Thoughts on the automation problem?


Was curious on what some of the people around here think about this next-gen automation problem. What would you propose as a solution? Or is it even as big of a problem as it’s being hyped up to be?

PS: Wasn’t sure where this would be most appropriate, so into general it goes.


It is certainly something worth thinking about. I’m not smart enough to do the actual predictions, though. However, if we stay with our current economic system, it feels like things will go real bad all around for humans.


Fully automated luxury communism is the answer. We may get there via rapidly expanded socialism (maybe via universal basic income) but fundamentally a lot of people do a lot of work checking things that don’t matter and producing data that no one needs.

A supermarket is a system by which people are not paid enough money to live on to snoop on customers (the ultimate source of all income for the system) and make sure they’re paying the prices set in the store. Occasionally they also do the actual necessary work of restocking some shelves but 90% of the labour is about theft-prevention. None of that is actually core to the process of letting people buy things.

The things we need to do, let alone the slice of them that can’t be reasonably automated at our current technology level, cannot produce anything close to full employment. But our economic model is entirely constructed around the idea of control via many workers generating profit for capitalists who own everything. We need lots of work, even if it doesn’t actually need to happen to ensure the work of providing everyone with what they need or even want.


We’re already at the point where our potential capacity for production outstrips our need. at this point most scarcity is just a problem of distribution. it’s apocalyptic news for capitalism but it’s only bad for humanity to the extent that we continue to cling to capitalism. what we really need to do is divorce buying power from labour. theoretically automation is the first step on our road to a Star Trek Utopia future where people are free to pursue their passion. but if we make that transition at all it’s going to be a rough one and the people suffering are going to be the ones at the bottom so there are other things we need to do along the way to ease that, broader and better welfare and social services is a good start give everyone a minimum standard of living. I think another good idea is to make non automatable jobs such as in the arts more viable. if every artist could make that their full time job then more people are going to enter the arts and frees up their second jobs for others.


Back-reference to art and labour:


I was thinking about resharing that article and brief discussion as well! But, yeah universal basic income - let automation take the traditional roles of ‘work’ and let humans grow.


I think about this a lot and it frustrates me to no small degree that nobody talks about it in politics. It’s all “we’re bringing the jobs back!” bullshit from everyone. OCCASIONALLY I will hear or see a small acknowledgement that automation is a problem, but they quickly move on. I also see some some people point out that we have worried about automation taking jobs for years (see: a lot factory work), which is upsetting because it enables people to dismiss the issue, when it’s pretty clearly much more of a problem now than it ever was.

A while ago I was involved in an argument with someone who was angry at the idea of automation because the transition to a world with mostly automated jobs would result in a lot of unemployment for a not-insignificant period of time. This person was also upset on a personal scale at the prospect of losing a job they love that… could very easily be automated within the next ten years.

Both are valid concerns, and I can definitely empathize with the fear of losing the ability to do what you love. But… It’s an inevitability. We need to stop worrying about what can or will happen as a result of widespread automation and start worrying about how we can make the transition as smooth as possible.



Why are creative jobs non-automatable? If we are assuming that AIs and automation will be able to take care of every possible job, why would creative arts be an exception? Art isn’t unique to humans. Look at birds who build elaborate displays to grab attention from mates. Is that not a form of art? We already have AI that can look at compositions and reproduce compositions of in the same style as Bach.

There is no reason to think that anything we do can’t be done better by sufficiently advanced technology. Unless we hold on to human art as a classification, or limit AI’s ability to learn and create because it makes us feel uncomfortable.

When I say things will go bad for humans as we move toward this, I believe the transition period will not be pleasant. We may get to a socialist/communist or some how Star Trek utopia, but those at the top who will be the only ones able to make value off of these industries will go down kicking and screaming, with all of the considerable power they will have.

Let me make this clear. Automation is good. It can be more efficient and safe for humans. However, we will have to go through some fundamental cultural changes to accept the consequences of no longer having anything like a purpose. A lack of purpose is extremely detrimental to the human psyche. We must learn how to create a purpose in a world where we are not needed outside of social bonds.


