Quora – AI and work

Will artificial intelligence ever replace the need for humans to work?

In what sense?

Humans need to work in the sense of doing something meaningful with some significant fraction of their time.

Work in the sense of having to do something in order to gain sufficient resources for living – that is not necessary. The only reason we have that now is a sort of social and mental inertia. We already have the machinery and systems to allow us to deliver every person on the planet all the resources they need to do whatever they responsibly choose, with only about 2% of the population needing to put a significant portion of their time into making it happen. But few have seriously looked at the systems we have, and their consequences; and fewer still have seriously explored what responsibility looks like in such a context.

When most things were genuinely scarce, having things to exchange made sense. Now that most manufacturing is close to fully automated, it makes no sense at all, except in the sense of maintaining existing systems.

This is a seriously complex issue.

There are many things that our existing systems do that few people have even begun to consider. So it is not a simple matter of just stopping existing systems. It is much deeper, more complex, and more nuanced than that, and it is something that needs doing.

We need to change from scarcity based thinking to abundance based thinking, and we need to do so in a way that is survivable, and avoids all the many dangers present.

So the answer is both yes and no, in different senses.

Being human is in part making choices in life that have meaning for us as individuals. For most people throughout history that meaning has come from various sets of default stories delivered by culture – whether they be about service to some idea (belief, religion, ideal, culture, etc), to some group (family, tribe, company, club, town, nation, etc) or any combination thereof. It is possible for us each as individuals to make a conscious choice of purpose and meaning, and as yet very few are doing so at higher levels.

It can be difficult teaching people to rely on their own choices when most cultures and traditions have taught radical obedience to some set of standards (ideals, lore, laws, traditions, etc) without question. It can be a difficult and unsettling process reaching a personal balance between a deep respect for the lessons from our past, and an active exploration of the possibilities contained in potential futures. The world seems to be sufficiently complex that there is room for eternal uncertainty in that process. Not all possibilities are survivable, and with a reasonable degree of cooperation, care and support, most are. The likelihood of long term survival in competitive environments is very low. Both us, and the environment in which we exist are sufficiently complex and uncertain that the only approach with realistic long term survival probabilities are fundamentally cooperative (with some competitive aspects within those cooperative boundaries).

It can be difficult for individuals to realise that their experiential reality is a subconsciously generated model of whatever “reality” actually is. Most think experience is reality, and in the subjective sense it is; but not in the objective sense. Reality seems to be sufficiently complex that we must all make our models of it at some resolution which is necessarily much simpler that the complexity present. Appreciating that can be difficult – for all of us, every level, however many levels we may have achieved.

When dealing with complex systems, no set of rules can be appropriate in all cases. Complexity demands an iterative approach: probe, sense, respond, repeat – all levels.

All levels of structure require boundaries, and the more complex the structure, the more complex and responsive and adaptive those boundaries need to be.

Exploratory behaviour is essential to our survival, as is conservation of the lessons from the past – both are essential, neither can dominate the other.

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 www.tedhowardnz.com/money
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