[p2p-research] A thirty year future of the transition to widescale P2P economies

Paul D. Fernhout pdfernhout at kurtz-fernhout.com
Thu Nov 12 00:04:32 CET 2009

Michel Bauwens wrote:
> On Tue, Nov 10, 2009 at 11:29 PM, Ryan Lanham <rlanham1963 at gmail.com>
> wrote:
>> The intent here is brevity based on highlights...
> I see a big contradiction between freefall and total robotization, with 
> freefall, who's going to invest in total automation?
> so I would add 2 centuries to the robotic prediction, though I'm not at
> all certain that this will occur, I think it's a capitalist fantasy
> essentially, to remove all human contact with making and producing its
> own livelihood (I'm aware of course that leftleaning people have the same
> vision from another angle)

Ryan's link from months ago:
"High-Speed Robot Hand Demonstrates Dexterity and Skillful Manipulation"

Robot cars can drive themselves:
I've worked with two of those people who had entries.

"A self-driving SUV called Boss made history by driving swiftly and safely 
while sharing the road with human drivers and other robots. The feat earned 
Carnegie Mellon University's Tartan Racing first place in the DARPA Urban 

Robots can do your laundry in your house:
   "Home Assistance Robot"

How can you say "two centuries" when these things exist now?

Personally, I feel these are all good things, as long as the fruits of this 
innovation are equitably shared.

The deeper issue is that, as Nathan would say, or the Triple Revoultion 
memorandum in 1964, any remaining rationale for a link between human labor 
and a right to consume is broken by these sorts of innovations.

See also:
"[p2p-research] 60 jobs that will rock the future... (not)"

Companies would continue to invest in productivity even in economic freefall 
because they will lose less money that way. :-) Plus they will see 
themselves positioning themselves for a future recovery. Even if 5% of jobs 
were lost each year relative to the previous year, that is more than twenty 
years of some people having some income.

What these robots prove, more than anything, is that major conventional 
economic assumptions are no longer true (if they ever were). Even if demand 
was unlimited (which it isn't), why would someone hire a human worker to 
assemble parts, drive vehicles, or help around the house? Beyond wanting to 
boss humans around? Why should an employer expose themselves to harassment 
lawsuits, theft, injury claims, or loss of training investments for job 
changers when they could get a robot to do the job, or redesign the task so 
a robot could do the job if it is otherwise too hard?

One aspect of P2P is that it is enjoyable. Another is that it is needed 
(like for people who have no money to pay for information). Another is, as 
here, that the mythological plausibility behind the status quo (as an 
income-through-jobs link tied to productivity) is evaporating, and with it, 
most people's chance to gain income to spend in the market. Thus, without a 
basic income, the market cannot function as-is since there will be less and 
less purchasers.

The market may still function as a self-consistent thing if basically the 
robots make stuff for the capitalists who claim ownership of the robots and 
land and other machines and the fruits of all that and don't otherwise work. 
But then it is not anything like what we would now call a "market". The 
"free market" would just be the robot scheduling algorithms controlled by 
capitalists with different equity stakes. For the very few, it would be like 
Marshall Brain's "Manna" or James Albus' "People's Capitalism". For the rest 
of us, it would mean starvation, or perhaps subsistence production assuming 
we could afford access to land somehow, or perhaps, charity from some of the 
uber-wealthy (like a few people in industrialized countries give to 
charities like Child Reach or Heifer that help villages in materially poorer 
countries). And note that, in the next decade or two, those who can afford 
the robots will financially may destroy everyone else, accelerating the 
rich-get-richer effect. How can an independent trucker compete with robot 
truckers that travel in convoys and are more fuel efficient and have maybe 
US$10000 worth of electronics to replace a human driver?

Here is an article about fairy affluent people losing jobs with six figure 
   "Life on Severance: Comfort, Then Crisis"

Really, who needs more people in those professions in a shrinking economy, 
considering how technology allows the remaining workers to do more with 
less. Here are the jobs of the people laid off in that article:
* CEO of a small bank
* Executive director of marketing for a publishing company
* Ad agency campaign manager

So, even "top" jobs can disappear from increased productivity and declining 

Here is a NYTimes editorial on the "jobless recovery" in the USA:
The official job-loss data also fail to take note of 2.8 million additional 
jobs needed to absorb new workers who have joined the labor force during the 
recession. When those missing jobs are added to the official total, the 
economy comes up short by 10.1 million jobs. Taken together, the numbers 
paint this stark picture: At no time in post-World War II America has it 
been more difficult to find a job, to plan for the future, or — for tens of 
millions of Americans — to merely get by. ... The country also needs a 
program that would create jobs for teenagers — ages 16 to 19 — whose 
unemployment rate is currently a record 27.6 percent. Deep and prolonged 
unemployment among the young is especially worrisome. It means they do not 
have a chance, and may never get the chance, to acquire needed skills, 
permanently hobbling their earnings potential.

