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Ftav: A Charted History Of Robot Evolution, And Some Thoughts On Jobs

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Someone accumulating capital isn't a problem, as long as they aren't using it as leverage to exploit other people. Consider the following:

1. Robot owner gets to monopolise the IP and buys up all the prime locations. Result: It's hard for anyone to compete and the rent is going to consume surplus income => misery for non-robot owners.

2. Robot owner doesn't get to monopolise the IP and isn't granted the ability to buy up all the prime locations. Result: Anyone can extend the technology with supplementary ideas and they get to access the land without paying off the robot owning land owners.

In a society where free association is prevalent, someone being rich should not impact badly on the poor - they would become rich because they were providing something that everyone freely wants and chooses. Ofc, they may give this wealth to another, but it would have been earned fairly.

The laws which make ideas and locations 'property' are key to this problem.

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2. Robot owner doesn't get to monopolise the IP and isn't granted the ability to buy up all the prime locations. Result: Anyone can extend the technology with supplementary ideas and they get to access the land without paying off the robot owning land owners.

And, given the R&D costs, where exactly is the incentive for the original development? Not arguing with your basic points or that IP needs overhauling, but I remain puzzled.

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And, given the R&D costs, where exactly is the incentive for the original development? Not arguing with your basic points or that IP needs overhauling, but I remain puzzled.

First mover's advantage, best manufactured product, quality of support, promptness of maintenance/patches/fixes etc.

EDIT: The open source economy gives some good examples here, btw.

Edited by Traktion

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First mover's advantage, best manufactured product, quality of support, promptness of maintenance/patches/fixes etc.

EDIT: The open source economy gives some good examples here, btw.

A bit wishful thinking IMHO - sounds like the sort of guff I hear when people tell me that organic food could be really affordable for the masses... so, I have 10 projects in R&D, only one yields viable results, and I'm meant to make my money back through auxiliary services? And first mover's advantage is a fairly spurious cachet...

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Someone accumulating capital isn't a problem, as long as they aren't using it as leverage to exploit other people. Consider the following:

1. Robot owner gets to monopolise the IP and buys up all the prime locations. Result: It's hard for anyone to compete and the rent is going to consume surplus income => misery for non-robot owners.

2. Robot owner doesn't get to monopolise the IP and isn't granted the ability to buy up all the prime locations. Result: Anyone can extend the technology with supplementary ideas and they get to access the land without paying off the robot owning land owners.

In a society where free association is prevalent, someone being rich should not impact badly on the poor - they would become rich because they were providing something that everyone freely wants and chooses. Ofc, they may give this wealth to another, but it would have been earned fairly.

The laws which make ideas and locations 'property' are key to this problem.

You overlook the monopoly of capital itself. So it does matter if automation results in a concentration of capital into fewer hands- since this amplifies the monopoly of capital in a self reinforcing way.

If the capitalist can create more profit by reducing jobs instead of creating them he will- resulting in more capital flowing to him and less to his now unemployed workforce.

Between the bankers looting of their wealth on the one hand and the technologists elimination of their jobs on the other the middle classes are going to get massacred- being a 'symbolic analyst' in an age of increasingly sophisticated software is not going to be the safe haven it was advertised to be.

Luckily those expensive degrees will come in handy as their kids compete for jobs serving coffee in Starbucks.

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You overlook the monopoly of capital itself. So it does matter if automation results in a concentration of capital into fewer hands- since this amplifies the monopoly of capital in a self reinforcing way.

Isn't that supposed to be the point of capitalism? That the market signals who's best at allocating capital, and through that same market process they get more capital to allocate.

Edited by SpectrumFX

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You overlook the monopoly of capital itself. So it does matter if automation results in a concentration of capital into fewer hands- since this amplifies the monopoly of capital in a self reinforcing way.

If the capitalist can create more profit by reducing jobs instead of creating them he will- resulting in more capital flowing to him and less to his now unemployed workforce.

Between the bankers looting of their wealth on the one hand and the technologists elimination of their jobs on the other the middle classes are going to get massacred- being a 'symbolic analyst' in an age of increasingly sophisticated software is not going to be the safe haven it was advertised to be.

