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What Happens To Society When Robots Replace Workers? 621

Posted by Soulskill
from the fewer-wrong-orders-at-the-drivethru dept.
Paul Fernhout writes: An article in the Harvard Business Review by William H. Davidow and Michael S. Malone suggests: "The "Second Economy" (the term used by economist Brian Arthur to describe the portion of the economy where computers transact business only with other computers) is upon us. It is, quite simply, the virtual economy, and one of its main byproducts is the replacement of workers with intelligent machines powered by sophisticated code. ... This is why we will soon be looking at hordes of citizens of zero economic value. Figuring out how to deal with the impacts of this development will be the greatest challenge facing free market economies in this century. ... Ultimately, we need a new, individualized, cultural, approach to the meaning of work and the purpose of life. Otherwise, people will find a solution — human beings always do — but it may not be the one for which we began this technological revolution."

This follows the recent Slashdot discussion of "Economists Say Newest AI Technology Destroys More Jobs Than It Creates" citing a NY Times article and other previous discussions like Humans Need Not Apply. What is most interesting to me about this HBR article is not the article itself so much as the fact that concerns about the economic implications of robotics, AI, and automation are now making it into the Harvard Business Review. These issues have been otherwise discussed by alternative economists for decades, such as in the Triple Revolution Memorandum from 1964 — even as those projections have been slow to play out, with automation's initial effect being more to hold down wages and concentrate wealth rather than to displace most workers. However, they may be reaching the point where these effects have become hard to deny despite going against mainstream theory which assumes infinite demand and broad distribution of purchasing power via wages.

As to possible solutions, there is a mention in the HBR article of using government planning by creating public works like infrastructure investments to help address the issue. There is no mention in the article of expanding the "basic income" of Social Security currently only received by older people in the U.S., expanding the gift economy as represented by GNU/Linux, or improving local subsistence production using, say, 3D printing and gardening robots like Dewey of "Silent Running." So, it seems like the mainstream economics profession is starting to accept the emerging reality of this increasingly urgent issue, but is still struggling to think outside an exchange-oriented box for socioeconomic solutions. A few years ago, I collected dozens of possible good and bad solutions related to this issue. Like Davidow and Malone, I'd agree that the particular mix we end up will be a reflection of our culture. Personally, I feel that if we are heading for a technological "singularity" of some sort, we would be better off improving various aspects of our society first, since our trajectory going out of any singularity may have a lot to do with our trajectory going into it.

Comment: Re:Hyperbole Much? (Score 1) 586

by Maow (#48623053) Attached to: Top Five Theaters Won't Show "The Interview" Sony Cancels Release

We've become a nation where a college kid wishing to avoid a final exam can call in a bomb threat to close a campus. All threats, however implausible, must be taken seriously, just in case it truly is a real threat and an attack occurs. 99.999% of the time the threat is bogus, but if one doesn't act hysterically and it turns out to be the 0.001% situation, you're screwed (more likely by lawyers after the fact, not so much by the attack itself).

To be fair, that happened in small-town Canada 45 years ago too.

Make no mistake, I think it's cowardly to capitulate to this threat against movie theatres, however shutting school due to bomb threats isn't new.

Comment: Re:"Balance" (Score 1) 105

by Maow (#48578265) Attached to: Canadian Supreme Court Rules In Favor of Warrantless Cellphone Searches

I have come to understand that when courts refer to the "balance" between privacy and law enforcement or security, your privacy is about to get fucked in the ass.

In a report on a previous ruling,

The Supreme Court of Canada says police need a search warrant to get information from Internet service providers about their subscribers’ identities when they are under investigation.

Comment: Re:Blame Canada! (Score 2) 105

by Maow (#48578247) Attached to: Canadian Supreme Court Rules In Favor of Warrantless Cellphone Searches

This ruling is a cowardly conceit to the End justifying the Means.

Not really. Canada is not as absolutist as the USA.

