So, 2012 has ended and everywhere you look, despite our having survived the “end of the world” you see pessimism, gloom, doom and negativity. No matter where you live, it seems everyone is convinced that there’s just no hope. So many people have stopped trying to do anything, while they “wait for god” or “wait for the Singularity.” Or simply wait, period.
The negativity is everywhere.
So, here’s one of my longwinded rambling rants, against that negativity. So, you feel doomed, feel like the corporations have won, that nothing will ever change, or that if it does, the same old same old will make sure that you never get to share in the glorious new future? That only the rich will have immortality, that corporations will ensure that nanofactories are DRM’d, that nothing is ever free, and that the future is one in which Big Brother will control everything in one immortal Dictatorship?
Trust me, I can understand your pessimism. You’ve been handed this line of BS for so long it’s easy to see how so many of you can think it’s the only truth out there.
However, you’d be wrong. The future is not going to be a dictatorial corporate dystopia in which the “elites” rule all while the rest of us exist at the fringe of things, barely scraping by.
You see, that future requires one very necessary element that is missing. Control of information. That control, while efforts are being made to try and get it back, has been missing since the introduction of the internet. Why? The internet allows the universal dissemination of information.
DRM has been being tried for how many years now? It’s still useless. Anyone who is seriously interested can find a way around DRM. The same goes for nearly every other form of “control” that has been tried to re-establish a centralized system of information dissemination.
The feudal system ended when the printing press arrived. Information was suddenly available and accessible to the masses. The Social order was over turned when the knowledge previously controlled by the Church was suddenly uncontrolled. Knowledge previously hard to obtain in very rare tomes owned by only a few suddenly was being passed around by many. The Reformation occurred because the common man could now access the knowledge once only the priests could read.
All forms of Tyranny depend on suppression of knowledge. Our history has proved this time and again. Suppression doesn’t work forever though. Sometimes it doesn’t work at all. Our modern “war on drugs” certainly hasn’t, and as Climategate and Wikileaks has proved, all it takes is one leak on the internet to open a huge can of worms.
For example, a DRM controlled nanofactory might be tried. But as sure as a black market for drugs appeared as soon as they were made illegal, and a million DRM free mp3 sites sprung up following the attempts to ban music sharing, a black market for non-DRM nanofactories will occur.
And as Drexler pointed out, all it takes is one single self-replicating nanofactory to create a world filled with them.
We’ve been slaves to the Corporatocracy. But we’re moving out of that phase now. They are trying like hell to restore their power through lobbying to kill reform in health and finance and eliminate net neutrality, but all they are truly doing is spending millions on efforts that will fail. They may buy a few more years of life, but that is all.
The only ones who will survive are those who adapt to the new realities. Google seems like it might do well, but those who continue to cling to the past won’t.
We’re at the start of the elbow curve for the internet. It’s been growing in power slowly, but the next decade it is going to skyrocket in influence, especially once VR becomes commonplace.
In 20 years… there may not be a tyrant left standing.
First, the false form of capitalism practiced by the corporate system is dying. It is suffering its death throes right now as we speak, and is desperately doing everything it can to latch a stranglehold onto a lifeline of government bailouts. The era of big corporations is coming rapidly to a close. Either they will be shoved out of the government feeding trough and die normally, or they will bankrupt the government and collapse with it. Either way, corrupt crony capitalism is doomed. The only question is how many years it will take (not decades) and how many people they make suffer and die along with them.
And for those of you thinking that Corporations will never allow this, you have to understand that Corporations will quite happily do themselves in.
The first company to develop cheap robot labor forces will use it. They will quite happily spend billions to put it to work for them, because it will give them a HUGE advantage over their competition.
At which point every company has to do it, or perish.
Shortly thereafter, when all companies have the tech, prices will plummet, because each company will be fighting to sell more products than the others. Due to fast robotic production, fast development times, and the pressure to constantly stay ahead of competition, smaller and smaller lots will become normal, customization will dominate, and R&D and design will become the primary function of the companies. Additionally, since “customers” and “workers” are one and the same thing, as they reduce their human workforce, they will reduce the number of people who can afford to “buy” at higher profit margins.
