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Since the first Industrial revolution machines have been taking the jobs of people and automation has been a part of human social evolution for the past 3 centuries, but all in all these machines have been replacing mechanical, high-risk and low-skill jobs such as a production line of an automobile factory.

But recently with the advent of computers and the improvement of AI, and the quest to find a Singularity (that is, a computer capable of thinking faster, better, more creative and cheaper then a human being, capable of self-improving), our future will lead to the replacement of not only low-skill workers, but high-skill as well. I'm talking about a future not too far when AI and machines will replace artists, designers, engineers, lawyers, CEO's, filmmakers, politicians, hell even programmers. Some people get excited by this, but honestly, I get somewhat scared.

I'm not talking about the money issue here, although I'm not a fan of the idea, let's suppose the universal income has been implemented, and suppose it works fine. Also not talking about the "Terminator's world where machines will wage war against humans", let's suppose too they are completely friendly forever.

The issue here is the one of motivation for us humans. When the AI singularity takes over, what will there be left for us to do? Every day, all day long?

What are we going to do with our lives? Suppose I love to paint, how can I live my dream of becoming a painter if the computer makes better art then I will ever be able to do? How can I live knowing that no one will care about my paintings because they were made by a mere human? Or the real me for example (I, Danzmann), I love to code, learned my first programming language with 9 years old and been on it ever since then, it looks sad to me that in some years I may never touch on that again. And that goes for all the professions, everyone is passionate about something, and with the singularity, every single one of them would just have to cease to exist.

So, what are we going to do in this future? What am I going to do? Play golf all day, every single day for the rest of my life (A Hyperbole figure of speech, but you get my point)?

Also, what is going to be the motivation for my children? What am I going to tell them to go to school? When someone asks "what do you wanna be when you grow up?", and the inevitable answer is nothing.

If highly advanced AI takes control of all scientific research, then what is the reason for us to learn? What is the reason that us humans would need to dedicate decades of our lives to learn something if that knowledge is useless, because there are no more jobs and the scientific research is done solely by AI?

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Given all your assumptions about AI turn out to be true, we would have some kind of utopia, where no one has to work, and there is plenty of everything. Fair enough. Your other assumptions is about human nature, and that is where I'd challenge your conclusion: Just because there are computers better than humans at some task, that does not automatically take all enjoyment from doing it.

I have three arguments in favor of my stance.

  • There already are computers better than humans at checkers, chess, backgammon, starcraft, mastermind, go,.. and many more. Yet these games still get played, even if no human can hope to ever be as good as a computer.
  • There will be domains where the evaluation of quality is so vague or personal, that the notion of being "better" is useless in any objective sense. I am thinking mainly about art. Playing into argument one, photo cameras are already better "painters" of reality than humans can ever hope to be, yet people still paint. And their paintings gets appreciated, even the photo-realistic kind.
  • I'd say that the whole mindset of "if someone is better than me at x it is not worth doing x" will have outlived its lifetime very shortly. Society didn't always spin that way I feel, it is largely due to the influence of the North American way of life to always strive to be #1 and everything below that being trash. Globalization already puts this way of thinking at risk, with many young people being disillusioned or even depressed because, flippantly put, "whatever you do, there is always an Asian kid who does it 10 times better". We don't have to wait for AI to outshine us, the rest of the world already does. As a consequence, we need to adapt our way of approaching that fact, stop seeing it as diminishing to our worth, and move on.

As a closing note, I also see it as a problem to the general population that within a short time we essentially have to change a very substantial part of our world view, AI being better than us, us not having to work anymore etc. All the economical revolutions in the past, the neolithic, the industrial, and most recently, the digital, had a longer transitional period where people could grow accustomed to the new world. And even with that transition it was hard enough for many people. Yet, most dealt with it, and later generations can hardly imagine a world where the new change doesn't exist yet, and I personally don't see why the next revolution should be any different.

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We are biological beings. We will continue to like whatever activates opioid receptors and we will continue to want whatever activates dopamine receptors in the nucleus accumbens. Food, drinks, sex, social dominance, altruistic acts, novelty, drugs of abuse, physical mastery, procreation, socializing, nice sunny weather, sleep when tired, etc, will continue to be rewarding and motivating as long as we have brains. A few links to review papers on the neurobiology:

See also this paper Pleasure Systems in the Brain or this one Dopamine in Motivational Control: Rewarding, Aversive, and Alerting for more details regarding this topic.

I personally enjoy playing basketball, even though I would not stand a chance against NBA players, and rock climbing even though using a ladder would be much more efficient. I do not get paid for either.

Also, what is going to be the motivation for my children? What am I going to tell them to go to school? When someone asks "what do you wanna be when you grow up?", and the inevitable answer is nothing.

I disagree. Schools will evolve. Children will still need to learn social skills and make friends. At the very least, they will need to learn how to use or interface with the computers that do everything. They will still need to learn to be better human beings by reading humanities. I don't think they will be told "The computer will now read Dostoevsky on your behalf, it is MUCH BETTER at reading, you know". There may be jobs where the job description contains "by a human", such as handcrafts, psychotherapy, etc. They can grow up to be whatever they want, human beings are not defined solely by their professions. I am sure you are not just a coder, nothing more.

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Starting from Arne's point on photography:

I'd like to point out how photography changed painting. You can notice that classical painting that tried to be photorealistic stopped to be relevant when photography started, and that several modern movements started, like more abstract paintings, surrealism, or cubism.