For example, from Wikipedia on The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms:

At common law, all evidence, regardless of how it was obtained, can be submitted in a trial.[9] The US exclusionary rule excludes all evidence acquired through the violation of the Bill of Rights. Canada has taken a middle ground, sometimes allowing for the exclusion of evidence, whenever its use threatens to bring the "administration of justice" into "disrepute."[1]

Comment: Re:No way, not for me (Score 1) 545

by Maow (#48537285) Attached to: Should IT Professionals Be Exempt From Overtime Regulations?

Strawman arguments. Liberals love them!

Damn right!

I had to get up at the crack of dawn to tend my straw farm (on land I built with my own two hands) for it. Fortunately, in southern Canadian winters, the crack of dawn is not much before noon, but still...

I can't wait for global warming to increase the temperature; I'm going to switch to coconuts, I've heard they're easier. They don't need much sunlight, do they?

Our liberal plot of global warming is coming along brilliantly!

But you failed. You forgot to mention Somalia!

Remember, Somalia is also a liberal plot to make libertarians look bad.

Comment: No way, not for me (Score 5, Funny) 545

by Maow (#48534465) Attached to: Should IT Professionals Be Exempt From Overtime Regulations?

I'm a self-made man - I built the hospital I was born in, started teaching myself at age 11 months, and I got to where I am on my own.

I don't need the nanny state to make sure I and my peers are fairly compensated.

What's next, mandatory clean water? Then clean air? Where does it end?

Socialism, that's where.

No way, not for me!

Comment: Re:Threats Vs. Free Speech always a judgement call (Score 1) 436

by Maow (#48493857) Attached to: Supreme Court To Decide Whether Rap Lyric Threats Are Free Speech

Oh bullshit. I'm not even American and I know that libel / slander / defamation / threats are not covered by your free speech amendment.

That's according to the government, not the actual constitution, you fool. You do realize the government can and does ignore the constitution, right?

So some internet retard is arguing that it's constitutionally protected speech to threaten to kill someone or to claim that one was raped by Anonymous Coward of 123 Coward Lane when it isn't true?

Well, the links you've provided to back up your "point of view" (being generous there) sure are convincing!

Comment: Re:Threats Vs. Free Speech always a judgement call (Score 1) 436

by Maow (#48493185) Attached to: Supreme Court To Decide Whether Rap Lyric Threats Are Free Speech

That's all this is, it's balancing the laws protecting citizens against credible threats vs. the free speech rights of the person making the threat.

The balance goes to the free speech rights 100%. No law can exist which can override someone's right to free speech.

Congress shall make no law [...] abridging the freedom of speech [...]

So every law that doesn't have explicit exceptions to allow freedom of speech:

A) Has implicit exceptions to allow freedom of speech, or
B) Is not valid under the Constitution of the United States of America, as congress has no authority to pass such a law

Oh bullshit. I'm not even American and I know that libel / slander / defamation / threats are not covered by your free speech amendment.

The trick is, what's a real threat, what's not? What's defamatory, what's not?

But there is absolutely no 100% guarantee of free speech for anything that comes out of one's mouth.

Comment: Re: the grass is decidedly not greener (Score 1) 144

by Maow (#48415695) Attached to: What the US Can Learn From Canada's Internet Policy

My DSL started out at $39 in 2012 (not counting the new subscriber discount), and has steadily increased about every 6-8 months to its present price for roughly the same level of service.

Sounds exactly like my experience in Vacouver with Shaw.

When I found out that one of the brothers in charge got highly intoxicated at the AGM and insulted investors, and was fired - kidding! - was paid to go away - to the tune of an $80,000,000 retirement package, well that was the final straw for me.

Bonus - TekSavvy as ISP over cable modem in Vancouver uses Shaw's quite decent infrastructure, but it's much cheaper.

Comment: Re: the grass is decidedly not greener (Score 1) 144

by Maow (#48415685) Attached to: What the US Can Learn From Canada's Internet Policy

Wow! That is a good deal. Out of curiosity, what is the non-roaming coverage like for Wind outside of major urban centres like Vancouver, Edmonton, Winnipeg, and Toronto? Also, is the 4G/LTE coverage fairly consistent?