Luckily those expensive degrees will come in handy as their kids compete for jobs serving coffee in Starbucks.

If they have earned the capital, without exploiting others, clearly they have been able to invest it well. In other words, they have been able to deliver what people want, in a very efficient way.

I'm not suggesting that having capital does not give you advantages over those that have none - that should not be a surprise to anyone. However, without rent seekers soaking up everyone else's surplus, it gives the latter a chance to accumulate their own capital.

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A bit wishful thinking IMHO - sounds like the sort of guff I hear when people tell me that organic food could be really affordable for the masses... so, I have 10 projects in R&D, only one yields viable results, and I'm meant to make my money back through auxiliary services? And first mover's advantage is a fairly spurious cachet...

I respectively disagree with your position. The first mover advantage is demonstrated over and over again when something new hits the market. Coming up with ideas to keep being the first mover is difficult, but who ever said it should be easy?

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Isn't that supposed to be the point of capitalism? That the market signals who's best at allocating capital, and through that same market process they get more capital to allocate.

That's exactly right- the market rewards those that succeed with more capital to invest. This is not a problem if that capital is then deployed to create jobs, creating the wages that funds further expansion- but if we reach the point where capital can reproduce itself without the need to pay wages we have a 'short circuit' in the system-at which point it begins to fail.

You can't have capitalism without capital- and you can't have consumption without wages. So the more effective capital is in eliminating it's wage costs- the closer it brings the day when it suffers a systemic failure due to lack of effective demand.

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If they have earned the capital, without exploiting others, clearly they have been able to invest it well. In other words, they have been able to deliver what people want, in a very efficient way.

I'm not suggesting that having capital does not give you advantages over those that have none - that should not be a surprise to anyone. However, without rent seekers soaking up everyone else's surplus, it gives the latter a chance to accumulate their own capital.

But in order to accumulate capital you must be in position to earn it in the first place. What automation does is remove this opportunity.

So automation has the effect of directing more and more capital to those who are fortunate enough to own the means of production- while making it harder and harder for those who lack capital to accumulate any because their 'labour value' is being undermined- both directly by technology and by the increased competition for what work remains available.

So we have a polarisation of wealth at the extremes- some have a huge and growing amount while others have less and less. Eventually this process is self correcting in the sense that if too many people lose access to wealth demand collapses and it's game over for everyone.

We already see this wealth polarisation effect in the growing disparity between the 1% and the rest- and increasing productivity will not reduce this gap it will widen it- since more productive workers can produce more we need less of them- especially in a world of shrinking demand.

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That's exactly right- the market rewards those that succeed with more capital to invest. This is not a problem if that capital is then deployed to create jobs, creating the wages that funds further expansion- but if we reach the point where capital can reproduce itself without the need to pay wages we have a 'short circuit' in the system-at which point it begins to fail.

You can't have capitalism without capital- and you can't have consumption without wages. So the more effective capital is in eliminating it's wage costs- the closer it brings the day when it suffers a systemic failure due to lack of effective demand.

I see. In which case there's two ways this can go:

1) Capitalism produces such efficiency through automation that nobody need work any more - and the benefits of that automation are made available to the population at large - leading to a utopia

2) Capitalism produces such efficiency that workers aren't needed any more and we're all left to starve while the holders of capital at the time of this great leap forward live the life of riley

I'm betting on number one, because I think most people are fundamentaly good. It'll be intetesting seeing how it pans out.

Edited by SpectrumFX

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I see. In which case there's two ways this can go:

1) Capitalism produces such efficiency through automation that nobody need work any more - and the benefits of that automation are made available to the population at large - leading to a utopia

2) Capitalism produces such efficiency that workers aren't needed any more and we're all left to starve while the holders of capital at the time of this great leap forward live the life of riley

I'm betting on number one, because I think most people are fundamentaly good. It'll be intetesting seeing how it pans out.

