[extropy-chat] Citizen Cyborg on If Uploads Come First

Robin Hanson rhanson at gmu.edu
Fri Mar 31 16:37:50 UTC 2006

James, you are acting more like a politician than a scholar here.  I 
tried to focus attention on how the specific words of your summary 
differ from the specific words of my paper that you purport to 
summarize, but you insist on trying to distill a general gestalt from 
my writings, based on a simple one-dimensional redistribution-based 
political axis.   Apparently in your mind this axis consists of good 
people on the left who support redistribution, employment, and high 
wages in the service of equality, and evil people on the right who 
seek inequality, unemployment, and low wages in the service of social 
Darwinism.   Since I predict that the technology of uploads will lead 
to unemployment for humans and low wages and Darwinian selection for 
uploads, and I only mention and endorse one possible redistribution, 
apparently not enthusiastically enough for you, I must be one of the 
evil people.   Come on!

With cheap uploads there is pretty much no way to escape 
"unemployment" for most humans.  That is, while you could give people 
make-work jobs, and/or pay them lots more than the value of their 
work, the truth is that for most people the value of their labor to 
others would be little, and if that were all they were paid they 
would not work.   Also, unless we are willing to impose population 
controls on uploads far more Draconian than those in China today, we 
could not escape uploads getting low wages and undergoing Darwinian 
selection.   The only way to induce upload wages far above the cost 
of creating uploads would be to prevent the vast majority of uploads 
from existing at all.   And the only way to avoid Darwinian selection 
among uploads would be to in addition severely limit the number of 
copies made of individual uploads.   These are not statements of 
advocacy; they are just the hard facts one would have to deal with 
under this scenario.  So are you criticizing me for not endorsing 
Draconian upload population control?

I repeat again the conclusion of my last message:
>while he favors "redistribution," it is not at all clear to me who 
>he wants to take from, and who to give to under the scenario I 
>describe.   After all, given the three distinctions of human/upload, 
>rich/poor, and few/many-copied, there are eight possible classes to consider.

To elaborate, the key reason I hesitate to more strongly endorse 
redistribution is that it is not clear who are really the "deserving 
poor" to be aided in this scenario.   In dollar terms the poorest 
would be the uploads who might be prevented from existing.  If one 
only considers the per-capita wealth of existing creatures, the 
poorest would be the many copies of those "who value life even when 
life is hard."   But these would be the richest uploads in clan 
terms, in that such clans would have the most copies; counting by 
upload clans identifies a different poor.   Humans would have far 
larger per-capita income, but many be poorer if we talk in terms of 
income relative to their subsistence level, since the subsistence 
level for uploads would be far lower than that of humans.   Should 
their not taking advantage of the option to convert from human to 
upload be held against the "poor" humans?   Finally, a few humans 
will have rare abilities to make substantial wages; does that make 
them "rich" even if they do not own much other wealth?   If you are 
going to criticize me for not explicitly supporting the 
redistribution you favor, I think you should say more precisely who 
you would take from and who you would give to.

Now for a few more detailed responses:
>If Singularitarianism wants to paint a truly attractive future, and 
>not one that simply fans the flames of Luddism, then it has to put 
>equality and social security in the foreground and not as a 
>dismissive afterthought.

My purpose is *not* to paint a truly attractive future, my purpose is 
to paint as realistic a picture as possible, whatever that may be.

>... in Oxford with you ...  When a member of the audience asked, as 
>I have in the past, whether we might not want to use some kind of 
>political method to prevent general unemployment and wealth
>concentration in this Singularitarian scenario

This did not happen.  One person asked "what does your economic model 
predict people will do" in response to improving robots, but he said 
nothing specifically about politics, employment, or wealth concentration.

>your response was, as it has been in the past and was in that paper, 
>that no one will want to prevent this coming to pass

I never said that no one would try to stop uploads.

>I'll say again: I think the scenario is a scary one, in ways that 
>you don't appear to recognize, ... although I do own stocks in 
>mutual funds today, and those stocks might benefit from a 
>Singularitarian economic
>boom, I still feel like my world and my future is being determined 
>by unaccountable elites who control my political institutions, 
>elites quite content to see vast numbers of people immiserated as 
>inequality grows.

I am well aware that the scenario I describe is scary, and also that 
many people do not trust political elites to act in  their 
interest.  I do not argue that people should trust political elites.

>"As wages dropped, upload population growth would be highly 
>selective, selecting capable people willing to work for low wages." 
>Doesn't that imply that humans would be unemployed, most uploads 
>working for upload-subsistence, and some very few uploads will be 
>raking in the big bucks? Or is the scenario one of truly universal 
>and equal poverty among all the uploads, with no wealthy owners of 
>capital anymore in the equation?

My scenario is consistent with both high and low concentration of 
ownership of capital, and with high or low inequality of wages among 
uploads.   I make no prediction about there being a few very rich uploads.

>Moravec, in Robot, argues for a universalization of Social Security 
>as a response to human structural
>unemployment caused by robot proliferation. ...  since this would 
>require state intervention I suspect you don't favor such a 
>proposal,  ... You don't really endorse redistributive, Social 
>Security or regulatory policies in the essay, but rather argue 
>against them, and you didn't even mention them at Oxford,
>and clearly consider them suboptimal, counter-productive concessions 
>to Luddites.  ...  Which pretty clearly implies that you only 
>grudgingly accept Social Security and redistributive taxes on 
>uploaded wealth accumulators as a concession to political unrest, 
>and not as an obvious and essential step
>in maintaining an egalitarian polity.

You keep jumping to conclusions.   Just because I take no position 
does not mean I am against your position.

Robin Hanson  rhanson at gmu.edu  http://hanson.gmu.edu
Associate Professor of Economics, George Mason University
MSN 1D3, Carow Hall, Fairfax VA 22030-4444
703-993-2326  FAX: 703-993-2323

Robin Hanson  rhanson at gmu.edu  http://hanson.gmu.edu
Associate Professor of Economics, George Mason University
MSN 1D3, Carow Hall, Fairfax VA 22030-4444
703-993-2326  FAX: 703-993-2323 

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