AI -> fall of Capitalism?


From the previous question of whether an AI can do your job or not… to this - Will AI mean the end of Capitalism?

Whilst some of us sci-fi nuts are well read on the possibility of AI ending human life, what if that’s just far fetched nonsense, and humans will always control AI. However even still, AI is queuing up to become the next Industrial Revolution…

Over one hundred years ago people feared for their jobs, quite rightly in many cases, as machines took over once manual tasks. Now employers will have AI machines capable of replacing yet more workers.

The previous revolution didn’t mean the end of the world - economies and people adapted. We in fact began a wave of creativity in ways never previously imagined, culminating one could say in the hand held device I’m typing this on.

Freeing up the manual labour roles freed humanity to find new avenues to use their time - much like we did thousands of years ago once we moved to agriculture instead of hunter/gatherer societies, thus freeing up time to perform tasks such as contemplate our naval and create the foundation stones of the civilisation we have grown into today.

But again… what will happen when AI displaces hundreds of thousands of jobs worldwide?

Those operating the AI will become richer. Less running costs, thus higher profits. But, will those displaced workers now freed of their financial servitude find new avenues for their time? Could we instead see the arrival of a point where the wealth of the planet truly is tipped too far in one direction to allow capitalism to continue? The rich are only rich if the poor can continue to hand over their money. With no income, no exchange will be left to occur.



Capitalism is self-replicating. There are many sci-fi authors (Michael Z. Williamson as an example) who actually believe AI of the sort you mention will become a great libertarian tool. Another means of production by which people can combine their natural talents and learned skills to buy and sell the resulting products and services (largely services, many if not most products will be digital content) in an ever freer market on the internet of things. AI will become another means of production.

I’m no capitalist (I’m a democratic socialist), but I believe capitalism is deeply-rooted, highly adaptable, and supremely invasive. Like all tools, it will be up to us to make informed use decisions or find political solutions to capitalism’s negatives, particularly the way capitalism becomes synonymous with corporatism over time (by virtue of corporations holding most of the capital, both recognised currency and the means of production, including AI systems, Google/Apple/Facebook/Netflix/Amazon/etc).

Shades of “Continuum”

1 Like

@kyte Gotta love Continuum… :slight_smile:

@kionon If Apple turned political… or Google… etc… (Facebook already sells itself to the highest bidder / spreads propaganda; I’m sure Google aren’t without existing surreptitious influence… Ok, probably Apple too…)

AI for everyone… or at least, AI becoming common place enough a tool that it becomes like the next - automobile… AI that anyone, with moderate instruction, could turn into a tool, and earn by it. Interesting.

I was picturing the most negative concept, of AI-code being a closely guarded corporate secret, held only by the biggest richest companies, and used by them “against” the lower class. But of course all it takes is some disgruntled employee to open up the source and others to make it their own and run with it…

I believe capitalism is a social ill, as it privileges capital over labor. Capitalists have successfully equated free and fair markets to a system (ism) where capital is supreme, but this is just very good marketing. In a truly free and fair market, labor has equal power in transactional negotiations, the same freedom of movement, etc as capital. It does not. Capitalism privileges capital (money, means of production, education) over performance of work (labor). This is fine when income inequality is kept to a minimum (especially in terms of education, which can be a great equaliser between those who perform work and those who hold the means of productions but don’t know how to use them).

Therefore when I see “fall of capitalism” the question is: what comes next? If capitalism falls because a free and fair market replaces it where labor is truly allowed to negotiate freely and fairly with capital, then that’s not capitalism. If Capitalism as we think of it today “falls” because an authoritarian government or a mega-trust of super-powerful corporations centrally control the means of production without competition, then that’s an extreme type of capitalism, because the elites, whether government or corporate, control the means of production and the supply/flow of currency which is the very definition of capital. Labor is just even more disadvantaged.

