Monday, March 16, 2015

Vision of the 21st Century: Give The Useless People Drugs and Videogames!

Below is an interesting conversation between the author of Sapiens (Yuval Noah Harari) and Nobel Laureate Daniel Kahneman. They note that a large segment of the population is no longer needed for either cannon fodder or factory work. Pretty soon those self-driving vehicles are going to put truck drivers out of work, too. What to do with all "the useless people," they wonder? Harari suggests drugs and videogames. Could this be the 21st Century's "bread and circuses"? We are already legalizing marijuana in the U.S. (a drug that is noted for making users content with their present circumstance). How soon until we start handing out XBoxes to every high school drop out? My guess is that the elites will figure out a way to keep "the useless people" from breeding in the first place. Will people agree to long-term contraceptive implants in exchange for a marijuana dispensary card and an Xbox + GameFly subscription? Throw in some satellite t.v. and a flatscreen and I think a large segment of the population would go for it.


"There are fundamental reasons why we should take this very seriously, because generally speaking, when you look at the 20th century, it's the era of the masses, mass politics, mass economics. Every human being has value, has political, economic, and military value, simply because he or she is a human being, and this goes back to the structures of the military and of the economy, where every human being is valuable as a soldier in the trenches and as a worker in the factory.
But in the 21st century, there is a good chance that most humans will lose, they are losing, their military and economic value. This is true for the military, it's done, it's over. The age of the masses is over. We are no longer in the First World War, where you take millions of soldiers, give each one a rifle and have them run forward. And the same thing perhaps is happening in the economy. Maybe the biggest question of 21st century economics is what will be the need in the economy for most people in the year 2050.
And once most people are no longer really necessary, for the military and for the economy, the idea that you will continue to have mass medicine is not so certain. Could be. It's not a prophecy, but you should take very seriously the option that people will lose their military and economic value, and medicine will follow. [He means that medical advances and resources will be focused on the elites, not the masses.]
KAHNEMAN: Yes. I really like that phrase of "people not being necessary," can you elaborate on this dystopia? It's a new phrase for me. ... You have thought about it deeply, can you tell us about people becoming unnecessary, economically, and unnecessary militarily? What will that do?
HARARI: [He makes a great point here that computers/robots don't need to achieve consciousness to replace humans, they just need intelligence -- of the sort exhibited by the self-driving car.]
And this is where we have to take seriously, the possibility that even though computers will still be far behind humans in many different things, as far as the tasks that the system needs from us are concerned, most of the time computers will be able to do better than us. ...
HARARI: Well, again, I am an historian, I am not a biologist, I'm not a computer scientist, I am not in a position to say whether all these ideas are realizable or not. I can just look from the view of the historian and say what it looks from there. So the social and philosophical and political implications are the things that interest me most. Basically, if any of these trends are going to actually be fulfilled, then the best I can do is quote Marx and say that everything solid melts into air.
KAHNEMAN: What I find difficult to imagine is that as people are becoming unnecessary, the translation of that into sort of 20th-century terms is mass unemployment. Mass unemployment means social unrest. And it means there are things going to happen, processes going to happen in society, as a result of people becoming superfluous, and that is a gradual process, people becoming superfluous.
HARARI: Yes, the social side is the more important and more difficult one. I don't have a solution, and the biggest question maybe in economics and politics of the coming decades will be what to do with all these useless people. I don't think we have an economic model for that. My best guess, which is just a guess, is that food will not be a problem. With that kind of technology, you will be able to produce food to feed everybody. The problem is more boredom, and what to do with people, and how will they find some sense of meaning in life when they are basically meaningless, worthless.
My best guess at present is a combination of drugs and computer games as a solution for most ... it's already happening. Under different titles, different headings, you see more and more people spending more and more time, or solving their inner problems with drugs and computer games, both legal drugs and illegal drugs. But this is just a wild guess.

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