If you are ready to commit suicide because you have lost your job, you home that has been foreclosed and you fear for the future, just read this book. It will either cure you of the desire since pretty soon billions of human beings in the world will be out of work and the Big Looting will start. Or it will justify your decision to pass over to the other side of your mental moon into some black hole of antimatter, the rectal passage to annihilation.
If you do not read the book, good luck for the future and I hope you do not live too long. In fact it would be better if you decided to move six feet under or to get scattered into the air in the coming days since the apocalypse is finally arriving, has finally arrived. Don’t you feel it in your “buns”?
The author advocates the Automation Revolution along his concluding quotation of Arthur C. Clarke: “The goal of the future is full unemployment, so we can play.” A rapid mention of Ray Kurzweil’s Singularity but no bibliography in the book is not enough to see the roots of that thinking, and thinking it is even if you may think it is deficient.
I will here only make a few critical remarks on various aspects of the book.
He assumes that machines will all be more intelligent than men but only as for speed. He does not see the limit of this element. The human brain is not only a question of speed. It is also a question of the possible by-passing of any instruction, limit, forbidden act or thought, because it is vastly parallel. The brain can always take a side path because there are great numbers of side paths in a parallel machine of the human brain type. A machine cannot go against its own programmed rules. Can, we program it to make it go against its own programmed rules and soon enough its self-programmed rules? That’s a good question. Disobeying is basic in human beings, not in machines and tomorrow we will expect machines to be obedient and to go along with their own rules even their self-imposed rules, which should not prevent a fair assessment of a situation. But crossing a double yellow line on the road is just impossible for a self driving car. If it were possible that would bring a lot more danger on roads since then they would come close to humanness.
Even more we have to take into account another way of thinking that is not inductive and that is not deductive. What I call subductive thinking in continuation and development of the Buddhist concept of “samsara”: from a full capture of everything you can think of, consciously, unconsciously and subconsciously, let from this complete practically inexplorable forest emerge the new idea, the new principle, the new hypothesis that you will then treat with induction, deduction and subduction again and again. The emergence of this new principle is what Buddha called the awakening. Then you get on the path to a full mental liberation. Einstein could not prove his theory of relativity. It was subductive thinking and it is only today, one century later, that we can prove some of the contended principles of it and disprove some of them. Because it becomes clear that it is true up to a point.
Will machines be able to do that? Not by 2050 as Kurzweil says, if ever, because all that is for each human individual the result of a long process of growing and developing within the mother’s womb at first (hearing in the 24th week of pregnancy) and in real life then. Every single detail of what we think or feel is loaded with experiential, existential, situational, circumstantial, phenomenological elements, most of them unconscious or subconscious and yet all of them active. A machine will never be able to have that kind of genetic and generative experience. A machine will never be a human being and its intelligence will always be short of that.
The second remark is about the automation revolution. In fact it is a set of remarks.
If what he says comes true, then 98% of humanity will not have to do anything to survive, since we’ll have to be talking of survival as long as the human species will be biological. That will be a complete change of the social side of the human species. Homo Sapiens is a socially working and living species to produce what they need to survive in a hostile essentially natural environment. The author does not spend one page to really consider the psychological and non-clinical psychiatric change he is speaking of. It is an evolution that would not be carried by any genetic element and that would probably negate a lot of genetic elements. I do not believe it possible for it to happen without upheavals, counter-revolutions, lootings, violence of any sort and all that performed by millions of people in each place, by billions of people on the planet. Remember all the hunger (bread) riots in the Arab world (Egypt in particular) when the price of bread went up and it created hunger among simple people. Look at the mass exodus the war in Syria and Iraq has produced and all kinds of means have been used to stop it, to reduce it, to prevent it. And even so with a death toll hat must be around 25% at least and a life expectancy that must be reduced to 50 at the very best, it is still going on. And that is only one little spot in the vast world, yet the migrants are coming from places that are one thousand miles away from this little spot and at times even more. His conception of the human species is extremely passive and even placid.
