Monday, June 30, 2014

Automated Government

On several occasions I've mentioned that I think in the long run some sort of automated government should replace existing governments. This requires further explanation. The immediate goal in terms of the current geopolitical state of affairs would be to eliminate government domination by special interests and to minimize the detrimental effects of poor choices made by the voters in democracies. The idea would be to reduce government actions or inactions that increase inequality, waste or misdirect resources and damage the environment. What I have in mind would be something resembling communism, but far better managed than has historically been the case. Obviously there would be enormous obstacles in transitioning to such a system.

One difficulty would be convincing people that it would be in their best interest to switch to such a system. As long as capitalism exists in its current form, people are likely to believe that they must control their own destinies by competing in free markets. For this reason, capitalism might have to go first. Another problem would be gaining public acceptance of automating major processes with artificial intelligence. In order to gain that confidence, technology that is superior to what we have at present would be necessary, and the standard of living would probably have to be relatively high for nearly everyone in order to assuage their skepticism.

Extrapolating from the present to the future, which is guesswork at best, conditions could arise that would allow this to come about. Let's say capitalism continues to grow and becomes the universal ideology worldwide. Corporations continue to increase efficiency and provide goods and services that are in demand. Under this scenario, which corresponds with Thomas Piketty's views, the rich will get richer and the majority will tread water indefinitely. Over a long period, good jobs will not be available to most people. Sharing capitalist ideologies, nations may cooperate more than they did in the past and wars could become a rarity. If you take the positive view, it is possible that existing governments will gradually evolve towards more socialistic models in order to limit social unrest. Assuming that the technology exists, there may literally be no reason for most people to work, and governments may become their default source of support. It is certainly possible that at some point, barring major setbacks, computers and robots will be able to do everything.

On a cautionary note, it is also perfectly conceivable that a different sequence of events could occur. In a worst case scenario, the ultra-rich might abandon their fellow humans and use proprietary technology to dominate them unfairly. They might enhance themselves genetically and physically, essentially turning themselves into a superior species that takes no responsibility for us.

I began thinking about this topic when it became obvious to me that the U.S. government does not function in a manner that produces outcomes that are desirable for Americans, humanity in general or the planet as a whole. Because of the fundamental imbalances of power that are created by rampant capitalism, sooner or later most of us may be at the mercy of the ultra-rich, and we don't know for certain what course of action they might choose. My thinking is that some sort of hedge is needed against the possibility of world domination by a minority that is indifferent to the welfare of mankind. In this light, capitalism and democracy can be seen as dangerous, uncontrolled processes. On the one hand, capitalism provides a wealth advantage to a minority, and, on the other hand, democratic processes are diverted from their original intent through the influence of money. Who, if anyone, is addressing this problem?

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