I suspect a little bit of 1 and a little bit of 2 (if I'm being optimistic). People will always seek to be 'winners' - it's hard-wired into our DNA. What will be interesting in a scenario where no one needs to work is how they differentiate themselves and what material aspects reflect that differential. Creators - whether of cultural artefacts or new designs - would seem the obvious choice (so not that different), and these creators would acquire the output of other creators as a way of distinguishing themselves from the masses. In a sense, not that much difference from today, but without the poverty at the lower end - organic food, art, artisan-built houses, access to expensive theatre, hand-made clothing using woven 'real' materials. Basically, anything that can't be replicated, even if the definition of "can't be replicated" is "because, although materially identical, mine is hand-built and yours isn't".

Stephenson's SF novel, "The Diamond Age", plays with some of these themes (and many others), and is well worth a read.

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1) Capitalism produces such efficiency through automation that nobody need work any more -

That was the blurp on the back of the 'capitalism is great' bestseller. Unfortunately like most bibles, interpretation has deliberately been hijacked making number two more likely.

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That's exactly right- the market rewards those that succeed with more capital to invest. This is not a problem if that capital is then deployed to create jobs, creating the wages that funds further expansion- but if we reach the point where capital can reproduce itself without the need to pay wages we have a 'short circuit' in the system-at which point it begins to fail.

You can't have capitalism without capital- and you can't have consumption without wages. So the more effective capital is in eliminating it's wage costs- the closer it brings the day when it suffers a systemic failure due to lack of effective demand.

I wonder why you think this would arrive as a 'systemic failure', rather than a gradual re-adjustment (assuming free association, ofc).

It will gradually get harder and harder to sell stuff to people with no jobs, until such a time as the market place re-adjusts to provide said jobs. Businesses aren't going to keep making stuff that people can't afford to buy (unless statism keeps encouraging borrowing, bailing them out etc).

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But in order to accumulate capital you must be in position to earn it in the first place. What automation does is remove this opportunity.

So automation has the effect of directing more and more capital to those who are fortunate enough to own the means of production- while making it harder and harder for those who lack capital to accumulate any because their 'labour value' is being undermined- both directly by technology and by the increased competition for what work remains available.

So we have a polarisation of wealth at the extremes- some have a huge and growing amount while others have less and less. Eventually this process is self correcting in the sense that if too many people lose access to wealth demand collapses and it's game over for everyone.

We already see this wealth polarisation effect in the growing disparity between the 1% and the rest- and increasing productivity will not reduce this gap it will widen it- since more productive workers can produce more we need less of them- especially in a world of shrinking demand.

Why stop at robots, when we can have replicators in this future utopia/distopia? When you can replicate a replicator, without falling foul of laws saying that you can't copy stuff, everyone will have access to such technology.

Indeed, on-route the robot builders will face fierce competition by everyone else trying to build better robots too. New service jobs will likely thrive, as those with more time seek to do other things than working with it.

At the same time, businesses will have to respect the changes in the market place. They can only build what people can and want to buy. Sure, there will be bubbles, but they come and go unless states are present to pump them really large.

With access to land (sans land owners), houses could be built cheaply. Perhaps they would be 3D printed, to drive the build cost way down.

Competition is key here and the fewer the barriers to it, the better chance there is of wealth spreading.

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I see. In which case there's two ways this can go:

1) Capitalism produces such efficiency through automation that nobody need work any more - and the benefits of that automation are made available to the population at large - leading to a utopia

2) Capitalism produces such efficiency that workers aren't needed any more and we're all left to starve while the holders of capital at the time of this great leap forward live the life of riley

I'm betting on number one, because I think most people are fundamentaly good. It'll be intetesting seeing how it pans out.

What I see happening is increasing wealth disparity leading to ever more draconian societies as the elites try to keep the lid on- culminating in the kinds of things we now see in Egypt happening more less everywhere as too many people find themselves on the wrong side of the income inequality gap.

No ruling elite in history has ever willingly abandoned power so your scenario 1) seems unlikely- and scenario 2) is unsustainable.

What's interesting is that we live in an age of ever more efficient production- but the political discourse is dominated by the issues of scarcity and austerity- on the face of it a bit of a contradiction.

So we seem to have a paradox that instead of higher productivity making us richer- it's making most of us poorer- but in fact this is exactly what one might expect, since the long term thrust of competitive productivity is to destroy tradeable value- AKA lower prices- and it's tradeable value that we need in order to avoid penury.

