Re: the abolition of work

Dan Fabulich (
Fri, 24 Apr 1998 15:35:29 -0400


Tony Belding wrote:
>Dan Fabulich <> wrote:
> DF> When I pay you for your labor, we BOTH benefit: I for receiving your
> DF> labor, you for receiving my payment.
>Yes, but I also suffer from having to actually /perform/ the labor. Being a
>naturally lazy person, I find such a system distasteful. :-)

And I suffer from having had to pay you for it. However, we wouldn't have
agreed to exchange unless it allowed us to benefit more than we suffer.

>It's not a choice between the work being done or not being done, it's a
>question of HOW. Under the current system, you pay a laborer to do it.
>the future system, you can lease a robot to do it. You are paying for the
>same productive result either way, but in the first case you're paying
>to toil for you. In the second case you're paying someone for the use of his
>capital (in the form of the robot).

Unless, of course, the robots are sentient, in which case you still pay a
laborer to toil for you, only this laborer happens to be made out of
diamondoid polymers.

>I prefer the second system, since it becomes less likely that I'll have to
>work for a living. It is an opportunity to lift the burden of work from
>humanity, by making us all cyber-capitalists!

The burden of work could only be lifted if supply increased so fast that it
outstripped the demand for labor. Now, while this might happen in the food
market, particularly if an increasing percentage of our population doesn't
need food, there's no evidence that the demand for labor will ever stop
increasing. People just seem to want more and more stuff, particularly
since our population is growing, and would grow even faster if we had robot
citizens. Sentient robots would create jobs by stimulating demand,
probably at least as much as they would fill jobs to participate in the

In other words, there may indeed come a time when you won't have to work
(much?) in order to get food, housing and medicine. However, there will
also be so much more stuff available and at such convenient prices, that
you'll probably want to work, and you'll want to buy what your fellow
citizens are offering; even if those citizens are robots.

>Of course there is some precedent in history... There was the unfortunate
>practice of human slavery. I live in Texas, a state with the dubious
>distinction of having gone to war /twice/ in defense of slavery. This leads
>to a certain degree of soul-searching. If we ever attempt an economic system
>using robots in the place of slaves, we must be /damn/ sure of our ethical
>grounds before starting. There must be a system in place to ensure that the
>robots -- no matter how versatile and competent they might become -- are
>always in FACT soulless and emotionless automatons incapable of either
>desiring or appreciating freedom.

If I had to choose (from an economic standpoint) between creating mindless
robot slaves or sentient robot employees, I would choose the sentient
robots hands down. A sentient robot could participate in the economy,
performing labor and buying goods, creating jobs and filling them, making
everyone better off in the process. We would have just as much to gain
from a sentient robot as we would from a slave, if not exponentially more.

Also, if you consider utility a form of wealth, as I do, then we can
immediately see that a sentient robot would be able to create many kinds of
wealth which a mindless slave could not; art, for example. Empathy. Love.
Many of the forms of wealth which we consider "non-material" could be
offered by robots... Though they'd presumably want someone to love them in

And I'll be the first to agree that that's a good thing.

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