Company and it founded the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Given that they were Puritans they really should have known better. The Bible clearly lays out that part of the consequence of original sin is that man must work by the sweat of his brow for those transgressions.

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It's lucky we have infinite energy and natural resources to build and power all of these robots

otherwise things might not be quite this easy.

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Re: It's lucky we have infinite energy and natural resources to build and power all of these robots

We don't need infinite energy and natural resources because there are a finite number of people each wanting a finite number of fondleslabs.

Some rationing of certain resources may be required, though.

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Meh

Re: It's lucky we have infinite energy and natural resources to build and power all of these robots

We have a solar system and a star to power it.

They amount of energy and resources (potentially) available is far beyond what a finite population can consume, much of which will (in one way or another) be recycled.

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Re: It's lucky we have infinite energy and natural resources to build and power all of these robots

Sadly, while extracting power from the great fusion power plant in the sky by means of photovoltic cells is theoretically attractive, in practice it actually takes more power to build the average solar panel than it generates in it's working lifetime. (Certainly in the UK, although solar farms in sunny deserts actually do make more power over their lifetime than it took to build them)

Nobody would build a society with 100% of the power generation from renewables if they wanted the lights on 7 days a week, let alone 24/7- if you read the stats we already import more energy than we generate from renewables, a shocking incitement of renewable power and a recommendation for France's nuclear program!

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Re: It's lucky we have infinite energy and natural resources to build and power all of these robots

in practice it actually takes more power to build the average solar panel than it generates in it's working lifetime. (Certainly in the UK, although solar farms in sunny deserts actually do make more power over their lifetime than it took to build them)[citation needed]

Compare and contrast with http://www.resilience.org/stories/2006-06-16/energy-payback-roof-mounted-photovoltaic-cells

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Re: It's lucky we have infinite energy and natural resources to build and power all of these robots

"Compare and contrast with http://www.resilience.org/stories/2006-06-16/energy-payback-roof-mounted-photovoltaic-cells"

If my scan read was accurate, they didn't take into account the not inconsiderable resources of an expensive inverter that only lasts ten years, nor do they take account of the fact that the solar PV output must be offset by marginal energy cost of continuous grid support (unless you're prepared to live without a grid connection).

So although people trousering a big fat feed in subsidy might delude themselves that they are saving the planet, the reality is that somewhere there's a big fat gas turbine spinning continuously on hot standby, burning gas, and after ten years they'll have a thousand quid bill to replace the inverter.

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Re: It's lucky we have infinite energy and natural resources to build and power all of these robots

> Some rationing of certain resources may be required, though.

Tim might have looked into this: http://www.thevenusproject.com/

where a guy is looking into solving all of these problems.

His theory is that we work and have money because of scarcity. The key is to eliminate scarcity by the application of technology.

It's a nice idea and it could work. The problems as I see it are:

1) We don't currently have the technology to make this a reality. We do have enough stuff and energy to do these things, but we are very wasteful.

2) Politically it would be difficult to implement, i.e. progress to the final solution. It would have to be implemented across the entire globe. I'm sold but there're an awful lot of whack jobs around the world that think that a paradise here on earth would be a sin and therefore evil, not to mention the incumbants in power who would not like to see their empires crumble.

We do unfortunately see the reality of what happens when technology makes our lives easier: longer working hours, increased stress and the perception that "unemployment" is a problem, when in actual fact, "unemployment" is the solution and what we all ultimately desire.

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Unhappy

Re: It's lucky we have infinite energy and natural resources to build and power all of these robots

"Sadly, while extracting power from the great fusion power plant in the sky by means of photovoltic cells is theoretically attractive, in practice it actually takes more power to build the average solar panel than it generates in it's working lifetime. ("

When I talked about a star and the whole solar system I'd expected that people would realize I was talking about all resources in the home solar system, which (since all production is automated) would become accessible at reasonable cost.

But obviously you read that as "My roof".

First off above the Earth's atmosphere or Air Mass 0 the raw energy is about 30% higher.

Second off above 800Km the sunlight is virtually continuous

Third off the energy extractable by any structure in Earth orbit, rather than solar orbit is probably less than 1/ 1000 000 000 of the whole output of the sun.

But you're probably right. The energy a PV panel sited on an English rooftop can't recover the energy used in its mfg.

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Re: It's lucky we have infinite energy and natural resources to build and power all of these robots

I see a correlation between scarcity and the desire to breed. How do you convince people to limit population growth to something sustainable? Should we all just pretend that we can reproduce as much as we want without consequences?

