Sunday, September 04, 2011

Work and idleness 3/4: Transhumanist take

During the last 200 years, technology has lifted the Western masses from rags to affluence. The logical end of this trend is Iain Banks' Culture, where robots do all the work, but we are not there yet. Work should maintain and improve the standards of living and guard against risks like nuclear war, which may stop us from reaching singularity. Workers can be classified based on whether they advance this goal.

Maintainers keep the system running at current level. For example postal workers maintain capability to send packets, and soldiers guard against foreign army burning down the nation. We would notice very soon if these people stopped working.

Improvers make technological and political progress happen. For example researchers may develop a cure for cancer, or a politician may remove a wasteful regulation. We would notice big difference in 20 years if these people stopped working.

Leeches neither maintain or improve other people's standards of living. This includes not just people who live on income transfers (it doesn't matter if it comes from state or from dividends of inherited wealth) but also workers who have little impact. We wouldn't notice any difference if these people stopped working.

In the long run, more and more people can neither maintain nor improve standads of living better than robots. In that case it's ok to relax and take it easy, but anyone reading this blog can't use stupidity as an excuse.

Virtues: Efficiency and enlightenment

Technology enables "hard" efficiency, for example food production no longer requires 50% of the workforce to labor at farms. This frees resources also to "soft" wants and needs, like better human rights, social safety net, education, healthcare etc. No matter if your values are hard or soft, efficiency powered by technology delivers it. (But it doesn't deliver relative wants, like being wealthier than the Joneses.)

Politics must ensure that greater efficiency does not translate into more efficient slaughter in gas chambers, etc.

Enlightenment and knowledge help spot opportunities to organize things differently.

Problem: It's not possible to be the only transhumanist around

It is practically impossible to talk with most people about transhumanist impact of work. It is too abstract topic for someone who usually talks about cars and apartments. Also most people only care about how much they and their ingroup get, making it heresy to talk about outgroup's interests. People with a mortgage and a family to provide for couldn't care less if a project produces nothing and it is clear from day 1.

Nowadays transhumanism is to me mainly quiantly naive idealism of the youth.

No comments: