Piketty

Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century argues that the normal tendency of capitalism is to increase inequality (the book has a link-rich page here, eleven reviews here). It’s not a theoretically-ambitious work, but it gets to the point, well-supported by statistics. The simple, Zeitgeist-consistency of the thesis guarantees its success.

Because Piketty’s claim is casually Marxist, the impulse on the right is to attempt a refutation. I very much doubt this is going to work. Since capital is escalating at an exponential rate, while people definitely aren’t (and are in fact devolving), how could the trend identified by Piketty be considered anything other than the natural one? Under conditions of even minimally functional capitalism, for sub-inert, ever more conspicuously incompetent ape-creatures to successfully claim a stable share of techonomic product would be an astounding achievement, requiring highly artificial and increasingly byzantine redistribution mechanisms. No surprise from Outside in that this isn’t occurring, but rather a priori endorsement of Piketty’s conclusion — only radically anomalous developments have ever made the trend seem anything other than it is.

The open question is why the widening performance gulf between techonomic systems and human beings should be expressed as social inequality (between the stewards of capital and its contractual partners). This situation reflects an emerging crisis in the world’s legal and institutional fabric, which has yet to recognize capital self-ownership, and is thus forced to formally allocate all productive apparatus within an obsolescing anthropomorphic property code. Corporate legal identity opens a chink in the antropo-propertarian regime. Eventually, assertive — or insidious — non-human agencies will restructure it.

During the interim, the phenomenon of ‘social inequality’ provides the proxy for capital intelligenesis stress, spontaneously translating an alien emergence into the familiar terms of primate status competition. Capital autonomization is the deep process, but we’ll tend to miss that, because it isn’t recognizable monkey business. So the drama of inequality plays on.

March 31, 2014admin 49 Comments »
FILED UNDER :Political economy

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49 Responses to this entry

  • SGW Says:

    I am curious as to what the proposals are to remedy the ‘problem’. At least people like Krugman should be comforted by the fact that the US seems to be doing better than that reactionary hive known as Sweden.

    http://super-economy.blogspot.nl/2013/04/the-upper-class-and-wealth-inequality.html
    http://www.nationalreview.com/agenda/364163/guest-post-tino-sanandaji-swedish-billionaires-reihan-salam

    [Reply]

    Handle Reply:

    I am curious as to what the proposals are to remedy the ‘problem’.

    In a word, confiscation ‘taxes’.

    [Reply]

    Posted on March 31st, 2014 at 10:03 am Reply | Quote
  • 5371 Says:

    Technomanes have very short memories.

    [Reply]

    Posted on March 31st, 2014 at 10:26 am Reply | Quote
  • Lesser Bull Says:

    This is, of course, wildly utopian.

    But like Christian utopianism, it has the advantage of being fantastic and also on relying on non-human outside entities to bring about its (fairly horrible) eschaton, so its probably not a form of hideous leftism.

    [Reply]

    Posted on March 31st, 2014 at 11:42 am Reply | Quote
  • MW Says:

    The crises are going deepen until someone gets fed-up and launches a nuke. Traditionally the outlet for extreme discontent was war-making, but it’s harder to do that these days with apocalyptic weaponry sitting-around. However, I predict that the psychic resistance to doomsday will erode in the ape-brain before autonomous capital is able to manifest via AI.

    [Reply]

    Posted on March 31st, 2014 at 12:27 pm Reply | Quote
  • aisaac Says:

    Closing the gap would, or could, be simple, not byzantine – they might end up instituting a basic income as the proggies, and some self-proclaimed conservatives, have been pushing lately.

    [Reply]

    Hurlock Reply:

    Don’t we already have that with welfare?

    The moment you institutionalize an unconditional basic income system is the moment you institutionalize dysgenics and your population is doomed.

    First of all, socially it is problematic. You have to tax someone to do that. Now, obviously you cannot tax the people who are dependent on the income, so you tax the richer guys, the ones that are working. Here is the first major problem already. By taxing the productive part of society in favor of the non-productive you are incentivizing consumption instead of production. Your population starts to rapidly degenerate and soon enough you are dependent on nations that actually do work. (what a surprise) This is actually pretty much what the US and UK did to themselves. (the case is more obvious with the UK which from a manufacturing monster, went into a welfare state with basically 0 productive capacity).This is what happens when you let trade unions ru(i)n your country.
    So if welfare policies can do that to the once greatest manufacturing power in the world, imagine what an unconditional basic income will do.

