Thursday, May 31, 2018

The Entertainment Singularity

Dey Took Er Jerbz

I often flirt intellectually with the concept of a fully roboticized economy.  I don't think it will ever happen in totality.  I think worries about robots stealing our jobs is overblown.  And I believe the precipice of AI is merely the latest evolution of the continual technological asymptote humankind as endured since forever. But it's still interesting to ponder because while I believe a fully-automated economy will forever remain theoretical, there are some aspects of it that will become reality, if not have already come to fruition.

Adding further intrigue to the concept of a perfected "AI economy" is that I do not believe it is compatible with human psychology and evolution.  Yes, it is an economist's dream, if not the whole purpose of economics, to have robots do all the work while we humans luxuriate for our ever-increasing life-expectancies.  But as me and some of my fellow digital nomadic explorers have discovered, this "utopian world" of working from your laptop is not all it's cracked up to be.  Matter of fact it's already proving dystopian in some regards.

Yes it is nice to work from your bed all day, having money automatically deposited into your bank account, while Amazon delivers all the world's goods to your front door....until you do it for a month and realize you desperately need to get out of the house.

Yes it is nice to stare into a smart phone for days on end, meeting new people online, perhaps even starting the buds of a romantic relationship online...until you realize an entire generation of kids are mentally stunted, incapable of dating and incredibly depressed in the process.

And yes it's nice to have your car do everything for you, warning you about crossing the median to even driving for you...until you try to pop the hood and fix the damn thing.
Every technology and technological advance has had its drawbacks, but as far as my economist eye can see there's another straw to add to the "AI Economy Camel's Back"- The Entertainment Singularity.  And it holds some serious (and dark) ramifications for us.

The Entertainment Singularity

I cannot claim ownership of this very original idea.  That goes to Dick Masterson as I was listening to his podcast one day.  He and his co-host were talking about Nasim Aghdam, the woman who shot up YouTube's corporate headquarters when they canceled her YouTube channel.  The point they were making was that as jobs are increasingly harder and harder to get, requiring more and more education, many people were going to the internet to unleash their creative talents (for better of worse).  And when that creative outlet is eliminated or canceled, in many cases you eliminate the ONLY creative outlet increasing numbers of people have.  Ipso facto, people are going to revolt, sometimes violently as Ms. Aghdam did.  However, Dick went on to further extrapolate that in the future, with more and more jobs being automated, an increasing percentage of the population will be put out of a job.  And not even "put out of a job" as much as never given the chance of having one in the first place. And so the logical conclusion was if you went down the time line far enough, where robots were doing all the labor, the only thing left for people to do would be:

1.  Consume entertainment and
2.  Produce entertainment

At first this sounds great!  All we do is create philosophy, art, music, videos, debate, as the robots make and bring us our food?  There's nothing else we have to do other than entertain ourselves and create our own entertainment as all hobbyists dream of?  It is the solution to the labor/leisure paradox that has plagued humankind since the beginning.  We'd like to maximize leisure, but we need to at least expend some of our efforts of labor.  In a truly, 100%-attained AI economy, wealth would be virtually limitless, making labor unnecessary and leisure free.  And as long as we didn't outbreed the roboticized economy's ability to produce wealth, nobody would have to expend a second of their lives toiling.  But as I said before, a fully-functional and total AI economy is not compatible with the human mind. And using my economic spidey senses, it would become rapidly apparent this utopian dream is a dystopian nightmare.

First, Dick admits that humans need an outlet for their energy and productive talents.  I would argue this applies more to men than women - and let's not forget that government checks have now created 3 generations of parasites who are perfectly happy watching Jerry Springer and majoring in the liberal arts - but for the most part that premise is correct.  Humans (productive ones anyway) need to do SOMETHING otherwise they will have no agency or value in their lives.  Thankfully, if the robots do take over, humanity's point and purpose in life would quite literally be boiled down to "entertain and be entertained."  This seems simplistic and even degrading.  You would say, "well we could work if we wanted to, right?"  But this misses the point of a fully functional AI economy.  You wouldn't have the CHANCE to work.  The jobs wouldn't even exist for you to apply to in the first place.  And besides, I would even argue that you wouldn't want to work a real job anyway when your hobbies would make you just as much money.

Fixing up classical cars.
Painting landscapes.
Doing videos on fishing.
Webcaming for the attention fix theatrical joy.

