Friday, April 28, 2017

Has Equality Become a Quaint, Obsolete Vestige of the Past?

I know, I know, you're probably saying "what equality?" When did we ever live in a world of equality? We didn't but we did at least once treat equality in some things as a desirable ideal. That we embraced equality as a value is evident today in the angst many suffer at our rapidly growing inequality. According to a piece from BBC, inequality could soon get far worse and very quickly. In fact, your existence might be treated as redundant.

[In the 19th and 20th centuries] equality became a dominant value in human culture, almost all over the world. Why?

It was partly down to the rise of new ideologies such as humanism, liberalism and socialism.

But it was also about technological and economic change - which was connected to those new ideologies, of course.

Suddenly the elite needed large numbers of healthy, educated people to serve as soldiers in the army and as workers in the factories.

Governments didn't educate and vaccinate to be nice.

They needed the masses to be useful.

But now that's changing again.

[Robotics-driven automation]  is one reason why we might - in the not-too-distant future - see the creation of the most unequal societies that have ever existed in human history.

And there are other reasons to fear such a future.

With rapid improvements in biotechnology and bioengineering, we may reach a point where, for the first time in history, economic inequality becomes biological inequality.

Until now, humans had control of the world outside them.

They could control the rivers, forests, animals and plants.

But they had very little control of the world inside them.

They had limited ability to manipulate and engineer their own bodies, brains and minds.

They couldn't cheat death.

That might not always be the case.


The rich - through purchasing ...biological enhancements - could become, literally, better than the rest; more intelligent, healthier and with far greater life-spans.

At that point, it will make sense to cede power to this "enhanced" class.

Think about it like this.

In the past, the nobility tried to convince the masses that they were superior to everyone else and so should hold power.

In the future I am describing, they really will be superior to the masses.

And because they will be better than us, it will make sense to cede power and decision-making to them.


We might also find that the rise of artificial intelligence - and not just automation - will mean that huge numbers of people, in all kinds of jobs, simply lose their economic usefulness.

The two processes together - human enhancement and the rise of AI - may result in the separation of humankind into a very small class of super-humans and a massive underclass of "useless" people.


Once you lose your economic importance, the state loses at least some of the incentive to invest in your health, education and welfare.
It's very dangerous to be redundant.

Your future depends on the goodwill of some small elite.

Maybe there is goodwill.

But in a time of crisis - like climate catastrophe - it would be very easy to toss you overboard.

Dismiss this if you like but I think we can all agree that it poses serious questions that we need to ask, issues that we need to discuss. Unfortunately it comes at a point where governments seem to have no great interest in discussing serious issues with us. Maybe they already see this writing on the wall.


Tal Hartsfeld said...

This is a much better assessment of where things are at (and where they are going) than one normally finds most elsewhere.

The Mound of Sound said...

Hi, Tal. I checked out your blog and I really like the H.L. Mencken quote. Hard to disagree with that one. As I digested this BBC item I recalled the warnings of Elon Musk, Stephen Hawking and others about succumbing to the siren song of AI, artificial intelligence. As suggested here it might be to the immediate benefit of an elite and an ever greater detriment to the rest of us but it wouldn't be long before it would claim the elite in their turn. Once AI surpasses human intelligence it's probably over for us no matter how advantaged or superior one human is to others.Having a reserved seat in the lifeboat on storm tossed seas is all well and good but you're still doomed without crew fit enough to man the oars and a skilled hand on the rudder.

rumleyfips said...

The interest in a guaranteed income is attributed by some circles as a way to keep the peasants pitchforks out of ruling class asses as employment becomes more marginal.

The Mound of Sound said...

We are on the cusp of revolutionary change, Rumley. Some have opined the 21st will become known as the "century of revolution."

Will said...

mound, we only have to go back to our youth for the answers. Isaak Asimov wrote many robot stories with a single message: There can be limited robots for dangerous jobs and people or in his book The naked sun, a few people served by thousands of robots.

Anonymous said... forot...take way birth control.

Anonymous said...

Equality was a none starter.
It's offspring; equal opportunity is now doomed with AI.
Add in that the rich are becoming richer and hold all the ace cards.
They can, will,use all the tools they control to make it more so.

Do you sense a push in BC's media to promote the Greens?
Do you think a divided opposition to the Conservalibs can succeed?


Anonymous said...

Hence the urgency to stop globalization and support national movements.
The elite is truly dangerous when it becomes a one that can control global affairs.

TB was talking about control&manipulation - a prime example is recent presidential election in France. The former investment banker, Macron, is a decoy specifically introduced by banksters to steal votes from Le Pen...

Purple library guy said...

"At that point, it will make sense to cede power to this "enhanced" class."

No, it will not. This is just a new form of an old and all-too-common argument. There is no more reason to give power to a bio-engineered "intelligent" technocrat class than to a socially-engineered "educated" technocrat class. Both supposedly know better how to run things, both will do so for their own interests not the interests of the majority.
If you're out to screw me for your benefit, it does not help me if you're smarter. This sort of reasoning attempts to erase the basic reasons behind class struggle.