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Varysblackfyre321

A question to capitalists; how much should we fear AI?

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It seems robots, and computers are being improved at rate that makes the prospect of most companies that rely on manual labor to well stop using human workers in favor of AI.  So how do you see capitalism being adequate  if/when technology gets to this point? Or do you think it’s never going to get this point? 

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AI is still nowhere near human level as far as I've seen. They've been talking about it forever but nothing ever happens. Maybe that's the way things go with exponential progress though. Nothing, nothing, then everything. Who knows?

What I do see happening in the next 10 years is self driving cars, buses and trucks. That's not a small thing - the workforce employed in driving those vehicles is enormous, and I don't think they can get new jobs that easily. The old idea that the mundane and repetitive jobs taken over by machines will be replaced by new and more highly skilled jobs simply won't be true in this case. What demand is there for millions of people (mostly male) with a low education level and whose only experience is in a field that doesn't exist anymore?

So right now is actually a pretty good time to start thinking about these issues. Basic income is an idea floated every now and then. I'm not entirely against it although I'm not sure it's politically possible. It tends to lead to absurd consequences when it comes to comparison between basic income and low wage jobs. You can't have the basic income be too low or people wouldn't be able to survive on it, but on the other hand you can't raise it too much or no one would want to work unless the pay was really good or the job really fun.

Apart from the impacts on jobs, I definitely see the problem of a few AI owners raking in all the money without even having to pay any employees. That's the stuff of dystopian sci-fi novels right there.

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13 minutes ago, Erik of Hazelfield said:

AI is still nowhere near human level as far as I've seen. They've been talking about it forever but nothing ever happens. Maybe that's the way things go with exponential progress though. Nothing, nothing, then everything. Who knows?

What I do see happening in the next 10 years is self driving cars, buses and trucks. That's not a small thing - the workforce employed in driving those vehicles is enormous, and I don't think they can get new jobs that easily. The old idea that the mundane and repetitive jobs taken over by machines will be replaced by new and more highly skilled jobs simply won't be true in this case. What demand is there for millions of people (mostly male) with a low education level and whose only experience is in a field that doesn't exist anymore?

So right now is actually a pretty good time to start thinking about these issues. Basic income is an idea floated every now and then. I'm not entirely against it although I'm not sure it's politically possible. It tends to lead to absurd consequences when it comes to comparison between basic income and low wage jobs. You can't have the basic income be too low or people wouldn't be able to survive on it, but on the other hand you can't raise it too much or no one would want to work unless the pay was really good or the job really fun.

Apart from the impacts on jobs, I definitely see the problem of a few AI owners raking in all the money without even having to pay any employees. That's the stuff of dystopian sci-fi novels right there.

As I’m running the gamut of Training Contract applications right now, I’d also point out that AI puts pressure on certain higher skilled jobs. Not so much making theme entirely obsolete as reducing the workload. Good for staff, in some ways, as it saves them doing tedious and repetitive tasks nobody really enjoys. At the same time, less work to do generally means a small staff is needed. So, pros and cons I guess 

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There has been some progress on more general AI. This past December, the company behind AlphaGo (a "learning" program that beat the best players at Go) released a new version called AlphaZero which relatively quickly taught itself to play Go, chess and shogi well enough to defeat all previous programs that play these games (humans obviously no longer being an interesting standard). This is different from all previous such programs in each of the others only played a single game, but it's still not at the level where it can learn to do anything -- these games share a few features (perfect knowledge of the current game state, a relatively small set of well-defined and perfectly known rules, etc.) which make them a whole lot simpler than most real life situations. Nevertheless, progress often consists of a series of small steps...

Regarding the near-terms impact of AI: in addition to self-driving vehicles, there are a few other places where AI can take over soon. For example, consider the preparation of fast food (burgers and the like). There already exist robots that do this, but up until now it has not been cost-effective to switch to them (i.e. human labor is cheaper). However, in light of the many efforts to raise minimum wage (some of which have succeeded), the cost of fast food workers is growing. Since the robots are getting cheaper (and also better) with time, there will come a point where fast food restaurants begin to switch over. The same goes for cashiers and other auxiliary positions.

There are also startups aiming at more intellectual tasks (e.g. reading legal cases and understanding them enough to, for example, point everything which might be a precedent), but at the moment they're not quite at the stage where they start replacing human workers.

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I don't think they've been replacing humans, but several places I know of have already have self-checkout machines. A couple of them for several years at this point. McDonalds have had self-service Kiosks for like 2-3 years now. Damn things are always out of receipt paper.