Eventually one company will figure out that it’s too expensive to maintain manufacturing facilities when they can put desktop units in every home and simply concentrate on design and R&D sold online to customers who can “print” it out at home. Due to the fact that a home unit could easily build all the parts for another home unit, there’s very little profit to be made “selling” the printers, but lots of money to be made in “branded” designs.
But as individuals begin building a database of “open source” designs, even professional designs will begin to have to be charged less and less for.
And this applies not only to manufacturing, but almost every business you can think of.
Cheap robot labor is inevitable. And once it is available, it WILL dominate the business world, because it’ll be the only way to continue to profit… and that very fact will drive the final nails in crony capitalism.
Groups can fight, try to suppress, and ban and outlaw, and all that will occur is the one company which embraces the new technology will begin looking at the rest as lunch.
It’s a dog eat dog world after all.
As for how soon… well if you are a roboticist, you might find this interesting: ( http://nextbigfuture.com/2009/11/fujitsu-labs-can-form-graphene.html )
To summarize. Graphene directly used in modern chip making processes as a replacement for copper. Orders of magnitude greater conductivity, lower resistance heating, and uses the same technology as currently used to make silicon chips.
Which means the GHz wars are about to start again, with multicore technology.
We are likely to see a leap of an order of magnitude in processing power with 6-10 ghz multicore chips running cooler than current chips on less power, and all in the space of just a few more years. By 2013 or 2014, we just might have enough computing power to run those cheap labor bots.
Cheap labor cannot be any cheaper than that provided by robots.
The sole reason that robots have not already replaced humans at many jobs is that they are not intelligent enough to do many of the tasks which humans do. That is changing. We are constantly creating software in which human knowledge is reduced into a series of tasks, all working together. These programs take certain kinds of human knowledge, and make it available to anyone. 30 years ago someone needed extremely good knowledge of the rules of the English language to be an editor. Word now will correct your spelling and grammar as you type. Many of the skills and abilities used in day to day work are all rules based, and therefore able to be done via software of sufficient complexity.
Manufacturing works on the basis that you have to pay people to do the labor. But a robot intelligent enough to cope with the rules needed to cope with nearly any manufacturing job is going to be available soon. It will not only be able to do the job, but will most certainly be designed to do it faster than a human can.
So say the first robot costs the same as the annual salary, benefits, taxes and whatever other expenses exist for 1 single human worker. Downtime, repairs, and daily maintenance is equal to the time spent in breaks, lunches, bathroom breaks, and sick time over the course of the year.
Consider it a 1 to 1 identical cost.
That robot doesn’t tire. It doesn’t suffer mental fatigue, it doesn’t get distracted. It also doesn’t need sleep.
By year’s end, working all three shifts, minus maintenance, repairs, and unforeseen events, that robot has done the job of three people for the cost of one.
In other words, it paid for itself, and two more just like it. Next year, since it’s already paid for, it will pay for three more identical units. Meanwhile, those other two units will have also paid for three other units. Thats nine units by the end of the year, doing the work of 27 people.
Simple math. If the job cost’s can be reduced to 1/3rd, then that equals 2/3′s more profit. 2/3rds more profit than your competitors means you can reduce your products price by 1/3, still make what your competitor does, and totally undercut his product, ensuring that your company makes even more profit than it did originally. You will continue to rake in profits until your competitor also buys robots and can compete with your price.
So, follow this to its ultimate end, you have a society in which material wealth is meaningless. A society where a ton of gold holds no more value than a modern copper penny, if that.
But that is not to say that there will be nothing of value. But that will be in the form of data, not material goods. The “Poor” of the future will be those who have nothing of value datawise, but who will still be able to live without hunger, disease, or lack of any material luxury they may wish.