All of that is preferable to the toil of hauling cement in 1890, even the relative bliss of filing in an airconditioned office in 2018.  Nearly everybody would opt for hobbying than actual laboring. 

But will people whittle wood?  Paint pictures?  Write symphonic scores?

Will people create Victor Borge-esque levels of humor?  Theatrical pieces that rival Casablanca?  Write genius literary works that put Shakespeare to shame?

I'd even settle for people just keeping to their own and producing nothing.  You want to watch Sports Center all day, listen to gansta rap, and drink Fireball all afternoon?  Knock yourselves out, long as you ain't hurting nobody.

But I know humans.  And humans suck. And it is here where humanity will take this wonderful utopian dream and turn it into a dystopian nightmare.  And to understand how this will happen, one needs to understand wealth and value.

The Problem with Unlimited Wealth

In the perfected AI economy, "wealth" would lose all meaning.  Since every material want and desire would be produced by robots, the value of everything would go to zero since it would take no labor or effort on our part to produce them.

What's the value of that Mountain Dew?
$0, I can get another one from the Mountain Dew Robot for free.

What's the value of that backrub?
$0. I can get another one from the Backrub Robot for free.

What's the value of that personal F-16 fighter plane?
$0.  The F-16 Fighter Plane Robots will make me another one for free and the Amazon robot will deliver it to my front door tomorrow.

With unlimited wealth "value" gets turned on its head.  Things are in unlimited supply so they by definition cannot hold value.  Further complicating matters is in an AI economy there wouldn't be money (because everything is free) and thus, without money, there is no unit of measurement by which to calculate value. 

So if things no longer have value, then what DOES have value in an AI economy?  Does anything have value?  Humans cannot live lives in a world where NOTHING has value. What gives them point and purpose in life?  What gives them the incentive to get up in the morning?  What gives them the reason to live?  Simple - things that robots can't produce, and only humans can. And to make matters worse, things only a very few, select number of humans can.

Beauty, Excellence, Stimulation, Insight, and Artisanship

Since material things would no longer have value, the only things that would have value are the non-tangible qualities, traits, and creations of other human beings.  Works of art such as music, paintings, sculptures, movies, comedy, and the aforementioned entertainment would all have entertainment value to those yet to consume it.  Intellectual stimulation in the form of philosophy, insight, speculation and debate (much like Jordan Peterson and Stephan Molynuex of today) would pique and entertain the minds of millions.  Excellence, be it in athleticism, architecture, technology, or any other human endeavor would beget awe and fascination much like the Olympics do today.  And physical beauty.  Just because robots are doing all the work doesn't mean men would abandon their desires for a beautiful woman, nor women abandon their secretive lust to be violated by muscular bad boys.

In short, people will place value on high quality human creations be it the arts, beauty, architecture, literature, philosophy, or any other human endeavor.  There is, however, a problem with this.  Society is only going to value the human creations that are beautiful and excellent, not common and inferior.  And unfortunately things that are beautiful and/or excellent take labor, toil, sacrifice, and effort.  And that runs contrary to human nature.

Laziness and Envy

To reiterate my previous point, most humans are scum.  Human history is basically the story of a lazy species that does whatever it can to get by on the cheap, take short cuts, and live off of others.  You could even further reduce the history of mankind to simply "work avoidance."  Admittedly, it is a noble goal to be more efficient, working less and producing more with advances in technology, but a trip to your local Wal-Mart, college campus, or corporate office will show the vast majority of people would rather sit on their ass, stuff their faces, and expend the least amount of effort possible than give it their all and pursue excellence in their lives.

This leaves a small minority of humans who actually have the capacity and desire to create human works of genuine beauty and excellence.  For example today's modern artists are a laughably worthless group of people.  They are simply too lazy to hone and craft their skills to create genuine works of art.  Instead they create utter crap and hide their lack of talent behind some concocted political or philosophical interpretation of their "art."  Another example, wealthy people.  Wealth is merely excellence in the form of work ethic.  I acknowledge many rich people today inherited their wealth, but they are not the majority.  The majority of wealthy people earned it either by working harder, working smarter, and usually a combination of both.  However, most normies and commoners would rather complain about what others earned than earn wealth themselves.  And finally, actual physical beauty.  To be physically attractive takes work, LOT'S OF WORK.  But a simple walk down the street will show you the majority of Americans prefer to be revolting, puke-inducing sows than hit the gym and eat right.