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Re: It's lucky we have infinite energy and natural resources to build and power all of these robots

"Sadly, while extracting power from the great fusion power plant in the sky by means of photovoltic cells is theoretically attractive, in practice it actually takes more power to build the average solar panel than it generates in it's working lifetime."

While that may have been true in the past, i'm not sure it holds any longer (and is not immediately translatable to the economics of production and operation). The last energy payback figures i've seen for _current_ technology are under 3 years (panel) and under 4 years (system) for multi-crystalline, and about 1.5 years (panel)/3 years (system) for thin film. That would seem to indicate that energy of production should be well below output, even if the figures are off by a factor of 2 or even 4 - there's a PDF over at the NREL that has some useful links to papers giving various payback timescales using different costings and assumption (e.g. from not taking into account manufacturing the original silicon that ended up as scrap used to make the panels, to full production including wafer and frame energy costs).

http://www.nrel.gov/docs/fy04osti/35489.pdf

If you have some other resources indicating otherwise, i'd be interested in hearing about them. All this doesn't take into account infrastructure costs etc, but that wasn't the point being made I think.

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Re: His theory is that we work and have money because of scarcity.

That's not his theory. That's the basics of all non-utopianist economic theory. Capitalism is all about maximizing the output of scarce economic resources. The political troglodytes just don't like the allocations that result from it.

And you should be careful. People who are looking for "the final solution" tend to miss that things have already gone sideways.

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Re: His theory is that we work and have money because of scarcity.

> That's not his theory. That's the basics of all non-utopianist economic theory. Capitalism is all about maximizing the output of scarce economic resources. The political troglodytes just don't like the allocations that result from it.

I think you're missing the key point and you're confusing capitalism with money. You can have a system based on money that is not capitalist. Communism can use money to distribute scarce resources but it is not capitalism.

The point being made is that we only have money because of scarcity. Without scarcity, there is no need for money at all.

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diet

Esteemed Author» and the diet is considerably better too

Is it? Sugar and salt in everything, live animals being hauled hundreds or thousands of kilometers for the sake of a better profit, less fresh fruit being consumed, greater quantities of mass-produced "food" (for want of a better word) being consumed. No fish left in the sea.

I'm not so sure that our diet is better, let alone considerably better.

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Re: diet

I guess it depends how you define 'better'. Economists tend to measure it in calories. But, as you said, that doesn't really tell the whole story.

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Re: diet

Why don't you give the 18th century diet a try, then, and see how you get on? Since salt was the only preservative available, you'll find far more of it in an 18th century diet. Fresh fruit and vegetables were only available at certain times of the year, otherwise it was salting and pickling.

You only need to look at the average height of today's human compared to one from a century ago to see the difference in diet quality.

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Re: diet

Yes, diet is much better. Not only measured in calories, also measured in the disappearance of malnutrition and related conditions (Ricketts, e.g.), and average adult height, etc.

Just think of the prevalence of fruit: you'd have apples (fresh one month a year, and progressively less so over the next ten, to then run out) and that's about it to a city dweller. Even the poor can afford to buy bananas now (at about half the price per kg of apples -- apples that grow locally and can store almost endlessly, as opposed to bananas that are fragile and grow on the other side of the world and have to be transported under controlled atmosphere to stop them ripening).

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Re: diet

As poster said above, salt consumption is much down since the proliferation of fridges. Stomach cancers are about the only class that have gone down significantly over the last decades, mostly due to less salt intake AFAIK.

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Re: diet@deadlockvictim

"I'm not so sure that our diet is better, let alone considerably better."

But the choice is there. The fat proletariat may choose to live on salty, fatty burgers made with mechanically recovered meat, in fibre-free white bread rolls, swilling down litres of sugary drinks, but that's a choice they've made. As a society we have better knowledge of what we should eat than at anytime in human history, better information on what is in our food and how sustainably it is produced, and that food (both good and bad) is more affordable than ever before.

Healthy, sustainable food is not more expensive than pre-prepared meals or fast food restaurants, except for those daft enough to define healthy and sustainable solely as premium cuts of locally sourced organic meat, and matching organic veg.

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Re: diet

we have the option of eating healthley for as much or even less than eating badley (compart the price of raw fruit and veg tot he price of ready meals) because a lot of chouse not to dose not mean we can anot

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Re: diet

By diet, I understand it to mean what we eat, not what is available.

