RE: the abolition of work

Tony Belding (
Tue, 28 Apr 1998 09:54:22 -0600

On 27-Apr-98, Dan Fabulich wrote:

>The assumption I make is that a wealthier society is preferable to a poorer
>society, ceteris paribus; I also contend that having sentient robots would
>create a wealthier society.

But you haven't explained HOW they would do this.

>While a substitution effect of that scale is theoretically possible, it's
>somewhat unlikely. Even if capital DID become that cheap, we'd still need
>people to program our non-sentient robots, people to "write the templates,"
>people to advertise our products to other people...

Non-sentient AI should certainly be able to handle those tasks.

>So long as there is a demand for goods in which labor has
>comparative advantage over capital, there will be a demand
>for labor.

I do not see why there should be any instances where labor has a comparative
advantage over capital.

>>Every time you add a sentient robot to the work force, you are adding
>>production, but you are also adding a CONSUMER. Then you need to add more
>>robots to serve the needs and wants of those you already have. It becomes a
>>never-ending cycle! Where does it stop?

><chuckle> It DOESN'T stop. Boundless Expansion, remember? Fortunately
>for us, growing the economy makes us wealthier in the process, so there's
>no obvious reason why we should even want it to stop.

That's insane! You're talking about a population bomb that's organically
built into your economic system! Anyhow, whether you like it or not, economic
growth will stop whenever you run out of raw materials and energy -- in
economic terms, when you run out of "land". Then you will have a solar system
crammed full of dirt-poor consumers and no hope of a better life. Malthus

>No. Non-sentient beings don't buy anything. They have no demands.

That's what I like about them. Let's go back to our root principles again...
Any economy is a system for distributing limited resources among people with
unlimited (?) needs and wants. Adding more resources to the system is
helpful. Adding more needs and wants to the system is HARMFUL. So, adding
non-sentient robots is ideal: it increases the available resources without
increasing the total needs and wants. (Actually, non-sentient robots have
some needs, but no wants. And when a non-sentient robot is no longer useful,
it can be destroyed and recycled, which could not be done to a sentient robot
for ethical reasons.)

We have been conditioned to think that adding workers to the economy is
helpful, because they tend to produce more than they consume. This would also
be true of sentient robots, at least until you reach your limits of growth.
However, non-sentient robots have a greater advantage. Because they have no
WANTS, they will consume much less than the sentient robot while producing
just as much. The net gain for the economy is much greater!

>Non-sentient robots don't buy goods.

This is a benefit, as I outlined above.

>Non-sentient robots don't buy goods; and *because* they don't buy goods,
>they don't add to the demand for jobs, so they don't CREATE jobs,

GOOD! I don't WANT to create jobs, I want to ELIMINATE jobs! There is
nothing sacred about jobs. There is no reason why our economy should be based
upon work, or why jobs should be equated with wealth. At least you haven't
shown me any reason.

>And as I've been trying to tell you, more consumers DO make us better off,
>by creating more jobs for us to fill.

How does "creating more jobs for us to fill" make us better off? Please
explain this connection, because I sure don't see it!

>I'm not, but then, the qualitative distinction between sentient and
>non-sentient is vague at best. I'd say that when you've got robots that
>create art, you're definitely toeing the borderline of sentience.

Art is based on emotions. This reminds me of that other post about an AI
quoting Martin Luther King on TV. How do you distinguish an AI that has
human-like emotions from one that's merely pretending to?

>From a purely economic standpoint, my definition of sentience is very easy: a
sentient being is one who /wants/ things. A consumer. Aside from that, I
don't care how competent they are. For maximum economic leverage, robots
should be non-sentient in the sense that they don't want anything for their
own comfort or enjoyment. There's nothing in that definition that precludes
them from being artists.

Maybe art shouldn't even be done for economic reasons! Perhaps art should be
the province of non-workers who make their living by other means, so they can
indulge their creative urges without worrying about the bottom line. Are you
happy with the output of Hollywood these days? Do you like walking into a
bookstore and finding whole shelves of Star Trek novels? All those newly
minted cyber-capitalists, freed from the burdens of work, will have a lot of
time on their hands to indulge artistic hobbies. It might result in a

>>admitted that I don't want to work; why should I want my children to?

>So they can add to their own wealth as well as the wealth of others.

There are certainly other ways they can do that, rather than by working.

>So they can reap the rewards of their own investments.

This does not require work.

>So they can learn to manage finite resources.

This does not require work.

>So they can create jobs which other children can fill.

Circular logic... I should want my children to work so that my grand-children
will have an opportunity to work? You seem to be proceeding on the basis that
work is desirable for its own sake. I strongly disagree with that! Work, by
its nature, is unpleasant: otherwise we wouldn't require wages for performing
it. Labor performed for it's own sake is a hobby. I'm all in favor of
hobbies, as long as I don't have to work for a living.

>So they can learn to deal with others on a voluntary basis.

This does not require work.

>Shall I go on?

By all means! Maybe you'll hit upon something valid.

   Tony Belding