16 Comments

  • Those ideals would still require a revolution to remove the control of those benefits from the hands of an elite few. Hard to see that horizon right now….

  • I prefer to enjoy the present: just about a century ago there were letal famines in rich countries. Today food is virtually free if you can’t afford it, we overproduce it at a rate of 40% and just 2% of the population is involved on his direct production.

  • Somebody needs to explain this everything’s free shit to me. So the 1% owns all the factories but robots do all the jobs, so the people who own the money give it to people to spend on their shit? How does that make any sense at all?

  • Substitute “bright people” and “taxis” and you have today’s Europe. It’s not exactly a vision of the future. Why driverless cars always sit stage centre in these amateur efforts I don’t know. Perhaps because US commentators are fixated on the car, and on their parochial national problems.

    What’s a more comprehensive vision? Well, major cities will be strongly decoupled from their parent nation, and look to their peers for ideas, policy and trade. There will be far more foreigners living in them than hitherto, and far fewer low income nationals. A vast number of people from the emerging economies will have made it to upper middle income status, and they will set the social tone of the times: autocratic, unimpressed by the rights of the poor, rank-conscious, dressing as might an Edwardian Englishman to distance themselves from the masses.

    Technology will not do all the work, but it will expand the productivity of those who do. Where this happens depends on the attractiveness of the sites on offer. There will be one to two hundred cities, many with specific specialisations, and each will compete to attract the next wave of innovation, of ideas and talent. They will prune themselves of unattractive features and polish their assets. As technology becomes more complex, so skills that can operate within it become more complex and harder to learn, so starting on the ladder and staying on it matters to individuals. Each city has its pool of talent, and spends time building that.

    What happens to the populations that don’t get to play? That depends on how able humans turn out to be. If there is a risking watermark, below which people are essentially economically useless, then that suggests one future of endless tax and welfare, with cities fighting off the claims of the hinterland. Those which fail to do this lose out on commercial opportunities, and enter a Detroit spiral. If this is not true, if humans are infinitely upgradable, them a huge premium is available to centres that invest in such upgrade. (Which means much, much more than adult education.)

    We don’t actually know which of these is true, but recall that in 2040. such techniques will be available to at least half of the nine billions living. If you are in the bottom ten percent of world upgrade potential, billions will sit ahead of you in the queue for work. Even rich nations will be unable to maintain the differential income that is taken of granted today, that the low capacity individual in France or the US has a right to live better than a professional in, say, Kenya. Democracy in today’s form probably cannot survive these truths.

    So you have two worlds, both very different from today. The key variables are human and social, not technological. Self-driving cars are an irrelevance. Egalitarian fantasies are not merely PollyAnna, they are actively misleading. The world will live on a knife edge of many fine balances, with a strong measure of subtle and not-so-subtle repression to keep the whole thing stable. Some bits will fall into chaos, and some will never emerge from it. It is deeply misleading and very silly to see the future in pastel shades, a world where the only problem is how to divide the spoils. Nine billions will want your personal goodies. Remember that.

  • I don’t understand what is going to push the price of healthcare down. As medicine advances the new solutions seem ever more complicated and expensive. Demand is in-elastic. There will have to be a big change

  • Its not only possible it can happen today using distributed ledger technology (blockchain is one variant). It will be the foundation upon which wealth and power can finally be distributed optimally among st humanity. It is hard to see it because the implementation are so basic right now, but once it gets flushed out we will all be part of one big platform that we secure and profit from.

    Its going to be hard though since centralized monopolies are easier to produce and sell than decentralized monopolies. Eventually our economy is going to be one big decentralized or centralized monopoly owned and secured by everyone or an oligopoly depending what we allow to happen.

  • More like the rich in cities will have this. The middle class might not be hungry, but we’ll have crappier cars and basic healthcare much like the soviet union. Sure its free but it’ll probably be the doctors who barely passed med school and we’ll still get sick while living in state supported apartments. At best we’ll be 1980’s moscow with a the 1% in literal mansions in the sky.

  • Altman and Musk share a trait in that their visions are big and failure is more often delay in implementation. Compared to the mean spirited and mealy mouthed conventional progress where failure is really failure except there’s a lot of really lame excuses justifying the failure. The future promises to be a wild ride now that incremental progress timidity is no more.

  • Go ahead and apply that to alaska. It’s remote. There’s no cell towers. And it is VAST

  • Good stuff, Sam; I, too, have read the Culture series of sci-fi novels.

  • Will never happen because the rich will own the robots and wouldn’t dream of giving anything away for free.

  • More like “Sam Altman’s dystopian future: “In a not-too-distant future city, superintelligent robots will carry out the majority of vital tasks to destroy humans. Driverless cars will either kill passengers through choosing who will die or the hackers taking over driverless cars. Housing and healthcare will be expensive due to automation, eventually, humanity will die out.”

    Please stop supporting the false claims of futuristic technology helping people and try to realize that futuristic technology will actually harm all humans. Please stop all technological progress, which is really bad.

  • This sounds possible, but I see that only when the Millennial generation really holds every key that there is.

    Until then, any changes here will be applied to the current way of things, which is to say a way that doesn’t work, that every aspect of productivity is one of violence, for it creates a precarity paradox.

    Just for example, the domains of work expand due to technology, and yet sustainable jobs are actively being eaten by these same areas of expansion. Our boon becomes a bust.

    I do not see this transition happening well, or within reason. Name any cultural revolution that righted all wrongs. I’ll wait.

  • I saw the words “Altman” and “future” and I thought of Dead Space.

  • So does someone want to explain what part of his vision of the future takes place in the same universe as us? Because unless part of the plan is to replace human beings with something better, this will never happen.

  • Many people will be unemployed, replaced by robots that work for the super elite. The rest will be scrounging like rats for scraps. Nobody is going to be giving away free healthcare to anyone – are you serious? The people now won’t even give away healthcare to the fellow citizens because of right wing attitudes like “I don’t want to pay for others healthcare”. When those who own the means of production are living in guarded compounds the people outside won’t be getting anything for free.

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