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Evolving Machines - Structural Unemployment - New Nobility

This rich sequence of related topics was suggested by Ralph!

Evolving Machines - Structural Unemployment - New Nobility ( EM.SU.NN )

EM - Machine Evolution and Biological Evolution are strongly similar in fundamental ways. Information for reproduction and self maintenance is coded, stored, and communicated. Individuals and groups are preferentially selected for survival and reproduction in a complex environment which includes earth, air, water, plants, animals, humans, and other living things. There are many differences in details of implementation, just as there are implementation differences between algae and monkeys. The biggest difference between biological evolution and mechanical or technological evolution is speed. Biological entities change only a little from one generation to the next. Machines can change a lot with every generation. Read about it in Kevin Kelly's " What Technology Wants".

SU - Structural Unemployment, as opposed to Cyclical Unemployment, is due to the competitive advantages of current rapidly evolving technology. Machines are replacing humans in the economic system in a way that is different from previous industrial revolutions . Machines are permanently putting many of us out of jobs, like mechanical engines put horses out of business in the 1800's. Read about it in "Race Against the Machines" by MacAfee and Brynjolfsson. Jobs means economically productive, competitively advantageous jobs. There are many activities that are good, satisfying, valuable, but not economically productive. Being unemployed does not mean being useless, bored, or depressed. Children are unemployed. Retirees are unemployed. Many artists, writers, crafters, musicians, philosophers, socialites, athletes, politicians, philanthropists, theoreticians, scientists, explorers, entrepreneurs, ... are unemployed in an economic sense .

NN - New Nobility - Tolstoy in "Anna Karenina" describes an entitled class, the Old Nobility, which did not need to work for a living. They were supported by the labor of serfs, peasants, slaves and animals. Their entitlement was protected by centralized military force. The machines changed this. Capital and manufacturing became as important as land ownership and military force. An urban middle class emerged, wealth and political decision making were distributed, and further progress in material standard of living was rapid in some places. ( Ivan Illich, "Tools for Conviviality" , might argue that material wealth and human health or well being do not necessarily match ). Arguably, a typical poor American in 2013 has a materially better life than the Emperor or Kings of Europe once did. The humans who are now amassing enormous wealth are not the New Nobility. Call them the New Aristocracy. I don't care much about them. They are obsessed, talented, lucky, extreme. There are not many of them. The New Nobility ( this is not sarcasm ) are the people who can live well without contributing to economic productivity, they are the unemployed or underemployed, and they can consume the enormous output of the highly productive machines .

There are many doomsday scenarios. I am not particularly interested in these. I am interested in thinking about how we humans ( both the New Nobility and the New Aristocracy ), and maybe the animals and the rest of the environment, can get from here and now to an economic and cultural condition where we coexist comfortably with machines which are smarter, faster, more competent and more connected than we are. The subject is big and timely.

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  • A former member
    A former member

    Great discussion. Here's a link to recent article about human population.
    http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/13/books/review/countdown-by-alan-weisman.html?_r=0

    October 20, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    This is a good Ted Talk by Kevin Kelly about "What Technology Wants". http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nF-5CMozGWY

    October 20, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    Deep topic! I may have a scheduling conflict, but I hope to make it. I feel that the root of this problem is...our particular culture is one big brainwashing machine that promotes heard mentality, pathological behavior, and a tense relationship between our species and the planet/other species. I think our culture needs an upheaval, else we will continue to be consumerist sheeple.

    October 14, 2013

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