In the words of Micheal Douglas in “Wall Street”, “Greed is Good”. And I have every belief that corporations will do anything to game the system. I depend on it actually. As an American Citizen I am quite well aware of exactly how hard they are willing to play to make a profit. That’s why I’m not really worried about the economy. Companies are still reaping the vast wealth of cannibalizing each other, but that well is tapped out, so it will be on to the next victim. Very soon I expect prices for many things to actually start falling in order to maximize how much money can be leeched out of America’s pockets. Probably sooner I expect to see some new companies releasing the “next big thing” and needing workers. The big companies might not have realized it before, but they’re not going to be able to simply pull up and leave, because if one major economy falls, the whole ball of wax might collapse. The world is just too small these days for them to escape the mess if they don’t begin taking their own steps to improve the economy.
There will be turmoil, Chaos, and far more human misery than I could wish, but I don’t believe in doomsday, nor do I believe the human race will allow itself to go extinct. I most especially do not see the predators on the human race allowing their food source to perish, though that food source will change from material wealth to intellectual wealth. Call me a cynic if you want, call me an optimist, whatever, but I have a deep and abiding faith in the self serving nature of corporate greed, and it’s ability to adapt and profit.
And provide humanity with unlimited material wealth.
And no, it’s not because I believe humanity will suddenly turn altruistic, because most people don’t realize altruism is as based on selfishness as most other human impulses, my friend. You give not because it helps someone, but because YOU feel better for it. You give to satisfy your own personal needs.
The same with value of intellectual wealth. You have a great idea! Fantastic! It will CHANGE THE WORLD!!!
But it can only do that if you SHARE it with the world.
A mountain of gold is utterly without value if there is no-one to exchange it with for other things.
Wealth only exists in a collective.
You have to understand that the human animal is at heart and genetics, an ANIMAL. We are ruled by Alpha Dominance pack instincts, which is both the biggest danger we face, and in a perverse sense, our biggest advantage next to our intelligence.
Accumulation of wealth is part of that instinct. Greed = Control of more resources = Proof of Dominance = superior breeding material = greater chances of sex = more opportunities to pass on genes.
To be honest, almost everything we do when broken down to its most basic level is about sex. Reproduction is the ONLY thing our genes give a damn about. Wealth, fame, glory, all of the things we humans struggle and fight for, these are all things which arose because our genes wanted to increase our chances of passing them on.
That will not cease. We will still be driven to accumulate wealth to prove our superiority over other potential mates. Wealth will still exist. It is the NATURE of that wealth which will change.
The rich will be those who lead the pack which contributes most to producing knowledge, the Heads of the R&D departments whose designs are downloaded most and copied most often. The CEO’s of the most bleeding edge research firms. The genius who’s gathered a pack of geniuses doing the next big thing.
Today, these people work for money. Many of them do it because they love what they do so much they don’t give a damn about the money. They are unlikely to stop simply because money no longer means anything. That Social Status will continue to reward them once everything money could buy is free.
There will indeed be those who don’t give a damn about contributing, but will only consume. They exist today as well, and in every age they serve a purpose. But in a world where people can live for centuries, are free to educate themselves in whatever they are interested in, and pursue any goal they chose without a worry about failure, then many people will chose to contribute to earn those social “brownie points” and social rewards.
Everything we do is about survival, and social standing. The economy of abundance will eliminate the need to struggle for survival. VR, Cybernetics, Gene engineering, and many other technologies will make us all look however we wish, leveling the social playing field.
It will not however make us not be Alpha Dominant pack animals, unless we CHOOSE to stop being them. Since doing so more or less means eliminating our sex drive, I seriously doubt we will choose to do so. We will reign it in, most assuredly, by rigidly controlling our ability to conceive, which will essentially free sex from procreation to the point that I’m fairly sure we’ll have about as many taboos about sex as the ancient greeks and romans… which is to say none at all.
But we will still seek the social rewards of approval from our peers, acknowledgement from non-peers, and even such status symbols as fame or stardom.
