RE: [unrev-II] Availability of Knowledge & Consequences of Efficiency

From: Alex Shapiro (
Date: Sun Oct 21 2001 - 23:45:46 PDT

  • Next message: Gil Regev: "RE: [unrev-II] Simon's Paper"

    At 08:44 AM 10/21/01 -0700, Garold \(Gary\) L. Johnson wrote:

    I believe that one of the major social issues we will have to deal with is
    how to move from a "work equals survival" paradigm, and still have it be
    possible for people be productive.

    Evolution:  Survival of the fittest.

    Optimally fit behavior:  Not wasting your energy on things other then survival.

    Work:  Energy not wasted.

    Thus, I don't think we will ever move beyond a work equals survival paradigm. 

    I agree that finding work is not easy, and becomes harder and harder with further advances in technology.  As Gary wrote, there was a time when most people were involved with agricultural tasks.  However, now machines do what 95 percent of the population used to. 

    To my mind, human evolution as of late could be given the horror/action movie title of "Escape from the Machine!"  By our own doing, of those of others, basic 'work'ing activities are being mechanized.  Humanity is actively engaged in constructing itself out of a job.  Yet, as I say above, to survive, people must work.  We must be useful so as not to find ourselves an appendix (the body part) in the guts of techno-gaia.  So in this movie (which is actually reality), humans must do what humans do best, and what machines will probably not be able to do for a long, long time.  And this, is to use our creative energies to find work, and new ways to be useful.  Those of us that are able to do so, will remain human.  And people who's creative energies only get them so far as to get a job in a toll-booth?  Sadly, their days (by the 'world created in seven days' definition of day) are probably numbered.

    To put it another way, there is a division of labor going on between the human and the mechanical.  Humans no longer have to constrain themselves to tasks such as doing basic math in their head.  We can outsource these tasks to machines.  In exchange, however, we must find newer and better ways to be human, now defined as un-machine like.  Human, and yet still useful.

    Here is a nice exerpt from David Hume's An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals which does not prove my point, but which I think is appropriate to the discussion anyway.  In it, he equates usefulness with goodness.  Now, doing some quick math to say "work=making yourself usefull" and "society's function is to preserve (and reproduce) individuals who are good" we can conclude that with time those that survive will again be those that work.  Ok, well, here is the quote: 

    'Usefulness, says he, is agreeable, and engages our approbation. This is a matter of fact, confirmed by daily observation. But useful? For what? For somebody's interest surely. Whose interest then? Not our own only: For our approbation frequently extends farther. It must, therefore, be the interest of those, who are serv'd by the character or action approved of; and these we may conclude, however remote, are not totally indifferent to us. -- Usefulness is only a tendency to a certain end; and 'tis a contradiction in terms, that any thing pleases as means to an end, where the end itself does no way affect us. If therefore usefulness be a source of moral sentiment, and if this usefulness be not always considered with a reference to self; it follows, that every thing, which contributes to the happiness of society, recommends itself directly to our approbation and good-will. Here is a principle, which accounts, in great part, for the origin of morality: And what need we seek for abstruse and remote systems, when there occurs one so obvious and natural?'


    For more rambling along these lines, see
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