And many people think those figures are being spun *positively*. With more 
than a million children homeless now in the USA (doubling in the last year), 
I could believe that.

If it were just the USA in the world, these trends would have played out 
sooner. But the USA could ship surplus to markets abroad, and then 
afterwards buy stuff abroad with weird things happening with fiat dollars as 
the rest of the world bootstraps itself up to US levels and lots of credit 
was extended to workers with less and less labor value through easy credit 
like home refinances. This is a little like the tide going out before a 
tsunami. Once the rest of the world is up to US levels of information and 
automation (and China is getting there fast), then these problems will begin 
to manifest in those other countries as well (unless they implement a basic 
income), with continually rising productivity and massive layoffs. (China is 
already laying off people, but that's for other weird dynamics.)

Guess no one believed the warnings about Hurricane Katrina, either. :-(

So, as I see it, the social transformation that P2P is part of is happening 
right now, irreversibly short of global warfare or plague, and we're looking 
at a huge economic change in two decades (maybe only one decade if more 
people see what is coming).

Robotics are a big part of it. But so is better design (producing more 
function with less material and less effort). So is "voluntary simplicity" 
and a growing social and ecological consciousness in industrialized 
countries to use less and to be more spiritual and social. So, lots of 
converging trends.

But, frankly, even the techies miss all this, so don't feel too bad. :-)
I made a post on this the other day to slashdot and you can see the 
vociferous disagreements, even by people who are very computer-oriented:
   "What Computer Science Can Teach Economics: Misses the post-scarcity 
point; digital abundance"

The scarcity ideology almost all of us have all been taught for so long by 
school and the media is so at odds with these trends, that even when robots 
are twirling cell phones in front of us, driving cars, and doing our 
laundry, we have trouble believing the implications. P2P is another trend 
that people have trouble believing. But, slowly it is sinking in to some 
people like Google who think they can profit by it, while at the same time 
even now the newspaper industry and RIAA and the MPAA are fighting it any 
way they can. For decades, unions have fought automation as well, when, if 
you think about it, they should have been the first to embrace it under a 
different economic regime of abundance because it would make work safer and 
easier and less needed so that workers could work less and have more fun in 
a safer workplace. But, under the current economic regime, that means lost 
jobs, which means personal disaster for union employees, so unions have 
fought automation. Similarly, artists and authors should embrace the ending 
and weakening of copyright because it means more materials to draw from, but 
instead, hoping to make money someday, many artists and authors embrace 
strong copyright. It is all in a state of flux, with changing paradigms, 
changing myths. I hope it is a non-violent transition.

I listed a bunch of ways to deal with this transition here:
"Why limited demand means joblessness (and what to do about it)"

And three there that are not recommended are more war, more schooling, and 
more prisons. But, those three are easy ones for US society (and even 
European society) to embrace.

For example, putting a couple million people in prison over copyright issues 
in the USA, which would also create millions of jobs guarding them, is a 
fairly straightforward-seeming solution to today's economic issues, fitting 
with a scarcity-based paradigm. Those ten million people would all then be 
off the unemployment rolls, say with two million imprisoned and four million 
guarding, and a related boost in the economies of related towns, including 
social services for the families of guards (who have trouble leaving their 
traumatic work at the prison). It's a straightforward way to spend public 
dollars that few would object to (because it is tough on "crime", creates 
jobs, and fits in with preconceived notions of how a scarcity economy should 
be working, and for the most part, would just involve enforcing existing US 
law about felony copyright infringement of which most young people are 
guilty by the current terms. http://www.cybercrime.gov/CFAleghist.htm ) 
Processing of such detentions could be easily automated from internet 
records linked with college's cooperation -- the point would not be accuracy 
as much as getting people out of the unemployment statistics and keeping 
young people off the streets. Running more private prisons would also make 
some people very rich, so there are bound to be lots of dollars to lobby for 
this plan. As another benefit, college enrollment in courses related to the 
prison industry would increase, thus keeping more young people voluntarily 
in academic prison and incurring huge private debts for a future career as 
some sort of guard (in school or prison).

A huge copyright crackdown would also profitable for some judges:
   "Judges in PA take bribes from private prisons"
AMY GOODMAN: An unprecedented case of judicial corruption is unfolding in 
Pennsylvania. Several hundred families have filed a class-action lawsuit 
against two former judges who have pleaded guilty to taking bribes in return 
for placing youths in privately owned jails. Judges Mark Ciavarella and 
Michael Conahan are said to have received $2.6 million for ensuring that 
juvenile suspects were jailed in prisons operated by the companies 
Pennsylvania Child Care and a sister company, Western Pennsylvania Child 
Care. Some of the young people were jailed over the objections of their 
probation officers. An estimated 5,000 juveniles have been sentenced by 
Ciavarella since the scheme started in 2002.

