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wonderpup

The New Luddites.

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I am often accused of Luddite style thinking for suggesting that the constant drive for increased productivity via technology will eventually lead to an unsustainable situation in which demand will collapse in the face of mass unemployment.

This is incorrect- the argument goes- because the people displaced from one area of employment will be redeployed in newer jobs created by the very technology that has displaced them. And this view has some merit- we do today see jobs like 'web designer' that did not really exist even 15 years ago.

But to extrapolate from this the claim that humans will never be displaced in large numbers by technology is itself- I realised- a form of Luddite thinking, because it assumes that humans as an applied 'technology' are irreplaceable in some basic way.

The New Luddites- insist that no matter how advanced the technology gets human beings will always be required in large numbers in the workplace- but what is this if not a luddite claim to 'special status' and an attempt to hold back the tide of progress?

So I would argue that just because in the past technology has created jobs even as it destroyed others there is no reason to believe this is true for all time- apart from anything else it ignores the quasi exponential nature of technological advance whereby advances are leveraged to create more advances.

So we have a quasi exponential curve of technological advance set against a human being whose capacities are static- people are not getting smarter every year.

So it's inevitable at some point that the human being will be outpaced by technology in a growing number of jobs on a rising trend that will eventually decimate the employability of many people.

So I would turn the Luddite argument around and say that to cling to the notion that human beings are for all time irreplaceable in the workplace is exactly the kind of special pleading the Luddites were accused of in their day- a demand that production techniques 'stand still' for the benefit of the incumbant producers.

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Interesting subject, and one which i ponder on from time to time without reaching any conclusions.

Like many people the inherent complexity of technology has kept me in gainful employment for some time. I don't see that changing in the next 5-10 years. Does the technology I "produce" by virtue of it's existence mean that fewer people have jobs overall? probably. But the state has stepped in an employed them in other arguably pointless activities paid for with my taxes :)

Consider the following equation;

(People employed doing shit with complicated technology) - (people no longer employed because the technology does their shit for them) = ?

Is technology getting more or less complicated?

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The problem with our economic system is that the focus of it is too narrow. All measures and objectives assume that more money is better for all with no account taken of job satisfaction. The aim is that the human (expensive) element is removed where possible, relentlessly dumbing down or removing manual skills from our work. The amount of jobs is not the main issue, in my opinion (although it may eventually be an issue), it is the nature of the work available. We cannot all tolerate sitting in front of a computer screen all day (I realise this may be difficult to grasp for many on here ;) )

Now before I get accusations here that I'm somehow advocating a kind of 'socialist' manual distortion of the free market, I should say that there is no free market in labour and that constitutes the root of the problem - there is no way for the labour market to reflect the needs of those participating in it.

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I am often accused of Luddite style thinking for suggesting that the constant drive for increased productivity via technology will eventually lead to an unsustainable situation in which demand will collapse in the face of mass unemployment.

This is incorrect- the argument goes- because the people displaced from one area of employment will be redeployed in newer jobs created by the very technology that has displaced them. And this view has some merit- we do today see jobs like 'web designer' that did not really exist even 15 years ago.

But to extrapolate from this the claim that humans will never be displaced in large numbers by technology is itself- I realised- a form of Luddite thinking, because it assumes that humans as an applied 'technology' are irreplaceable in some basic way.

The New Luddites- insist that no matter how advanced the technology gets human beings will always be required in large numbers in the workplace- but what is this if not a luddite claim to 'special status' and an attempt to hold back the tide of progress?

So I would argue that just because in the past technology has created jobs even as it destroyed others there is no reason to believe this is true for all time- apart from anything else it ignores the quasi exponential nature of technological advance whereby advances are leveraged to create more advances.

So we have a quasi exponential curve of technological advance set against a human being whose capacities are static- people are not getting smarter every year.

So it's inevitable at some point that the human being will be outpaced by technology in a growing number of jobs on a rising trend that will eventually decimate the employability of many people.

So I would turn the Luddite argument around and say that to cling to the notion that human beings are for all time irreplaceable in the workplace is exactly the kind of special pleading the Luddites were accused of in their day- a demand that production techniques 'stand still' for the benefit of the incumbant producers.

You're saying it will end like this or this? It can, but does not have to. We could choose to explore the universe, or at least populate the seas. Lots of jobs right there :)

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Hooray someone gets it.

When the first AI is created that can match humans if not surpass their biological wetware limitations, humans will be surplus to requirement and I give it less than 5 years till we reach that stage based on what I have seen.