Sorry for the late reply.

Whistler is covered. Barrie is covered. Oshawa to London is covered, I believe. All around the western shore of Lake Ontario.

No LTE (not an issue for me in the slightest). HSPA (sp?) is okay for my purposes - I've run my whole home network through my tethered phone while between cable internet providers. has a map of their supposed coverage. CoverageMapper app has very specific details as reported by users of the app on various networks (download and help fill in your carrier's coverage! (no affiliation)).

As for actual roaming, Wind customers roam on Rogers' network at what used to be $0.20 / minute (CRTC decisions of late might have changed that). When I was a Rogers customer myself, and my measly 180 minutes expired, I was charged $0.25 / minute. So... screw Rogers even though their network is good.

Wind also has apparently excellent US roaming (unlimited for $5 or $10 / month). I've never looked closely at it, but some people seem to like it.

Finally, Wind will provide the network unlock code for your phone if you get it through them, once you've been a customer for 3 months. So overseas travel is easy - swap SIM cards at your destination.

CoverageMapper allows users to report on their carrier's coverage world-wide... A great app that should be recommended by all mobile providers.

Comment: Re:the grass is decidedly not greener (Score 2) 144

by Maow (#48408309) Attached to: What the US Can Learn From Canada's Internet Policy

We pay the price for the bit of regulatory advantage we have.

Not in my experience.

I see US commercials for home internet and mobile data and am blown away.

Canadians get offered advertised rates that are enough to "blow one away". In the small print, it's always "for the first 6 months, then it doubles". See Telus and Shaw for examples.

Data rates are so expensive up here in Canada compared to what is advertised in th US. My cell bill is 80 bucks a month, and I get a measly 1 gig a month shared with my wife's phone - she still has to pay 65 bucks for her phone service itself even though she shares my data (granted we get unlimited nationwide calling and texting, but this seems to be the norm for most plans).

Then shop around. I pay $40 / month and get 5 GB / month on mobile before throttling, unlimited global SMS, unlimited North America-wide voice calling, free MMS, voice mail, call conferencing, call display,... Wind Mobile. Oh, and the wife gets unlimited nation-wide calling for $25 too. Our accounts are entirely separate, there's no family plan or discount involved.

My DSL internet is 63 bucks a month at 15 mbps speeds and a 150 gigabyte cap (it was 60 gigabytes until six months ago).

I pay $30 / month for 7.5 mbps with a fuzzy 300 GB cap, which isn't really enforced and may only count during the hours from 08:00 to 02:00 -- never encountered an overage so I'm unclear. TekSavvy.

Don't even get me started on the cost of TV...

Yes, TV is a rip-off. Not sure that it's worse than in the US, so won't comment.

This site, Ars Technica, and others, are full of absolutely abhorrent behaviours and pricing from the US telecomm giants; I don't understand how you can look at them with any envy, or anything other than perhaps pity.

Comment: Buried the lede: SENATOR agrees (Score 4, Informative) 231

by Maow (#48353857) Attached to: Canadian Police Recommend Ending Anonymity On the Internet

The Ontario Provincial Police was part of the law enforcement panel and was asked by Senator Tom McInnis, a Conservative Senator from Nova Scotia, about what other laws are needed to address cyberbullying.

That's when Scott Naylor of the OPP gave the response outlined in TFS.

Of course, the Ontario Provincial Police have little influence nation-wide.

A Conservative senator, on the other hand, does.

Naylor’s comment was approved by Senator McInnis, who stated that he “absolutely agreed” with the recommendation.

Of course, the Supreme Court of Canada sides with anonymity on-line. But Senators and MPs have the ability to (attempt to) pass legislation that would attempt this lunatic idea.

I have never seen anything fill up a vacuum so fast and still suck. -- Rob Pike, on X.