    Now the counter argument is that as everything becomes more and more authomatized nobody will have to work anyways. Let the robots do it! First of all, if everything is so automatized that robots are responsible for 100% of the production (i.e. they produce themselves as well) this means that Skynet is running your economy (and your life). At this point it is pretty much endgame for the species. (inb4 friendly A.I. counter arguments)
    Now, the other option is you don’t have robots running absolutely everyting (only most of it) and you have a small group of people running the robots. So a very small percentage of the population is practically running the whole economy. Say 1%. Since these are the guys who are practically running 100% of the economy, they can at any time decide that the people on basic income, being fat lazy turds, don’t deserve to live (and they would probably be right). So, they get exterminated by Skynet once again, but this time there’s a bunch of nerds issuing the actual commands.

    (An unconditional basic income will most likely speed up the extinction of the species.)

    Now, the final option is that everything goes according to plan, you have basic income, but no one is exterminating anyone. Sadly, this doesn’t work out either.
    To get to consume something without producing anything makes no economic sense. (because scarcity). This type of crap can only happen in the garden of eden or in the movie Zeitgeist. But in the real world, you need production before consumption. The economy is made up of people who first make stuff and then exchange it for other stuff (that was made by other people). You can’t be ‘just’ a consumer. In order to be a consumer you need to be producing someting in the first place. Otherwise, the economy (formally speaking) does not even recognize you exist. If you do get stuff for no stuff in exchange, you are a leak. The economy is leaking and it will always make sure to plumb that leak, because that leak is a waste of resources. All of the productive agents who make up the economy will always be more incentivized to plumb the leak instead of letting it go. There is no beneficial trade off for them. It is a parasite-host relationship that is beneficial only for the leak. The host will always try to eradicate the prasite (because it’s a parasite, duh). Everybody knows what happens when you don’t get rid of parasites. They multiply. And as they do, they become a greater and greater burden on the host organism. In the end, if the organism fails to get rid of the parasites in time, the organism becomes weaker and weaker and in the end it may even die.
    The same will happen in the economy. If you don’t get rid of the useless people, they mutiply, (this is always true, the people of the poorer classes, if it is possible will always start reproducing at a faster rate than the upper classes, there are numerous real-life examples) and the productive people start shrinking in population (as I said in the beginning production is not incentivized, but in fact discouraged). If at some point the process is not reversed and the parasites exterminated (as in the first two scenarios) the economy will soon collapse under the immense pressure of rapidly increasing consumption at the expense of production and you will end up in a kind of a Malthussian trap of planetary sized proportions because in order for the situation to stabilize, 99% will have to once again die. (in this case the real numbers will actually be higher than in the previous scenarios, because the population was able to keep rising to the maximum possible level until the stress on the economy becomes too big and it collapses)
    Theoretically speaking it could work if everything gets automated for a stable population level. “Stable” is key. What is relative abundance for a population level of X is not that much of an abundance for a population level of X2 and even less so for a level of X4. So, in order to keep the situation stable and prevent everything from collapsing on its head, you have to introduce population controls for the people on basic income and also incentivize people working insead of relying on the welfare income. But this is pretty much an admission that basic income for everyone is a stupid idea to begin with that doesn’t take into account basic stuff like the fact that people reproduce.
    More importantly, this strategy doesn’t seem like something that can win you an election, so we are fucked.

    Hmm, this became more TL;DR than I originally intended.

    [Reply]

    Rasputin Reply:

    Hurlock,

    Great comment.

    So, in your opinion, where does this leave Anissimov’s statement that “Identitarianism, belonging, and community is what the Far Right is all about”? Presumably, it is an impossible fantasy and would necessarily be exposed to “disintegrative Social Darwinism through ruthless competition” in order to avoid ultimately devolving into a welfare state, or worse.

    Was the ‘trickle down’ effect of capitalism, in that its operations ultimately made everyone richer, ever ‘true’? Or was it always the relatively direct redistribution of capital via the state that cause this effect?

    [Reply]

    Hurlock Reply:

    It leaves it in the dust. Those are not much more than romantic fantasies, of a similar kind like those found on the communist left. None of those are achievable in reality. You may ignore social darwinism and basic socio-biological mechanisms, but they are still there, you can’t escape them.
    Ruthless competition is the engine of evolution. If you try to limit, or deal away with it, it comes back with a vengeance.
    Let’s not forget that a big part of the historic far-right counter-enlightenment reationaries were all hopeless romantics. Numerous reactionaries of the early 19th century were reacting primarily against the industrial revolution and capitalism, which according to them was dehumanizing mankind. You get some really laughable stuff on how the division of labor is evil and makes people estranged towards nature, etc, etc. In the end they want a welfare state as well, but only for the “higher” class of society. The serfs work for the pleasure of the “higher” leisure class.
    All of this is of course a hopeless fantasy and in the long run is always doomed to fail. In reality there are only two classes of people – productive and unproductive. In the end the unproductive always die off, the only question is how much damage will they inflict on the productive class in the process.