When you add it all up, it is only a VERY SMALL minority of people who have both the ability and inclination to achieve beauty and excellence.  And these people will command the majority of value in this AI economy of the future.  However, in being the sole providers of anything of value in this neo-economy, they will also be the target of most people's envy and ire.  And whereas in today's modern economy greed, envy, and jealousy can be avenged through progressive taxation, in an AI economy, there is no wealth or income to confiscate.  Additionally, you can't very well "transfer looks" or "transfer talent" much like socialists today "transfer wealth," so how do the jealous normies, conformies, commoners, and inferiors get their pound of flesh?

A Different Road to Serfdom

To revisit the original premise of The Entertainment Singularity everybody will produce and consume entertainment. A small minority of people will produce the highest quality entertainment, commanding the most value in this economy, while the vast majority of people will make inferior entertainment that nobody will value.  From an economics perspective this is moot since wealth is unlimited and everybody's bio-physiological needs are met.  However, from a psychological perspective this discrepancy is very important since only a small few will have a clear calling for agency and purpose, while others simply won't.  And again I needn't remind you about the petty, envious nature of humans that will drive the majority to demand some kind of "agency" and "value" in their own lives.

So where does a lazy person, whose ego is too big to just collect their BGI check and make videos of his dog online, go?  The answer is "religion."

Keep in mind when I say "religion" I don't mean just the traditional religions of Christianity, Islam, and Judaism, though it can be that too. I  mean any belief lazy people use as a substitute for actual value, achievement, excellence, and accomplishment in their lives.

Global warming/environmentalist.
Animal Rights
Fair trade coffee
Organic coffee
Free range coffee
The children
The whales
Gun control.
Children's cancer.
Breast cancer.
Helping the poor.
Helping the Africans
Fighting poverty.

You name it, the vast majority of modern day political/social causes are today's modern religions and about as valid as the old ones.  And so instead of putting forth all the hard toil and effort that anything of real value requires, the majority of people will simply choose a political crusade as their entertainment, thus conferring immediate (and faux) value on their entertainment and thus themselves.

But it will not stop there.

Even though the "inferior" producers will successfully replace (in their minds) actual talent with a worthless religion, they won't go away.  They won't be satisfied.  Because deep down inside they know they're producing nothing of value.  They know they are inferior.  And (petty as this sounds, it is devastatingly true) they know they're ugly.  And their envious, petty minds will simply not be able to abide these facts.  Ergo, even though all their worldly desires are taken care of, and they have a fabricated substitute of worth to feed their ego, they will still try to redefine what is beautiful.  What is excellent.  What is reality.

This is already happening in today's world.  Big is beautiful.  "Acting white."  Redefining art to be minimalist crap.  Plus size models at Target.  The elimination of the honor role and valedictorians.  Tattoos, piercings, gauges, and other body mutilations as a substitute to hit the gym.  And that says nothing of the rapid and pathetic arms race of victim whoring, claiming you're disabled or disadvantaged in today's world.  "White privilege."  "Male privilege."  "Institutional racism."  "31 flavors of gender."  "3 in 1 women are raped on college campuses every 4 seconds."  "The wage gap." "ADHD/Autism/Bi-Polar." Etc. etc.  This is the mental, political, and sociological insanity we normal, producing people are suffering today as the lazy and parasitic in our society try to redefine reality to their liking.  It's just going to be turned up to 13 in the future theoretical roboticized economy.

But maddening as this is, it's still not the worst to come.  Because if you look at society today and the entities that will likely be the vehicles by which entertainment will be deliver to society, an incredibly dangerous storm is brewing.

First, with the K-college education industry you have a purposed, well-financed, and consciously orchestrated attempt to brainwash people into socialism.  You can claim it's conspiracy theory and that Alex Jones and I have been drinking too much Listerine, but it's true.  People are conditioned from 5 years old to be socialists and are inherently biased to the left.

Second, today's gatekeepers of social media are also biased to the left.  Google/YouTube, Twitter, Reddit, etc., are all rank leftist, Silicon Valley organizations, some of which have viral and hate-filled leftist SJW elements and people within them.  They will/have channel, throttle, censor, edit, and control any human-created entertainment both now and into the future.  Perhaps not even consciously, and under a somewhat noble intention to allow for free speech, much like today's MSM, they are inherently biased to the left and cannot do anything to control for it. 

