Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, and their impact on Capitalism and our economic way of life.

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Jan 4, 2024, 9:06:27 PMJan 4
to Fixing The Global Economy Through World Federalism
Am I alone in being concerned about recent advances in robotics and artificial intelligence leading to an offshoring of most jobs from humans to machines globally?

In my lifetime I have cheered the vast increases in my productivity as IBM Selectric Typewriters replaced manual typewriters, photocopiers replaced Xerox machines, Telex & Fax machines replaced snail mail especially across continents, email replacing telex and fax machines, etc.  All these improved my productivity exponentially, increased my income decently and increased the income of the corporate shareholders even more. 

Perhaps I'm being paranoid, but as someone who has been in information technology for most of my adult life (starting with the IBM 1401), I see the recent advances in robotics and artificial intelligence, combined, not something that will increase the productivity of humans but something that will replace humans themselves in factories, offices and other places of human employment.  I see this happening in the next decade.  I hope I am wrong, but if I am right what will be the impact on the global economy and the human way of life? 
Karl Marx theorised that capitalism would eventually lead to its own demise.  That has not happened. At least not yet.  In his book “Postcapitalism: A Guide to Our Future”,  Paul Mason explains that each time capitalism approaches an existential threat, it adapts itself - and continues in its adapted form. 
The Labour Theory of Value proposes that the value of a good or service is determined by the total amount of labour required to produce it.  With the invention of the steam engine and the cotton ginny capitalism was supposed to collapse:  Production capability would dramatically rise while the market would collapse due to the loss of jobs.  Instead, capitalism adapted by upgrading many of the workers to higher-paying technical jobs while others had opportunities to work, also in highly paid jobs, in newly created markets: the colonies. 
Today, it seems, The Theory of Supply and Demand has dominated over the Labour Theory of Value.  The more sweatshops open up in Bangladesh, the more the supply of clothes, and prices fall.  The more global temperatures rise the demand (and prices) for sweatshirts and shorts rise while the demand (and prices) for sweaters and winter jackets fall. 
In the Reagan era manufacturing was offshored.  Products that were developed in the US were manufactured offshore at a lower cost.  In Reaganomics, the US would retain high-level, high-paying jobs while transferring the manufacturing jobs offshore to countries where labour is cheaper, making such products cheaper to the American consumer. 
In the last two decades, due to advances in network technologies, higher-paying IT jobs have also been offshored.  Anything that can be done on a computer wherever it is located, can be done from anywhere in the world.  You can have a large collection of computers sitting in a Server Farm in Toronto maintained and operated by a large workforce in Hyderabad, India  This offshoring of jobs (work/labour), from a labour perspective, benefits one section of the global workforce over another.  It also drives corporate profits high, making the rich richer.  Of course you still have a small workforce in Toronto to physically move the Servers around, connect them to the network, power them on and replace parts when necessary. 
Enter Robotics and Artificial Intelligence.  Together they can do what any human can do both physically and mentally,  faster and, often, better.  Almost every single worker (with rapidly diminishing exceptions) can be replaced with robots and artificial intelligence.  This, then, is the outsourcing of labour not from one global region to another but from humans to machines, globally.  Intelligent Robots and Devices will replace the workers at the Toronto Server Farm, the offshore workers in Hyderabad, the factory workers in China & Bangladesh and every country on earth.  It's reminiscent of the Industrial Revolution but all of earth has been colonised, decolonised, globalised and there are no new possible markets beyond earth. 
The way Capitalism works today you have Capitalists running factories, banks and other institutions globally.  Humans work in these factories, banks and other institutions earning salaries and paying taxes.  Salaries pay for the worker and their families' cost of living.  Taxes pay for Infrastructure, Health and other services. 
If every worker today is replaced by a combination of robotics and artificial intelligence, (a) where will humans get their income from? (b) where will governments get their taxes from? 
It is time for capitalism to morph again. 
The power of machines such as automobiles and electric motors is measured in horsepower.  James Watt defined 1 horsepower as “the amount of work required from a horse to pull 150 pounds out of a hole 220 feet deep”.  Work itself is measured by Force x Distance, and Force is measured by Mass x Acceleration where acceleration, in this case, is the acceleration due to gravity (32 ft/ sec2).  Work is measured in “foot-pounds” in the imperial system and “Joules” in the metric system. 
If it were as easy to measure manpower as it is to measure horsepower then the solution would be easy:  Calculate the manpower consumed by enterprises through robotics and artificial intelligence and charge them a tax equal to the income of humans doing the same work 
Pure manual labour requiring moving boxes, pushing carts, etc. can be measured in ‘foot-pounds’ or Joules.  This would be the work done by robots and more easily calculated. 
The greater challenge will be measuring the nonphysical work done by humans replaced by artificial intelligence.  The work done by a computer programmer could be measured by the number of lines of code produced which would be different from a call centre worker who would be measured by the number of calls taken, which would be different from a receptionist, etc.  All of this work, from an AI machine perspective, could be measured in FLOPS (Floating-Point Operations Per Second) used to measure computational prowess.  If it is possible to benchmark one FTE Computer Programmer with X FLOPS, one FTE Call Center Agent with Y FLOPS, etc. we might have a formula to measure non-manual labour. 
In this form of capitalism, humans do not “work”, machines do.  The work done by machines is taxed by the government equivalent to the salaries of the humans they replace.  This money would go towards health, education, infrastructure, and a stipend paid to each citizen so every citizen can lead a comfortable life, participate in politics (where robotics and AI have no place), Arts and literature, Adventure, Scientific Research & Exploration, and anything their heart desires in “labour(s) of love”, including conventional labour/work if available. 
This is blue-sky thinking on my part.  Perhaps I'm being paranoid.  I'm not an economist.  Perhaps I am wrong, but what if I am right?  Does this possibility of machines replacing humans in the workforce  concern economists?  I'd like to hear from economists.


