[ExI] Stability of Mutualist Societies in the Face of AI

Anders Sandberg anders at aleph.se
Tue Oct 22 21:21:22 UTC 2013

On 2013-10-22 20:53, Kelly Anderson wrote:
> On Mon, Oct 21, 2013 at 4:17 PM, Anders Sandberg <anders at aleph.se 
> <mailto:anders at aleph.se>> wrote:
>         A socialist would of course try to bring everybody into this
>         state through joint ownership of the means of production.
>         Anarchists hope that having a non-money economy will fix
>         things (which is an interesting claim - I am not entirely
>         convinced mutualist societies are stable in the face of AI).
> Anders, I love how in the middle of a flaming political war, you throw 
> in these little gems of plain old fashioned brilliance. I would love 
> to hear more about your ideas about the stability of mutualist 
> societies in the face of AI. What is it about AI that threatens 
> mutualist societies, and do you see that we have a mutualist society 
> today?

I'm using the term from the anarchist community. As Wikipedia puts it, 
"A society where each person might possess a means of production, either 
individually or collectively, with trade representing equivalent amounts 
of labor in the free market."

Now, straight mutualism is based on the labor theory of value, so it is 
just plain wrong. Even if one believes the theory, AI wrecks it: now 
things can be produced without labor, including labor-saving devices. 
But more relevantly, if AI can do stuff, why should I trade with you? 
Yes, you might have an AI, and I exchange some stuff I or my AI do for 
its products, but I am not really trading with *you*. If I had your AI I 
would just use it straight away. The whole trade idea goes away.

One answer is that in that case we have a post-scarcity economy and 
everything is fine. Except the usual problems with allocation: not 
everybody can have a beach-front villa in Malibu. But it seems that AI 
also threatens to unravel the threads of mutual dependency that likely 
hold an anarchist society together. It might not produce total autarchy 
(everybody can produce everything they need), yet make people so 
independent that the incentives to work together and hash out 
disagreements weaken.

Dr Anders Sandberg
Future of Humanity Institute
Oxford Martin School
Oxford University

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