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Why stop at robots, when we can have replicators in this future utopia/distopia? When you can replicate a replicator, without falling foul of laws saying that you can't copy stuff, everyone will have access to such technology.

Indeed, on-route the robot builders will face fierce competition by everyone else trying to build better robots too. New service jobs will likely thrive, as those with more time seek to do other things than working with it.

At the same time, businesses will have to respect the changes in the market place. They can only build what people can and want to buy. Sure, there will be bubbles, but they come and go unless states are present to pump them really large.

With access to land (sans land owners), houses could be built cheaply. Perhaps they would be 3D printed, to drive the build cost way down.

Competition is key here and the fewer the barriers to it, the better chance there is of wealth spreading.

Competition requires that there be losers as well as winners- and if the losers outnumber the winners by a vast margin they will seek to change the game. That's when the riots begin.

So it's by no means a given that competition leads to a fairer distribution of wealth- it could lead to a situation where only the winners live well while the losers are marginalised.

And let's not forget- a primary way for any business to compete in a free market is to eliminate as many jobs as possible while maintaining productivity.

So mass unemployment is not only a likely outcome of advancing technology- it's an outcome that will be actively pursued and facilitated.

At the end of the day Capitalism needs your custom- but does not want to pay your wages- a contradiction that might one day be it's undoing.

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Competition requires that there be losers as well as winners- and if the losers outnumber the winners by a vast margin they will seek to change the game. That's when the riots begin.

So it's by no means a given that competition leads to a fairer distribution of wealth- it could lead to a situation where only the winners live well while the losers are marginalised.

And let's not forget- a primary way for any business to compete in a free market is to eliminate as many jobs as possible while maintaining productivity.

So mass unemployment is not only a likely outcome of advancing technology- it's an outcome that will be actively pursued and facilitated.

Replacing laborious jobs is one of the benefits of capitalism. Cleaner, safer, more interesting, shorter jobs are far better.

Those 'winners' currently rely on the state to make them richer. Whether it is fat cat bankers, patent trolls, land lords... they're all at it. In a free market, these guys wouldn't have such an easy ride.

If there isn't some rent seeker on your back, you wouldn't need as much money to exist in the first place too. If you would rather stay busy and accumulate some capital, that's great too.

While everyone else is competing to drive down the cost of goods, it would be a wise move to figure out which services were likely to blossom as a result. People will need something to do with that additional leisure time after all.

At the end of the day Capitalism needs your custom- but does not want to pay your wages- a contradiction that might one day be it's undoing.

That contradiction is why it won't be its undoing.

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Replacing laborious jobs is one of the benefits of capitalism. Cleaner, safer, more interesting, shorter jobs are far better.

Those 'winners' currently rely on the state to make them richer. Whether it is fat cat bankers, patent trolls, land lords... they're all at it. In a free market, these guys wouldn't have such an easy ride.

If there isn't some rent seeker on your back, you wouldn't need as much money to exist in the first place too. If you would rather stay busy and accumulate some capital, that's great too.

While everyone else is competing to drive down the cost of goods, it would be a wise move to figure out which services were likely to blossom as a result. People will need something to do with that additional leisure time after all.

Having your job 'replaced' by unemployment is also one of the 'benefits' of Capitalism- in fact it's one of the aims of capitalism, this is what you seem unwilling to accept.

Unemployment is a primary goal in a system where labour is a cost to be eliminated. So it's just as likely that the forces of competition will drive investment in labour saving technology as in new jobs.

Even if we eliminated the rent seekers the core dynamic would remain- capitalism wants to make all of us unemployed- because- as labour- we represent a cost not a profit. So I'm not sure how you arrive at this idea that perfect competition will result in prosperity for all- is it not just as likely to result in prosperity for the few and poverty for the rest?

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Having your job 'replaced' by unemployment is also one of the 'benefits' of Capitalism- in fact it's one of the aims of capitalism, this is what you seem unwilling to accept.

Unemployment is a primary goal in a system where labour is a cost to be eliminated. So it's just as likely that the forces of competition will drive investment in labour saving technology as in new jobs.

Yup! People don't labour fun the joy of it - they labour because they have to in order to survive.

If efficiency gains and fewer rent seekers mean that they don't need to work so much for the same thing, that is a good thing.