The previous posters are correct. The availability of food has increased massively. The choice of food has increased greatly. These are good things (although they have bad as well consequences). The mechanisation of agriculture and food-processing as well as a clever use of new fertilisers and pesticides lead to much greater harvests than ever before.

However, the national diet in the First World has collectively deteriorated. Look at the increased numbers of obese people. Look at the increased incidents of circulatory conditions, diabetes and depression [1]. To be sure, we in the First World do less exercise and we have not adjusted the quality or quantity our food intake to offset this.

We need to be reminded on a constant basis to eat "5-a-day". Up until the 1970's, one didn't need to be told this because it was a part of life. Children got fruit in their lunchboxes, vegetables were cooked for meals. Office workers went to restaurants for lunch. We didn't eat pre-processed meals as a matter of course. Chocolate and such like were treats and not hourly snacks. We consumed less alcohol per head.

This is all based on personal observation. If anyone can provide a link with objective evidence that contradicts what I've written, I shall admit that I'm wrong and go over and grumble in the corner.

[1] I'm not sure about this one. Flame me please if I'm way off here.

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Re: diet

There's certainly more obesity around but that doesn't point to a poor diet. Rather, it points to an a greater availability of food. Yes, there are people who live on junk food, but that isn't the case for the majority.

As for the increased rates of illness - these are occuring for many people at an age where they would have long been dead had they lived around WW1 and had a WW1 diet. (Hope that sentence makes sense). We're seeing more disease because we're living far longer - and part of the reason for that is diet.

Re: Five-a-day campaigns - I've yet to see actual proof (rather than bizarre warped surveys from bullying so-called-charities) that people aren't eating as much fruit and veg as they were 40 years ago. Incidentally, the national diet in the 1970s was atrocious.

Re: alcohol consumption - IIRC it has been falling since the 1970s and continues to fall. Figures somewhere around, I forget where. As has smoking and related diseases. Not that you'd know it from the relentless bullying campaigns from the Temperance League (or whatever they're calling themselves these days).

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Unhappy

@Ledswinger

"Healthy, sustainable food is not more expensive than pre-prepared meals or fast food restaurants, except for those daft enough to define healthy and sustainable solely as premium cuts of locally sourced organic meat, and matching organic veg."

True.

Having seen what a "low income" is I cannot understand how anyone could live on "junk food" at the prices currently charged, when you can live for weeks at a time a much lower amount of cash.

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Re: diet

Hmm.

"We didn't eat pre-processed meals as a matter of course. Chocolate and such like were treats and not hourly snacks. We consumed less alcohol per head."

You might want to check your Orwell on the working class diet pre-WWII. Even more shitty than it is now in fact. And 19 th cent, dear God it was awful: and alcohol per head was higher than today (BTW, did you know that alcohol consumption has been falling recently?).

It really wasn't all that long ago that white, processed, bread (they bought it by the gallon loaf!) was the majority of calories for the average working man. If not that, then potatoes. Within the lifetime of my great grandfather, certainly.

There may well be people eating what we , today, do not consider a healthy diet. But damn even that shite of frozen pizzas and chicken nuggets beats the average diet of a century ago (OK, maybe 150 years ago).

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Unhappy

Re: diet

"There may well be people eating what we , today, do not consider a healthy diet. But damn even that shite of frozen pizzas and chicken nuggets beats the average diet of a century ago (OK, maybe 150 years ago)."

Another small data point.

Average life expectancy in London around 1870 35. Average life expectancy in villages about 45.

Which (I'm guessing) given where most El Reg readers live and their ages would mean the readership would be a lot smaller and the local cemetery a lot fuller.

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Re: diet

Height? Do include girth.

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I see a flaw.

You assume that robotics bring the cost of production down to zero. That isn't going to happen: There are still raw materials to buy and energy costs.

So perhaps food will come down to the equivilent of just a few pounds per week to feed the family, with robots making it from planting to processing. But that's still a few pounds that the newly-unemployed masses won't have. Markets can only function if the consumer actually has some income, even if only a tiny amount, to spend.

It could well lead to a positive feedback loop: The robots take a few jobs, which increases unemployment, which decreases consumption, which leads to a further reduction in jobs.

While a robotic work-free utopia is possible in theory, it's hard to see how the current market-driven economic model could function in such a situation. You can't expect manufacturers to simply give away goods out of altuism.

There are some solutions. The government could issue a basic income, perhaps, though funding it would be a great difficulty. Or abandon market solutions entirely for the most vital goods like food and go full-on communist, nationalising production.