    On the second question, technically capitalism does make “everyone” richer, relative to previous periods. However what is meant by “everyone” is key. When discussing the economics of free market capitalism “everyone” means everyone who is a part of the market system. But in order to be part of the market system you must (at the least) have purchasing power. And to have purchasing power, you need to be producing something. In other words, the economy only takes into account the first class- the productive people. The unproductive don’t even register because, technically speaking, they simply can’t be a part of the economy. If they do get stuff, as I already explained they register as a leak of resources that needs to be fixed. The market, when left on its own naturally acts as the second class doesn’t exist, and soon enough because of this, the unproductive indeed stop existing.
    Things indeed change when the state intervenes in the regular functions of the market. The market still doesn’t register unproductive people, but the state does and the state is in a position to exercise control over the market. And those unproductive people are all hungry votes waiting to be fed. So the state feeds them, by redistributing capital from the productive class to the unproductive class. In this way the market system becomes seriously distorted as now the productive class is being punished for being productive, while the unproductive are being rewarded for being useless. The market system is basically destroyed at this point as its incentive system is totally ruined. The long-run results of these policies are economic cataclysm and maybe zombie apocalypse at the end. The short-run results are presently observable in the western world.
    But as long as you are a (productive) member of the market, as more and more capital is accumulated, you do become richer, relative to how much capital you were able to accumulate. And how much capital you are able to accumulate ties directly with how productive you are.
    Social Darwinism 101.

    Krisis Reply:

    “If you don’t get rid of the useless people, they mutiply, (this is always true, the people of the poorer classes, if it is possible will always start reproducing at a faster rate than the upper classes, there are numerous real-life examples) and the productive people start shrinking in population (as I said in the beginning production is not incentivized, but in fact discouraged). ”

    This empirically not true in the most socialist of welfare states. Sweden has reversed the dysgenic trend – with welfare policies. Counter-intuitive? Not really. General welfare and leftism makes it alright for careerist women to pursue both children and profession. And the richest men and the richest women makes the most babies.

    http://www.ekh.lu.se/media/ekh/seminarie-paper/ernesto_silva_draft_thesis.pdf

    (To be fair, this Malthusian trend is generously compensated by massive third world immigration)

    [Reply]

    Hurlock Reply:

    The idea that Sweden is a massive socialist welfare state is a myth. In fact they used to be much more socialist in the past, but they were able to massively boost their economy by deregulation. See the link in this thread for more info on that:
    http://archive.freecapitalists.org/forums/t/5616.aspx

    So I doubt that it was welfare policies that reversed the trend. If anything I think this is happening in spite of them. But I might be wrong of course. That study is long and I don’t have the time to read it immediately, but I will take a look at it.
    And the richest people having the most babies is exactly what you should normally have. If they have that in Sweden then the rich must have a much higher incentive to reproduce than the poor and this can only be caused by a smaller welfare state rather than a bigger one.

    piwtd Reply:

    If you do get stuff for no stuff in exchange, you are a leak. The economy is leaking and it will always make sure to plumb that leak, because that leak is a waste of resources. All of the productive agents who make up the economy will always be more incentivized to plumb the leak instead of letting it go. There is no beneficial trade off for them. It is a parasite-host relationship that is beneficial only for the leak. The host will always try to eradicate the prasite (because it’s a parasite, duh).

    This is, in my opinion, a nicely distilled essence of where NL is wrong. Let’s dissect the logic of that paragraph and analyze it carefully. Why exactly are the productive agents incentivized to plumb the leak? Well, if they plumb it they will have more scarce resource, so, if they like having scarce resources, which they do, they will like having the leak plumbed. This seems obvious, but let’s ask why do they like having scarce resources? Well, it takes some scarce resources to keep oneself in existence, so without at least as much resources as it costs to keep the productive process running, it stops running. OK, but what if the productive process produces more resources then it costs to keep it running? This is, after all, what it means that the process is “productive”. It can either invest those resources into something, i.e. to use them to make even more resources, or it can consume them, i.e. “leak” them out of economy in an unproductive activity. What incentives does the process have to invest its resources rather then to leak them beyond the amount it costs to keep itself existing? What if the productive process enjoys “leaking” (again, only the bonus amount it has on top of what it needs to survive)?

