Human Wellbeing

It seems clear that intelligent systems technology will have a profound impact on economic growth. In the long run, the development of intelligent machines could lead to a golden age of prosperity, not only in the industrialized nations, but throughout the world. Despite the explosion of material wealth produced by the first industrial revolution, poverty persists and remains a major problem throughout the world today. Poverty causes hunger and disease. It breeds ignorance, alienation, crime, and pollution. Poverty brings misery, pain, and suffering. It leads to substance abuse. Particularly in the third world, poverty may be the biggest single problem that exists, because it causes so many other problems. And yet there is a well-known cure for poverty. It is wealth.

Wealth is difficult to generate. Producing wealth requires labor, capital, and raw materials — multiplied by productivity. The amount of wealth that can be produced for a given amount of labor, capital, and raw materials depends on productivity. The level of productivity that exists today is determined by the current level of knowledge embedded in workers' skills, management techniques, tools, equipment, and software used in the manufacturing process. In the future, the level of productivity will depend more and more on the level of knowledge embedded in intelligent machines. As the cost of computing power drops and the skills of intelligent machines grow, the capability for wealth production will grow exponentially. The central question then becomes, how will this wealth be distributed?

In the future, new economic theories based on abundance may emerge to replace current theories based on scarcity. New economic institutions and policies may arise to exploit the wealth-producing potential of large numbers of intelligent machines. As more wealth is produced without direct human labor, the distribution of income may shift from wages and salaries to dividends, interest, and rent. As more is invested in ownership of the means of production, more people may derive a substantial income from ownership of capital stock. Eventually, some form of people's capitalism may replace the current amalgam of capitalism and socialism that is prevalent in the industrialized world today (Albus 1976; Kelso and Hetter 1967).

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