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If you live in a lake, it takes longer to walk to the well

If you are considering a robot economy, you can use the robots to solve its problems: robot recycling, robot mining, robot manufacture of power stations. The flaw I see is population growth. If resources become more available, the population will grow until some resource becomes scarce - or until we use killer robots to cull the population.

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Re: I see a flaw.

@Suricou: See Beyond This Horizon; Robert Heinlen where this economic situation was discussed, over 50 years ago.

However, this article reminds me of the automation will shorten your work week fad of the 70s. instead I worked longer and lost paid overtime. As others have commented, when I had to work, I wanted to work and often, despite the worst the PHBs could do, enjoyed it. I liked solving problems and coming up with a better answer for the challenges of the organisation. As it is, I am still finding things to fix and improve.

A final response on food is to suggest the author is half right. Food has dropped in price, risen in quality (generally) and is much more available. For how much longer is the issue. Emptying oceans, chemically flogged soils and cities built on good dirt instead of semi-useless terrain. None of these issues are insurmountable, despite the best pessimism of New Scientist and Limits to Growth groups, but I see no real effort to implement workable solutions. <irony> Greenies and other hysterics are the biggest hindrances to developing a sustainable high quality life. No matter how good the technology, humans will stuff it up if the mass media get involved. </irony>

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Trollface

Re: If you live in a lake, it takes longer to walk to the well

@Flocke,

Ah, either a Malthus or Aynn Rand disciple, thus wrong. As living standards rise, birth rate drops. Most of Europe imports its children via migrants as the locals don't breed much. You might console yourself with the thought of a flu pandemic in some crowded hellhole. Europe for instance.

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Re: If you live in a lake, it takes longer to walk to the well

> As living standards rise, birth rate drops

Quite. That's an observation that appears to be universal. However, it just tells us the "what" not the "why". The reason birth rates drop seems to have something to do with city life. The other side of rising living standards is that more and more people live in cities. They / we need to do that, as that is where the jobs are (don't talk about telecommuting, see later) and most people are pressured for living space in cities - as well as not having many child-friendly open spaces, facilities and a fear of letting their kids near strangers.

However, take away the restrictions of cities, whether by letting people work where they live, not having to work at all or doing their job remotely (there's that telecommuting bit) and all those limitations regarding children and wanting a nice environment for them to grow up in, they all go away.

Therefore it's reasonable to assume that once we are free to leave the cities behind, there WILL be an explosion in the birthrate (esp. if we have lots more free time ;) )and the number of children and therefore the population WILL become limited, as Malthus predicted, simply by our ability to feed all those open mouths.

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Re: If you live in a lake, it takes longer to walk to the well

Actually, it's been hypothesized (although not proven to my knowledge) that the main reason for having lots of children is to ensure income should little Third World Timmy get pulled apart by a loom, or little Third World Tommy gets killed in a mining accident. You need to have children to look after you when you are older and can't work in the looms and mines. And little Third World Chris may have to join his brothers and fight in a war at some point.

If Timmy and Tommy are doing office jobs in an established economy, even if they are lower/lower middle class, they have far less chance of dying by and large, and even if they do, in a developed economy, you typically have a benefit system of some kind which means you won't starve. They're also less likely to have to fight for their lives in a territorial or religious war in a developed economy due to little things like democracy and the fact that most large deveoped economies are for the most part fairly secular - so they don't tend to go on bigoted rampages (with obvious convenient exceptions - but you get my point - towns don't tend to go against towns because one has a sect from Religion B in it as opposed to religion A, kicking off civil wars)

Hence as as income/comfort grows in a society, and formal government has real control and influence over that comfort and can influence and increase income to the wider masses, birthrates drop. Because you don't need so many kids for pragmatic reasons.

Hence it's suggested that it's little to do with the countryside or cities, it's about avoiding starvation in old age and the survival of the community/state in times of potential war - most studies tend to support this view AFAIA aware?

Interesting concept overall. Are we really getting that close to a post-scarcity society?

Steven R

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I see another flaw

"But we don't have monopoly capitalism: we have capitalism combined with free markets". This is only partly true, current capitalism has a heavy base of 'crony capitalism' with insider information, favours passed in and out between corporations and governments and a privileged elite that have been getting richer while median incomes fall. Also, the kind of roboticisation discussed here implies very high startup costs, limiting the number of producers and possibly leading to a monopoly or oligopoly.