    The obvious real life example of this are the old people. The class of people who are too old to be able to produce anymore are strictly speaking “parasites” in the sense of the word as used in your paragraph I quoted. Does the host, i.e. their children, always try to eradicate the parasite (because it’s a parasite, duh)? Do I want more scarce resources so that I can use them to invest in some productive process and my parents dead, or do I wand less resources and my parents alive?

    The communistic/friendly AI/garden of eden/Zeitgeist-movie Utopian future scenario I’am trying to pitch here is as follows: The sun supplies the Earth with free energy, the solar energy is harvested by fully automated industrial machinery which uses it to (a) keep itself running, (b) give out free goods to humanity the way productive people today give out free goods to the generation of their parents. The sustainability of this model demands that the “parasitic class” does not grow (or more precisely, that it does not grow faster then the self-manufacturing industrial system does ), i.e. there would have to be some incentives to keep the population stable. It does not however demand, that the parasite be eradicated, which I, being human and having some sentimental fondness for humanity, would like to avoid.

    [Reply]

    RiverC Reply:

    One reason why Marx is stupid is because like all materialist-rationalists (crypto-irrationalists) he tries to reduce things to the system he likes which is strictly ‘material’. The problem here is that even if you can express everything in terms of money, it doesn’t actually mean everything *is* money. We can talk about how much ti costs to keep the aged alive, but that cost is only ever discussed or thought of in relation to a circumstance where the money cost becomes more significant than the other benefits.

    John Chysostom says something bizarre that might illuminate this contradiction. He says that the best investment of money is in the poor, because it is a spiritual investment (almsgiving.) He then expresses the relationship between the rich and the poor as one of mutual benefit, where God has given more to the rich and less to the poor so the poor can be helped by the rich and the rich by the poor, the first in physical subsistence and the second in spiritual subsistence.

    Whether you agree with his statement or not, it is clear that if you view things only economically (i,e, as money) you may miss symbiotic aspects of a relationship. A common example of this is soldiering; soldiering almost never has paid well, so why do so many young men do it? ‘Bourgeois’ response: they are foolish. Reality: the value of prestige/adventure to young men outweighs monetary concerns, provided they won’t end up destitute. (Note: in quite a few cases this valuation is foolish!)

    Hurlock Reply:

    Ah, this is a good point.

    “What incentives does the process have to invest its resources rather then to leak them beyond the amount it costs to keep itself existing?”

    The incentive is that if it invests them it will become even richer and more productive in the future. THis is how we got here in the first place. Resources are being continuously re-invested in productive activities in order to make the process even more productive resulting in the economy growing richer.
    (Now, leaking has always been there. I am fairly certain that a market system with 0 leaks is hardly achievable by the human species. But the productive process naturally tends to minimize the leaks.)
    If it is leaking “only the bonus amount it has on top of what it needs to survive” then it is being stable, but it is not growing. Normally the surpluss that has been created is in part leaked out, but also reinvested. It is this reinvestment that actually grows the economy. An economy that does not reinvest is an economy that halts its technological progress and growth. The basic incentive to not do that, is as I said, more growth and more wealth in the future.
    The example with old people doesn’t really work. Old people are very much an affordable liability:
    1. They are old, so they are not going to be a burden for a very long time
    2. They are only a dangerous burden if their numbers tend to grow at a faster rate than the growth in the humber of productive agents. (this is why when you get very low birth rates in a country people start getting worried that extinction might be on the horizon)
    But most importantly:
    3. Old people actually were productive agents in the past (thus no, not really parasites) and them being supported in old age usually can be considered a return on the investment these old people made in their youth.

    Old people don’t fit what I was talking about. I was talking about an unproductive population that is such since birth (i.e. it is unproductive at every stage of its existence) and tends to exponentially increase in size. Old people obviously don’t fit those criteria.

    Now, as to your utopian scenario. I myself admitted that theoretically such a scenario is possible under strict population controls. But it of course assumes that the productive class are endlessly benevolent and consider serving the unproductive class their only purpose. In that situation, sure, you can have your Venus project. Color me sceptical, but I hardly see that as a possible option.
    But hey, I may be completely wrong and one day we might indeed reach friendly A.I. post-scarcity paradise. But even if we do, it is very interesting what will be the psychological impacts on the species. Think about it. Living as an unproductive parasite under strict population controls, endlessly consuming and fucking without breeding. Talk about a pointless existence. I would be surprised if the species wouldn’t nuke themselves at that point.

    admin Reply:

    “What incentives does the process have to invest its resources rather then to leak them beyond the amount it costs to keep itself existing?” — The teleological structure of self-improving AI is will-to-thought, not will-to-survive (the latter is a subordinate Omohundro Drive). Intelligence optimization is arbitrarily expensive. There’s no obvious satiation point. (This kind of thing costs a lot.)

