RE: No Singularity?

Robin Hanson (
Thu, 18 Nov 1999 09:17:12 -0500

Hal Finney responded to Billy Brown:
>Now, I think the flaw in Lyle's reasoning is that machines are designed
>to have lower expenses and be more productive than people. But he is
>right in that the economic gain is not due directly to the subtitution
>of a machine for a person, which an overly simplistic analysis based
>on costs-as-labor might suggest. Rather, it is only when machines are
>economically able to do the same work for less money that we have a
>true savings.

Yes, and even then we need not have a sudden "singularity" transition. (Though see And we need not be anywhere near a Nano-Santa "Post-Scarcity" society many hope for.

>Economic production is traditionally analyzed based on inputs of labor,
>raw materials, and capital. Perhaps in the future the distinction
>between labor and capital will become blurry in the case of robots.
>At that time we might see that people, too, are in a sense another form
>of capital. The sharp and historically contentious distinction between
>labor and capital may come to be seen as an illusion.

For economists, this distinction is already very blurred. Economists think of "labor" as the time people put into work, and "human capital" as all the investments that people make in themselves which make them more productive, such as education and health. Economists have long accepted that most capital is human capital. All that other stuff, machines, companies, buildings, etc. actually gets less income than human capital.

Robin Hanson Asst. Prof. Economics, George Mason University MSN 1D3, Carow Hall, Fairfax VA 22030
703-993-2326 FAX: 703-993-2323