The programmer wins and the Geek shall inherit the earth (not the bankers). ;)

If it's AI that can surpass humans the geeks will be ******ed too. But what is the imperitive to create such a thing? Will it make someone money?

Who creates technological innovation? and Why?

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When the first AI is created that can match humans if not surpass their biological wetware limitations, humans will be surplus to requirement and I give it less than 5 years till we reach that stage based on what I have seen.

Have you seen the chip fab and software plans for 5 years? They're very similar to the ones 5 years ago. Strong AI is decades out. We've not gone very far since Minsky's early work.

Edited by Mixle

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Hooray someone gets it.

When the first AI is created that can match humans if not surpass their biological wetware limitations, humans will be surplus to requirement and I give it less than 5 years till we reach that stage based on what I have seen.

The programmer wins and the Geek shall inherit the earth (not the bankers). ;)

Well I don't know about you but most of the programs I see are so far from intelligent it's unbelievable. It feels like we are as far from AI as we are landing men on the Sun and getting them back again.

My opinion is that we are approaching the limits of what humans can do. Technology is becoming so complex and subtle that it takes nearly a lifetime to learn. In fact top to bottom nobody even comes close to understanding modern computers. As complexity grows we seek to modularize and abstract ourselves using interfaces. This then decreases the overall detailed knowledge required but instead pushes the complexity onto coordinating these components. ie there is no free lunch as we are simply pushing the peas around our plate. Modern programming is all about sticking bits together. The price is nobody understands systems top to bottom. This in itself isn't always necessary, eg web apps that let you order at Tescos, but to do something unique that moves humanity forward it certainly is.

The human brain can't get any smarter any time soon, and we are near the limits of what we can do. Perhaps biological advances that allow us to live longer and so attaining more knowledge will get us out of this impasse. Until then the death of Renaissance man is disabling as it leaves us specializing in every smaller niches in order to dig deeper that our predecessor with the same brain power.

I don't know that this is our fate but it could stand in the way of The Singularity.

Edited by bmf

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Your assumptions are wrong.

better technology means more of what would previously have been too labour intensive to produce. (for better or worse)

This applies across many industries , health / manufacture /entertainment.

And often cleaner, safer work.

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Personally, I think the argument that technology destroys jobs is nonsense - but not because I think it creates equal numbers of high-tech jobs.

Technology is merely a weapon - it's available to everyone... it promotes change - but it is not biased towards any particular party. It's the people who decide what they want to do - then act on it - that dictate the outcome. Technology is the friend of anyone who chooses to use it.

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Hooray someone gets it.

When the first AI is created that can match humans if not surpass their biological wetware limitations, humans will be surplus to requirement and I give it less than 5 years till we reach that stage based on what I have seen.

The programmer wins and the Geek shall inherit the earth (not the bankers). ;)

The programmer will be cut out as AIs are able to design superior AIs. Robots building robots, and so on. We can all take in each other's washing. :unsure:

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I think Wonderpup has rather missed the point of technology and tooling, they're labour saving devices, i.e they're supposed to reduce the amount of work people have to expend in order to consume.

Henry Ford again. Saving labour works, reducing it to zero does not work since people will have no income to consume.

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If it's AI that can surpass humans the geeks will be ******ed too. But what is the imperitive to create such a thing? Will it make someone money?

Who creates technological innovation? and Why?

This is where all the 'future' books I read as a kid, Tomorrow's World etc., went wrong. Firstly, they were written/put together by utopian geeks who defined useful technology by what it could do for humanity. Secondly, the nature of economics and politics were not taken into account.

If it doesn't make money, it won't be made. This is why we didn't get flying cars, for example - for all the hype about automotive technology, the modern car is no more than an evolved version of the original Benz - four wheels with tyres, IC engine, steering wheel etc.

It's why, in the future, we won't get personal nanoproducers or whatever they'll be called, a black box in the corner of each house that can make whatever you wish. What collection of idiots would ever produce such a device and instantly put themselves out of business?

Not that these are complaints - lets just get real about technology.

See my signature - we have the capability to do incredible things, yet we still can't solve basic problems like feeding and housing everyone. Why? Our flawed economic system.

Edited by shipbuilder

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I think Wonderpup has rather missed the point of technology and tooling, they're labour saving devices, i.e they're supposed to reduce the amount of work people have to expend in order to consume.

labour saving only saves effort in that particular sphere. People didn't travel so much before the car was invented . nobody blogging or wasting time on forums before the internet.

We still exert our selves but differently.

Once most of us were farmers, now we work in offices.

