What the Future Holds: A Hanson-English Translation
By Bryan Caplan
I had an enlightening conversation with Robin Hanson today where we came to near-complete agreement. Unfortunately, he decided to summarize our shared conclusion in his own idiocyncratic language:
fraction of future humans who are not robots might well manage to keep
a high living average living standard. But most creatures recognizably
decended from us will have near subsistence consumption.
Here’s my Hanson-English translation:
In the future, humans will continue to have consumption well above subsistence levels. But intelligent machines will vastly outnumber humans, and these machines will only earn their subsistence.
Robin’s more specific admission: Wages for humans and robots alike will fall to subsistence levels because intelligent machines will be low-cost near-perfect substitutes for humans. However, human consumption will be much higher, because biological humans will own much more than their own labor – including land, capital, and vast numbers of robots. Robots, in contrast, will have to get by on their wages.
In slogan form: Simon for people, Malthus for robots.
Of course, if you don’t think that robots will have any mental states, they won’t “consume wages” any more than my toaster can “eat bread.” In which case, mankind can look forward to an extremely bright future provided by ultra-productive robots who – like my toaster – feel no envy for us because they don’t feel anything.