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The Inevitability of Socialism
The Driving Factor Will Be Artificial Intelligence.  Resistance Will Be Futile.
 
By Perry Hicks- Special to GulfCoastNews.com   9/22/14
 
“AI may transform our economy to bring great wealth and great dislocation... the short term impact of AI depends on who controls it, the long term impact depends on whether it can be controlled at all”- Stephan Hawking in “The Independent,” May 1, 2014

HBO's “Last Week Tonight's” host, John Oliver once asked celeb physicist Stephen Hawking why he shouldn't be excited at the prospect of fighting a robot?  Hawking dryly replied, “You would lose.”
 
Had not Oliver seen any film from Arnold Shwarzenegger's sci-fi franchise, “The Terminator?”  In that series, humans are hunted by intelligent robots from the future who not only have superior mechanical strength, stamina, and speed, but also sufficient artificial intelligence to drive them relentlessly toward completing their mission at any cost.


That is science fiction involving killer robots- weapons that the world's leading military powers are currently developing.  However, what would be the outcome if robots were applied to more mundane peacetime pursuits such as driving trucks, operating warehouses, and even flipping hamburgers?
 
Answer: Economic dislocation and human idleness never witnessed before on such a massive scale.
 
Fine, you say.  Leave the heavy lifting and cooking to machines.  Who wants to do those things, anyway?  We (meaning humans) will be free to pursue intellectual and creative tasks.
 
All nine, ten, or even eleven billion people that will soon populate the planet?  Really?
 
Wages and Productivity Issues Driving Automation
 
On September 4, 2014, fast food workers staged a nationwide strike demanding wages be raised from $7.25 and hour to $15.00.  The strikes were organized by “Fast Food Forward,” funded by the union SEIU (Service Employees International Union.)  To no one's surprise, Fast Food Forward additionally demands that workers have the right to form or otherwise join unions.
The striker's demands for a 106 percent increase in wages does not spell well for job security.  A company named “Momentum Machines” has a “robot” that not only can cook hamburgers, but assemble finished, custom made, sandwiches at the rate of 360 per hour, or one sandwich every 10 seconds.
 
Stephen Hawking's warning about fighting robots might be applied here to peaceful pursuits: Try to directly compete against restaurant automata and you will lose.
 
Fast food workers may very well get a substantial pay increase, but at the expense of far fewer employment opportunities.
 
With just such a “burger flipping machine” orders would best be entered and paid for at server kiosks that would be directly connected to the automated food preparation machines, and delivered by server robots. What little human attention required would be to clean and service the machines.
 
Other Labor Jobs in Jeopardy
 
Fast food is hardly the only industry facing automation.  Mercedes Benz has demonstrated a self-driving “Future” truck.  Mercedes claims the trucks could be commercially available by 2025- barely 11 years from now.
 
With no driving time restrictions, no need to eat, drink, or take restroom breaks, automated trucks could travel the highways 24/7, performing each driving task with machine precision.
 
The trucks could then arrive at specially configured terminals where material handling robots would tirelessly unload the cargo, and precisely store it in designated bins.  As orders arrive via the internet, those stored products can then be picked and transported to the shipping point where it will be boxed, labeled, and reloaded onto various carrier trucks for delivery.
 
The above scenario isn't in the distant future, it is already becoming reality.  Amazon has its own automation subsidiary, KIVA Systems,  busy with automating its material handling operations.
 
China's low cost labor is not immune from being automated, either.  Chinese factories are steadily being automated with a “robot industrial park” is being constructed that will create and ship sixty billion yuan worth of products annually.
 
Agricultural automation is accelerating. Decades ago, tractors and harvesters made farming with fewer workers a possibility. This automation arrived just as impoverished rural workers migrated to the industrial cities.  The same technology that makes self-driving trucks possible, now makes self-driving farm machinery possible.
 
A good example would be fertilizer and insecticide application.  Instead of uniform application of nutrients and insecticides over the entire field, self-driving farm equipment would be able to deliver precise amounts based on soil variance and perhaps even observation.  The benefit is higher crop yield with far less applicant waste.
 
These benefits are hardly limited to conventional farms, hot-house operations and dairy farms will benefit, too.
 
South Korea is moving to be a world leader in robotics, just as it has with smart phones, wide screen televisions, and high-speed broadband networks.  The South Korean Ministry of Trade, Industry, and Energy is working to create 600 robotics companies employing 34,000 workers.
 
Samsung has developed a military robot, the SGR-A1, capable of detecting enemy targets via infrared and motion detection sensors.  The SGR-A1 is armed with both machine guns and grenade launchers.  Its intended purpose is to help guard the Demilitarized Zone separating South Korea from the hostile communist nation of North Korea.
 
Owing to its falling birth rates, and subsequent aging population, Japan has long been developing experimental humanoid and animaloid robots.  Now it is moving into medical applications for cyborg devices.
 
