Peter Joseph – 3 questions

Kurzweil AI – Three Questions: What do you propose? by Peter Joseph

The Three Questions:

1) Given the market economy requires consumption in order to maintain demand for human employment and further economic growth as needed, is there a structural incentive to reduce resource use, biodiversity loss, the global pollution footprint and hence assist the ever-increasing need for improved ecological sustainability in the world today?

2) In an economic system where companies seek to limit their production costs (“cost efficiency”) in order to maximize profits and remain competitive against other producers, what structural incentive exists to keep human beings employed, in the wake of an emerging technological condition where the majority of jobs can now be done more cheaply and effectively by machine automation?

3) In an economic system which inherently generates class stratification and overall inequity, how can the effects of “Structural Violence” – a phenomenon noted by public health researchers to kill well over 18 million a year, generating a vast range of systemic detriments such as behavioral, emotional and physical disorders – be minimized or even removed as an effect?

The fundamental issue is:
Human beings value an abundance of certain life sustaining essentials.
Markets value any abundance at zero.

Once human beings develop technology to the point that technology is able to deliver an abundance of a substantial and growing range of goods and service (precisely where we are now), then the above two facts put market values directly in opposition to human values.

Markets are extremely powerful tools at allocating scarce resources.
Markets fail completely where abundance is involved, because markets are fundamentally founded in scarcity (unmet demand).

If you doubt that, just consider the human demand for oxygen, arguably the strongest demand that human beings have, yet because it is met, in abundance, oxygen (in the air) has no market value.

While it is true that evolution can be characterised as competition in action, it is also true that it is possible to characterise all major advances in the complexity of life as the emergence of new cooperative forms (stabilised by attendant strategies to prevent cheating).

It is possible to characterise automated production as a strategy to prevent cheating (as it removes the need to take anything from anyone else).

There is no shortage of matter – we have huge balls of it (planets, moons, asteroids). Just a few hundred feet of matter from the surface of the far side of the moon would allow us to build space habitats with a surface area equivalent to the earth.

There is no shortage of energy. The sun converts over 600 million tons of hydrogen to helium every second. That is roughly a kilogram of matter per person per second. To put that in context, the atomic bomb that destroyed Hiroshima converted about 0.6g of matter to energy, so the sun is producing about 1,000 Hiroshima bombs of energy per person per second – that is a rather radical abundance.

We could easily develop the technology to allow us access to these things, but not from within a system that values scarcity over abundance (market based thinking).

I make the clear assertion that market based (scarcity based) values are now the single greatest existential threat to humanity.

Humanity has the option to adopt abundance based thinking, and to move beyond scarcity to abundance, using automation as a tool to empower every individual to do whatever they responsibly choose (and responsibility in this sense means acknowledging the rights to life and liberty of every other self aware entity, and the needs of the biological ecosystems that we share this planet with and that support us all).

Universal Abundance cannot naturally emerge from the incentives of the a market alone.
Human beings can make the choice to move beyond market based values, to value all human life, and to develop technologies and systems that deliver abundance and freedom and security to everyone, and this will never come out of market incentives alone – it takes something else – a choice of a new set of values, a choice to see that our own personal long term self interest requires us to make some reasonable effort to care for everyone else. A choice to create a new level of cooperation.

About Ted Howard NZ

Seems like I might be a cancer survivor. Thinking about the systemic incentives within the world we find ourselves in, and how we might adjust them to provide an environment that supports everyone (no exceptions) - see
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3 Responses to Peter Joseph – 3 questions

  1. andrew says:

    I completely agree with everything in this response, except that Markets value abundance at zero. That sometimes may be the case, but not always. I live in San Francisco and there are people here who actually pay people to take their extra stuff. They pay for it, because Salvation Army would do it for free, but sometimes they take to long. As a result, the people that need the stuff taken right away actually pay. 1800gotjunk for example. In that case the value of abundance would be negative. Right?


    • Hi Andrew,

      Not quite, and close. In the case you cite, the thing that is not universally abundant is immediate recycling. There is a free recycling service but it has a time penalty. So people for whom that time penalty is important will pay some fraction of the value of that time.

      And the aspect of abundance being universal is also important in creating a zero market value.

      Current market systems actually usually function on the fact that some people have a local abundance and others have a scarcity, and there is a meeting of the two in the market place.
      And even in modern markets – time is often the key factor.


  2. andrew says:

    1. I think a carbon tax is the way to go. It is the best way to reduce use of non-sustainable resources and polluters that damage the ecology—and fosters development of clean renewable energy.
    2.Reduce work week so, where humans are needed (service industries primarily), more humans will be hired. To offset loss of income, the government should guarantee everyone a minimum income. The money for this would come from high taxes on high incomes (and what Bernie Sanders wanted to tax on Wall Street transactions) and low or no taxes on low incomes.
    3. #2 and healthcare and education for everyone, regardless of income. Currently, our country, alone of most developed countries, make health and education too expensive. Ironically, these are the two most important (in my mind) requisites for a vibrant, “healthy” society.


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