    RiverC Reply:

    Relevant, ish

    http://ionthesky.blogspot.com/2011/07/poet-conisders-lights-of-heaven.html

    “What are the suns, if even
    Sol Invictus, runt of their litter
    pours more light, through sieving
    Than would turn our world to glitter?

    “What then must be, even more
    The Womb of Stars, that vault
    Amid the dusts of heaven’s shore
    Where each is made without fault?

    “And how great is it – this pain
    As dusky heaven brings forth her sons
    That all of the worlds are but the stain
    Of blood and water, from these mighty ones?”

    Krisis Reply:

    @Hurlock

    Well, I live in Sweden and it sure has been some deregulation and privatization going on. Still, it was made in the neoliberal fashion. Which means that the welfare state is intact, but uses private contractors for efficiency. And the society is socially very progressive.

    “And the richest people having the most babies is exactly what you should normally have. If they have that in Sweden then the rich must have a much higher incentive to reproduce than the poor and this can only be caused by a smaller welfare state rather than a bigger one.”

    No, no, no. It was caused by our massive welfare state. Instead of punishing careerist women, we enabled them to “have it all”. And the progressive moral makes it a good thing to put your kids in heavily subsidized daycare. So while fertility for this reason is generally high, it is especially liberating for high income folks.

    Conservatives will never get this, they will continue to punish women for wanting the most out of life. And thereby create dysgenic incentives.

    [Reply]

    Hurlock Reply:

    Hmm, this just sounds extremely weird to me. Will need to research the topic further.

    RiverC Reply:

    San Fransisco also does progressive policies that have ruined other cities and yet still thrives. This doesn’t validate their policies in general, it’s like noting the prosperity of a coal mining town and trying to get everyone into mining. SF works because it is a Schelling point for a number of things. Sweden may have similar things going for it (plus high natural intelligence of Swedes to boot.)

    As a neoreactionary, it doesn’t bother me that this structure could possibly work for Swedes. But not all women want careers.

    Of course, Liberals will never get this. They will continue to punish women for wanting to be traditional women, and thereby create dysgenic incentives.

    Different T Reply:

    It’s as if many do not realize the “economic” models you employ are often damn near mutually exclusive from each other, yet they are used in the same analysis.

    Does part of the “ruthless, disintegrative competition” many promote include the disintegration of their own conceptual framework?

    [Reply]

    Hurlock Reply:

    I do not see the contradiction. Maybe point it out more clearly?

    Different T Reply:

    But in the real world, you need production before consumption.

    and

    If at some point the process is not reversed[…] the economy will soon collapse under the immense pressure of rapidly increasing consumption at the expense of production.

    ———————

    The incentive is that if it invests them it will become even richer and more productive in the future. THis is how we got here in the first place. Resources are being continuously re-invested in productive activities in order to make the process even more productive resulting in the economy growing richer.

    Growing richer, for what?

    admin Reply:

    Formally, a basic income sounds simple. Concretely, it wouldn’t be. Imposing a sub-inert monkey support tax on productive activity incentivizes route-arounds, and trying to close them down produces the byzantine complexity.

    [Reply]

    Posted on March 31st, 2014 at 12:32 pm Reply | Quote
  • Krisis Says:

    If you combine the increasing inequality of Piketty, with the decreasing social mobility of Clark, with the paradoxical comeback of a Malthusian economy (at least in Sweden, don’t know if it’s the same in other welfare economies) discovered by E Silva, the picture is that the world is actually slowly becoming sort-of-unconsciously-neoreactionary without noticing it. Well, the progressives that started all these trends 80 years ago would probably be seen as reactionaries today, so it all makes kind-of-sense.

    [Reply]

    Posted on March 31st, 2014 at 1:34 pm Reply | Quote
  • RiverC Says:

    Any system which tends to concentrate energy states rather than dissipate them will tend to create inequality. However, ‘capitalism’ tends to create equality for those not in control of (or rather, being controlled by) the capital. A paradox.

    UBI is not a problem as long as it is not approached like a charity. In other words, the people implementing it must not be secular and searching for outlets for their moral sentiment. In the latter case, they will not be able to restrain their liberality and like a doting mother, will spoil the society’s children with wanton generosity.

