The debt hawks are to economics as the creationists are to biology. Those, who do not understand Monetary Sovereignty, do not understand economics. Cutting the federal deficit is the most ignorant and damaging step the federal government could take. It ranks ahead of the Hawley-Smoot Tariff.

The most common view of the future has ever more work being done by ever more sophisticated computers, while ultimate direction and control remain with human beings. Computers continue to be increasingly competent slaves.

Yes, the computer named Watson did defeat the two best Jeopardy players in history, but that might have been expected. Simply pump enough data into that massive memory, and eventually you have a computer that “knows” almost every piece of information. If not this year, then next year, so it came this year.

Yet, there remain many things computers continue to struggle with:

-Understand the many nuances of written language (One of my favorite examples was, “British left waffles on Faulklands”)
-Combine the many nuances of oral language (the words themselves, tone, loudness, pitch, pause) with the many nuances of body language
-Have taste in all of the arts
-Feel emotion

Anyway, the alternative, computers bossing people, is a long way off, if ever. Or is it? An article in the Feb 5th NewScientist, titled “Silicon supervisor gets the job done,” describes exactly that – or well, close to it.

When it appeared on Mechanical Turk, an outsourcing website run by Amazon, Boris Smus’s request looked unremarkable. He wanted people to search the web and gather a few facts about New York City. Workers snapped up the tasks, and answers rolled in within minutes. . .

There was, however, something unusual about the job. It was not posted by Smus, a researcher at Carnegie Mellon University . . . but by software he had created. The same software also posted editing and writing jobs. As the results came in, it farmed the text back out for further checking and editing. The result was an encyclopedia entry on New York City, produced by humans but managed by machine.

This idea – a human assembly line overseen by a silicon supervisor– may change the way we work.

If the notion of machines controlling humans bothers you – if it seems like something out of the Terminator series – get used to it. Or maybe you already are, if you use a GPS. A voice says, “Turn right at the next road,” so you do. Visualize a computer hiring you as a driver, and all day long you drive exactly where the GPS voice tells you, and at the end of the day. The computer evaluates your driving — your speed, your braking, your turning, your lunch and dinner breaks. At the end of the day, you’re paid according to how well you did, according to a formula. The actual driving is hard. The directing is easy. You are the slave to the computer.

Castingwords, based in Seattle, uses software to manage a trained online workforce tasked with transcribing audio interviews and podcasts. The software splits the audio into 5-minute chunks and distributes each to a worker. Completed transcriptions are automatically routed to other workers for quality checks. The software then compiles the results and gives the transcription to one person for a final check before it is returned to the customer, all without the intervention of a human manager.

This post would be too long if I attempted to quote the entire article. But examples are given of computers that supervise the creation of a children’s chair, writing advertising and designing graphics. Given the complexity of the tasks already in experimentation, I easily foresee computers supervising many tasks currently beyond computer ability. And, they could fire and pay workers based on work quality and speed (they already hire workers), and even admonish those people whose work is not up to snuff. In other words, they can function as the boss, supervising every conceivable human activity.

I don’t know about you, but this gives me the creeps, not only because it’s “unnatural” and emasculating, but also because it makes so much economic sense. The workers are easy to find and easy to evaluate. They don’t need to be supplied with offices. Nature already has programmed the human brain to perform extraordinary feats. We can be remarkably effective slaves, so why not take advantage of that?

The computer bosses can be tireless, unemotional and cheap. They don’t need to feel sympathy or ambition; they have perfect recall and don’t require vacations. I suspect the “computers-direct-humans” concept will grow. In certain ways, it’s easier to be the boss than the underling.

As this process grows, the economic effects will be enormous. Toss out all the current theories and hypotheses. Much of economics is skewed by what we call “human nature”: Emotions, cognitive dissonance, false beliefs, desires, forgetting, fashion. What we think of as an economy or as a government or as a democracy may turn out to be something quite different for computers. Aside from the science-fictionesque notion of humans as an intermediate species between the homo genus and machines, I perceive this causing real economic, legal and social problems in the near future.

A new world is rushing at us. The problem is, humans are not improving, but computers are. Neanderthals lived for about 80 thousand years, then were supplanted by a superior species: homo sapiens. Modern homo sapiens have been alive for something like 80 thousand years. When will a superior species supplant us? And will we even recognize it happening?

Rodger Malcolm Mitchell

No nation can tax itself into prosperity, nor grow without money growth.