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July 09, 2016

There's a Signpost Up Ahead: Next Stop, Serfdom! [Weirddave]

This article is a fascinating and frankly terrifying read. I tend to look at things from an historical point of view, and I've long held that modern western society is an historical aberration, but it ties those concepts up with a gimlet eye cast at an increasingly mechanized future to paint a horrific picture.

First of all, the article quite rightly points out that it was the development of the gun that doomed the system of serfs and lords that had dominated human history up to that point. Oh, the author tries weakly to roll it back a little at the end, but he's spot on. Just as a 9mm Glock gives a 100lb woman the ability to neutralize a 250lb thug attacking her, the gun itself tipped the balance of power from noblemen controlling a small number of highly trained warriors to the masses of humanity. Everything that we now view as “normal” has flowed from that singular event. But what happens when robotic technology (drones) tips that balance back?

The day that robot armies become more cost-effective than human infantry is the day when People Power becomes obsolete. With robot armies, the few will be able to do whatever they want to the many. And unlike the tyrannies of Stalin and Mao, robot-enforced tyranny will be robust to shifts in popular opinion. The rabble may think whatever they please, but the Robot Lords will have the guns.

Forever.

Where this scenario really gets scary is when it combines with economic inequality. Although few people have been focusing on robot armies, many people have been asking what happens if robots put most of us out of a job. The final, last-ditch response to that contingency is income redistribution – if our future is to get paid to sit on a beach, so be it.

But with robot armies, that’s just not going to work. To pay the poor, you have to tax the rich, and the Robot Lords are unlikely to stand for that. Just imagine Tom Perkins with an army of cheap autonomous drones. Or Greg Gopman. We’re all worried about the day that the 1% no longer need the 99%–but what’s really scary is when they don’t fear the 99% either.

That's the heart of it, but please do read the whole thing. “Forever” may be a bit much, who knows what new technology might come along and change the world again (say, hand held EMP emitters that make drones useless), but it's a scary and all too likely scenario. Human beings are still human beings, and they always will be.


Good luck sleeping tonight.


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posted by Open Blogger at 07:06 PM

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