back to article No wonder Marvin the robot was miserable: AI will make the rich richer – and the poor poorer

Two research papers argue that the risk of AI-driven automation isn't so much the destruction of jobs as the amplification of wealth inequality. That is to say workers in our brave new world will still have things to do, but many of them, assisting and assisted by machines, will be paid poorly while robot owners get rich. In …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    AI will make the rich richer – and the poor poorer

    Makes sense, why else is CES etc littered with AI / IoT / Robot hype.

    Had to be a reason they were dumping so much money into this shit!

    1. Tigra 07 Silver badge

      Re: AI will make the rich richer – and the poor poorer

      This has always been the case. Mass production and the printing press started this and only a fully robot workforce will end it.

      Get used to saying "Sorry, i only buy from humans" on your doorstep in future.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: AI will make the rich richer – and the poor poorer

        "This has always been the case. Mass production and the printing press started this .... "

        Progress certainly made the rich richer, but the poor poorer, no. The pre-industrial revolution poor were incredibly poor with all their net worth coming from scratching around in a small patch of dirt, that they didn't even own. That's why they flocked to the towns: being a poor wage slave was a vast improvement over a starving peasant.

        Of course in the past the rich have always needed the poor.

        1. strum

          Re: AI will make the rich richer – and the poor poorer

          >That's why they flocked to the towns

          In many cases, they flocked to the towns because they were turfed off the land (turf).

        2. Tigra 07 Silver badge

          Re: AC

          I don't agree with that. Automation and mass production makes us pay lower prices, so making us all richer. Just take a look at the massive crop yields and lower prices on everything mass produced. Hand made products are a luxury.

          The only negative i see is that the further robotisation of the workforce sucks for the people who lose their jobs. Everyone else benefits.

          1. Loud Speaker

            Re: AC

            The only negative i see is that the further robotisation of the workforce sucks for the people who lose their jobs. Everyone else benefits.

            You are correct - but it is a matter of proportion - like if 99% have no jobs (and not much food), and 1% that is everybody else has all the robots, then the people without jobs may decide that "it sucks" is not how they want their life - and, guess what, they can make their own robot, called "Madame la Guillotine" and address the problem in the traditional way.

            I suspect that Rednecks with guns are more dangerous than French peasants without trousers - Trump may yet be trumped!

        3. boltar Silver badge

          Re: AI will make the rich richer – and the poor poorer

          ". That's why they flocked to the towns: being a poor wage slave was a vast improvement over a starving peasant."

          They flocked to the towns because the revolution in agricultural equipment meant fewer people were needed to work the land you numpty. And when they got to the towns they usually ended up living in conditions far less sanitary than out in the countryside, disease was rife and life expectancy plummeted. It took 50-100 years for this situation to improve. But hey, lets not let facts get in the way of your rose tinted view of the industrial revolution.

          1. BA

            Re: AI will make the rich richer – and the poor poorer

            @Bultar

            i don't know where you live, but in the UK the improvement of the agricultural equipment came about 100 years after people flocked to the cities. Most farms in the UK were not fully mechanisaed until the early to mid 1900s.

            1. boltar Silver badge

              Re: AI will make the rich richer – and the poor poorer

              "i don't know where you live, but in the UK the improvement of the agricultural equipment came about 100 years after people flocked to the cities. Most farms in the UK were not fully mechanisaed until the early to mid 1900s."

              Rubbish. Horse/ox drawn and powered agricultural machines that did the work of a number of men had started appearing at the end of the 17th century. I suggest you google jethro tull - and I don't mean the rock band.

  2. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

    Noting that richest 10 per cent in the UK own five times more wealth than the poorest 50 per cent

    Well of course they bloody do!

    The bottom huge chunk of the population, will have negative wealth. By dint of having more debt than they have savings. So by just owning £1 and no debt, you're probably richer than over a billion people combined. That's not some shocking global iniquity, it's just fucking arithmetic!

