Re: A Challenge To All Extropians/Free Martketeers

Dan Clemmensen (
Sat, 25 Apr 1998 10:18:17 -0400

Summary: Paul is concerned about the economic impact
of total automation on humanity. I respond that
total automation implies transhumanity, so he should
refocus his question to the transhuman era or to
the transition era.

Paul Hughes wrote:
> Over the last several years I have become a big advocate for
> free-markets. However, there has been some nagging questions that I
> have yet to answer without resorting to some form of socialism in order
> to solve. Can any free-market advocate answer any and/or all of the
> following questions:
I'm not a radical free marketeer, but I do have opinions on this
subject. You want answers? Here they are, and worth every penny
you paid for them :-)

> 1) Is there a single field which is intrinsically safe from automation
> in the course of the next 20-30 years? If you can think of more fields,
> please elaborate.

Even the most "conservative" singularitans place the singularity
before the year 2030. IMO, unaugmented humans will be completely
economically obsolete. Your questions should therefore be directed
at the economy of transhumanity, and perhaps the economics of the
transition, because there will be no human economy.
> 2) Are these remaining fields if any, sufficient to employ the majority
> of humanity? If not, what will the rest of humanity do in order to
> survive?
The best humanity can hope for is that transhumanity is altruistic,
If so, then transhumans will help humans become transhumans.

> 3) For those who are unemployed and do not have sufficient investment
> income, is death the inevitable result? If not, how will they survive?
See above.

> 4) Will most people alive today be able to save enough before their jobs
> become automated?
> 5) If how much money one has saved is the the key to surviving
> automation, does this not portend very badly for young people who have
> had less time to save for their forced retirement? If this is true,
> does this mean that the future is going to be populated almost entirely
> of rich and old people and their children?

There is a real possibility that technology will evolve more rapidly
the financial system can react. If your savings consist of productive
assets, then the value of your savings can disapear if the assets become
obsolete. I'm not an economist, but as I understand it the amount of
money you have represents your share of the economy's productive assets.
This is more obvious when your savings are shares of stock, but remains
true in any event. Very rapid increases in productivity caused by
nanotechnology or AI may have the effect of a dramatic deflation. If
so, the rich may not be in much better shape than the poor: Your money
is useful only as feedstock for the nanotech, with exactly the same
value as dirt. On the other hand, the necessities and luxuries of
life will be essentially free, so who cares? On the third hand, you
will be transhuman, so there is no way that a simple human such as
myself can judge whether this will make you happy.