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I think we have to have a real, honest discussion about what a "human right" really is. A lot of jobs and careers eliminated early on will likely be those workers who can't diversify and exist in lower SES. Because of this, I worry that they'll suffer a long time after they can't work while rich and middle class argue about whether or not people should have housing, food, and disposable income whether they can work or not. My views on this remain the same whether or not AI takes over.

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We're not really close yet, but if we're at the point in the future where AI and robots could realistically replace virtually all human labor in comparative advantage*, then we need to talk about a Basic Income or its equivalent in goods and services provided. 

Luckily, if AI and robotics really are that good and cheap, then it would be straightforward for the government to purchase a ton of them and put them to work maintaining such a set-up. That tends to not get mentioned much in these scenarios - the same AI and robotics that could replace human labor also make it much cheaper to have them support humans. 

Personally, though I don't think we're close. More likely is that we don't really see a rise in unemployment, versus simply consuming and producing more goods and services while your average workers works atop an increasingly large edifice of automated systems. Maybe most of us will be robot shepherds, or work in maintaining an incredibly complex technological system. 

* This is a key thing to remember. The robots could have an absolute advantage in producing goods and services over humans, but we might still use humans because it's cheaper (and if AI really was putting people out of jobs en masse, human labor would be cheap). 

Edited by Winter Bass

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I think a lot of white collar jobs will also be replaced with robots or AI via machine learning programs. 

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On 1/20/2019 at 4:27 PM, Winter Bass said:

We're not really close yet, but if we're at the point in the future where AI and robots could realistically replace virtually all human labor in comparative advantage*, then we need to talk about a Basic Income or its equivalent in goods and services provided.

We need to talk about it long before it gets to the point of "virtually all". Just 25% unemployment would be worse than the Great Depression.

On 1/20/2019 at 4:27 PM, Winter Bass said:

That tends to not get mentioned much in these scenarios - the same AI and robotics that could replace human labor also make it much cheaper to have them support humans. 

Yes, that's what makes a Universal Basic Income a viable option. But our entire economic system needs to be fundamentally transformed along with it.

On 1/20/2019 at 4:27 PM, Winter Bass said:

Personally, though I don't think we're close. More likely is that we don't really see a rise in unemployment, versus simply consuming and producing more goods and services while your average workers works atop an increasingly large edifice of automated systems. Maybe most of us will be robot shepherds, or work in maintaining an incredibly complex technological system.

I think you're severely overestimating how much shepherding will be needed. Also, automation doesn't create more space or raw materials; there's a limit to how much stuff ordinary people will be able to fit in their apartments. And more consumption means more energy demand, pollution, and waste to dispose of.

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On 1/19/2019 at 3:15 AM, Varysblackfyre321 said:

It seems robots, and computers are being improved at rate that makes the prospect of most companies that rely on manual labor to well stop using human workers in favor of AI.  So how do you see capitalism being adequate  if/when technology gets to this point? Or do you think it’s never going to get this point? 

I'll assume for the sake of argument, that AI technology reaches the point where it is nearly substitutable for most human labor. The traditional economic case against income taxes is that it distorts labor supply decisions ie higher taxes cause people to work less (though empirically that argument made by libertarians and conservatives is pretty empirically dubious). The traditional moral case is that income taxes "punishes people for their success". But if we reach the point where machines are doing most of the work, then both the traditional economic and moral case against higher income taxes falls apart. People aren't going to flip off their AI machines because of higher taxes because their will be no disutility from work. And I'd assume, AI machines would virtually work 24 hours a day. And if machines are doing most of the work, then John Galt type arguments would have no basis in reality.

If we reach this point, then there will be little excuse where people live in degrading poverty, and lack things like heath insurance and so forth, though I'd imagine here in the US, at least, the Republican Party will make up some bullshit justification.

At this point, perhaps the only human labor that will be involved is figuring out how to use AI technology to make new products or services. Accordingly, capitalism to some extent might possibly survive. On the other hand, AI technology makes "socialism" more viable.

In the meantime, I'd say maintain full employment policies because we've learned that the "skills" business say they need, often depends on the state of the business cycle (ie a lot of business people peddled bullshit about the "skills gap"), and spend resources on job training, social insurance, education and so forth.

Edited by OldGimletEye

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On 1/19/2019 at 6:48 PM, TrueMetis said:

I don't think they've been replacing humans, but several places I know of have already have self-checkout machines. A couple of them for several years at this point. McDonalds have had self-service Kiosks for like 2-3 years now. Damn things are always out of receipt paper.

They also take longer and are more difficult than just walking to the counter.  If they lose business for McDonald’s McDonald’s will get rid if them.

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I like the self-checkout at the grocery store, I know they will replace cashiers eventually (most stores around here still have a cashier montiroing four self checkout stations), but I help out the labor market by leaving carts all over the parking lot so they need to hire someone to collect them.

