Monday, January 30, 2012

AI and HBD Part Two

So we ask questions about the endgame.  Is humanity evolving towards a civilization of the type portrayed in the Culture Series?
The Culture is a symbiotic society of artificial intelligences (AIs) (Minds and drones), humanoids and other alien species who all share equal status. As mentioned above, all essential work is performed (as far as possible) by non-sentient devices, freeing sentients to do only things that they enjoy (administrative work requiring sentience is undertaken by the AIs using a bare fraction of their mental power, or by people who take on the work out of free choice). As such, the Culture is also a post-scarcity society, where technological advances ensure that no one lacks any material goods or services. As a consequence, the Culture has no need of economic constructs such as money (as is apparent when it deals with civilizations in which money is still important). The Culture rejects all forms of economics based on anything other than voluntary activity. "Money is a sign of poverty" is a common saying in the Culture.

We have a while to go before that, but it's always important to think about where we are going as a civilization.

But the important thing, is what are we looking at in the next 10 years?  The Atlantic has a fascinating profile of the realist thinker John J. Mearsheimer, as he warns:

“Whether China is democratic and deeply enmeshed in the global economy or autocratic and autarkic will have little effect on its behavior, because democracies care about security as much as non-democracies do.” Indeed, a democratic China could be more technologically innovative and economically robust, with consequently more talent and money to lavish on its military."

He then gets much more strong on the need to counter China:

Neither Wilhelmine Germany, nor imperial Japan, nor Nazi Germany, nor the Soviet Union had nearly as much latent power as the United States had during their confrontations … But if China were to become a giant Hong Kong, it would probably have somewhere on the order of four times as much latent power as the United States does, allowing China to gain a decisive military advantage over the United States. 

While I am disheartened on his dismissal of the role morality plays in international affairs, I agree with him in principle on China's potential future power. They have the average IQ.

But, even if their average IQ is a few points above ours, guess what?  Most Chinese workers are still average.  And with the recent controversies involving Foxconn treating their Chinese workers like slaves, I've begun thinking that the cost curve is going to rise, especially as the labor shortage becomes more acute as their population ages.

So, again, we ask: what does this mean?  This means, that if robots can replace Americans, why can't they replace Chinese?  With the average Chinese worker making 200$ a month in slavelike conditions, that may not be needed.  But at some point, perhaps 500$ per month wages with a labor rights board, the factory managers will decide that instead of treating their workers like machines, they should just hire machines.

So, how long will it take China to move up the value added curve?  Not sure, maybe a generation?

How long will it take AI to move up the value added curve? A decade?

Which will happen first?  The US losing to China, or mass human irrelevance in the face of smart robots?

Count me among a China skeptic, but not for the normal reasons.

I'm a China skeptic because I'm a human skeptic.  We have far more to worry about as a species than Chinese dominance. 

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like an episode of the Twilight Zone to me.But I'm a skeptic of China also.