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Question About Welfare.


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Imagine that Strong AI has been invented and within a short period of time, only half the current workforce is needed to handle the exact same workload.


You are in a position to govern a nationwide response to this phenomenon.


Do you:


A) Have half the current workforce give up their jobs, and institute welfare programs to support the other half.




B) Have everyone work half as much.


A has as positives that you only have to train half as many people, and each worker has twice as much experience as the other model. However, some people are working full time to support people who don't work at all.


B is fair, but less efficient overall.

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If I’m in a position to dictate a nationwide response to this development – that is, the dictator or a high-ranking functionary of a totalitarian state – I should also be in a position to chose neither A nor B, but any option I decide.


So I’d go with a third option:

C) Have everybody continue earning similar wages working similar hours, but at different, government invented jobs. Let them labor inefficiently at making non-essential goods and providing non-essential services (eg: hand-crafted trinkets and circuses) which they can buy at artificially low, government-subsidized prices.


This is less a hypothetical option than a historical one. Automation – not involving AIs or in many cases even computers of any kind – have reduced the number of people employed by many industries (eg: agriculture) by far more than 50%. For example, in industrialized nations such as the US, the fraction of people working in agriculture has decreased from about 16% in 1945 to less than 2% in 2000, a reduction of nearly 90% (source: http://www.ers.usda.gov/publications/eib3/eib3.htm). The displaced part of this primary sector workforce did not become (A) unemployed, or (B) share jobs, but rather © moved to other economic/industrial sectors, primarily the tertiary (service) sector, which is now the largest and fastest growing sector in most industrialized countries.


The idea of strong AI automation taking the place of human laborers in interesting, as unlike the historic movement of workers from the primary and secondary (manufacturing) to tertiary (and, in some models, quaternary (information)) sector, AIs could take over the tertiary and quaternary sector, so humans might have to move back into the secondary or primary sectors (in more dramatic terms, “factory slaves/serfs of the machines”), or move into a new “quinary (creative) sector”. (see wikipedia article economic sector for background on these terms)


... However, some people are working full time to support people who don't work at all.

Here you voice a common description of the “welfare class” as “not working at all”. As someone who spent much of his life fairly immersed in this class (strictly speaking, in the Appalachian US where I spent much of my life, state welfare dependence is more of a culture, or tradition, than a class), I’d suggest that people who believe this get some firsthand experience with this culture. I know many long-term welfare (by welfare, I include not only US state programs such as WIC and long-term unemployment, but lifetime disability, the “DI” in OASDI) who worked much harder on a daily and yearly basis than I, many at fairly skilled (eg: mechanics) and even academically demanding “jobs”. The determining factor in being gainfully employed, IMHO, is not how hard you work, how well, or how difficult to acquire the skills of your job are, but how well paid you are for it.


Others I known are profoundly lazy, even by my techno-slacker standards. Among all but the most nepotistic and privileged, there’s IMHO a threshold level of laziness above which gainful unemployment is practically impossible. Some of my favorite people fall into this class. Some of my least favorite people do, too.

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Not necessarily a dictator, no. Mainly, because if your choice is right you should be able to persuade others to go along with it. Right now we are trying to figure out what that right choice is.


What is so arbitrary or inefficient about the primary/secondary sector people moving to service sector jobs? Those jobs weren't just invented to keep people working, they were invented to increase quality of life. Unlike trinkets, people actually wanted to buy the services produced by those people. Also the government didn't have to force it, it's just what happens in response to such an event in a free market economy.


Something similar would no doubt happen again in the case of Strong AI, but the thing to realize is that it only works up to a point. There are only so many ways for us to make our own lives better. But yeah, if this trend continued to a 99% decrease in needed human workforce, creativity would be the last valid work skill and entrepreneurship would be the last valid career. Probably wouldn't leave non-geniuses in to good of a position without a welfare system. But then, welfare would be cheap wouldn't it?


In a situation like this the rules change completely. Less human labor is required to produce the same amount of goods and services. This is a good thing not a bad thing, and should result in something like an equivalent increase in quality of life for residents. For the 50% example, cutting the work week in half to 20 hours a week for the same pay or something. However like I said before, that is inefficient training/experience wise.

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The free market system, also increases the cost of welfare, since it creates subjective demand for good and services which become percieved as socially necessary. For example, bottled water was a good free market demand induction that moved the herd. Once the herd percieved this as necessary, welfare may have to include this since advocates will think regular water is cruel.


If you brought someone from a poor culture, their subjective needs would be different. Most of their needs would be practical/objective and not subjective. Any water is good. That is cheaper.


The free market can't make money, when it introduces new good and service, unless it can create demand. In the ideal situation, once the demand is created it will take on a mind of its own. The herd begins to move until the momentum pulls everyone along. Even the cattle setting by the side munching on the grass can get swept up into the moving herd, until they too are walking for no particular objective reason, other than because the herd is starting to move. The welfare sense the herd fear and adds that too.

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