Implication of Massive Worker Displacement
 
The global market for robotics in 2012 was $20.6 billion and growing rapidly.  The implication for future mass automation is who will be employed and in what numbers sufficiently prosperous to purchase these automata produced products?  What will the displaced workers do for gainful employment?  Fall back on the government for subsistence?  Even now, workers in many industries must rely on government subsidies  in order to provide food and shelter for their families.
 
Currently, there are 92,269,000 Americans “not participating” in the work force out of a total of 159, 959,000 who did participate with 9,591,000 of that number considered unemployed.  That calculates to 101,860,000 people are having to be supported by 146,368,000 workers who are employed!
 
No wonder that the middle class is being crushed and only the top ten percent of Americans have seen income gains under President Obama.  However, taxing the rich will hardly provide the needed revenue streams to provide adequate public assistance to those displaced by automation.  Indeed, it is taxes, mandated benefits, and other productivity factors that in great part driving the move to automation.
 
We have already witnessed how many business, and even government, have intentionally limited the hours their employees may work in order to avoid the costs of ObamaCare.  This must lead us to beg, where will the revenue come from to provide food, shelter, and medical care to massive numbers of displaced workers?  Will it require that automation be outlawed?
 
The specter of these questions become Malthusian.  Obviously, the trend toward under and unemployment is not sustainable.  Add in the factor of artificial intelligence, AI, implemented by what Hawking described as at the particle level, and virtually no job would be safe from automation, including the machines' designers.  The population question then becomes not how many can be sustained by earth's natural resources, but how many idle people can a society afford?
 
If Capitalism is viewed as increasingly unable to meet the majority of people's most basic needs, then what model might?  Communism?  It has already proven to be a failure (although Trotskyists would argue that Communism could never survive adjacent to Capitalism; that the failure to wage world-wide revolution doomed Marxism to failure.)
 
The Alternative: Technocopian Socialism?
 
The answer some would say is Technocopian Socialism, otherwise known as the “Maker Movement.”  The “socialism,” branding is a bit of a misnomer.
 
Both capitalists and socialists claim each others economic model is rooted in dependence.  With socialism, it is individuals (in socialist parlance, the hapless masses)  that should be dependent on the state.  With capitalism, it is the individual who is made dependent on the largess of corporations.
 
The Maker Movement is both an alternative and yet melding of both economic philosophies.  While individuals could toil alone to create new products or innovations, so can groups, large or small, collaborate on much larger projects, such as we have seen with web browsers and even computer operating systems.  (Many computer users are amazed to discover that there are more systems available to run on their personal computer than just Windows and Mac.)
 
The name “Technocopian” suggests the movement's core beliefs; that innovation and technology will bring society a literal cornucopia of benefits.  One would be the freeing of individuals from employment dependence.
 
While the Maker Movement is biased toward technology, be it all new or innovative applications of existing technology, arts and crafts are not left out either.  There is an increasing growth of “cottage” or garage industries in America.  Indeed, today's most successful personal computer companies were literally started by what would be termed today, “makers.”  Both Microsoft and Apple should come to mind.  The spark that ignited development of both companies was the Altair 8800 computer, itself the product of what would be today called Makers.
 
The Maker Movement harkens back to the early days of industrialization when inventors created innovative new products that filled the needs of a pioneering America.  After proving demand, product designers often had to raise capital in order to build the factories necessary for large scale production.
 
The products created by inventors over a 100 year span have literally made 21st Century civilization possible.  Beginning with the cotton gin, expanding to steam engines, steam carriages, telegraph, radio, automobiles, and even aircraft, all were birthed by massive corporations, but what some would now call Makers.
 
Raising capital has also undergone a kind of rebirth with “Crowd Sourcing.”  Instead of appealing to skeptical bank officers, or the legal complexities of raising funds through a stock market, Makers can turn to other Makers via the internet.
 
As the Maker Movement can be likened to golden age of invention from the 1800s,  Crowd Sourcing itself is not exactly a new concept.  It can be compared to a kind of subscription based fund raising system from the 1600s, called praenumeration.
 
The path away from the destructive progression of both globalization and liberty usurping traditional socialism may well be in part with Technocopian Socialism.  Each individual will be expected to rely on themselves to maintain gainful employment, with the few who understandably can't being supported by the rest.
 
The success of Technocpianism will depend on the innovation of still other social Makers, themselves.  At least, that is the hope.

Additional Information:

 

About the Author.....

 

Perry Hicks is the senior writer and Washington correspondent for GCN. He is a former Mississippi Coast resident and was a correspondent for the old Gulfport Star Journal. He has appeared on Fox News Channel. Perry has also hosted his own radio talk show on the auto industry with a mix of politics. Perry is a frequent contributor to GCN writing on stories of national importance with local interests. His articles can be found in the GCN Archive.

 

Contact the Author: bsalightning650@live.com



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