Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Lights In the Tunnel - Automation, Accelerating Technology and the Economy of the Future

The Lights In the Tunnel - Automation, Accelerating Technology and the Economy of the Future: "What will the economy of the future look like?"

This is from IEET, the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies. At least that is where I found the link.

Now if you have ever been to IEET, you might find I have one major issue with most of them, which is that they all seem to see all these issues as being still safely decades down the road.

I've just started reading this PDF, and I can already say it appears to NOT suffer from that same failing.

I have been saying for years now that our economic crisis is not going to get better. That we MUST come up with humanitarian solutions to reduce the misery and suffering of the mass of humanity, because we are going to face greater and greater misery and suffering as jobs vanish to machines. And that we must DO IT NOW, before things get even worse.

There is a light at the end of the tunnel. The economy of scarcity is collapsing all around us. But it's a necessary destruction which paves the way to a new economy of abundance.

To quote from the Blurb:

Where will advancing technology, job automation, outsourcing andglobalization lead?

Is it possible that accelerating computer technology was a primary cause of the current global economic crisisand that even more disruptive impacts lie ahead?
This groundbreaking book by a Silicon Valley computer engineer and entrepreneur explores these questions and shows how accelerating technology is likely to have a highly disruptive influence on our economy in the near future—and may well already be a significant factor in the current global crisis.
THE LIGHTS IN THE TUNNEL employs a powerful thought experiment to explore the economy of the future. An imaginary "tunnel of lights" is used to visualize the economic implications of the new technologies that are likely to appear in the coming years and decades.

The book directly challenges nearly all conventional views of the future and illuminates the danger that lies ahead if we do not plan for the impact of rapidly advancing technology. It also offers unique insights into how technology will intertwine with globalization to shape the twenty-first century and explores ways in which the economic realities of the future might be leveraged to drive prosperity and to address global challenges such as poverty and climate change.

YOU MUST UNDERSTAND TECHNOLOGY TO UNDERSTAND WHAT IS HAPPENING IN OUR WORLD. If you cannot understand technology, then it doesn't matter what political or economic views you hold. They will be based on erroneous assumptions.

The book is available here:
and here:


  1. Hmm, looks interesting, but when I read this: "The disintegration of the Soviet Union in 1991 demonstrated quite conclusively that there is no good alternative to the free market system."

    I just thought uh oh. Don't get me wrong, capitalism has it's upsides, but this guy is showing his naivety, and it's only the introduction. He's thinking it's a dichotomy. Either a free market or communism. This is just absurd in the extreme, although it's a view you will find all over the place on internet boards etc.

    Doesn't fill me with confidence for the rest of the book, (the Kurzeil leanings worry me also), but I may not give up quite yet.

  2. @lemontree.

    He is somewhat naive, but the main points I recommend looking at are his points on automation.

    Regardless of economic system, automation removes humans from the workforce. This will not change. The worse the economy gets the greater the pressure to automate to save costs. Already we are developing 3d printing technologies that will massively reduce the need for assembly lines, be they robot or human. Once VR/AR technology becomes commonplace, which is highly likely within a decade, then virtual workers will replace massive numbers of human workers.

    Narrow AI doesn't have to be complex to replace an overwhelming number of human jobs. An automated sales person doesn't have to be as good as a real one to be "good enough" to make it worth while for an employer to replace expensive humans with cheap VR atoreclerks. Play WoW sometime and see how complex a store clerk needs to be.

    If this book makes you aware of the vital need to begin preparing for a day in which most human jobs will no longer exist, and in which we as a nation will have to deal with a significant permanent unemployment problem, then I will have succeeded in the purpose of this post.

    Economic systems come and go, but everyone is based in two eternal human drives. The first is survival, the second is the drive to create social hierarchies and to seek status within them. No matter what system of economics we may use, we have to accommodate these drives. Our current economic woes exist because of the drive of those in the highest levels of our society to continue to seek accumulation of status symbols and wealth at all costs, even as they drive the lower social levels into poverty and destroy the very basis of their status. Automation will speed this process, and while it will eventually reach a point where it will force a shift from a economy based primarily on material resources to one based primarily on non-material resources (i.e. the difference between an oil company and a software one) which will result in basic human needs becoming so cheap that they will become effectively free, before that point, we will experience enormous unemployment and a massive disruption in the market, and quite possibly even a collapse similar to Russia's. The sooner we face that fact and create a strong social net, the less disruption will be caused.