Autistic cyborgs

Elon Musk is known for so many things it’s hard to say exactly what he is, but he is most known for being the founder and CEO of SpaceX and co-founder, CEO and product architect of Tesla. In addition to that he is almost an entertainment system. I find his speculations about the future fascinating, especially when he talks about AI and space exploration. We already have enough indications to suggest that AI really is the future, and not a very distant one, or an opinion a few pessimistic people have.

McKensey & Company has analyzed 2000 + work operations for more than 800 occupations and they concluded that the present technology can automate 45 percent of the activities that people are currently being paid to perform, and 60 percent of all professions may find that at least 30 percent of their constituent activities can be automated using the technology that already exists. This doesn’t sound completely dystopian because we won’t see a labour market without people, but considering the fact that machines will only become more and more advanced, this certainly has the potential to change everything.

Elon Musk spoke at the World Government Summit in Dubai a few weeks ago. I have liked many of his previous ideas, but I am not sure I care much for his latest. He thinks we have to become cyborgs to make sure that we are relevant in a future that will be dominated by AI, but of course he represents an industry that would love to have workers that could work harder and longer than humans. There are already researchers working on changing our brains. I read about scientists at MIT a couple of years that had succeeded in planting a false memory in a mouse’s mind. Scientists see the positive side of course, but everything has a dark side. We are probably going to see advanced cyborg-like prostheses long before we see people with upgraded brains, but Elon Musk is probably correct in his supposition that boredom will be the first major challenge.

I have written about basic income several times. I initially supported the idea, bus it can also make us more dependant. I am not sure I want to depend on help from a government that is more interested in helping big corporations than people. Consider this statement from the 1975 report The Crisis of Democracy:

The effective operation of a democratic political system usually requires some measure of apathy and non-involvement on the part of some individuals and groups.

Elon Musk suggested basic income as a defense against boredom, but it could also be a tool to pacify the opposition. Bill Gates said in an interview recently that the robots that steal your job should pay taxes. It sounds unlikely, unless the law give machines human status, but it could finance basic income. I think it would work for a while, but sooner or later we would have a rat in a cage-scenario, or something like the world Isaac Asimov described in The Caves of Steel. It doesn’t look like Bill Gates really believe it will happen either:

A report from the Obama administration suggested three strategies. It’s about preparing for an AI future, so it’s not a question about whether or not we want it. The suggestions seems very vague to me, and as I understand the report they suggest more monotonous work in cooperation with machines, while there will be less need for education. It’s impossible to say what and when it will happen, but I think we can expect a new type of labour market in the future. Democracy is a threat to any government and they all aim to reduce it to different degrees. What worries me the most is that big, international corporations will get more political influence than they already have. That has always been the case in a country like the USA, but it is relatively new in Scandinavia.

This was a part of a post I published on my Norwegian blog, but I decided to publish the more personal part of it as a separate post. That explains the headline and why I didn’t mention autism in the text, but you can imagine what I think about a future with harder competition. During times like that there is a chance many won’t embrace neurodiversity the way they do today.

Where machines could replace humans – and where they can’t (yet)

Artificial Intelligence, Automation and the Economy

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