    It's also utterly meaningless in terms of the UK. In the sense that it ignores what we already do to correct wealth inequality. I am entitled to an index-linked state pension worth over £6k a year, that would cost something like £200,000 to purchase the annuity for. Plus entitlements to health, housing and unemployment cover, that would cost hundreds of thousands more to buy over a lifetime. What is that, if not wealth? It dwarfs the equity I own in my flat. And I bet would make a huge difference to that oft quoted 50% figure.

    As to the AI report, I thought there was still a broad connection between economic productivity and overall wages? Obviously that would suggest AI, if it ever happens, would boost general wages.

    Obviously some jobs would lose out, and if those people can't be retrained fast enough they'd suffer badly. But that's a problem that has happened for thousands of years. It's not new.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      But you don't play it all the way. Discontent among the proles has limits before, as they say, the crap hits the fan. At some point, it either goes over the edge and gets ugly (resulting in things like populist revolutions and economic collapses like the Great Depression) or something else happens to force an equalization (like the World Wars and the Black Death).

      1. CentralCoasty
        Devil

        Wont happen... as Musk will have built his "B" Arc for them before that happens....

        1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

          Re Musk

          Is this the same Musk who has said that he's going to make the Model 3 production more automated than any other car production line?

          He is in those immortal words

          "He's not the Messiah, he's just a ...."

          However the rise of the Robots will lead to proper mass unemployment. Not what the left wing talk about now or in their lifetimes but not seen for close on 100 years. Some estimates show that around 80% of the current jobs will be eliminated by the use of Robots/Automation/A.I. within 20 years.

          That is an awful lot of proles who will become useless to society.

          I fear that in some places anarchy will be the result.

          But, having no or very little income means that all those nice goodies being produced in those automated factory will sit on the shelves as only the 1% will have the money to buy 'stuff'.

          What then eh?

          There are many SF stories that cover this sort of scenario. I wonder which ones will come true.

          Whatever the case, It ain't gonna end well

          1. Tigra 07 Silver badge

            Re: Steve

            A guaranteed basic income will have to become a reality by then. You can't have 80% of the population surviving on foodstamps and housing benefit.

            1. GruntyMcPugh Silver badge

              Re: Steve

              .. foodstamps and housing benefit, ... I think that's exactly what UBI will be. Govts like control, so they are going to dispense with cash and not allow benefits to be translated into cryptocurrency. So UBI means you'll get what you're given. I imagine the robot postman will deliver a box of veg each day and folks won't even get to choose what they eat. Their diet will be healthy, and picked for them. UBI is communism. UBI is being shackled to the state.

      2. Arthur the cat Silver badge

        Discontent among the proles has limits before, as they say, the crap hits the fan.

        But just before that point we get the new TV series Strictly Celebrity on Ice Bush Tucker Challenge in a Comfortably Affordable Car, and the proles go back to wasting money on texts to the voting numbers and buying newspapers full of mock outrage at the behaviour of the contestants.

        Panem et circenses is an old concept, but it's still valid.

    2. DJO Silver badge

      The bottom huge chunk of the population, will have negative wealth.

      Possibly but you are not including assets, while the poorest citizens may be in debt most of them will own assets (cars, white goods, phones etc) that exceed their liabilities so they have a positive nett wealth.

      By your reckoning the mortgaged middle class are even poorer as they will have much bigger debts.

      1. DavCrav Silver badge

        "Possibly but you are not including assets, while the poorest citizens may be in debt most of them will own assets (cars, white goods, phones etc) that exceed their liabilities so they have a positive nett wealth."

        No. All of the poorest people in the UK are 21 year old university students, who have -£50k (roughly) in assets thanks to student loans. Throw in the couple of years either side, and there's well over a million people with negative assets there. I should point out that UK student loans aren't quite debts, since they get written off, but so can other debt be written off.

    3. jmch Silver badge

      "The bottom huge chunk of the population, will have negative wealth. By dint of having more debt than they have savings. So by just owning £1 and no debt, you're probably richer than over a billion people combined. "

      Bollocks. Firstly the inequality spread is much more weighted to the top than ">50% owned by 10%" implies. The top 1% own over 20% of wealth. What the article is mentioning when it says the rich robot owners will become richer, that's not even the top 1% they are talking about, moe like the top 0.1% or less.