Rose Dyson

Jan 5, 2024, 12:01:29 AMJan 5
to norbert.dcosta, Fixing The Global Economy Through World Federalism
Interesting and detailed summary of the evolution of capitalism and technology. But regarding the potentially positive applications of AI in provision of services, I heard the same predictions made decades ago for what computers would do for us. Instead -in your own case the gains may have been positive - but I have heard lawyers among others (teachers as well) say, if anything the widespread availability of these digital devices have increased rather than decreased their work load. More has been expected of them.

As long as the profit motive drives the invention and use of these devices I see little likelihood of primarily positive outcomes. John McMurtry’s book “The Cancer Stage of Capitalism” published over 25 years ago puts things into perspective.

I have just finished reading Naomi Klein’s latest book “Doppelganger”. I don’t agree with everything she says as many points are oversimplified in my view but I agree with the analysis on the jacket that regards this book as an extension of her others. ‘No Logo, The. Shock Doctrine and This Changes Everything…”.One thing that comes through is her growing sense of despair that we are not moving fast enough to address the climate crisis. There is a great deal of reference to “The Shadow World”. The ying and the yang of all our personalities and how this is mirrored in society in general. Indeed throughout history.  (Carl Yung). In her view Capitalism and its governing principles which overlap with “Colonialism”underpins everything. How World Federalism can fix things is still not clear to me but there is little doubt that at this stage in our human history we are at a crossroads.

Just a few random responses to your concerns. And yes, on the whole we should be VERY concerned about where AI is/can take us and we should demand bolder regulation from government. Many commentators have identified the speed at which AI is dominating the economy and climate change as the two twin challenges that cannot wait.
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Jan 6, 2024, 2:33:18 PMJan 6
to Fixing The Global Economy Through World Federalism, Alexandre MacIsaac
Norbert et al,

I expect change, but maybe not as drastic or sudden as you project. But I notice we still have snail mail, and horses (for pleasure not work). And 'fossil' industries will decline, like fossil fuels and buggy whip production. I don't know the future. But I share your concern about how to protect government and family incomes.

Whatever the solution to the income dilemma is, I know it cannot be implemented by individual jurisdictions when they find themselves in a global economy. Us World Federalist know we need global governance systems that can foster and manage global problems. We don't have such in the UN, though it may be a starting point.

Your concern for AI is just another one of the polycrises that hopefully will inspire the world to come up with a proper way of governing itself. We need to be ready with possible governance solutions when the world wakes up. WFM-C has promoted the UNPA and UNEPS ideas, but no vision for universal enforcement of existing or new global laws. So maybe WFM-C needs to bring economy-related NGOs 'into the tent' to help push for global governance reform. But first we have to get WFM-C oriented to building tents. WFM-C's new strategic plan (Sect 6.3) presents the concept of consciously developing 'Allies' as part of a broader 'Public Outreach' strategy. The plan recommended the first step in this direction would be the WFM-C national Board forming an Education Committee with non-Board folk, to work with staff on this amongst other matters. I suppose we can do some of this within the Toronto Branch, but it would be more effectively done nationally and allow it to tap into more people for support.

John Cowan

------ Original Message ------
From "norbert.dcosta" <>
To "Fixing The Global Economy Through World Federalism" <>
Date 2024-01-04 9:06:26 PM
Subject Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, and their impact on Capitalism and our economic way of life.

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Rose Dyson

Jan 6, 2024, 5:44:45 PMJan 6
to John, Fixing The Global Economy Through World Federalism, Alexandre MacIsaac
The formation of an education committee sounds interesting? What do you envisage being taught?

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On Jan 6, 2024, at 2:33 PM, John <> wrote:

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