Our Automated Future

Ford worries that we are headed toward an era of “techno-feudalism.” He imagines a plutocracy shut away “in gated communities or in elite cities, perhaps guarded by autonomous military robots and drones.” Under the old feudalism, the peasants were exploited; under the new arrangement, they’ll merely be superfluous. The best we can hope for, he suggests, is a collective form of semi-retirement. He recommends a guaranteed basic income for all, to be paid for with new taxes, levelled, at least in part, on the new gazillionaires.

To one degree or another, just about everyone writing on the topic shares this view. Jerry Kaplan proposes that the federal government create a 401(k)-like account for every ten-year-old in the U.S. Those who ultimately do find jobs could contribute some of their earnings to the accounts; those who don’t could perform volunteer work in return for government contributions. (What the volunteers would live off is a little unclear; Kaplan implies that they might be able to get by on their dividends.) Brynjolfsson and McAfee prefer the idea of a negative income tax; this would provide the unemployed with a minimal living and the underemployed with additional cash.

via Our Automated Future — New Yorker

George Hotz Is Taking on Tesla by Himself

Comma.ai’s prototype offers similar prospective features as Tesla (Level 3 automation).

The goal is to sell the camera and software package for $1,000 a pop either to automakers or, if need be, directly to consumers who would buy customized vehicles at a showroom run by Hotz. “I have 10 friends who already want to buy one,” he says.

Sounds like a Chinese knockoff!

A friend introduced him to Musk, and they met at Tesla’s factory in Fremont, Calif., talking at length about the pros and perils of AI technology. Soon enough, the two men started figuring out a deal in which Hotz would help develop Tesla’s self-driving technology. There was a proposal that if Hotz could do better than Mobileye’s technology in a test, then Musk would reward him with a lucrative contract. Hotz, though, broke off the talks when he felt that Musk kept changing the terms. “Frankly, I think you should just work at Tesla,” Musk wrote to Hotz in an e-mail. “I’m happy to work out a multimillion-dollar bonus with a longer time horizon that pays out as soon as we discontinue Mobileye.”

“I appreciate the offer,” Hotz replied, “but like I’ve said, I’m not looking for a job. I’ll ping you when I crush Mobileye.”

Musk simply answered, “OK.”


via George Hotz Is Taking on Tesla by Himself.

Basic income: how Finland plans to implement the first nation-wide project in the EU | Finland Politics

Historically and presently, there is (reasonable) opposition to such ideas:

The reasons for the opposition by the Social Democrats have been clearly stated by Eero Heinäluoma, one of their leaders, in a public debate for the 2007 election: “Basic income encourages inactivity, is too expensive, means just an additional system among the others and does not support Lutheran work ethics.” Their position probably also has a lot to do with the links between the Social Democratic Party and the trade unions, who are totally against the idea of an income which would not be linked to work, would certainly lead to a reduction of salaries, and benefit mainly employers in line with Milton Friedman’s proposal. However, there has not been in 2015 really strong positions against among the social-democrats.

However, here’s some extra motivation for exploring the ideas of negative income tax, basic income, participatory income:

Behind the implementation of the basic income, there is the question of the status of work in the country. In European countries, we have arrived at a situation where large numbers of people are unemployed, with very little chance that these numbers will go down in the near future. This is particularly due to the (proven) fact that automation and robotization are destroying more jobs than innovation can create.

This should push us to think about the possibility that this could be a permanent situation, where we will need fewer workers to produce what we need. In addition, with the reduction of resources on the planet, an ever-growing production does not seem so realistic. Some are underlining that we are entering a new era, and the present social systems and its usual tools may be inadequate, as it proves that poverty and social problems have increased in the last years without any serious sign of improvement.

via Basic income: how Finland plans to implement the first nation-wide project in the EU | Finland Politics.

Greek town glimpses mass transit future: driverless buses – US News

The buses go no faster than 20 kph (12 1/2 mph), but the trials in Trikala (pronounced TREE-kah-lah) potentially represent a major advance for automated transport.

Trikala already has already tested EU-funded pilot medical programs, including schemes to relay heart test data from home to the doctor’s office and use tracker devices for Alzheimer patients. In the center of the city, a “digital tree” with solar panels allows benches to carry phone-charging outlets.

The 28-nation European Union is targeting gasoline use for city transport as one area where it wants to reduce carbon emissions. With oil prices and city populations expected to rise in the coming decades, a major shift to battery power and more shared transport could blur the line between private and public vehicles.

Senior transport analyst Philippe Crist at the International Transport Forum, an OECD think-tank based in Paris, says transport trends are hard to predict as the world moves more toward automation.

Crist said researchers looked at “shared and route-optimized on-call taxi-like services replacing all car and bus trips in a mid-sized European city. We found that these systems could deliver almost the same mobility as today but with 95 percent fewer vehicles.”

So far, the CityMobile2 has had mixed reviews on the streets of Trikala. Not everyone is happy to lose parking spots or replace human jobs with machines. Still, retiree Michalis Pantelis said he was proud that his city was selected for the testing.

via Greek town glimpses mass transit future: driverless buses – US News.