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Artificial Intelligence, Universal Basic Income, and Technocracies

Society as in decline. There are many, many reasons why this is the case. However, in this particular post I would like to explore specifically the impeding clash between the working class of the world and algorithmic replacement of jobs. This is a topic not unknown to the written work or discourse but seeing as circumstances have changed so greatly in the last two years I feel compelled to write of the events I foresee taking place. Note here that the scope of my reasoning will not reach to AGIs (Artificial General Intelligence). Simple, dumb algorithms and AI are what I am covering today as most jobs can be done algorithmically partially if not entirely.

Algorithms work based on a set of constants. They can change with those constants so long as they have been pre programmed to do so. Now consider most beginner level jobs. Running a grill at a restaurant for example. If you have a robot hand programmed simply to get item from its right, cook item for 7 min, then flip, repeat, and put to its left, where do you need a human? The answer is you don’t. Currently a lot of fast food places thanks to many reasons are moving to fully automated operations. You order food at a kiosk, some form of automaton cooks your order, and it is returned to you not unlike a giant vending machine. Many fast food places are now rapidly deploying the kiosks to save on the expense of cashiers. The second and third steps will come at the same time, and will reduce if not remove entirely the need to hire humans.

Another example would be the supply chain; freighting if you will. In a nutshell the supply chain works as follows: a product is packaged and sent to be shipped, the package is transported to a warehouse where it is sorted into a transport vehicle headed toward the destination, the transport takes it from one major warehouse to another, the package is sorted again, the process repeats, until finally it arrives at your doorstep. As would be expected, there is a lot of human involvement in this system. Humans pick up the package at the departing address, drive the package, sort the package at warehouses, and load/unload the transports. Reread those jobs though. Every single one could not only be automated, but optimized using algorithms and privative robotics. Robots to pick up and deliver packages to warehouses already exist. Normal people sort packages at warehouses based on algorithms, so unsurprisingly robots to do the same already exist.

So then we reach the question of: when is it more beneficial to use automation over humans? Simply put, economics. The laws of supply and demand are unavoidable, and we run into them when facing this problem. Consider wages: everyone likes to be paid more, and employers like to pay less. Say the workers strike and demand higher pay. Even in a larger company there is only so much an employer can do before they are not making profit from their venture. So they are faced with only two solutions.

The first is raise the price of their goods and services so they can accommodate the higher pay of their employees. This starts a vicious cycle of workers not being able to afford the goods they produce, going on strike, and the company raising both their pay and the goods. Play this out across a country and you have what the economy does during inflation by the government.

The employers’ second option is to just hire fewer employees at the higher pay rate. Both are done all the time, but the second one is a solution that works long term. Once a job is automated out of existence it rarely returns. So the few lucky employees that made the cut will enjoy their higher pay and good job, while the others will instead of having fair pay will eventually find their jobs replaced and themselves out of work.

Extrapolate this situation out and you begin to see how with every cycle of inflation and worker discontent only more people are impacted. In the last few years especially a perfect storm is beginning to brew. Runaway inflation of almost every government backed currency, mass walk outs and strikes as workers want pay increases to match their less valuable money, employers raising prices of goods and automating jobs out of existence. While there are other variables at play this pattern is what ultimately will give rise to a new problem: worker unemployability. Note, this is not someone who cannot work because they choose not to or are disabled. These are people who have been fully automated out of their industry. They cannot go back to their job because there is no job to go back to. The great worker shortage will become the need for no workers. This is the first time in history we have had the ability to automate so many jobs in a viable sense, and companies will undoubtedly cash in on that fact.

In the future, all these conditions would result in outrage from the middle and lower classes. Governments in turn will begin rolling out Universal Basic Income, or UBI. This would most likely start by being just be a flat, once a month check that was the calculated funds needed to sustain one person with basic amenities. While this system would work for awhile, eventually politicians and the public would align on the idea that there should be benefits and losses to UBI based on actions. Enter Social Credit. You get points for doing “good” things, and lose them for doing “bad” things. They can’t be transferred, have a upper and lower limit you can be at, and can grant and remove privileges from you based on your score. Nations such as China have already begun implementing just such a system, and they are already tying your social credit score to citizens’ ability to transact with their digital currency (the digital yuan). It is a safe assumption if any form of UBI was implemented in such a country it too would pay out based on your credit score.

In nations of Christendom (including nations considered the West) it would seem individual liberty would matter more than the potential infringements on autonomy SC and UBI could cause, right? Wrong. Such a system would be distrusted in most government’s hands but the public is already quite comfortable with companies giving them scores. While you can live life without a credit score in countries such as the United States, most people are not only indifferent to but support the maintaining and bettering of this metric. People are also comfortable with reward point, and tailored social media feeds. Indeed, the only difference between most countries and China is simply that the industry of Social Credit is privatized, and it is at this realization we now reach the convergence of the job and social credit topics.

Instead of a vast, governmental effort to institute Social Credit and UBI, the process will start with companies themselves. We already have covered how many metrics and numbers people already have on their lives. In time it is only logical to assume this will expand. All this happening in parallel with algorithmic replacement of human workforce. Nations then will begin to contract out these companies and form their own UBI and Social Credit scores with relative ease. The occasional court case will be filed relating to civil rights and who owns who. If government is now paying for your entire existence, does it own you? Or is it still running at your bequest? These and many other civil rights issues will arise. However, for the most part people will not really care about the change or any implications. These cases will garner little public attention or care if the past is any good indicator. In this future, government will attain a new status.

Enter the Technocracy. The child of Socialism and Fascism, a Technocracy is the spawn of centralized power, corporate advocacy, limited individualism, and the power of a highly advanced technological economy. Companies exist within it, but are wholly owned and run by the government in some capacity. The supply chain will be fully automated in this future, with all the seamlessness and efficiency of the machines that will power it. In fact, every industry that can be will be automated to the fullest degree possible. While there will still be jobs for people, most of these will be high paying or limited to jobs that having a human is more desirable. A bartender for example can be automated out of a job, but would not be simply because people would prefer a human over a automaton in that job capacity.

A technocracy is interesting because at its core it is not bound to any form of consensus. A country that becomes a technocracy could on one hand be an oligarchy that centralized power, a authoritarian dictator, or something completely democratic. A technocracy does not have to violate human rights, nor is it forced to conform to a singular religious doctrine. What I’m trying to say here is the very concept of a Technocracy at its core is amoral. It is how one would be implemented that would determine its morality. It is the result of the variables we input. In the future I will cover this concept more, but for now this is where UBI and social credit would lead and that is the scope I will stick to when mentioning it.

To close, consider the Luddites of the Industrial Revolution. Skilled workers by trade they increasingly found themselves out of work due to the rising use of machines at factories. People started becoming restless, unproductive, and soon after hungry. As anyone who has graced a history textbook will know, hunger is oftentimes the straw the breaks the camels’ back for societal transgressions. The Luddites united under that and began destroying the machines that were driving them to poverty. The countries this took place in answered to it differently. Some made the infamous “poor houses” that they placed these people in and forced them to preform menial and excruciatingly difficult tasks within in an attempt to… coerce them to get a job. Other nations simply responded will bullets. The lesson here is that as jobs are replaced there are going to be clashes in the future, and it is how the people and their governments respond to these clashes that will shape their collective futures. While the modern “welfare state” has marked improvements over the past, history repeats itself as assuredly as a person will walk in circles if they have no sense of direction. That is why history is so imperative to learn. Let the past be your compass to navigate the future with. Ultimately if you live in a democratic state the future is yours to decide.