Finally, the majority of people by definition are just rank sheep, followers, conformists, and obeyers.  They do not have the intellectual independence or mental strength to resist the brainwashing they receive.  This is why you have "America's smartest people" (that would be college students) all PAINFULLY thinking the same, voting the same, and spewing the same leftist opinions.  They will not be able to resist the indoctrination they receive from kindergarten through college and they will not be aware that the Thought Police of Social Media will govern what future thoughts and opinions they'll be allowed to have in the future.

You combine these three things together and you have an Orwellian tyranny in under a century.  The majority of people are just not smart enough to resist the brainwashing they currently and will receive in the future.  Most are also just too damn lazy to want to pursue excellence in life.  And when you realize nearly all entertainment (both today and in the future) will be filtered through an entertainment singularity that is controlled and regulated by organizations that have a huge leftist bias, the fact we're a democracy will condemn us down a AI economy road to intellectual serfdom.

The Future is Now!

The sad thing is that much of this is already happening today.  We don't have to wait until the robots take over and produce all our material wants and desires.  Technology has advanced enough to the point we can entertain concepts like "Basic Guaranteed Income" and already have an effective prototype "cradle to grave" government program.  This economic largess (be it in the form of a government check or daddy cutting a check for his "precious little princess") has allowed for many phenomena of an AI economy/Entertainment Singularity to become reality today.

An increasing number of youth actually try (and some succeed) in making their living on social media.  Nearly everybody's social media feed is chock full of politics, religion, crusades and causes to mask their relatively productionless lives.  Most people mock Christianity, but have replaced it with going "organic" or being an "environmentalist" like they were programmed to.  I needn't highlight how the dregs of society are desperately trying to make ugly beautiful, fat thin, poverty success, wealth bad, parasitism moral, etc.  And the Orwellian nightmare is well on its way in western civilization as evidenced by the arrest/convictions of Count Dankula and  Ursula Haverbeck.

The only thing missing is the robots and artificial intelligence that are supposed to produce everything for us humans.  Which was sadly the only silver lining to his dystopian future.  Alas, I guess the productive, creative minority will have to continue to pay the taxes to support the parasitic, jealous majority because those damn robots haven't taken away everybody's jobs just yet.  Oh well, enjoy the decline.

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Damn Crackers said...

Don't tell me the Mark of the Beast isn't true. You'll have to submit to the ideas they want you to in order to obtain the pleasures of the AI world.

Tucanae Services said...

Interesting read there Cappy.

First here is a short film that depicts the future fairly well as you envisioned it --

Second I don't think you carried the concept into enough realms. Lets try government for $400.

* If the govt can order up a robotic abrams tank, a robotic F-16 and oodles of M-16 rifles for $0, why wouldn't they? They would of course. When they have combat robots for $0 they will order that too.

* When everything is $0 there is no need for social security and medicaid. Fact no need for the Commerce dept, USDA, or any other govt program that is support services.

* Essentially the govt can be decoupled from the people that are supposed to be its deciders, the voter. If that happens then the former voters are more valuable as targets than they are citizens.

An interesting exercise indeed.

Raghav Hegde said...

Fantastic! Agree with everything you say, every word - "human beings are scum".

Mike said...

Reminiscent of Brave New World, Harrison Bergeron, and Gulliver's Travels, all rolled into one.

Anonymous said...

Good essay. For follow-up I recommend the 1951 short story, "The Marching Morons" (available for free at and the 2006 film "Idiocracy".

j said...

"Fixing up classical cars."

So, at 17 my young son is doing exactly that. Here's the link

Three or four clients a week. Repeat business. Robots can't do it and neither can the dealership.

There are a lot of things which will resist AI and robots - the plumber who came over to fix the ghost noises in the toilet being an example.

Humans like to be busy. Or, more exactly, smart humans like to be busy. The dumb ones will watch their reality TV and die of self-induced diabetes or heart failure. The really smart ones are going to be on the BFR and get the Hell out of here to places which have real challenges. Have Spacesuit, Will Travel, is where I want my kids to be. Running diagnostics on BMWs is a step in that direction.

Anonymous said...

Lol "free range coffee" !!!

Very well written. And so true.

There is just one thing I believe everyone misses in this theory of abundance: The idea that the human life expectancy will/would keep increasing.
You write it well, just look at people today. Fat, lazy, mean.
The fact that even today where still some value remains the grand majority of the population makes bad decisions when it comes to food and exercise. Up to the point where most of them do or at least will in the future suffer drastic health issues. If everything becomes free, people will rapidly start to die earlier and earlier due to the single fact of stuffing themselves.

