Sapiens 2.0: Homo Deus?
May 24, 2016 8:42 AM Subscribe
In his follow-up to Sapiens, Yuval Noah Harari envisions what a 'useless class' of humans might look like as AI advances and spreads - "I'm aware that these kinds of forecasts have been around for at least 200 years, from the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, and they never came true so far. It's basically the boy who cried wolf, but in the original story of the boy who cried wolf, in the end, the wolf actually comes, and I think that is true this time."
- Yuval Harari: Techno-Religions and Silicon Prophets - "Will the 21st century be shaped by hi-tech gurus or by religious zealots – or are they the same thing? What is the current status of religions and ideologies in the world, and what will be the likely impact of 21st-century technological breakthroughs on religion and ideology? Will traditional religions and ideologies—from Christianity and Islam to Liberalism and Socialism—manage to survive the technological and economic revolutions of the 21st century? What would be the place of Islam, for example, in a world of genetic engineering and artificial intelligence? The talk addresses these questions, and argues that the future belongs to techno-religions, which promise salvation through technology, and which are already gathering believers in places such as Silicon Valley."
- Automation and unemployment are coming, but I guess we'll manage - "Summary: This post takes a (speculative) look at the general implications of automation over the next 20 years: Employment declines. Democracy does not fold. Universal Basic Income becomes common. Education improves. New-age stuff grows. Quality-of-life inequality grows or shrinks, depending on how you look. And so on. A follow-up post will discuss the verification implications."
- Get Ready for High-Frequency Lawyers - "In the future, we will almost certainly design computers to manage our economic interactions for us. Instead of teams of human lawyers drawing up fixed rules on sheets of paper, machines will talk to one another, exercising broad powers to renegotiate deals on the spot. At that point, Sannikov's work will go from esoteric math to reality."
- Chiefless Company Rakes In More Than $100 Million - "A group called DAO, which stands for Decentralized Autonomous Organization, is running itself via computer code on a network. Every operating detail, from governance to day-to-day operations to payment schedules, is laid out in the code that runs the company. There are no incorporation papers, board of directors or CEO... it is fundraising on the Ethereum platform, an alternative version of bitcoin. It plans to use the money it raises to fund startups building applications on Ethereum, and as of Saturday had raised more than $107 million, according to the company's publicly viewable digital wallet on Ethereum."
- Where has all the productivity gone? Inequality may hold the key to stagnant growth despite innovation - "The ability of sectoral productivity growth to boost whole-economy productivity growth depends on there being enough demand for the more productive sector's product for it to keep resources employed. And if rising inequality limits the demand for new products from a large part of the population, the result may instead be that the more productive sectors shrink as soon as the demand from only the richest consumers has been satisfied... average full-time employees in the US still work about 47 hours a week, according to Gallup. Here's to hoping that if the robots ever do take over, they help us realise Keynes's vision for his generation's grandchildren."
- Inequality and the monopolies of unfettered techno markets - "In testimony to the US Federal Commission on Industrial Relations in 1915, Ida Tarbell, a journalist known for exposing the Standard Oil monopoly of John D Rockefeller and championing the antitrust movement of the era, made a simple but profound point about the structure of the unconstrained American marketplace. It was the policy of business trusts, she said, to keep supply always a little less than demand to the great detriment of society. A congressman then took the stand to argue that an employer’s relationship with his employees had 'turned into a feudalism grosser than English history had ever shown'. Tarbell favoured what was then being popularised as the 'scientific' approach, which elevated the role of central planners in an organisation to the supposed benefit of all concerned. Ironically, many decades later, John Kenneth Galbraith would argue that the dependency on a thick layer of managerial planners had rendered antitrust measures ineffective at arresting the development and burgeoning power of what he described as the 'technostructure'. The company, he insisted, had become an uncompetitive monstrosity."
- The Dangerous Rise of Populism - "We are living in a dangerous time of transition: industrial capitalism is breaking down and we don't yet have a viable alternative. Incumbent politicians are still clinging to fixing the existing system while insurgent populists are arguing for big changes. This to a large degree explains the scary rise of populism we are seeing around the world and in the United States.
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