Mass imprisonments in the USA to deal with rising unemployment may sound 
like lunacy, and it probably is, but basically it is a version of the 
scenario outlined in Marshall Brain's "Manna" story, and ideologically, it 
may be easier to do that than to accept the state religion of mainstream 
economics is not working well anymore.

So, we really are facing crazy times one way or another.

--Paul Fernhout

>> 2010
>> The US begins to move rapidly toward social measures in medicine and
>> climate management that essentially break the back of any notion of a small
>> government state.  In chaos, the Republican Party splits and reforms to
>> advance primarily an anti-immigration agenda.  The United States enters a
>> long period of turning inward that will be copied in Europe and Asia.  The
>> era of international flows and trades is now past its peak.
>> 2014
>> China declares that the new communist vision is growth of opportunity
>> through local joy and happiness, effectively mandating that the People
>> become consumers.  The US dollar, in long decline as a carrying currency,
>> starts to become a secondary currency to the new Pan-Asia unit.
>> 2017
>> Mandarin becomes the first language of the web.  Nearly all children
>> globally begin to study Chinese.  India and China greatly enhance their
>> economic links.
>> 2019
>> Ubiquitous cloud computing and device linkage makes security,
>> communication, income, banking and money all converge.  The average
>> household uses more compute cycles per second than the most powerful
>> supercomputers in 2000.  Provision of electricty and cooling are the major
>> economic components of any household budget having surpassed transportation
>> in 2016.
>> 2020
>> As carbon reaches 425 ppm, the destructive impacts of climate change are
>> now starting to cause massive migrations and social turmoil.  Nations set 10
>> year targets to eliminate fossil fuel from their economies.
>> The United States, which as become an isolated power in its lost decade of
>> economic growth, begins to envision radical restructuring of local economies
>> to reduce carbon outputs and to protect aging populations who are dominant
>> politically and economically, but no longer personally productive.  The old
>> call for robotic support helpers along lines in use in Japan for 1/2 a
>> decade.
>> 2022
>> Most global universities exist only on line.  Older institutions have been
>> turned into open communities and greenscapes with collective governance
>> strategies along lines of co-ops or townhall styled local governments.
>> Obesity penalities eliminate demands for poor food choices in most of the
>> world.
>> 2025
>> Nearly all projects are capitalized against a social account that builds
>> facilities determined by complex AI-assisted long-range eco-survival plans.
>> Most food and pharmaceutical production occurs within 10 miles of the
>> consumer's living space.  Earth's population peaks at 8 and 3/4 billion.
>> Most fish are extinct that are not in enclosed sea farms.  40% of all known
>> species in 2009 are extinct or severaly endangered.  Many plants have
>> succumbed to warming and treed landscapes outside of near arctic locations
>> or rain forests are rare.
>> 2027
>> Anti-work parties become commonplace along European models started in
>> universities in the 20-teens.  The agendas generally call half-jokingly for
>> "bread and circuses"   Most envision an handover to robots within 20 years
>> for all important managerial and process functions.
>> 2030
>> The computer processing power of integrated software clouds exceeds human
>> brains by several orders of magnitude.  Nearly all software is designed and
>> written by robots.  All medicine is done by robots.  The average age of
>> persons in the US and Europe climbs to 50.   Millions are now living to
>> 110.
>> 2032
>> Nearly all economic activity occurs within 10 miles of one's home.  Robots
>> and cloud computing handle most entertainment, chores, management processes
>> and research.  Humans overwhelmingly work on governing the commons in local
>> pools of advisors to robotic planners.
>> 2035
>> Average age of a human is 44.  In Germany, the average age is 63.  In the
>> US it is 55.  Population is now in freefall...down to roughly 7.5 billion.
>> Plans predict a global population of 2.4 billion humans in 2090 with carbon
>> levels stabilized at 437 ppm.
>> 2040
>> Life is essentially no different in China than it is in Utah or Nigeria.
>> People live in clusters of robotically managed groups with little need for
>> long-range travel or movement.  Exercise is a common "career."  Other
>> similar self-focused careers are designed by robots for people to feel
>> meaning and enjoyment.
>> P2P exchanges of goods and services occur between robots who use excess
>> capacities to perform the production of planned needs.  Shipping is entirely
>> automated.
>> Humans plan for a world with dramatically lower population rates.  Few
>> choose to reproduce because the high social responsibilities entailed in
>> multiple offspring.
>> --
>> Ryan Lanham
>> _______________________________________________
>> p2presearch mailing list
>> p2presearch at listcultures.org
>> http://listcultures.org/mailman/listinfo/p2presearch_listcultures.org
> ------------------------------------------------------------------------
> _______________________________________________
> p2presearch mailing list
> p2presearch at listcultures.org
> http://listcultures.org/mailman/listinfo/p2presearch_listcultures.org

More information about the p2presearch mailing list