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2 hours ago, Ser Scot A Ellison said:

They also take longer and are more difficult than just walking to the counter.  If they lose business for McDonald’s McDonald’s will get rid if them.

I mean you say this but given how common they (self-checkout generally) are and how long they have been around and how they are only increasing in number here in the U.K. i have to imagine your impression is mistaken.

And now because my curiosity is piqued I’m going to go see if there are any figures on this

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4 minutes ago, HelenaExMachina said:

I mean you say this but given how common they (self-checkout generally) are and how long they have been around and how they are only increasing in number here in the U.K. i have to imagine your impression is mistaken.

And now because my curiosity is piqued I’m going to go see if there are any figures on this

Its sad to say but I totally prefer the self checkout. It IS quicker and easier if you only have a few items, and actually I prefer not having to deal with another human when I just want to get a drink. 

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4 hours ago, OldGimletEye said:

I'll assume for the sake of argument, that AI technology reaches the point where it is nearly substitutable for most human labor. The traditional economic case against income taxes is that it distorts labor supply decisions ie higher taxes cause people to work less (though empirically that argument made by libertarians and conservatives is pretty empirically dubious). The traditional moral case is that income taxes "punishes people for their success". But if we reach the point where machines are doing most of the work, then both the traditional economic and moral case against higher income taxes falls apart. People aren't going to flip off their AI machines because of higher taxes because their will be no disutility from work. And I'd assume, AI machines would virtually work 24 hours a day. And if machines are doing most of the work, then John Galt type arguments would have no basis in reality.

If we reach this point, then there will be little excuse where people live in degrading poverty, and lack things like heath insurance and so forth, though I'd imagine here in the US, at least, the Republican Party will make up some bullshit justification.

At this point, perhaps the only human labor that will be involved is figuring out how to use AI technology to make new products or services. Accordingly, capitalism to some extent might possibly survive. On the other hand, AI technology makes "socialism" more viable.

In the meantime, I'd say maintain full employment policies because we've learned that the "skills" business say they need, often depends on the state of the business cycle (ie a lot of business people peddled bullshit about the "skills gap"), and spend resources on job training, social insurance, education and so forth.

How long till we hear about the 'robotic skills gap' from business leaders?

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1 hour ago, Heartofice said:

Its sad to say but I totally prefer the self checkout. It IS quicker and easier if you only have a few items, and actually I prefer not having to deal with another human when I just want to get a drink. 

Yep, same here. Some are obviously going to bemoan the fact that not socialising, death of society, blah blah blah but I honestly don’t care, more often than not I dont want to interact with others and tbh this stranger behind the checkout being paid peanuts probably doesn’t really care how my day isn’t either.

i notice that in Asda and Morrison’s they’ve even got self checkout for the “big shop” too (I.e. conveyor tills). Not seen that in the other big supermarkets, at least the branches near me. Although Tesco have that scan as you shop which again removes the need for a cashier....

i realise I’m doing nothing to consider the issues this causes so will stop there for now

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I don’t really like the self checkout.  I use them from time to time and find them straightforward and easy, but if I was ready to check out and there was an open lane to a self checkout next to an open lane with a human cashier, I would go to the human.

And if you are ever buying alcohol you might as well go to the human because someone has to come and check ID if you try to buy beer or wine at the self checkout.

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There are things you can do as a government in the waiting period between the full robot takeover of labor that would slow down problems of unemployment. A 30-hour work week. Non-mandatory retirement at 55. Perhaps if things got bad, mandatory retirement at a certain age. 

Allow volunteering hours to count similar to employment hours. Some people might choose to say live a life of half traditional employment and half volunteering.

A higher minimum wage and more generous safety-net. Lower-level service-workers might be able to use some of saved funds to take more time away from the workplace, but they'd eventually run out and return. 

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6 hours ago, Ser Scot A Ellison said:

They also take longer and are more difficult than just walking to the counter.

But it doesn't have to be that way and in many places it's already not. In principle, it should be possible to buy most items without even taking them out of the cart or basket or whatever is used to carry them. This is actually a common answer to most of the concerns about the machine takeover: the machines always start off as worse than humans, but machines get better while humans stay the same.

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1 hour ago, S John said:

And if you are ever buying alcohol you might as well go to the human because someone has to come and check ID if you try to buy beer or wine at the self checkout.

Is it feasible that eventually we’ll just let self-checkouts do that? Like just a scanner to verify the ID and the person using it? Like I understand what I’m talking about at this probably is way more expensive than just on hand to verify an ID.

Edited by Varysblackfyre321

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