October 13 2017

Below are this week's links only. To stay up to date, sign up for the email above.


// I thought Blade Runner 2049 was pretty wack. It was visually true to the original, but didn't break enough new ground in regards to the philosophy of computer science and replication. It does touch on issues of AI and class, but not deeply enough to satisfy. Replicants are considered second class citizens often referred to as "skin jobs." Besides the protagonist, the AIs we see strictly serve their masters, in labor, love, crime, or sex...much as Harrison Ford's dog towards movie's end. We see AIs shed tears, but it's hard to tell their designs and the implications for a discussion on computer ethics. It was also long with pretentious dialogue. If you disagree, email me...or just fight me.

// Pew Research Center just released a new study, "Automation in Everyday Life," which studies the attitudes of Americans towards technology. The results are an overlay of our current political bifurcation. Most Americans believe that technology will greatly disrupt labor (70%), but what to do about it depends on existing beliefs about the role of government. 51% believe it is the government's role to care for workers displaced by automation. Some free-marketers are swayed when the questions are posed in the form of policy prescriptions. 58% would support limits on the number of workers a company could displace and 60% would support a guaranteed income if robots replaced most workers. Also explored in the survey are attitudes towards hypothetical integrations of AI into society. I've always thought that the moment a human takes their hands of the wheel and let's the car drive itself for the first time was akin to first stepping foot on the moon (even though airplanes are mostly automated). It is a rubicon in which we lend our most precious asset (life) over to AI. What the survey reveals is that we are not ready. 87% of respondents want a human driver in their driverless cars.

// We can't consider employment at a macro scale without considering the scope of the current opioid epidemic. Fully, new research indicates that "opioid use by American men may account for one-fifth of the decline in their participation in the U.S. labor force." Further, "Krueger’s study linked county prescription rates to labor force data from the past 15 years, concluding that regional differences in prescription rates were due to variations in medical practices, not health conditions. In previous research, he found that nearly half of men in their prime worker ages not in the labor force take prescription painkillers daily." It will be a great challenge of the 21st century to create new meaning in a world where most are not needed.

- Ian


Basic Income
Basic Income and Meaningless Jobs: An Interview with David Graeber

Graeber: I keep meeting people who talk about how meaningless and pointless their jobs are. They say, “You don’t really want to know what I do. The truth is I don’t really do anything.” I hear this over and over again. I thought about it and realized this is something nobody ever talks about. There are millions of people who secretly feel their jobs shouldn’t exist.

Host: Are they right?

Graeber: Well who would know better than they…. I think what has happened is over the course of the last century. Mechanization has eliminated a lot more jobs than what we really think it has. Somehow we have all this technology but people are working more hours rather than less. This is what I wanted to understand. 

Paste Magazine
C. Robert Cargill Talks a Post-Human World Run by Robots in Sea of Rust

Paste: In Sea of Rust, there is a section where you talk about the beginning of the conflict between humans and robots. And how one of the main AIs determines that one of the issues driving humans toward destruction is that we can’t decide to go on one path or another towards pure capitalism or pure socialism. Is that a problem that you’ve identified and think is causing conflict?

Cargill: Yes and no. I mean, the big problem with AI is going to be that. I don’t think overwhelmingly that is the big debate we have. But the reason that the robot mentions that is that the robot is actually fucking with people, because it knows that human beings love to swing at that pitch. If you wanna get republicans and democrats yelling at each other, you just bring up socialised health care and just watch them tear each other apart. Good friends will sit there and get into screaming matches over it, and so that’s part of what the robot was doing.

But at the same time when it comes to AI, that’s a very real problem that we have to figure out. Part of what caused the downfall in the book is robot labor destroys jobs, and destroying jobs undercuts the economy, because, as free market capitalists like to say, the market decides things. Well, the market is people with money. And if there aren’t enough people with money, then there is no market to decide anything. And so with things like AI, you either need to go full on capitalism (which involves certain ownership issues and certain things that robots can and can’t do) or you need to get into the idea of socialising things like universal basic income, as many people are experimenting with, to accomodate for the fact that these jobs don’t exist anymore.

But ultimately, I personally think that all roads lead to socialism in terms of this. I feel like this phrase that’s being tossed around now, “late stage capitalism,” is actually right on the money. That we are about to see the end of the pure libertarian capitalism days, and that we are going to slowly approach more and more of a Star Trek-like future.

The Last Human Job: Caregiving may be the last realm where humans outperform machines. But will that change the way society values it?

The care economy workforce—composed mostly of women of color—often earns around or even less than minimum wage, frequently trapping them in working poverty. And those paltry wages contribute to a collective idea about just how valuable this work is. Part of the reason we devalue care work has to do with historical biases. Traditionally care jobs were considered the domain of women—motherhood, elder care, housework, and, later, professions like teaching and nursing—because care was seen as innately feminine, something that women could do naturally with little effort or skill.