      Secondly it's not only about wealth, it's also about income. Top 1% make 13% of income, top 10% make 40.4% of income. Share of wealth per percentile is greater than share of income because the poor and much of the middle classes have to spend all they earn, while the wealthier can save and invest.

    4. Warm Braw Silver badge

      ... £6k a year, that would cost something like £200,000 to purchase

      The reason that isn't equivalent to wealth is that you're not "entitled" to it in any way under your control. There is no fund of equivalent value in which you have a share, all you have is a promise that a future government will require future taxpayers to pay you that sum out of their earnings.

      If there's noone to tax (because the winners are offshore and the losers are impoverished), it will quickly become apparent that "wealth" is of very little value.

      1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

        Re: ... £6k a year, that would cost something like £200,000 to purchase

        Warm Braw,

        No wealth is guaranteed. House prices may go down, share prices may collapse, banks may go bust. Art might become unfashionable.

        As a British citizen I have the rights to a social safety net that mean I require less personal wealth to have a comfortable and secure life than if I were say Chinese. Because in China you have to save for your pension (well you do here too but at least you'll get something) and you need to be able to cover your healthcare costs, and have a reserve to deal with unemployment. That's why the Chinese economy has a problem of insuficient domestic demand, because people are forced to save too much - whereas everyone would be better off if they paid tax to cover healthcare and unemployment insurance.

        If government revenue collapses to such an extent that we can't afford any of the government services, then our economy will have collapsed and so investments will be as worthless as government promises. And offshore companies will be no better off, as with no customers to sell to, they'll still go bust.

        I can't plan for total economic collapse, short of building a bunker on a farm and stockpiling weapons and tinned food. So there's no point.

      2. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

        Re: ... £6k a year, that would cost something like £200,000 to purchase

        Anyway, the real point is that it's silly to complain about wealth and income inequalities until we've taken into account what our societies already do to correct them.

        That's benefits, pensions, the NHS and taxes.

        You may then still want to do something about it. But claiming that inequality is worse than it is, by cherry-picking numbers, is still dishonest.

  3. veti Silver badge

    Not panicked yet

    I don't know about you, but I use software to automate my own job. I have a whole bunch of tools that I wrote, because I'm the only one with the detailed domain knowledge to know exactly what they have to do.

    (There exists a company, which I used to work for, which is supposed to write this software. They provided the basic engine I use, and in theory they're supposed to add tools to do required tasks. But they are, not to put too fine a point on it, hopeless. All their contracted time goes to "fixing cock-ups in their own code", there is no way they could "write and test the new stuff that I actually need"; and if they did, not only would the code be hidden from me, but I'd still have to test it myself. Screw that.)

    I don't own the software I write - my employer does - but my employer pays me to produce the output I do, which I get by running and maintaining these tools.

    Now, of course this won't be the case for everyone. But I think it will be a much more common story than these researchers realise. If the economics of these "robots" are anything like those of the software we've come to know and love in every other context, then the "off-the-shelf" product will be pretty much useless in any given real-world situation: it will require someone like me to spend lots and lots of time making it work. And no, we won't be able to support very many instances at a time, because each deployment is different. That's why Oracle employs 130,000 people.

    It seems to me that robots are just tools. When (and only when) AI passes the point of human intelligence, then we'll be in trouble - but by that time, so will the people who think they own those AIs, so we'll all be in the same boat.

    1. Sampler

      Re: Not panicked yet

      I do the same, however, I do the same workload with my AU team of three (well, 2.5 as one only works half a week) who take a full lunchbreak, leave on time and have some good office banter compared to the UK team of twelve fulltime staff, who are hurried, stressed, work late and eat at their desk.

      I've tried to introduce the UK to my way of working, however, automation requires a lot of setup, bug testing and a little getting your head around a few apps that will save you so much time. They're too busy to make this investment, so never have time.