Not because of any material reward, but because it will provide those social awards we crave.
Additionally, an enormous part of the darker side of human nature is due to scarcity. We do bad things to get for ourselves things we think we cannot get any other way. Unlimited material wealth is going to eliminate many of the causes of human misery, but it’s not going to change people.
But there are other technologies we will use that will mitigate those as well.
However fully covering those will take far more space than I think I can get away with, so I’ll just leave it at this: We face a future in which almost anything is possible. Every path that does not lead to destruction leads inevitably to this future. Every non terminating path goes to the Singularity.
The ONLY choice we have is how many bodies we are going to pave the road with to get there.
Right now, there are an awful lot of corpses ahead of us.
If you are really concerned about the future, work for it now. Vote whenever you can. Educate yourself in the political issues; pressure your congressman to work towards reform for the people, not corporations. And if he doesn’t listen, vote him out for someone who will.
The Singularity is going to come either way. We’re too far past the event horizon to go anywhere else except oblivion. I don’t care what political affiliation you are. If you truly want to make a difference in how many bodies pave that road, you can.
Otherwise words about love and compassion are only empty phrases.
The Singularity isn’t a savior. It’s simply a point in time in which our ability to predict the future reaches a blank wall because we simply cannot envision what a superhuman intellect could do.
The fact is, we may not even realize it is happening until long after it has passed.
It’s the steps along the way towards the Singularity which are truly inevitable. Only the exact order and timeframes are in doubt.
But until then, working to minimize the body count is the best way to proceed. I don’t care what your political affiliation is, working to save lives is possible. Work to push political agendas which enhance the quality of life for EVERYONE, not just the “Elites” or the “Middle Class” or the “Poor”, nor even for Americans or Chinese, or Somalians, but for everyone who lives on this planet. Support research into technologies which save lives, not those that take them. Vote for whichever policies you feel will save the most lives for the smallest cost, or which will provide the most good for the greatest number. We are all human after all, even the richest and the poorest of us.
Above all, keep an open mind. Examine ideas individually instead of simply allowing entire groups of them to be handed to you as lumps. Educate yourself in whatever subjects interest you, and continue to educate yourself as time passes and things change. Above all, learn to think for yourself instead of letting yourself be controlled by ideologies, other’s expectations, or preconceived stereotypes. Don’t simply take someone’s word for anything without educating yourself on the subject as well. Even authorities in their fields are not gods who’s words should never be questioned. They are as prone to rigid thought and fallacies as anyone else. The more you educate yourself, the more likely it is you will find your own way to help minimize the body count and improve our world without the Singularity.
In many ways, that’s the saddest thing I see about our world today. We could make this world a paradise without ever having a singularity… we simply can’t be bothered while we wait for a savior.
The singularity can occur even if the entire human race dies if you go with the AI version, in fact there are some AI proponents who seem to believe that humanity should be utterly expendable in favor of our AI children. I don’t agree, but I can see no path that does not proceed over the bodies of the dead, simply because we do not yet have life extension technology enough to overcome death. I am sad to say I see it likely that the world will get more dangerous before it becomes safer, because too many radical elements are gaining ever greater power with no effective means to nullify them. I do not believe in doomsday scenarios, but transitional times are always chaotic, because those who want the old ways to remain will inevitably fight against those who are willing to accept the new. It has happened every single time we have had a Singularity event in our entire history, so I have no illusions it can be avoided now. We are already experiencing the first signs of that turmoil now. It will only get worse for awhile, but it will eventually improve. The next two to three decades are likely to see some of the most violent changes occur to our entire world as old systems collapse and new systems are constructed.
But Humans adapt. We acclimatize. We get used to things. We bitch and moan and complain to high heavens, we lash out and fear and hate, but in the end, we move on. We’ve walked the razorblade between paradise and oblivion our entire history, and will likely walk it for all eternity.
Maybe the Singularity is just going to give us pair of shoes so we won’t bleed so much doing it.