Will robots take everyone’s jobs? When will that happen? What will that process look like? How will people earn enough money to survive without jobs? What will we do instead?
All these questions are being tackled by the brightest minds humanity has to offer. One such mind is Dr. Robin Hanson.
He’s Associate Professor of Economics at George Mason University and a Research Associate at Oxford’s Future of Humanity, an institute designed to address some of the tougher intellectual problems our species looks likely to face over the next 100 years or so. Hanson has also designed his own system of government, Futarchy (check it out), in which prediction markets make policy decisions based on desired outcomes voted on by the populace. It’s not just the idle speculation of a bored academic either, Hanson has decades of experience researching and working on AI and statistics and has valid reasons for his view than betting markets are more accurate about making predictions about what will happen when altering a set of variables than any democratic system.
His personal blog is a cornucopia of interesting ideas, theories and responses to contemporary and future intellectual questions.
And this weekend he was at Austin’s Voice and Exit festival to talk about the robot revolution. Robots, he says, will eventually take everyone’s jobs. But not yet. He thinks the hype is exaggerated because humans are terrible at thinking properly about timeframes. That and journalists and marketers are paid to present things as much bigger deals than they actually are.
Hanson’s book, The Age of Em, discusses these themes. The book portrays a world in which sophisticated human brain emulations carry out most of the functions that humans do now, with colossal consequences for humanity. It’s not a novel, but a carefully worked out description of a world run by emulated humans. Interestingly for a philosopher or theologian, the Ems Hanson describes can feel, think, love, form friendships and experience a whole range of emotions.
We caught up with him at the festival and asked him to share a few thoughts with us:
If you want to know what a world controlled by simulations of humans might look like, buy The Age of Em now.
Get Hanson’s other book, Elephant in the Brain: Hidden Motives in Everyday Life, which looks at the processes which drive our decision making.