Even if we eliminated the rent seekers the core dynamic would remain- capitalism wants to make all of us unemployed- because- as labour- we represent a cost not a profit. So I'm not sure how you arrive at this idea that perfect competition will result in prosperity for all- is it not just as likely to result in prosperity for the few and poverty for the rest?

Being fully employed is tedious for many people. If they could pay less rent, get cheaper stuff and work fewer hours, many would be happier.

People only need to work full time jobs, because they need the money to pay off the land lord/owner and various other rent seekers who push up the price of goods through legal privilege.

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Being fully employed is tedious for many people. If they could pay less rent, get cheaper stuff and work fewer hours, many would be happier.

People only need to work full time jobs, because they need the money to pay off the land lord/owner and various other rent seekers who push up the price of goods through legal privilege.

Sure that's all true- but the reality is that even if you removed the rent seeking you are still left with the basic contradiction that capitalism seeks to maximise it's profits by eliminating the incomes of it's customers.

So I would argue that the more efficient and productive the system becomes, the more likely it is to fail- not because it has failed to produce physical abundance- but because the very hyper productivity that might give rise to that abundance will destroy the ability of many people to earn the right of access to it.

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Sure that's all true- but the reality is that even if you removed the rent seeking you are still left with the basic contradiction that capitalism seeks to maximise it's profits by eliminating the incomes of it's customers.

It also simultaneously seeks to lower the cost of products by a bigger margin. That is, the net result is that people generally get get more for less.

So I would argue that the more efficient and productive the system becomes, the more likely it is to fail- not because it has failed to produce physical abundance- but because the very hyper productivity that might give rise to that abundance will destroy the ability of many people to earn the right of access to it.

You can only sell what people are willing to buy; this is a natural constraint of a free market. There is a constantly adjusting demand for an unlimited number of potential products and services. I can't see how you can break away from this simple dynamic for any extended length of time - where would the investment come from to continue on such a path?

Sure, you can have bubbles, but in a free market demand will only self-sustain for a limited period.

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It also simultaneously seeks to lower the cost of products by a bigger margin. That is, the net result is that people generally get get more for less.

So if you lose your job to a machine and as a result have an income of zero- how does it help you that the machine has reduced the price.?

Our system operates on the basis of trade- if you have nothing to trade- because a machine has replaced you- then according to our system you have zero bargaining power and so low prices will not solve your problem- no matter low they go they remain too high as long as they exceed a value of zero.

The free market is driven to eliminate the source of it's own demand- and strong incentives exist in the market to do this since in the short run those who can operate with less labour will make the most money and be able undercut the prices of their competitors.

What needs to be resolved is how we can continue to replace human labour with technology without blowing up the system- and I don't see how this can be addressed purely in terms of making the market more competitive, since it's the force of competition that is driving the replacement of humans with technology.

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You can only sell what people are willing to buy; this is a natural constraint of a free market. There is a constantly adjusting demand for an unlimited number of potential products and services. I can't see how you can break away from this simple dynamic for any extended length of time - where would the investment come from to continue on such a path?

I agree with this but would expand it to include the idea that you can only sell what people are able to buy.

You are right that the market will adjust it's output to meet effective demand- but it will also compete for that demand. So instead of the equilibrium that you seem to imagine must occur we could instead see a downward spiral as producers compete by replacing workers with cheaper technology, leading to a decline in effective demand which then drives further investment in automation leading to a further decline in demand.

I would argue that we are already seeing the embryonic outlines of this process- hence we have talk of a 'jobless' recovery in which productivity increases while job creation remains more or less static.

So I agree that the market would adapt to the declining demand created by automation- but the point I am making is that one way it will respond to this decline is to further embrace automation in an attempt to cut costs- which will-of course- lead to less demand.

But if the'solution' to the problem of declining demand leads to declining demand how does the mechanism of the market adapt to this self perpetuating conundrum?

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  • 261 Brexit, House prices and Summer 2020

    1. 1. Including the effects Brexit, where do you think average UK house prices will be relative to now in June 2020?


      • down 5% +
      • down 2.5%
      • Even
      • up 2.5%
      • up 5%



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