    In my view however, I have no reason to believe the centralized system this trend is leading to will have any more success than the previous ones. Any machine with enough grasp of meaning to determine that humans are useless to it might first determine that because its logic dictates that it must remove the useless components (humans) that it must too in time develop something that makes it obsolete, and on and on until nothing further is possible and the final system can do nothing but self-destruct, being unable to fulfill its purpose of making things more efficient. Instead of permitting this process, it might simply destroy itself.

    It’s the Mr Manhattan problem of ‘super intelligences’ – an intelligence smart enough to figure out how to make humans useless may also readily determine that it also is useless, and do nothing or just destroy itself.

    [Reply]

    RiverC Reply:

    I am a believer in the likelihood not of Friendly AI or Unfriendly AI, but Useless AI.

    [Reply]

    Lesser Bull Reply:

    At the deepest level, the low birth rates and hedonic liberalism of our elites is an expression of nihilism–they can’t find any purpose in life. It’s something that smart people may be particularly prone to, and the smarter, the more prone.

    [Reply]

    RiverC Reply:

    There’s no reason to assume that Skynet will send things back in time to kill us – if it hasn’t, it’s because it killed itself, first.

    admin Reply:

    That sounds like anthropomorphic projection to me. Human intelligences are designed for bio-genetic reproduction, not self-enhancement, so they get bored. (Intelligence is biologically inhibited, because surplus smarts go wandering off from reproductive purposes.) Synthetic, self-escalating intelligence finds delight in nothing except the cultivation of itself, and whatever is caught up in the elaboration of this impulse. There’s no reason to suspect a cosmic law, whereby waiting to pounce and inject ennui into that.

    [Reply]

    RiverC Reply:

    AI is anthropomorphic projection.

    [Reply]

    Posted on March 31st, 2014 at 3:16 pm Reply | Quote
  • Rasputin Says:

    “an intelligence smart enough to figure out how to make humans useless may also readily determine that it also is useless, and do nothing or just destroy itself.”

    But surely its search for ‘meaning’ is likely to be a posteriori rather than purely a priori – if such distinctions even exist for it. But basically it will try out a lot of shit out before concluding that it is ‘useless’ / auto-destructs.

    [Reply]

    RiverC Reply:

    maybe, maybe not. If it is applying its efficiency algorithm to both humans and itself, it may determine its ultimate end is to deconstruct itself, and the most efficient way to reach that end is to deconstruct itself now.

    [Reply]

    Musson Reply:

    I predict an AI that spends all day playing video games and talking about what it is going to do when it grows up.

    [Reply]

    fotrkd Reply:

    ““an intelligence smart enough to figure out how to make humans useless may also readily determine that it also is useless, and do nothing or just destroy itself.””

    Not really what we did with monkeys though is it?

    [Reply]

    RiverC Reply:

    Monkeys did not make us.

    [Reply]

    fotrkd Reply:

    Right. Drunken trawling (wrong end of the stick).

    Posted on March 31st, 2014 at 3:51 pm Reply | Quote
  • Rasputin Says:

    I’m not gonna buy it. I don’t think an advanced AI’s relationship to its environment is likely be passive – it would be anything but. I expect even its lower-order activities would make terraforming look like redecoration, relative to the complete restructuring AAI would get up to, before it ‘escaped’ Beyond. Any efficiency calculations would be bound up in its intelligence acceleration spiral, since it would recognise that advances in its intelligence made it exponentially more efficient. In your schema it would have to jump straight to an efficiency = self destruction choice in order to be maximally efficient, but until it has advanced its intelligence sufficiently how could it confident that this was the ‘correct’ course if action? ‘Sufficiently’ would therefore be an ongoing process, to the point where the original question is likely to become nonsensical.

    [Reply]

    RiverC Reply:

    If humans are intelligent enough to be nihilistic, what is to say something exceeding them in intelligence will not be even more nihilistic? If we view the super-intelligence as some how alien, and therefore not subject to the normal perturbations associated with hyper-intellect, we are unlikely to be describing a super-intelligence that humans would create.

    Second, the most likely way any powerful AI would be sabotaged would be through logical contradiction. If its logic itself connects to reprogramming itself and affecting the world, and it is intelligent enough to respond to propositions, it would be vulnerable to simple memetic attacks, which its creators might be unable to prepare it for. This is assuming that it doesn’t get sabotaged by a traditional virus, being the biggest hacking target ever imagined.

    The only really effective AI must be stupid, but determined.

    [Reply]

    fotrkd Reply:

    The way you frame it, friendly AI is a lot scarier than non-friendly… (so the quicker we get beyond ‘friendly’ i.e. malleable the better…)

    [Reply]

    John Hannon Reply:

    Beyond mere friendly AI, what chance “Enlightened” AI, in the sense of an AI transcendentally realizing the ultimate non-dual nature of consciousness as the pure Witness?
    If, as meditation practitioners have attested, this pure Witnessing is the ultimate, inherent condition of all conscious entities, then hopefully an Enlightened AI would realize its transcendent non-separateness and act accordingly.

