There was something that fundamentally augmented our worldview today. And for anyone still concerned about the current state of the economy, this is essential reading to restore your Festive Optimism Quotient. Or Reasons to be Cheerful in plain English.
In fact, the exposition of Robin Hanson’s Big History theories over at The Advanced Apes gives reason to strike joy into the heart of all humanity.
With more than a nod to Alvin Tofler, Hanson has noted that the economy goes through periods of exponential growth when there is a fundamental shift in technology. We’ve moved from hunting to agriculture, from agriculture to manufacture. The interesting thing is not that these shifts are happening more quickly – we knew that already.
What’s interesting is that we’re in the death-throes of the manufacturing economy and are about to enter the age of connected machine-based intelligence – or Strong-AI.
What’s even more interesting is that the size of the economy doubles-up every time.
And while the politicians and economists can’t feel the groundswell of that coming yet (they should read more Life on the Edge), we sure as hell can.
In fact, we’d go as far as saying that Hanson has utterly under-estimated the impact of moving from the narrow-AI of today to the strong-AI of tomorrow. What this shift could bring is a qualitative change to his exponential pattern of growth. The timeframe between the doubling-ups will not only shrink further but contract to such a tiny focus that they are blurred to the point of becoming indistinguishable.
With our own deep nod of debt in the direction of Richard Seymour, we would argue we’re already at a point where we are more limited by our imagination of how to use technology than we are by the technological possibilities themselves.
And as intelligent machines begin to extend our own capability to imagine the new, the rate we can create and assimilate novel technologies will maintain the rate of exponential advance.
The end-rate of the humanity’s ability to innovate and assimilate change is not yet knowable. But once we can’t cope it seems likely that the AI we spawn will continue up the exponential curve unabated.
What such a society would be like to live in, we can only speculate. It would be one where we can’t directly assimilate (perhaps even comprehend) the technological change around us. Perhaps we’d have to live separately, advancing at our own end-rate but falling rapidly out of relevance in terms of our ability to impact the AI-driven world.
But if this is scary, fret not. We’re a long way off that point. And back in the now, you can see the immediate implications.
Whatever the future, our current economic situation is not never-ending. Technology and its accompanying economics will see to that.