      So, there is some truth to the article, if I can reduce a workforce by a quarter within my own company right now (and I'm no specialist in the field, just hate doing repetitive tasks) then I imagine there will be some job reduction in the future from AI, in the terms of algorithms, not actual AI.

      I mean, I'll be fine, others, not so much, because they thought working harder was the right thing, rather than being lazy and getting the computer to do it for them.

      1. Dan 55 Silver badge

        Re: Not panicked yet

        You'll be fine until the AI works out how to launch your scripts.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Not panicked yet

          I do the same, I view it as working smarter not harder, in fact right now my work computer is currently pulling data from different systems, updating the data warehouse and outputting reports for three departments and zipping them up on the network ready for me to switch over on my kvm and resend an email. My value comes in when something goes wrong as it's only me that can fix it, that's why I'm safe from AI. I've also worked from home for nearly 7 years and have plenty of free time because I do my work outside normal working hours as it's quicker. I don't think many jobs will be lost to this because the skill set required to do it isn't that common and from experience there are few people within office environments that have the ability or desire to learn it and as was put above some people can't see the eventual benefits of putting it into practise so carry on chasing their tails.

        2. naive

          Re: Not panicked yet

          The study is probably spot on. The economic development of the US in the 17th century shows which impact "free" labor has for John Doe. Before slavery was introduced in the US, the average immigrant from Europe could get a paid job as farm help in the US, after the slaves started pouring in, farm owners didn't hire anybody anymore.

          A second circumstance is that big companies own the politicians we are allowed to vote for in our "democratic" countries, having enormous influence on regulations and laws, the failing decade long struggle to make US big Tech companies contribute a fair share to tax payments is a clear sign where we are heading in these issues.

          1. Peter2 Silver badge

            Re: Not panicked yet

            The simple fact of the matter is that there is little concerted effort being made to force multinationals to pay tax. It's a problem that could be sorted out in any number of ways if the desire existed to do it.

            Multinationals being too powerful is not a new thing either, the first europeon experiance with then was the East India Company, and if you think we've got problems with multinationals today then boy, have you got a surprise if you read a history book covering that era. The EIC was more powerful than it's nominally controlling government in terms of land under control, income and military size.

            Multinationals these days are a problem, but they aren't directly ruling continents and could be brought under control with far less difficulty. The problem is largely bribary

            1. Charles 9 Silver badge

              Re: Not panicked yet

              "Multinationals these days are a problem, but they aren't directly ruling continents and could be brought under control with far less difficulty. The problem is largely bribary"

              It's not just carrots but sticks. Today's multinations are much more mobile, so a bribe combined with a threat to pull up stakes (and take a lot of their tax revenues with them) makes governments sit up and take notice.

          2. SundogUK

            Re: Not panicked yet

            There is no such thing as a 'fair share'. There is a legally required amount and that is all.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Not panicked yet

      Some thoughts on the above posts.

      There was a time when most people could fix their daily tools - like bikes or cars. Nowadays they tend to need specialist repair shops. Cars in particular are often maintained by garages who have invested in the necessary electronic test equipment - but have little idea about how the diagnosis works. They just change what is indicated. Furthermore governments can legislate to make it illegal to do things yourself - even if you know what you are doing eg electric plug changing in Australia.

      Management are often unaware of what is involved in home-brewed IT solutions - that the solutions often need to respond to changed constraints. At best they expect there to be a step by step guide for less skilled people to follow. That long experience is needed for understanding the underlying constraints or to make future modifications is rarely considered. Maintenance of in-house tools is often seen as an unnecessary expense or risk that cannot be amortised over a large user base like an external supplier's "proven" products can.

      I wrote many tools in my 45 years in IT. They made me very efficient - and sometimes I looked like a magician achieving the "impossible". The tools were all usually ignored/discarded by the people whose jobs could use them to great effect. The reasons were: they hadn't the experience to understand why they were more accurate than existing tools; they didn't enhance their CV like less accurate external supplier tools did; they didn't see any reason to invest time in learning how to use them.

