Monday, April 18, 2016

Quantum computers - End of the Work?

I've been reading the last article about the Google's breakthrough in the field of the quantum computing and noticed that among the excited readers there was a common theme, that the advances in the quantum computing will speed up the development of other fields like machine learning, robotics, etc and this on his turn will make the machines much more capable of replacing humans in their job, which eventually will make the humans not really needed in most of the jobs. And when this happen there are two scenarios, either the world will be filled with starving unemployed outcasts or there will come the paradise on the Earth where nobody works and everybody has everything that needs, because the machines will provide for the humanity.

Now I think, these who propose such future development fail to understand the human nature. Lets first look into the so called "paradise on earth". I discovered that power to provide was already achieved by most of the developed world for these members of the society who can't or don't want to work, not only for their basic needs, but also certain number of luxuries (another question is that for historical, psychological and other reasons, this was applied only in few countries). However happen that even with the need to work eliminated about the same percent of people kept working like always. The key to this question is that there are not really such things as fixed level of needs which have to be satisfied, but rather most of the people compare themselves with these around (or in more recent times with what they see in the media) and based on this observation they position themselves on some imaginary scale of the well-being and try to achieve some betterment. The funny thing is that to cover this additional "improvement" often these people need something like 10% more income and because of this small increase they start to work.  Another point is, we know that the process of decreasing the need for human workers actually started long ago and most of the trades from the past centuries are gone or evolved in art and hobbies, but it didn't decrease the number of working people, because we keep inventing new needs, which require people. However I imagine that just like my grandfather couldn't perceive as work many of the professions in the end of 20 century like writing blog about computer games, I am not going to think is real work something even simpler that will arise in future and the new generations will think they need it. Or even simpler example, just look the richer people, they keep working, often even more then these poorer than them. So the answer is that it already happened and we discovered that in the "first world" the need to work is not really tied to the need to cover living costs and is actually dependent of some kind of innate for H. sapiens need to compete and increase the perceived quality of life and therefore the decrease need for human workers will not decrease the number of the them, because the people look for and need every time something more and something better.

So, lets look into the another case, where the world is split between 1% rich owners of robots, computers and technology and 99% jobless poor people living in gethos. This actually make more sense and it may happen, because we see continuous widening of the gap between rich and poor. However the free access of information and technologies somewhat acts as an equalizer and it may be avoided, but is vitally important to keep in check the entities who try to hinder this, like copy-right and patent advocates, censure and other similar. Just been thinking what would've happened if the patents in the 3d printing which expired recently never been in place. Observing the explosion of the 3d printing technologies last couple of years I can imagine that we may have had already printers closing in to the replicator from Star Trek, if there were no patents. Anyway its likely that in that scenario nothing will change much either, some countries will keep being hugely unequal and others will keep being socialist paradises.

Also I recommend the book "Physics of the Future" by Michio Kaku, where he writes about the issue in very entertaining and scientific way.

Links for additional reading:
Last advancement from Google
Basic income

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