Armchair political economists really hurt common understanding of economic systems by allowing the USSR, the PRC, and others to claim the labels of communism and socialism. Marxist Communism cannot exist as long as state elites control capital–then they’re just the new capitalists. Frankly, communism likely can’t exist except on a small commune type scale. As for socialism, flavors of democratic socialism retain transactional negotiations on widgets (the buying and selling of stuff and skills/labor which people usually, incorrectly, consider capitalism) but also use regulatory decisions (democratically arrived at) to keep the market both free AND fair. It doesn’t seek necessarily to determine outcomes, but it does seek to minimise inequality through public infrastructure. Especially those that can really affect people’s ability to perform and sell labor, whether in terms of putting it into their means of production, or by selling to an employer to do the same. Healthcare, education, national defence, roads and bridges, public transportation… These all level the playing field, increase productivity, make the standard of living for everyone better, and the rich still get rich… Just not at the expense of the very society which made them so in the first place.

I am definitely for the fall of capitalism, whether it is by AI or by other means, but I am not for the end of capital. I just want capital recognised as a resource, not a goal. When that happens, capital-ism will cease to exist, for we will not be engaging in a system, even with a free or fair market, which is built to place capital above everything else.

</former social studies teacher>


My question is what if AI gives us the answers and we don’t like them? The example below isn’t what I believe, I’m just taking a worst case hypothetical example:

Lets say the AI tells us that the solution to welfare dependency is to give people 2 years to get off welfare and then cull them or they produce generational welfare that rolls down to future generations, or that anyone who takes drugs for longer than a year should be culled because they have no chance of contributing to society, what do we do? There are countries who would probably implement these types of solutions. Granted we could ask it what the second best choices are, but what if they aren’t workable? Letting machines make human choices is sometimes not the answer when the answer should be humane.


This is why I believe strongly that AI should always be subject to direct human oversight.

Take the driverless bus trials currently happening as an example, some decades back bus conductors were removed from buses. The driverless bus gives Transport departments the chance to reintroduce them and allowing for possible security training to increase passenger safety on late night services.

But Transport companies (not subject to regulations requiring human presence) are using driverless vehicles as a chance to reduce overall numbers of human workers.

A piece of the jigsaw to mitigate the consuquences of AI is a requirement for ‘legislated direct human oversight’ (but yes business will fight that tooth and nail).

1 Like

@MissionMan Indeed, it would be easy for an AI to not value human life / liberties. I dare say you could identify the current Chinese regime with AI-like similarities… There is no God, therefore anyone who believes in God requires education. Remembering uprisings from the past may encourage future uprisings, therefore mention of uprisings of the past should be excised from public record.

Agree. I still do think there could be a lot of value of AI. For example, AI has the capability of putting logic over emotion in some cases where it makes sense and potentially the ability to get rid of the portion of people that are “too soft”, the classic case of “You have to be cruel to be kind” to solve a problem. As an example, AI could conclude that something like cashless cards may be a solution to welfare dependence.

I think AI would have the capability of evaluating scenarios like bail hearings where they would have a capacity to understand whether a person is likely to re-offend, whether they should have a tracking bracelet etc.

I’ve not had a lot to do with the justice system, but from what I have seen in the press from time to time - evidently sometimes judges do fail to remain impartial and objective. An AI alternatively, and with super duper encryption to ensure it’s not hacked, loaded up with appropriate laws, but also what passes for extenuating circumstances, could do a lot better, and faster job of metering out justice than a human.

(I wrote a short story that stemmed from this idea a decade ago! :slight_smile: )

It’s the type of thing however that would be very hard for modern society to accept. To be judged by a “robot”. Also, thinking through the concept - depending on what evidence was required - a “good” lawyer I’m sure would quickly find ways to convince the AI’s algorithms that its client was not at fault. A lesser lawyer may not fare so well. Unless of course the entire legal profession are also made redundant and the AI-Judge just relies on the factual evidence provided to it…

Of course - that alllll said - again coming back to human fallibility - an AI would likely get it “right” more than it would get it “wrong”…

I think the advantage with sentencing is that you get consistency instead of one person getting 12 months for murder and the next getting 20 years. AI won’t have mood swings, bad days or apathy.

Yeah, but there is already proof that AI is sexist and racist, because its programmers, largely male and white, code in their own assumptions without necessarily examining them. Not because they themselves mean to be sexist or racist, but because that is the nature of oppressive frameworks. AI sentencing black people more harshly than white people until intentionally modified not to do so is something I absolutely believe would happen.

1 Like