Is the singularity upon us?

I feel like the singularity is inching up on us and no one is noticing because they’re all waiting for the fireworks.

Over the last couple of days I have seen headlines about Google’s self driving cars being announced, automation due to cut 50% of all of the US’s jobs, and just now Skype announcing a real time translator service. Oh, I almost forgot – Watson designed a BBQ sauce?!?!?

So of course none of these things are the singularity. But damn me if they aren’t all parts of the future vision we have all been told about for so long. Robots. AI. Real time translators. The general outsourcing of all of our menial tasks and complications in life. Our phones have already taken over our memories, and provided us with instantaneous global chat, voice comms and video calls (4g is pretty awesome, and it isn’t even new anymore), and I don’t think most people even realise that this has happened. It feels like everyone is still waiting for this future, and missing the amazing things already happening.

But just going back for a minute to the automation of our driving, our labour, our translating and to some extent, our thinking, I have noticed lately that it seems like the guys involved in Futurism (see /r/Futurology for example) are the only people genuinely switched on enough about what is happening and where we are going to have the slightest clue how to handle the approaching economic apocalypse.

Seriously – 50% of all jobs about to disappear. Driverless cars putting all taxi drivers, bus drivers, truck drivers….well, all drivers of all descriptions, all of them out of work….

As I joked with my friend on Facebook, the obvious political response to this problem of approaching joblessness will be to cut welfare so that people will be so desperate to get jobs that that desperation will magically create jobs out of thin air.

OR, a sensible person might start considering what is going to happen in a world where ‘jobs’ are no longer what people do. How does our ‘get a job’-centric society deal with the end of jobs?

I don’t think there is a coincidence that the people who have started championing Universal Basic Incomes are quite closely tied in to the Futurist crowd. It is one of the obvious solutions. In a world where costs to produce are approaching zero, and production is growing all the time, it just makes sense that we find a new way to ensure everyone gets a fair share of that arrangement, and those who improve it further get rewarded fairly (by getting more, but not in a way which detracts from the wellbeing of others).

I won’t get into it too much, but I just wanted to say those two things. 1. I think that if you aren’t paying attention to where we are going, then you’re already behind. and 2. Universal basic income is no longer just a crazy hippy commie pipe dream. It is rapidly becoming a necessary next step just to ensure the system doesn’t collapse under revolution.

 

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