Posthuman political theory June 15, 2010Posted by Summerspeaker in Technocracy, The Singularity, Transhumanism.
A discussion I’m having with Aleksei Riikonen over on Michael’s blog has convinced me to codify my thoughts on the likely arrangement of a society after artificial general intelligence and molecular manufacturing. Taken together, these twin technologies will make unenhanced human labor irrelevant unless they are restricted by choice or coercive measures. Their development will fundamentally transform the economy at every level. Setting aside outright disasters and dystopias, I discern four basic scenarios:
#1 – Wealth and Welfare
As unemployment rises, governments across the world expand the dole to maintain a consumer base and ward off revolution. Richer nations send aid packages so that even the poorest country on the planet can give handouts. Eventually the majority of the population depends on this income. Laws limit the potency of automated industry but prices drop significantly. The ubiquity of intelligence allows capitalism to avoid much of the waste we now see. Suitably augmented folks still work for pay in various capacities. The ultrarich on the top enjoy unprecedented privilege. This outcome matches Marshall Brain’s proposal for dealing with robots in the workplace. Depending on the details of the social control imposed by the states in question, possible conditions range from tolerable to nightmarish.
#2 – Private Patrons
As above, but with individuals and/or corporations providing a greater number of welfare checks. Such actors would have even less incentive than governments to refrain from exploiting the position.
#3 – Abundance Anarchism
This is what happens when the genie escapes from the bottle. Here each human being independently holds access to the necessities of life. We no longer bow before bosses. Portable, robust nanofactories turn even patches of desert and asphalt into comfortable homes and productive gardens. Those who wish to engineer themselves to run directly on solar energy and/or consume almost anything for power. Some pioneer out to other planets or stars. Ideally built-in technical limitations and community sentiments prevent violence. Disagreements and disputes abound, but there’s plenty of energy and matter for everyone.
#4 – Transcendence Technocracy
A superintelligence undertakes the twin goals of stopping bloodshed and disturbing the fruits of technology to all equally. In order to maintain its ability to achieve these aims, it also prevents any other actor from becoming more powerful. Otherwise it does not interfere in the affairs of thinking beings; this aspect separates it from the governments of the first scenario. In practice, life under the technocracy might well resemble life in anarchism. One favors security, the other freedom.
I’m sure you can tell which scenario I favor. Sadly, the first combined with a bit of the second strikes me as the most probable non-catastrophic future. We anarchists will continue to exist in the gaps and on the margins, as we do now.