      In amateur radio in the 1960s there arose a distinction between those who built their own kit - and those who just bought the latest equipment ready-to-go. A term in common usage for the latter was "appliance operators". The aim of amateur radio as a method of self-education in radio technicalities was forgotten by many - it became the equivalent of today's social media with accumulations of QSL cards being popularity "likes".

      1. veti Silver badge

        Re: Not panicked yet

        I wrote many tools in my 45 years in IT. They made me very efficient - and sometimes I looked like a magician achieving the "impossible". The tools were all usually ignored/discarded by the people whose jobs could use them to great effect. The reasons were: they hadn't the experience to understand why they were more accurate than existing tools; they didn't enhance their CV like less accurate external supplier tools did; they didn't see any reason to invest time in learning how to use them.

        Without wishing to contradict you, because obviously I know nothing about these particular cases - I wonder if you've considered an alternative hypothesis?

        Maybe your tools didn't work for them. That is to say, maybe something about the workflow or the environment or the requirements changed, and your tools no longer fit. If you'd still been there, you would have tweaked them and carried on - but no-one else was capable of doing that, because they were your tools and only you understood them well enough.

        That's kinda my point. In my experience, every job is (at least slightly) different from every other job. If you take a tool developed for one situation and simply apply it to another one - or even the same one, a year or so on - without at least some tweaking, then it won't work, at least not as well as it did in its previous installation.

        That "tweaking" is what's going to keep many of us in work for a while yet.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Not panicked yet

          "That "tweaking" is what's going to keep many of us in work for a while yet."

          Agreed - once I was no longer about then the tools would indeed become less useful as the environment or data formats changed. Some people did use my tools competently and knew that if they had a new requirement - then there could probably be the necessary tweak in a matter of hours.

          An example of one tool was that you fed it the master source compiled listings for a release and its current patches. It just needed a run on a video terminal when a new patch was ready to be released. It then produced a merge that showed the effective code paths in the patched areas - and the identities of the patches that affected each changed location. All the files were already held on the mainframe.

          The official support team would only work with a paper copy of the master source compilation listing that was released about once a year. The result was that repeated patching of the same area often produced bugs when applied in the field as people lost track of the overlaid patches' interactions.

          Continuously developed over a period of 20 years - the most powerful of my tools produced analyses of raw network traffic captures. Gigabytes of capture were reduced down to a relatively few lines on a spreadsheet - with possible further graphical abstraction available. References allowed for a drill down to any level in individual streams or packets in the original capture. The options for any further higher level abstraction were available on an Excel spreadsheet top line menu.

          The problem with some potential users seemed to be three fold. They shied away from using Excel as beyond their competence. They wanted something that gave them a single line "expert" diagnosis - which commercial tools promised but were often very misleading in their conclusions. They were reluctant to look at the packet level to verify any conclusion of the root cause - considering it "too hard".

          If anyone thinks they recognise me from the above - please respect the anonymity. Thanks.

  4. streaky Silver badge

    Poor Poorer.

    Strictly speaking, if allowed to run its course, what will actually happen is it'll end the economic system.

    If nobody needs to (or can) work and the rich own all the wealth and literally can't find enough ways to spend it the capitalist system dies. There's already evidence western civilisation is on the border of this point, one only has to look at the sheer volumes of cash governments are pumping into banks to keep them lending and the proportions of low paying service industry jobs in some countries.

    If Germany ever near completely automates its car industry (and it will within the next 25 years, it'll need to just to stay even remotely competitive) it'll be the final nail in the coffin and the world will be forced to reinvent itself, and all that accumulated wealth will mean nothing. Peak capitalism has passed, it was some time in early 2008.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: Poor Poorer.

      Can't the haves simply close off the walled garden and then hash it out amongst themselves?

    2. ecofeco Silver badge

      Re: Poor Poorer.

      Just saw the summary the other day:

      "Communism won't end capitalism. Workers who can't afford to buy things, will end capitalism."