Of course the author envisages to provide everyone with a stipend that would enable survival in rather easy conditions. But that will not be enough. Inactivity for Homo Sapiens is just like death because it is boring, because these humans do not add value to what they do not produce any more. Living becomes onanism, and always interruptus, and as such is traumatic. This social organization he imagines would create a systematic Post Traumatic Idleness Stress Syndrome or Disorder. And idleness is the mother and father of all vices, as he should know. The answer cannot be: “Smart police robots on every block watch everyone’s every move, and bound into action at the first sign of conflict.” We are not in a film with Schwarzenegger. What can a smart police robot do against one hundred or one thousand intelligent people assembled in a mob with all kinds of weapons produced in the cellars of the Poor People Shelters? The answer is very little. And the best way not to be caught when preparing bombs is to hijack those of the establishment. This of “The Running Man” (1987) with Schwarzenegger.
So he also envisages how to pay for this stipend: a ten dollar tax on a compound measuring of robot working time and working speed. This will probably provide the necessary money to give a small stipend though big enough for survival. But as he says those who are prepared will arrive in this work-deprived society with some assets, financial assets that will enable them to supplement their stipend. But the vast majority of people will only have the stipend and that will not enable them to invest, then there will be two classes of people, as he says, “the haves and the have-nots.” And that will be the new class struggle, quite similar in a way to the older one and yet slightly different but altogether the financially deprived vast majority will feel like the victims of the small financially endowed minority who will control all capital in society. The capital controls the robots not the people but the people are the victims, the “slaves” of this capital that reduces them to a stipend. The author is a poor Marxist and he may think Marx is an oddity. Marx is the most achieved mind along the line of “the deprived against the endowed.” Nietzsche is the endowed approach of the same reality whereas Marx is the deprived approach.
The next argument is about the Great Deflation that will make the stipend a lot more valuable than what it will be on the surface. He speculates about the value of a $500 stipent if the Great Deflation produces a 50% or 20% or 10% price decrease. But that remains peanuts because in the best situation that stipend would be worth $750, a miserable charitable contribution to the survival of the deprived. Of course he does not come to the idea that some will impose eugenics: systematic sterilization of the deprived, men and women, systematic elimination of the violent, systematic extermination of the revolutionary or counter-revolutionary. Let’s kill them all first, and wonder about questions you could have asked them only after killing them or wondering about the questions. In other words he does not remember General Custer. That must be out of his culture. True enough the whites won in the end, but true enough too the Indians are going through a revival that no one could have predicted or conceived, though it is the result of the Seventh Generation of the Mayas, some might say, at least if you think and feel history is cyclical.
But my main objection is that — even if Trump becomes the president of the USA which would make that perspective feasible (especially cops at all street corners and on all social sites — such a perspective is bound to fail in the long run. It would create a global SOVIET system of systematically assisted masses of humans not even reduced to chattel since they would be doing nothing, hence they would be nothing but parasites. (I experienced that working in East Germany where the minimum wage was guaranteed whether you worked your forty hours or not) And what do we do to parasites, would any logical ethics master ask? And that farniente system would die the same way as the USSR died: initiative that can only be individual, personal or from very small groups of people would be killed and that would kill any human society. That initiative in all human beings is the mark of the survival instinct. To kill it is to kill the species. Machines cannot have that initiative because it is driven by some deep and irrational forces in human beings. I insist on “IRRATIONAL” which is something a machine, smart or not, cannot be.
I think instead of reading Arthur C. Clarke and Ray Kurzweil, our author should read Frank Herbert and the Butlerian Jihad and the ban of intelligent machines. Humanity in order to survive may have to decide that much but humanity will have to be able to do that, or a real global civil war will develop between the deprived and the endowed and all the smart police or soldier robots will be pretty poor when compared with the creativity of human beings fighting for their survival. Not to mention that machines cannot have any survival instinct since they are not biological, or geological.
Dr Jacques COULARDEAU