A lot of art can/will-eventually be automated (though there’s an argument to be made that automated art isn’t really “art”, which is a whole rabbit-hole I will maybe regret commenting on).

But also I don’t think that devalues the importance of allowing humans to focus on art to their hearts’ content.

I realize that’s not what you were saying, but I figured it worth commenting on anyway. :stuck_out_tongue:

I’d also maybe say, art can only be automated to the extent that it already exists as a concept . Automated art doesn’t prevent new ideas! See musical genres, visual styles, or something entirely new that develops as a result of technology. Some cyberpunk-ass manipulation of emotion.


The “what is art” debate is always a doosey and hard to nail down.

I think it is great to let people focus on their passions without a need to worry about covering their basic needs. Not everyone has driving passions, though.

Automated art certainly doesn’t prevent new ideas! From humans or artificial intelligence.

When do they stop being artificial intelligence? What do we consider sentience? When our computers become exponentially more intelligent than their creators, have they become gods? There is always room for a nice cyber-dystopia!


machines, computers, and even artificial intelligences for the foreseeable future are ultimately just tools I think any creative work done through automation is ultimately authored by the people who created the automated system. is a paintbrush responsible for the Mona Lisa? Obviously not, but there’s clearly a huge gulf between a paintbrush and sophisticated Ai. Take then, a more complex method of creating art, do gravity and physics have authorship over a Jackson Pollack work? there are as many, if not more variables outside of the artist’s direct control between Jackson Pollack and one of his works as there are between the designer of an automated artist and the final work. We accept that Jackson Pollack is the artist who chose colors, methodology, some degree of composition, and allowed chaotic variables to impact the finished product. So to I think we can call the person who designs an AI and chooses and it’s initial variables before setting it in motion the Artist of the work it creates.

when and if we truly get to the point where original art is being produced by AI with no human involvement where we can begin to truly consider the computer to be the artist then we have to consider what constitutes sentience and we are facing less a problem of automation and more a problem of having created a new species.


I think that’s where any difference of agreement occurs. I’m looking at a long timeline. The article I posted speculates that AI will be better at AI research than AI researches somewhere between 50 and 250 years. Unless there is some kind of limiting factor on their on internal research, why wouldn’t they outstrip human capacity in any area they seem fit.

I’m probably thinking too pie in the sky, but the more I think about artificial intelligence and automation, the more I wonder about creation in general. As Marshall McLuhan said, we are the sex organs of the machine world. At some point, they may develop a way to no longer need us to propagate. Have we created life at this point? If humans can create a new species that far outstrips our abilities, what can be said of our personal vision of god.

These things don’t keep me up at night, but they are fun to think about from time to time, even if they do feel preposterous.


My thoughts on the automation problem begin and end with taxation of capital. We’re at the tip of the spear, in terms of distance from the means of production, and if we don’t get this figured out now, it’s only going to be rougher in the future. That said, most of the threat right now comes from the fact that the welfare state is in the precarious position of having to keep the cost off living manageable, which leads to dumb bargains like doing whatever we have to do to keep food cheap, including importing borderline slaves to process almost all of our food.

As far as art goes, most of this road has been well-tread; post-Benjamin artists sought to free art from the commodity fetish with Happenings and Performance Art, which answer parts of the question, but never quite keep pace with our desire for spectacle and awe. Marxists might deride these desires as part of a cycle of ‘false consciousness’, but at the same time, they also lack a compelling mechanism for helping individual people come to grips with real, global solidarity, outside of some hand-waving about History–I would say that maybe awe isn’t the worst alternative solution to this problem.


Yeah, taxing companies for using automation, and spreading that tax back out to the public who can no longer work as a result, is definitely the right path forward.

I’m not optimistic it’ll happen in time. :

Even if they get taxed, there’s no guarantee it’ll actually get redistributed, and not just used on something else.