      1. streaky Silver badge

        Re: Poor Poorer.

        Not wanting to go full nerd, but I'm fairly sure this is what Roddenberry was trying to say with the economics of Star Trek - that there's a point where we don't have to do anything, basically the system gets *so* efficient that people can't even work if they want to and capitalism just fails to function and people have to do things because they want to as opposed to because they need money. At that stage cash stops being a usable thing.

        I'd hate to predict how far along that path but there's things coming down the mountain that when they hit we might get to that stage. Self driving cars, robots in the home that can physically do things you'd otherwise do yourself and obviously the encroachment of factory automation - the more there is the less jobs there are for less skilled workers. If I don't need a cleaner, don't need an uber/taxi driver, don't need to make the things I'd buy that's a huge chunk of the unskilled workforce, the capitalist system dies with it.

        I don't think it's a huge problem in the long term, I think we'd all get by with not having to work, I could cope with a perpetual holiday if I don't need to pay for things - but the transition will be massive social upheaval and we might already be there.

  5. Lysenko

    Upstairs, Downstairs

    That's where humans have an (currently) unassailable advantage. Roombas are impressive in a limited sense, but they are a hopeless joke compared to a wetware cleaner. Same for all the IoT doorbells and thermostats: they're no threat to the capabilities of a proper Footman and Butler. Maybe we'll end up 150 years in the past when a middle-class job like Bank Manager (i.e. Network Sysop) was expected to support half a dozen full-time jobs back home.

    1. SundogUK

      Re: Upstairs, Downstairs

      This is almost certainly where we are going. I'm not sure I particularly like the idea but I suspect it is inevitable.

  6. ThePhantomBovine

    AI is irrelevant

    It isn't AI that will make the rich richer and the poor poorer, it's capitalism without safeguards that does that. AI is irrelevant to the systemic cause of extreme financial inequality.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: AI is irrelevant

      But AI represents non-humans taking over a lot of the work, and THAT'S serious enough because you increase the number of dead-ended humans: potentially past my aforesaid cliff edge.

      1. Lysenko

        Re: AI is irrelevant

        potentially past my aforesaid cliff edge.

        Which is when (after some violence) you return to the historically "normal" state of affairs by re-instituting slavery or indentured servitude or workfare or dictatorship of the proletariat or whatever other euphemism you choose for compelling people to do more work than they want to do for less pay than they want to receive.

        Until we achieve Culturesque freedom from resource constraints, achieving equality and the aspirations of all it will always be unsustainable because classes and hierarchies are integral to any functioning social system. Taken historically, the current levels of wealth equality in the western world are unprecedented. Rome, for example, had Marcus Licinius Crassus on the one hand (probably the richest man who ever lived) and chattel slavery on the other.

    2. This post has been deleted by a moderator

  7. Tom 7 Silver badge

    First they didnt pay us enough to live

    but that was OK because they let me borrow to live.

    Then they took away my job and I couldn't borrow any more.

    Then their money became worthless.

    1. DropBear Silver badge

      Re: First they didnt pay us enough to live

      Unfortunately for you, that was long after you passed away on a winter night in a damp cardboard box.

      This will need to become far, far worse before it has any hope of getting any better, because as long as enough people aren't literally starving yet, people will inevitably prefer to try holding on to the last vestiges of whatever they have left rather then go out to get effortlessly pulverized by whatever military force will be commanded out to "restore order", justifying indefinite martial law in the process.

      And without this sort of "encouragement" those that would be in a position to actually make a more acceptable wealth distribution happen will never feel inclined to do so on their own, regardless of how much ink gets wasted on the matter.

  8. Thomas Gray

    Marvin the robot? Shurley Shome Mishtake

    He was a Paranoid Android, not a robot.

