Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Hawking suggests that the impact of intelligent machines on inequality is largely about re-distribution

There is a lot of concern floating about that as intelligent machines take jobs in "process driven" sectors inequality will grow. Basically the owners of the machines will become wealthy beyond imagination and lots of people will have no job and therefore survive on state support or nothing in the doomsday scenario.
The slight flaw in that argument is that if nobody has any (disposable) income who will buy the goods and services offered by the machines but that is a question for another day.
On a Reddit Q&A session Stephen Hawking offered the following views on this question;
What is the risk of "technological unemployment" where machines take jobs?
The outcome will depend on how things are distributed. Everyone can enjoy a life of luxurious leisure if the machine-produced wealth is shared, or most people can end up miserably poor if the machine owners successfully lobby against wealth redistribution. So far, the trend seems to be toward the second option, with technology driving ever-increasing inequality.
It seems likely that in a democratic society the voters rational self interest would prevent lobbying by machine owners being successful (hints of that already in the FaceBook debate on corporation tax) but that does leave the non-democratic societies open and according to Wikipedia only 12.5% of the worlds population live in full democracies.

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