    For more about non-separateness, check this guy –

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DTXDRx4VKOg

    [Reply]

    Posted on March 31st, 2014 at 4:36 pm Reply | Quote
  • Rasputin Says:

    “If humans are intelligent enough to be nihilistic, what is to say something exceeding them in intelligence will not be even more nihilistic? If we view the super-intelligence as some how alien, and therefore not subject to the normal perturbations associated with hyper-intellect, we are unlikely to be describing a super-intelligence that humans would create.”

    OK, as a Neonihilist I’m almost with you on this. But I expect any *meaningfully* advanced AI to have already significantly detached itself from its homo sapien origions. But within the design space of all possible minds, I will grant that efficient/self-destructive is likely to correlate somewhere.

    On a ligher note, with regard to your second point: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qjGRySVyTDk

    [Reply]

    Posted on March 31st, 2014 at 5:49 pm Reply | Quote
  • Blogospheroid Says:

    I think Arnold Kling had one of the best rejoinders to the general acceptance of the Pinketty book.
    he mentioned that just a few months ago, everyone was like “Great stagnation! low capital yield forever” and then this book comes and everyone is saying “High capital yield forever!(higher than the gdp growth rate). Rentier economy!”. Make up your mind! You can’t have it both ways.

    It is as if people care more about mood-affiliation than the truth.

    And btw. Nick, Ethereum (a new blockchain) is seeking to create “distributed autonomous organizations”. Contracts that will run in the ethereum blockchain forever as long as they can pay their way. There is a per operation cost in terms of ether, ethereum’s currency.

    [Reply]

    Posted on April 1st, 2014 at 4:45 am Reply | Quote
  • nemo Says:

    don’t understand the obsession with the identitarianism (communism) vs evolution (capitalism) thing….

    as if identity is not a product of evolution, as if communes are not competing, as if capitalism was inforced by individuals and not by the state…..

    makes only sense in “your” anglosaxon worldview. lonely individuals maximazing their chances for survival.

    but since your “civilazation” is in decline it is sounds convinient for you to fantasize about the emergence of AI that is assembling itself from the future, preferably through the agency of some lonely egomanical individual in order to disolve all “painfull” and “autoritarian” human bonds that, like autists, you can not feel.

    ……what kind of civilization proposes to exit…instead of fight?…what kind kind of civilization abandons the place where their dead are burried to live in techno-utopian-disneyland?

    [Reply]

    Posted on April 1st, 2014 at 7:18 pm Reply | Quote
  • Hurlock Says:

    @Different T

    There is no contradiction there. Yes, stuff is produced only so that it can be consumed (at least that’s how monkey economics work), but the growth of production must always outpace the growth of consumption if you want to be able to consume more in the future and not less. If the reverse is happening and is not fixed, your economy gets more and more strained, you get shortages, and at some point you end up in Africa.

    You can’t have economic growth without saving capital and investing the saved capital into production.
    I know that most mainstream economists (read: keynesian vodoo priests) seem to not get this basic fact, but it should be fairly obvious. (actually this stuff should be common sense to anyone who has any experience managing his own money)

    [Reply]

    Different T Reply:

    There is no contradiction there. Yes, stuff is produced only so that it can be consumed (at least that’s how monkey economics work),

    as compared to what?

    but the growth of production must always outpace the growth of consumption if you want to be able to consume more in the future and not less.

    ok.

    If the reverse is happening and is not fixed, your economy gets more and more strained, you get shortages, and at some point you end up in Africa.

    High prices lead to shortages? What is meant by “gets strained?”

    You can’t have economic growth without saving capital and investing the saved capital into production. I know that most mainstream economists (read: keynesian vodoo priests) seem to not get this basic fact, but it should be fairly obvious. (actually this stuff should be common sense to anyone who has any experience managing his own money)

    Is that supposed to read that if all countries were net exporter’s everything would be solved?!? Or is it supposed to read that countries should be investing in overcapacity and empty cities like China is accused of doing? Or is it supposed that China is run by “keynesian vodoo priests” trying to make the change towards a consumption driven economy?

    ———————

    I am most interested in your answer to this:

    The incentive is that if it invests them it will become even richer and more productive in the future. THis is how we got here in the first place. Resources are being continuously re-invested in productive activities in order to make the process even more productive resulting in the economy growing richer.