One can see art as a medium to brag "i'm better than you". They could say "i'm better than you at perfecting realism technique" until photography appeared. Now, on this aspect, what do artists brag about?Sometimes by claiming how progressive they are when sculpting sex toys? By claiming that their white sphere is "too deep for you"?

I'm not an art historian, though, this is how i feel it evolved to current modern "art" where skill has been replaced with provocation.

Photography might be a good starting point to think about how people react to a technology that dwarves them and they still want to be #1.

-- here's a point to note: people want to have a good identity

Paul Lafargue once wrote The right to be lazy, where he argued how mankind would intellectually evolve if people worked less as machines could work for us. One of his argument was that people se sees as intellectual models, Greek philosophers, didn't work, and had more time to think. I think he misses a point: not everyone is able to enjoy philosophical time spending. Not unlike how we were deeply wrong when we expected internet to open our minds towards a great age of knowledge. Remember that people are not utopically intelligent, that you have stupid people, and humans basically follow their instinctive needs. This is why 20 years after we started using internet, we have lolcats, trolls, gated communities, and more intellectual intolerance (think sjw, alt right movements).

-- point #2: not everyone is able to be included in a "everyone will be bright" utopia

The key is one's identity. I think that everyone wants and need to have a "positive identity", they look for one to compensate for their weaknesses. This is, for me, why poorer people tend to show off, and successful people don't tend to brag. So, how do you forge your positive identity when you don't have much for yourself?

I see a few things that happen around me: - be a rebel: to distinguish yourself, you become an opponent; but in fact you just mirror the main trend, while bragging about how independant you are. I'm opposed, so i'm free. You can have a range from IA free stance (like people who didn't want to use the internet, some of the ones who use free software), to a more aggressive movement. - be conservative, pious: maybe in reaction to a society that changes and becomes too progressive for some, i see people becoming conservative, this is still a rebellious trend, and i see the rise of conservative vote (nationalism) or religion (buddhism, christianism, islam) as a reaction. I follow traditions, so i'm independant from your novelties. Religion is always a solid value when society changes. - be hyperprogressive: same reaction as previous point if you think that society is too conservative. It's a rebellious stance when you have conservative people in front of you. I'm a step ahead everyone, look at how avant-gardiste i am.

-- point #3: if you don't excel in a field, be a rebel. Or: if you can't follow, step aside, don't follow the stream.

So you have no work to do anymore, plenty of food grown by IA controlled drones, all material needs fulfilled, and no interest in thinking too much. What do people do when they have too much time? Simple: they fill their natural urges that are not related to material needs and food. Some examples: eating, playing games, having sex, arguing online, getting wasted. Basically everything that has been labelled as a sin. You'll also have forms of mental disorders you see in people who feel worthless. And many more will feel worthless.

This also means that you'll need more jobs to keep these people entertained, or taking care of the suffering ones.

-- point #4: if life gets too easy, people become sinners

By these few examples, here rises a question: if "mediocre" people tend to get their shiny identity by opposing the mainstream society, how will the mainstream society look like after the rise of AI?

So i see three reactions from people: - be relevant after AI's rise, the ones who can follow - become a rebel, the ones who can't follow but still want to appear relevant - be neutral, the ones who fill their human urges

And in general, people will do a mix of the three.

Mankind, with the help of AI which can provide answers to basically anything, will provide new questions, new projects, new frontiers to explore. Many persons will still be a bit relevant. AI will become mainstream, so everyone will be more or less opposing it, while enjoying its benefits (think about people who claim to be technology/money independant but have an iPhone). People will still argue online and giggle at cute cats doing weird stuff. Maybe more, because they have more free time.

In conclusion, if AI becomes relevant, expect a world where more people have too much time on their hands. I find this conclusion a bit deceiving, after all I thought and wrote. :O

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Instead of posting a specific answer, I'm going to point you to Hannu Rajaniemi's meditation on this subject in the Quantum Thief Trilogy. Here's why:

  1. Artists can have profound insights. This may be demonstrated by Philip Dick writing about Evolutionary Game Theory in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep about 5 years before the field was formalized. (For my money, this is still the most important book about AI.)

  2. Many authors have written about the post-Singularity scenarios, but Rajaneimi is the only one I am aware of who is a Cambridge trained Mathematician with a PhD in Mathematical Physics, which I tend to believe makes him well qualified to grapple with the inherent complexity of the subject.

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You're assuming the AI has motivation however that's not really the case, intelligent software will do whatever its been designed to do but that's all it does, it's not a trained animal, it doesn’t have instincts for survival, reproduction or self-determination because there's no reason to add those functions. So effectively AI is just another tool, one that reduces the mental load of doing a task, so rather than digging a trench with one machine you can order a fleet of machines to dig a canal system. Or more realistically you’ll spend hours in stakeholder meetings discussing the need for canals, justifying the cost, explaining the benefits, considering the risks, applying for permits, having more discussions with the council and their consultants, then special interest groups, until finally your order the machines to kill them all because GODDAMNIT THIS COULD HAVE BEEN DONE ALREADY!

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In today's society, money is a big key motivator, not only does it provide necessities of life it can buy luxury and indulgence. In a world where all needs (even complex ones) are met for free by the emergence of technology like the singularity, it is easy to say there will be no motivator.

But, instinctually, as children our motivations aren't to accumulate money, you don't see children bored with life. As a child, I was happy to learn. Others were happy to dance or swim, read or paint. In the end, people are social excitement seeking beings.

Today's socioeconomic conditions create boredom in some respects doing the same job for years is arguably worse.

I don't think motivation will be an issue.

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