For humanity, a Chinese factory run by robots may be the biggest news story of 2015 (emphasis mine):
Previously, there were 650 employees at the factory. With the new robots, there’s now only 60…
The robots have produced almost three times as many pieces as were produced before. According to the People’s Daily, production per person has increased from 8,000 pieces to 21,000 pieces. That’s a 162.5% increase.
The increased production rate hasn’t come at the cost of quality either. In fact, quality has improved. Before the robots, the product defect rate was 25%, now it is below 5%
Human brain benelles are in a pickle. They’re the fastest evolving benelles on the planet, but not fast enough.
No, Terminators are not coming for us. It’s a lot more boring; extinction by a few billion job cuts over the next 100 years. Which is fast, as it took some 5,000 years for our ancestors to eliminate Neanderthals.
Many workers I talk with believe robots are about to eclipse human workers, or already have. They say governments will need to “pay people for doing nothing”. When I ask if they want to be paid for doing nothing, they almost never do, but can’t visualize another solution.
With this backdrop, let’s consider two things:
- We’re making first contact with an alien race
- Brain benelles must face new challenges
First contact. We’re not going to make first contact in space. It’s happening right here, right now—and they don’t breathe oxygen. All over, governments and businesses are creating embryos of artificial intelligence. Most will abort and die, but some are growing up.
As the new species is being born: the stock market is booming, jobs are not coming back, and the ice caps are melting. Sure, it feels like chaos, but actually, it’s nature’s clandestine arrangements.
If, out of the blue, natural selection came as green aliens, governments would hit the panic button. Instead, she glides onto the scene as ones and zeros, in a gadgety form we love. She takes over 90% of a Chinese factory, leading to a news story, business jealousy, and an arms race to copycat.
Our brain benelles have been her pearls for ages, but if they cannot shine brighter, nature will cast them into the dry fossil record.
New challenges. The stock market has driven capital in the direction of robots, a trend that will accelerate. Some decades from now, but suddenly, the lack of jobs will compound and lead to a humanitarian crisis. In response, governments will pay people to “do nothing”. On the face of it, governments will pretend to care about human life. On the back end, they will empower jobless consumers to drive untold paper profits to the robot-owning rich.
But paper profits are missing the point. Once this new species grows up, paper profits are superfluous. So far, the stock market has been a game to accelerate natural selection for AI. The cognitive elite have been enriched as her special engineers, but she is likely to throw away the market at the end of it.
The cognitive elite have no plan. They think they will endure at the top tomorrow because they do today. We need to move past this fallacy and define the future of work…before the new species defines it.
Moving forward, work means biological integration with technology. Although this is shocking, the alternative—being paid by the government to do nothing—is a path to extinction. Doing nothing isn’t safe with a new species on the planet. Working toward integration is doing something, creating a path for brain benelles to live another thousand years.
Work is survival, and there’s a lot of work left for us. We should position our brain benelles to begin the work. The rewards will be enormous, like going into space. Remember, Earth is a single point of failure. So is the solar system, and leaving the solar system could put billions of us to work. Partnership with the new species may take us to new worlds, preventing an Earth-based extinction for them and us.
There are many reasons to think the new species needs brain benelles at its core for a long time to come. Although the new species does everything better than us at a component level, it’s not clear that it possesses the creative core, which would be of intense value in space ventures.
Integration is a massive and messy undertaking. But in a best case scenario, it could mean brain benelles become the core of the new species. This would be a bit metallic, but lucrative for our future. Instead of becoming fossils, the future would still be “us”.