[ExI] Economics 2

Lee Corbin lcorbin at rawbw.com
Thu Apr 24 04:18:53 UTC 2008

Ben writes

> Here's a concept from a work of fiction (Stross' Accelerando), that gave
> me the willies: Economics 2. The idea is that a Singularity almost
> inevitably leads to a super-efficient economic system that leaves no
> room for the kinds of mental activities that we value so much, like
> enjoying life, fun-having, etc. In fact, it's so efficient that it
> basically squeezes out all trace of consciousness.
> Is that likely to be one of the serious problems that we face? If it's
> even the tiniest bit likely, how could we avoid it?

It is a serious problem indeed. But it's part of a much more
general problem, namely, just what room will there be for
humans or human feelings in a world dominated by vastly
superior creatures (who, I'll wager, have an inexhaustible
demand for more resources)? 

On this dimension, Stross's "Economics 2" is like a singularity
in slow motion.

Let's take several cases:

1. The ruling AIs observe property rights and so people get
    to own at least the body atoms that made them up at
    the point the big S hits

In this case, the wiser people will upload and use their
resources (possibly even extra-bodily resources that
they got to keep) to evolve themselves into vastly more
intelligent entities. Again, as wise people, I claim, they'll
always provide earlier versions of themselves with at
least some runtime, at least  because they fear that they
too will be supplanted. But your problem now becomes,
"will the advanced copies of us retain 'fun' and 'enjoyment',
or will competition force them to abandon these as luxuries?
(Me, I'll let Lee+ decide that for himself, being quite happy
if Lee 2000, Lee 2005, etc., all get some runtime.)

2. The ruling AIs get rid of lower life forms with the same
    alacrity that we clean our bathrooms.

In this case, it all depends on just how competitive their
situation truly is. Again, will any (who possibly evolved
with 'pleasure', 'fun', 'entertainment' and so on) manage
to carry on?  Or will they find themselves on a path to
extinction at the hands of their more advanced competitors,
who, again, might dispose of them tout suite?
It would be a good idea here to deploy the space dimension
in addition to the time dimension, as Vernor Vinge did so
astoundingly well in "Fire Upon The Deep". We imagine
the inferior creatures sending present, relatively fixed, copies
of themselves away from Sol at nearly the speed of light in
order to escape the holocaust.

So in an image inverted from Vinge's, the "depths" this time
we have the "thinking depths" that one must always flee directly
away from (i.e., get out of the galaxy) as soon as your copies
can manage. And it is these folk that we can identify with, and
for whom we can wish the best. 


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