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The Perfect Welfare State

I read an interview with robotics pioneer Hans Moravec in the most recent issue of Scientific American in which he states his belief that AI/robotic "mind children" will displace humans as the preeminent decision-makers on Earth in the coming decades, and that they will create for us plodding humans a "perfect welfare state."

Would I want to live in such a world? In spite of my current libertarian bent, I think I probably would should I not have the option of hopping on the evolutionary fast-track myself and keeping pace with the super-intelligent successors to the human species. Of course, hopping on said fast track would mean changing into something so different from anything recognizable as me as I now know myself, that taking that path may well look like suicide to anyone who doesn't take it with me exactly when I do.

Here are a couple of quotes excerpted from an older interview with Hans Moravec:

I think the evolution of life is the most interesting thing around, and want to see it continue with utmost vigor. Producing artificial offspring that transcend us to the max is the most exalted role I can imagine the human race playing, and would be the grandest success possible. On the other hand, if we chose to stagnate, indefinitely circumscribed by our present limitations, then by my standards we would be tragic failures, having turned our back on our potential.


Like dutiful children caring for aging parents, these machines could provide a long, luxurious retirement for biological humanity. Few people will object to being offered steadily greater wealth for steadily less labor. Some that do may choose to leave, and the great wealth will give them the means. But a war against the machines would be a war against society. There are some who try to fight such quixotic wars today, but they can rarely do more than make a minor nuisance of themselves.


( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 5th, 2005 05:12 am (UTC)
Might Interest You?
Feb. 5th, 2005 01:40 pm (UTC)
Re: Might Interest You?
Cool. I'd never heard of Jack Williamson until a couple of minutes ago, and know I know that he's widely credited with coining the term "Terraforming" in his 1949 novel "Seetee Ship." The Fayetteville Library doesn't have "The Humanoids," but they do have a copy of Williamson's 2001 novel, "Terraforming Earth." It just so happens that we're going to the library today.
Feb. 5th, 2005 05:15 pm (UTC)
Nancy Kress's "Beggars" trilogy is about a future in which genetically engineered humans ("donkeys") do all the work, pay all the taxes, and make all the decisions while normals ("livers") live in a - theoretically - perfect welfare state. It is a fantastic dystopia that makes some really good libertarian arguments about the nature of human happiness. You might like to look at that one too if you have some spare time for reading.
Feb. 5th, 2005 05:34 pm (UTC)
Make Me a Mule
I read Beggars & Choosers around the time it was published. I enjoyed it quite a bit. I'd definitely rather play a mule in that society than play the part of a fat, ignorant, and useless liver, though I do remember the encounter the main charcater had on the train with the trim liver woman who was reading a novel.

Given the choice between playing a mule or a sleepless or super-sleepless, I'm not sure which way I'd go. I do like to sleep, though it would be nice to do it on a strictly recreational basis and not out of daily neccessity.
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )

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