Is Singularity near, asks William D. Nordhaus, economist at Yale Uiversity, and does it lead to economic growth? His answer is: no. I say: yes, SIngularity is near, but indeed, it does not lead to economic growth – as we define that now in terms of GDP.
Singularity is a gross word that I never use in public. I rather talk about the rise of a global brain: embedded intelligence in everything around and inside us. Think robots and other thugs. Since the future is my core business, I read Nordhaus’ essay with greed. Sadly, I did not understand a single bit of it. So I decided to comment on Nordhaus’ conclusions in the infographic to the left. And still didn’t really get it.
Either I am stupid or traditional economic theory fails to understand the changes at hand. I will try to bridge the gap, folks!
My comments on Nordhaus
1. The increassing decline of capital goods This has been going on for centuries and will accelerate in the next decade. Products and services get smaller, cheaper and of higher quality, thus making it easier to start business and to acquire services. The future is cheap and will make us millionaires in terms of buying power – as we are millionaires now compared to our 1980 buying power. So this connects to the next point:
2. Rising wage growth There has been a giant rise in buying power around the globe in the past few decades, and this will accelerate in the near future.
3. Rising share of capital True. Human labor is getting undervalued if and when robots do the same things humans do in a better, faster and cheaper way.
4. Rising share of information capital That is the essence of the global brain, but it is not happening in 100 years from no, as Nordhaus says, but it has been happening already in the past few decades. Same goes for productivity growth.
My forecast: the economic consequences of “Singularity”
1. Many professions will disappear in the next 10 – 15 years and many new professions will arise. Much recent scientific research shows it, but we don’t know the net result after all. It will render many employees and professionals either obsolete or turn them into superprofessionals. Superprofessionals laugh at the future and use the new tools of the global brain to enhance their productivity. Deskilling is the adjacent trend: we need to learn less and are capable of doing more.
2. Many government institutions and companies are 19th Century in both organisational and ownerhsip structure, and will disappear as well. Many current organizations resemble Kodak: with expensive buildings, employing many people and resources, and achieving only modest results. Compare that to the new exponential organisation, platforms that resemble Instagram: with a small amount of people and minimum of resources reaching maximum, global result.
3. The global brain is linked to other major trends: sustainability (3Dprinting will make it happen at last); the disastrous effects of the current creation of money by banks and the rise of local currencies; and the Do It Yourself movement. Superprofessionals and their communities can and will take things in their own cooperative hands, thus reducing the need for 19th century government organizations.
4. Sad points. The global brain will also increase monopolist power of hitech companies over us. Platforms like Uber make investors rich and the users rather poor – untill the cab drivers start owning Uber. That is the real sharing economy. It wil also lead to the jobless growth everyone talks about. Unfortunately, this strengthens Piketty’s global income inequality between the extremely rich and the regular middle class. It also fuels the discussion about a basic income. A bad solution for the problem, since it means the neighbours will have to pay for your debts. It will also grossly increase government power over citizens.
The global brain does indeed not lead to economic growth as we measure it now. There, Nordhaus is right. But consider the fact that GDP is an absurd measure of wellbeing and happiness. More prisons and more energy consumption mean a higher GDP – how absurd is that? Whereas the global brain gives us the tools to produce our own energy and our own healtcare, It lessens our dependece on Moslim and Russian dictators for energy. In short, it empowers citizens. How is that for economy?
PS immortiality is nonsense
Marcel Bullinga is a futurist who gives keynotes about the future – the bold and the beautiful. He signed the petition for ethical AI, contributed to various global surveys about the future of work and education, and wrote a book called Welcome to the Future Cloud – 20205 in 100 Predictions. See this interview with Singularity Hub University. Currently, Marel is involved in study by Dutch Ministry of Inner Affairs about future government