Edited by i wanna house

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Personally, I think the argument that technology destroys jobs is nonsense - but not because I think it creates equal numbers of high-tech jobs.

Technology is merely a weapon - it's available to everyone... it promotes change - but it is not biased towards any particular party. It's the people who decide what they want to do - then act on it - that dictate the outcome. Technology is the friend of anyone who chooses to use it.

No, people don't decide how it is used, the needs of our current economic system dictate.

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Henry Ford again. Saving labour works, reducing it to zero does not work since people will have no income to consume.

You mean effort free production? If this technology became available what would stop Henry Ford's sacked workers from also utilising it to satisfy their own needs?

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Once most of us were farmers, now we work in offices.

Ignoring the obvious medical advances etc that make modern life better, are we better off, happier, more satisfied for working in offices? Can we call that progress?

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Ignoring the obvious medical advances etc that make modern life better, are we better off, happier, more satisfied for working in offices? Can we call that progress?

I dont suppose we are. But we are still occupied or otherwise enslaved. Technology doesnt as a whole make us redundant .

Edited by i wanna house

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You mean effort free production? If this technology became available what would stop Henry Ford's sacked workers from also utilising it to satisfy their own needs?

It would never be made available to them, for all the same reasons, maintenance of power etc. why our current economic system is f*cked.

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You mean effort free production? If this technology became available what would stop Henry Ford's sacked workers from also utilising it to satisfy their own needs?

Energy and resources will remain scare so competition will always exist for them. If you have no income how will you access them. Not to mention if the AI entities would start trading among themselves.

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If it's AI that can surpass humans the geeks will be ******ed too.

Indeed. They will be "finished".

(Hey, how often in life do you get to make a joke based on the work of Karel ńĆapek?)

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No, people don't decide how it is used, the needs of our current economic system dictate.

I dont think that's true.

The internet , you tube , forums like this are not about the needs of the current economic system.

Its much like house House music in the 80s. Technology allowing people to make music without the need for the established indusrty and as the internet has progressed the distribution has become free.

Before synthesisers and extacy , we didnt even even know we needed 'em :)

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Ignoring the obvious medical advances etc that make modern life better, are we better off, happier, more satisfied for working in offices? Can we call that progress?

Yes, absolutely, yes.

Do you have any idea what sort of life an average agricultural labourer would have had 100 years ago?

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I am often accused of Luddite style thinking for suggesting that the constant drive for increased productivity via technology will eventually lead to an unsustainable situation in which demand will collapse in the face of mass unemployment.

This is incorrect- the argument goes- because the people displaced from one area of employment will be redeployed in newer jobs created by the very technology that has displaced them. And this view has some merit- we do today see jobs like 'web designer' that did not really exist even 15 years ago.

But to extrapolate from this the claim that humans will never be displaced in large numbers by technology is itself- I realised- a form of Luddite thinking, because it assumes that humans as an applied 'technology' are irreplaceable in some basic way.

The New Luddites- insist that no matter how advanced the technology gets human beings will always be required in large numbers in the workplace- but what is this if not a luddite claim to 'special status' and an attempt to hold back the tide of progress?

So I would argue that just because in the past technology has created jobs even as it destroyed others there is no reason to believe this is true for all time- apart from anything else it ignores the quasi exponential nature of technological advance whereby advances are leveraged to create more advances.

So we have a quasi exponential curve of technological advance set against a human being whose capacities are static- people are not getting smarter every year.

So it's inevitable at some point that the human being will be outpaced by technology in a growing number of jobs on a rising trend that will eventually decimate the employability of many people.

So I would turn the Luddite argument around and say that to cling to the notion that human beings are for all time irreplaceable in the workplace is exactly the kind of special pleading the Luddites were accused of in their day- a demand that production techniques 'stand still' for the benefit of the incumbant producers.

I have referred to myself as a Luddite for a long time. I believe your argument is sound and that there is already evidence for it. The loss of one type of job due to technology does open up niches for new employment, but I suspect never quite as many real jobs as have been lost. (Government spending on non-jobs can cover this for some time.) There is only so much stuff and so many services a human can use in their lifetime and we have become very efficient at producing these things. There is also the issue of constraints on resources.

I suspect the Luddites and the Malthusians will both be proven to be correct int he long run, but like most visionaries they underestimated the capacity for human ingenuity to maintain the status quo/avoid the logical outcome and therefore underestimated the time scale for their predictions to come true. The same could be said of many of the prescient bears on this forum and their predictions.

Edited by Tiger Woods?

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