No matter how good today's medicine is, nothing can avoid, change or stop the ultimately death causing effects of too much food. Especially when combined with the ever increasingly sedentary life style.

Most people spend way too much on food today. Hey will even more when stuff becomes "free".
It's gross if you think that by just eating what you do need -and sorry, yes, for those who do not perform physically strenuous labor all day long it's a frighteningly small amount- you could save tens of thousands of dollars over a life time... and save doctors bills as well and stay healthy and fit just as an aside and for free. ...

... so, in the end, from an "evolutionary" standpoint, I guess you can conclude that only those smart enough to avoid the temptations of the AI world where everything is free will survive.

Andrew said...

Read Voyage From Yesteryear by James P Hogan. A more optimistic view on the problem.

Brad K said...

I think one thing that everyone forgets in these kinds of articles is energy. Yes we may be able to reduce the human labor to essentially zero but all those robots/AI etc will still require energy to operate.

One might argue that once you build a fusion power plant producing robot / become a type II civilization that this problem is moot; however the available energy at a point in time will still be finite and as such I believe that an 'energy budget' will become the 'universal basic income' so to speak - the energy requirement to say grow you an apple, deliver it to you and recycle the waste is one thing, but ordering your own personal space station delivered to Mars low earth orbit is another thing entirely...

I recon the older Star Trek's had the right idea in that once people have no need to work to provide themselves with the the kinds of things we spend money on today, people will simply start to volunteer themselves, their time and their 'energy budget' for what ever floats their boat - from being a tour guide at a museum of 21st century feminism to an physicist helping to build a machine to terraform Venus..

Brad K said...

I think one thing that everyone forgets in these kinds of articles is energy. Yes we may be able to reduce the human labor to essentially zero but all those robots/AI etc will still require energy to operate.

One might argue that once you build a fusion power plant producing robot / become a type II civilization that this problem is moot; however the available energy at a point in time will still be finite and as such I believe that an 'energy budget' will become the 'universal basic income' so to speak - the energy requirement to say grow you an apple, deliver it to you and recycle the waste is one thing, but ordering your own personal space station delivered to Mars low earth orbit is another thing entirely...

I recon the older Star Trek's had the right idea in that once people have no need to work to provide themselves with the the kinds of things we spend money on today, people will simply start to volunteer themselves, their time and their 'energy budget' for what ever floats their boat - from being a tour guide at a museum of 21st century feminism to an physicist helping to build a machine to terraform Venus..

Anonymous said...

Very good.

1. People are sheep.
2. People need a religion.

But, ...

3. There will always be a Caesar.

Wandering man said...

Well, the elite have expressed their views on humanity and how they want to wipe everyone out. 😐

Wandering man said...

This is why animals have natural camouflage. Can't get hasseled by what can't see you.

Quartz said...

One thing you've missed is time. In a post-scarcity economy it's people's time that becomes valuable.

YIH said...

Star Trek: The Next Generation dealt with the same theme. In that view of the future, money (and any need for it) it's obsolete - in many episodes you'll see Captain Picard walk into his office, go to what looks like an ice/water dispenser on a fridge and say ''tea, Earl Grey, hot'' and the tea, with cup and saucer, just materializes out of thin air. The device, in Star Trek parlance, is called a ''replicator'' that can materialize nearly anything out of nothing (other than the power needs of the device that is). In that particular episode they find a capsule from Earth where the occupants had died of terminal illnesses in 1994.
Three of them get brought on board the Enterprise. A housewife, a country star, and a financier, Ralph Offenhouse. So, once revived, he wants to know how his assets and businesses are doing... All gone (c'mon, it's 300+ years in the future, do you really think those things are going to last that long?). Near the end he asks Picard ''I have nothing, what do I do once I return to Earth?'' Picard says ''learn, create, enrich yourself [not in the monetary sense]''

Shuck said...

Maybe that's the hidden premise behind the Jetsons: their society is so wealthy because of technology and robots, people lead completely meaningless lives; so they created "jobs" like Jetson literally pressing a button all day, to give themselves meaning.

"Just because robots are doing all the work doesn't mean men would abandon their desires for a beautiful woman"

Robot maids giving blowJOBs.

Anonymous said...

You're a cocksucker