So at least initially (a few decades or so?), it would just be a continuing of current trend with top 1% getting higher and higher %age of total stuff and complete leisure time, while quality of life and leisure time for everyone else improves only very gradually.

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Re: If you live in a lake, it takes longer to walk to the well

"Interesting concept overall. Are we really getting that close to a post-scarcity society?"

I'm not sure this is a post scarcity world, more of a post labour world .

Automation costs have been dropping steadily, and there's likely an inflexion point where suddenly the costs of automation drop much faster relative to labour costs as volumes rise, capabilities and techniques improve. In a sufficiently constrained environment we already use robots - for example fully automated warehouses, or welding car bodies. 3D printing is revolutionising high end manufacturing, enabling people to make things quicker, cheaper, or to make things that simply weren't feasible to make before, and that could well be an important part of this change, as it becomes cheaper, better understood and more widely applied. The step change comes when it becomes practical to have semi autonomous robots doing jobs that currently we have to use people for - cleaning toilets, making burgers, assembling motorbikes. Tim mentions the idea of robots making robots, which is essentially this point.

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Re: I see a flaw.

"There are some solutions. The government could issue a basic income, perhaps, though funding it would be a great difficulty. Or abandon market solutions entirely for the most vital goods like food and go full-on communist, nationalising production."

Until then, however, some of our most precious resources are still limted. Food, water, energy. Without them, we're basically dead, destitute, or otherwise in dire straits. While reading this article, I thought back to Star Trek's universe and recalled some of the things that allowed its society to function. Two things in general allowed what was essentially communism to both be accepted and work there: ubiquitous energy (so much energy ordinarily they never felt much of a concern it would run out except in specialized circumstances--we're talking routine compact generators capable of multiple GW) and the ability to use that energy to fulfill the other needs (synthesizers and replicators--the ability to convert energy into different forms of matter). We would need that level of ubiquity to be able to accept what's proposed in the article. Otherwise, the potential for it running out will always keep us, at least nominally, at the neighbor's throat in the event of a crisis.

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Re: If you live in a lake, it takes longer to walk to the well

"The step change comes when it becomes practical to have semi autonomous robots doing jobs that currently we have to use people for - cleaning toilets, making burgers, assembling motorbikes."

One thing we've learned in the automation push is that robots tend to be at their best when the process is controllable. You always assemble the car the same way. you always build microchips the same way.

When the environment becomes less controllable, then Murphy strikes. There's debris in front of the toilet (including possibly a passed-out drunk) that confuses the robot heading for the toilet, or the burger doesn't flip right and instead flops elsewhere. Ever noticed there aren't really robots for picking tree fruits or for picking grapes without breaking a bunch of them? Many kinds of crops have such natural randomness to them that even our cleverest minds can't build robots that can handle them: especially when a soft touch is needed (thus they tend to compromise on man-machine interfaces where the machine provides assistance only--a simpler way for human pickers to collect the crops).

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Re: If you live in a lake, it takes longer to walk to the well

So in the most well off countries in the world where plenty is the norm.. How come the birth rate is in all cases, declining?

When did the average UK family number two adults and a dozen kids last?

I grew up in rural Ireland, and knew a few families with 7 or 8 kids, and one with an even dozen. But now.. It's so rare to have such a big family, it's positively freakish. But couples with no kids, and no intention of breeding.. Increasingly common.

Sorry mate.. You got it exactly wrong. Better access to facilities and education actually lowers birth rates, and affluence leads to smaller families when people do not need half a dozen kids to just survive.

So to reduce the global population, we don't need killer robots, we need better wealth distribution.

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Re: If you live in a lake, it takes longer to walk to the well

"Many kinds of crops have such natural randomness to them that even our cleverest minds can't build robots that can handle them: especially when a soft touch is needed"

I disagree. We can build these machines, but currently they would be far more expensive than manual labour. There is no part of (say) fruit picking that I can see could not be automated, from recognising ripe fruit, manipulating it without damaging it through to packing it - we don't employ rocket scientists to pick the fruit, just minimum wage labourers who follow certain rules. We have the capabilities for optical recognition of ripe fruit, for the positioning of a manipulator arm with sub-millimetre accuracy, the sensors to detect the pressure applied by arms, the material for soft manipulators etc etc.

Your comment about Murphy's law and unplanned eventualties is more pertinent, but that doesn't require the machine to sort the problem out, merely the ability to recognise a problem and call for meatsack intervention (like modern aircraft do).

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