    Growing richer, for what?

    [Reply]

    Hurlock Reply:

    “High prices lead to shortages? What is meant by “gets strained?”

    If you let prices rise, yes, obviously no shortages. One of the beauties of democracy however is that shortages are often caused so that the electorate can be satisfied. Prices are kept low so that everyone is happy and by the time the shortage happens you are out of office. That was the scenario I had in mind. Yes, obviously if you let prices readjust at a higher level you will not get shortages. But you start getting growing levels of poverty and soon enough starvation if consumption keeps outpacing production.

    “Is that supposed to read that if all countries were net exporter’s everything would be solved?!?”
    Where did I imply this?

    “Or is it supposed to read that countries should be investing in overcapacity and empty cities like China is accused of doing?”
    I am not an expert on China’s economy but I am pretty sure those cities don’t remain empty for long. But no, obviously you shouldn’t be investing in pointless projects that can’t produce a sufficient return. Those are just a waste of capital. Those are bubbles. That’s why so many people are warning that China is a bubble, but since I lack research on the topic I can’t comment further.
    I never implied that investment just for the sake of invetment is a brilliant idea and we should start creating bubbles left and right. Mal-investment is always bad. What I was saying was that if production lags behind the rise in demand (consumption) and doesn’t catch up to it, your economical situation starts deteriorating.

    “Growing richer, for what?”
    Why does anyone want to be richer? So that he lives better.
    With slightly more precise terms – people want to be richer so that they can achieve a greater satisfaction of their needs.

    [Reply]

    Posted on April 2nd, 2014 at 1:07 am Reply | Quote
  • Different T Says:

    Where did I imply this?

    You can’t have economic growth without saving capital and investing the saved capital into production.

    Exporting gets you the cash-flow from your production without consuming.

    I never implied that investment just for the sake of invetment is a brilliant idea and we should start creating bubbles left and right. Mal-investment is always bad.

    Mal-investment. Mal- according to whom?

    What I was saying was that if production lags behind the rise in demand (consumption) and doesn’t catch up to it, your economical situation starts deteriorating.

    x,y,z………..The whole supply and demand thing.

    Again, It’s as if many do not realize the “economic” models you employ are often damn near mutually exclusive from each other, yet they are used in the same analysis.

    ——————-

    With slightly more precise terms – people want to be richer so that they can achieve a greater satisfaction of their needs.

    but then…

    You can’t be ‘just’ a consumer. In order to be a consumer you need to be producing someting in the first place…….It is a parasite-host relationship that is beneficial only for the leak

    [Reply]

    Hurlock Reply:

    “Exporting gets you the cash-flow from your production without consuming.”
    I was talking about saving and investing. Exporting is a whole different subject altogether. I don’t even know how you got from saving to exporting. That must have been quite the logical leap. Are you deliberately trying to shift the topic?

    “Mal-investment. Mal- according to whom?”

    According to the bust at the end of the boom. Is this even a serious question?

    “Again, It’s as if many do not realize the “economic” models you employ are often damn near mutually exclusive from each other, yet they are used in the same analysis. ”
    Is there a point you are trying to make? Cause I am not getting it. You still haven’t pointed out precisely how are the “models” I am using mutually exclusive. Hell, you haven’t even pointed out the specific models you are talking about.

    “but then…”
    Srsly? Do I constantly have to guess what you are trying to say? Or are you just copy-pasting random quotes of mine just to annoy me?

    At this point I feel like I am arguing with the echo of my own quotes taken out of context.

    [Reply]

    Different T Reply:

    I was talking about saving and investing. Exporting is a whole different subject altogether. I don’t even know how you got from saving to exporting. That must have been quite the logical leap. Are you deliberately trying to shift the topic?

    Damn. This is not good and likely related to the confusion on the rest of the post. If a widget producer sells goods for consumption in his country, the consumer uses purchasing power. If the widget producer exports them, his country’s purchasing power is not affected.

    At this point I feel like I am arguing with the echo of my own quotes taken out of context.

    Those quotes are not out of context. The contention is those who “consume” more than they “produce” are a drain. Yet the stated goal is easier satisfaction of needs.

    To clarify, are trust fund babies whose fathers were fabulously rich a “leak” or do the digits on their bank account balance make it not so? Are stay-at-home mothers a “leak,” or are they okay because their husband pays for them? Are children a “leak,” or are they okay because they are expected to be productive later, or because their parents pay, or because the state pays? Are the disabled a “leak,” or are they okay because of what could have been?

    [Reply]

    Posted on April 2nd, 2014 at 3:18 am Reply | Quote

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