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"I'd not trust a non-technical writer for non-technical Mother Jones. Real science magazines are better sources. Anyway, assume you are right about Starship Enterprises. Would that not mean that the demand for space travel would explode? Just the way air plane travel has so far. Adventurous people would like to go for space walks, dine at restaurants on on moon and spend a few years on Mars. Such activities would be a lot more fun than just watching movies about space travel. But what about more mundane services? Do you really thing many parents would find Robotic Daycare appealing? Do you think the five-star restaurants would attract customers with robot servers?" First of all, the Drum article was not "technical." And it is worth reading, even if you don't like Mother Jones' politics (and you probably don't). Yes, artificial intelligence on the level of human cognition could vastly increase societal wealth. But imagine a world in which a Data-like android could be produced for, say, the price of a luxury car. What labor doesn't that replace? There is a level of artificial intelligence and associated robotic technology that replaces most human labor very, very efficiently. We;re not there yet, but Drum's point is that we're likely a lot closer than most people think. If the fundamental model of income distribution is based on work as well as capital accumulation, where does the income of most of the labor force then come from if there is no need for their labor? Doesn't all the income then go to the owners of capital?
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The consequences of such technological advances may be speculative, but, as Kevin Drum points out in an article for Mother Jones, the advances aren't. We're likely not more than a decade or so from levels of affordable artificial intelligence that can replace human labor in most employment. It's like the Starship Enterprise being able to operate with 5 crew rather than 1,000 (and shame on Rodenberry for missing this, as well as failing to predict the Internet). What do the other 995 do with their time, and where does the money to feed them come from? Or, to put it another way, what happens when most human labor is worthless and the owners of the machines can claim all the income?
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Why no consideration of flywheel systems? It's already in use as grid storage. "Stanford has very good wind resources but we never see a wind farm near this elite university." I grew up on Stanford campus. I don't recall it being a very windy place, except for winter storms.
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Mar 11, 2013