Hi, I'm Tim Tyler - and today I will be discussing whether the advent
of intelligent machines will have the effect of making humans redundant.
If you visit a supermarket these days, you may notice some of the
checkout agents have been replaced by machines:
Simiarly many clerks in banks have been replaced by machines:
Though the environment is less familar to most people, the insides of
many factories are also heavily dominated by robots:
It seems likely that what we have seen so far is the tip of the iceberg -
and that as machine capabilities grow in the future many more tasks
will become susceptable to automation.
With the advent of advanced machine intelligence, it seems likely that
technological development will move forwards at a dramatic pace,
resulting in relatively rapid mastery of molecular nanotechnology, nuclear
fusion, robotics, and the creation of synthetic living systems.
If that happens, there is a real possibility that most humans will
be made redundant. Here is James Hughes, describing the scenario:
[James Hughes footage]
Now, we do have social institutions to handle unemployed people. They
normally receive a minimal hand-out from the government.
Another perspective is given by Hans Moravec:
[Hans Moravec footage]
The conclusion seems similar - machines will competitively displace
humans in the job market.
However, not everyone seems to think this displacement of humans by
machines will take place. For example, here is Ray Kurzweil on the
[Ray Kurzweil footage]
Is Ray right? Will machines supplement human capabilities, rather
than competitively displacing them in the job market?
Next, here's Robin Hanson, giving an economic analysis of the
[Robin Hanson footage]
Both Hanson and Moravec use the metaphor of a rising tide of machines.
Initially, when machines are primitive and expensive, there will indeed
be a tendency for machines to take the poor and dirty jobs that humans
find repetitive or unpleasant, freeing the humans for "higher" tasks.
However, it probably won't be very long before machines are better at
practically everything. Today's machines may seem relatively
uninspiring. However, many factory, warehouse, retail, cleaning and
farming jobs do not seem to me to be that far out of reach.
Then will come driving, clerical work, telephone work, personal
assistants - and so on gradually eating up the job market, until they
decimate it completely.
At first, displaced humans will find less-easily-automated tasks to
perform. However, eventually, automation will eat up jobs faster than
humans can find new useful economic areas to migrate into.
Machines add value - and contribute positively to the economy - so
there will be more weath in total. However, the opportunities for
inequalities will grow - since much of the money will be siphoned
off by the machine manufacturing companies.
The government will tax these companies - to help pay for the welfare
of the unemployed humans. However, by the time that stage is reached, the humans are
essentially parasites on a machine-driven economy. The companies will
try to find off-shore tax havens. They will lobby the government for
lower taxes - threatening to take their business to countries offering
a better deal. Once humans are redundant, their position seems likely
to be unstable to me. They might persist for a while, but their
long-term prospects do not look very good.
What about the idea that humans will persist by engineering themselves -
or by becoming cybernetic organisms? As I have explained elsewhere,
these proposals do not appear to be remotely realistic to me.
In almost any scenario where there is natural selection - or a kind of
capitalist analogue of it - it seems likely that machine agents are
likely to eventually competitively displace conventional biological
ones - except in historical simulations and museums. I think that
this is the most likely outcome.
I think this helps explain some of the interest in self-directed
evolution scenarios - since they have some potential to avoid
such competition - by creating universal cooperation - and
thus could theoretically create a civilisation that continues
to support human life.