    1. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge

      Re: Marvin the robot? Shurley Shome Mishtake

      Indeed:

      "Here I am, brain the size of a planet, and they ask me to pick up a piece of paper. Call that job satisfaction, cause I don't"

      Worse still, we'll probably end up with a load of self-satisfied doors and over-enthusiastic computers named Eddie, not to mention the drinks dispenser which always produces a cup filled with a liquid which is almost, but not quite, entirely unlike tea.

      1. Teiwaz Silver badge

        Re: Marvin the robot? Shurley Shome Mishtake

        ot to mention the drinks dispenser which always produces a cup filled with a liquid which is almost, but not quite, entirely unlike tea.

        With that sort of dystopia in mind, it better be 'almost, but not quite, entirely unlike whiskey'

  9. wiggers

    Great Depression?

    "They anticipate a period like the Great Depression, when agricultural innovations meant fewer workers were needed to produce food, reducing agricultural prices and incomes, and thereby driving down demand for urban products."

    Of all the causes mooted for the depression agricultural innovation isn't one of them!

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

    If that's the basis of their argument then they're on completely the wrong tack!

    1. Teiwaz Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: Great Depression?

      Of all the causes mooted for the depression agricultural innovation isn't one of them!

      If It's an american think tank, there's not a lot of history to work with, and anything outside the US of A is howling ghosts or communism...

      They don't know any better.

      Joke, cause it might be, or maybe not...

    2. Chris G Silver badge

      Re: Great Depression?

      You're right! Wall Street denizens throwing themselves out of skyscraper windows is clearly not 'agricultural innovation', neither is a (more than) statewide dustbowl caused by shortsighted farming practices.

      Basically the paper carries nothing but good news for the likes of Trump and people like the Kochs.

  10. Pete 2

    Bye bye, buy buy!

    > They anticipate a period like the Great Depression

    Though it is interesting to note that the 2007-8 crash actually increased the level of wage equality. Since the highest earners (in the UK, at least) took a larger hit on their pay than the lowest deciles. While that obviously didn't make anyone better off, it does show that economic downturns are not solely the domain of the least well off (though since they have less - or no - financial buffer, they do suffer the worst). It also shows that statistical analyses, such as "equality" do not measure what many people read into the data.

    But regarding wealth. Robot owners can only make money of there is a large enough number of people with disposable incomes to buy the products their robots make. Impoverishing the majority of the population will not achieve that, since those people wouldn't have the money to buy stuff, apart from basics.

    This is also the weakness of Universal Basic Income. Once a large enough proportion of people aren't economically active, the idea of a market driven consumer society fails.

  11. Duffy Moon

    UBI

    Addressing this point:

    "work, in addition to fulfilling the practical need for money, can provide people with a sense of purpose and dignity."

    I think this is a fallacy. Some people have jobs which are fulfilling and which give them dignity, whereas for many people, their jobs are drudgery. Once we get over the whole work ethic thing, we will realise that living to work is not the only way to exist. UBI will free people to do more of what they choose,which leads to a happier society.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: UBI

      Ever heard the phrase, "It's a dirty job, but someone's gotta do it." A lot of these drudge jobs are also the kinds where machines would have trouble because they're drudgework: getting down in uneven, unpredictable conditions engaged in manual labor and so on. Basically, jobs that needs manual effort and a good set of senses: the kinds of things we got through evolution and can't easily replicate in a machine.

      PS. Here's the biggest problem with UBI. Who pays for it that wouldn't have the power to go, "Sod this," and leave before being charged?

      1. Teiwaz Silver badge
        Paris Hilton

        Re: UBI

        "It's a dirty job, but someone's gotta do it."

        Scrubbing Paris Hiltons gussets..?

        I don't use her icon much,,,,,,I'll get my coat.....

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: UBI

      "work, in addition to fulfilling the practical need for money, can provide people with a sense of purpose and dignity."

      Meanwhile, I am still trying to get some sense, a porpoise and a dinghy! [need more coffee]

  12. not_my_real_name

    The systems in place to control people will make the rich richer. There's no reason why AI should not free everyone from slavery. Guaranteed that the greed of the already rich will ruin the revolution for everyone.

  13. technoise

    With the masses earning no wages, the whole thing collapses. This has already started to happen. The rich don't seem to realise that being rich in terms of possession of money, does not mean riches in terms of actual wealth. A better distribution of money in the form of wages (the healthiest way of getting liquidity into the economy) aided the massive advances of the Post War era.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Well, that and a cleaner slate given a good chunk of Europe was in ruins and the able-bodied population had taken a noticeable hit. I mean, would the Renaissance have happened without the population crash caused by the Black Death?

  14. spold Bronze badge
    Megaphone

    AI

    The AIs will be first against the wall come the revolution!

    1. Teiwaz Silver badge

      Re: AI

      The AIs will be first against the wall come the revolution!

      I expect they'll just be clubbed underfoot in order to get to the small % (or at least at the buffet table).

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Seems obvious

    It makes sense to me that anything that gives an increased return on investment in capital will favour the richest 1%. At least if the current analysis by the likes of Pikkety is correct.

  16. IGnatius T Foobar
    Megaphone

    Start with the biggest problem

    The biggest problem is that the *people* are already being turned into automatons by Facebook. Shut down Facebook and everything else fixes itself.

  17. Bucky 2

    define:anxiety

    My car is probably what my great-grandfather might have considered an AI.

    I'm not certain I know what the new AI is, when it will happen, and what the world will look like just before, and then forever after.

    I could freak out, but there's a new actor playing Dr. Who in the fall, and they picked up The Orville for a second season. First I've got to see those. I'll kill myself after.

  18. J.G.Harston Silver badge

    Well, by definition automation leaves poor-paying jobs behind, as you only automate a process if the automation is cheaper than the non-automation. Any business that replaces cheap workers with expensive automation goes bust.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      But the thing is, automation's costs spread differently than human labor. It tends to have higher upfront costs but lower continual costs, not to mention a higher uptime ratio, altering the TCO math.

  19. ecofeco Silver badge

    So tech support will still pay piss all?

    That is to say workers in our brave new world will still have things to do, but many of them, assisting and assisted by machines, will be paid poorly while robot owners get rich.

    So much for learning new skills to improve your income.

  20. Robert D Bank

    The ultra wealthy will see immense benefits in increased income, incredible medical advances, greater unfettered control over huge populations both financially, mentally and through physical means as a result of AI combined with elimination of regulations that don't serve their purpose.

    If they themselves are 'enhanced' with AI and advanced gene editing they will effectively become a new species that others cannot compete with. They likely will view those without enhancement with ever more contempt, like we view animals now. They will happily watch 'humans' depopulate at a massive rate. The fit and strong may be retained for some amusement value.

    Look around, that's been the model for quite some time even without AI. It has a thin veil over it called 'democracy' in some places (if you can afford it), but I think that veil will be lifted over the next 5 years.

  21. Jonathan Schwatrz
    Meh

    Gee, where have we heard this before....?

    ".....That is to say workers in our brave new world will still have things to do, but many of them, assisting and assisted by machines, will be paid poorly while robot owners get rich....." Luddites 2.0

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I don't understand the problem here?

    Throughout 99.9% of their existence, humans have lived a subsistence life. Surely they can return to that while the rich reap the rewards of the system they have gamed to their advantage?

    1. Loud Speaker

      Re: I don't understand the problem here?

      Throughout 99.9% of their existence, humans have lived a subsistence life. Surely they can return to that while the rich reap the rewards of the system they have gamed to their advantage?

      Of course they can - provided the population returns to what it was 2,000 years ago. (ie 99.9% of the population dies).

  23. itzman

    Civilisation is, and always was, built on slavery

    Firstly, slaves tilled the fields to make the food to feed the warrior priests.

    Only after slaves became in short supply did they get paid, and enter te times of economic slavery.

    Now machines replace the slaves. There is no need for plebs any more.

    The only problem is killing them off whilst looking innocent.

    Environmentalism is of course the answer. Wholesale failure of power grids based on 'renewable energy' should take out all urban populations that dont have private helicopters.

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