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Comparative vs. Absolute vs. Automation

automation robotics economics

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#1
Yuli Ban

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Absolute advantage: you need to stock your fast food restaurant with workers. 7 workers. 6 crew members and 1 custodian, all under a manager. All 7 jobs can be done by robots, and can be done much more effectively. There's no economic reason to have humans do these jobs. Other restaurants follow this philosophy, and those still employing humans make less money due to less productivity and lower quality for higher prices. 
This is the absolute advantage at play. Humans are simply at a disadvantage. A human worker must be paid (obviously costs money), requires more protections (which also costs money), requires breaks (even more money), and cannot work 24/7. 
Think about it this way: how much in a year does a single human worker cost at a minimum wage job at McDonalds? And this is purely through their wages.
It averages at $18,588 a year, but can go as low as $10,000 and as high as $30,000.
 
I want you to seriously think about that for a moment. 7 crew members at McDonalds, all costing about $18,588 a year purely through wages. This isn't including lost productivity through their basic biological needs. 
 
$130,116 altogether just for these workers' WAGES.
 
Now compare that to 7 robots. Each robot has an annual cost of $3,000. So the total cost for all these robots is about $21,000. That's only slightly more than the yearly wages of a *single* human worker('s wages). And this is taking into consideration that said droids will work 24/7, requiring minimal maintenance (which can be done by another droid) and energy costs. 
Robotic collective intelligence also means that, once one unit learns something, they *all* do. Thus, they have little to no need to go through on the job training once a single droid has learned the ropes. The only truly expensive functions will likely be the complex artificiality of the robots and the subscription to access generalized intelligence (if each and every single droid has their own artificial brain within their bodies, prices skyrocket). 
 
In other words, humans have completely lost the absolute advantage.
 
 
So what about the comparative advantage?
 
Comparative advantage: You write books. You could have a robot that writes 100 novels an hour. I can write 1 novel in a month.  I now have 73,001 novels. 
 
That's the comparative advantage. It doesn't matter how productive the machines are; it's not a zero-sum game here. We'll still buy from humans in this case.

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#2
Raklian

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So what about the comparative advantage?
 
Comparative advantage: You write books. You could have a robot that writes 100 novels an hour. I can write 1 novel in a month.  I now have 73,001 novels. 
 
That's the comparative advantage. It doesn't matter how productive the machines are; it's not a zero-sum game here. We'll still buy from humans in this case.

 

 

One problem with that kind of advantage... is that pretty much everyone will have a robot that writes 100 novels an hour. Heck, there'll be bots in the Net that will be writing and producing creative works, literally "mass-producing" to the point they don't cost anything, effectively making them free for anyone to pursue. No one will be buying anything from each other, at least in this case. There is no monetary advantage in this type of scenario. Actually, I think that's a good thing as this kind of thing will lead up to a society where everything is produced nearly at no cost and all basic necessities will be met for everyone to subsist on.


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#3
Yuli Ban

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Except...

 

"So there are now 5 million books released today. Let's filter by 'Human-Written.'"

 

And there you go. You've just found the comparative advantage right there. It's clearly not enough to sustain an economy, but that's not the point of the post.


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#4
Jakob

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It's easy to write a piece of pulp fiction that has a coherent plot and conforms to all the technical rules of what a story is supposed to look like (three act structure, etc. etc.). But, at the risk of sounding like a pretentious snob, the greatest works of literature are those that don't merely tell a story, but also offer a unique insight on the human condition. They shed light on the complex, nuanced world we live in and force us to ask difficult questions. More than that, the lives and experiences of the authors give flavor to the story. The same premise would be explored so differently by different authors with different lives. But a machine that has never been alive? If it hasn't lived, and has never experienced anything, how could it provide that level of depth and insight? How could, say, a machine that has never been in a war, never lived through one, and doesn't even understand the concept of a war, write a better war novel than a man who actually fought on the front line? How could a machine write a truly brilliant coming-of-age story about two friends when it's never had friends or come of age? Where would it draw the inspiration? Don't tell me it can be found in piles of data--that's not literature, that's just mashing together stuff actual authors have already created. You won't get anything new and revolutionary that way. Maybe judging purely by technical metrics, a machine could crank out something better, but ultimately it wouldn't truly resonate.

 

Great works of art don't exist in a vacuum. It depends on human experience, that's what makes it great.

 

Sure, a dumb algorithm that can churn out hundreds of trashy romance novels a day will probably be around in 10-20 years. But literature is exponentially harder. An 'it' will never write literature. Maybe someday a robot can, but that robot would have to be truly alive and interact with society.


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#5
Whereas

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Sure, a dumb algorithm that can churn out hundreds of trashy romance novels a day will probably be around in 10-20 years. But literature is exponentially harder. An 'it' will never write literature. Maybe someday a robot can, but that robot would have to be truly alive and interact with society.

Eh, if there's a process to creating it, then said process can be reverse engineered and optimized.

 

On one of the imagination fronts, if a crucial component is "drawing from personal experience" (I doubt it is, but w/e), then determine what types of experiences were behind "breakthrough" classics and create a simulation just detailed enough to be capable of reproducing them. Then take a minute to run through a wide swath of scenarios that could conceivably provide the algorithm with the right kind of "experiences" for what it's going to be writing about, all the while considering a wide array of possible perspectives to perceiving each of these scenarios. Pick the ones judged to best resonate with the readers of your contemporary target market (or the person sitting in front of the screen) out of those that fit all the other constrains you're working under.

 

Better yet, allow the reader to control some of the story parameters (e.g. a character's actions) as you're creating it - and provide them with a personalized epiphany about life.


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#6
Jakob

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Sure, a dumb algorithm that can churn out hundreds of trashy romance novels a day will probably be around in 10-20 years. But literature is exponentially harder. An 'it' will never write literature. Maybe someday a robot can, but that robot would have to be truly alive and interact with society.

Eh, if there's a process to creating it, then said process can be reverse engineered and optimized.

 

On one of the imagination fronts, if a crucial component is "drawing from personal experience" (I doubt it is, but w/e), then determine what types of experiences were behind "breakthrough" classics and create a simulation just detailed enough to be capable of reproducing them. Then take a minute to run through a wide swath of scenarios that could conceivably provide the algorithm with the right kind of "experiences" for what it's going to be writing about, all the while considering a wide array of possible perspectives to perceiving each of these scenarios. Pick the ones judged to best resonate with the readers of your contemporary target market (or the person sitting in front of the screen) out of those that fit all the other constrains you're working under.

 

Better yet, allow the reader to control some of the story parameters (e.g. a character's actions) as you're creating it - and provide them with a personalized epiphany about life.

 

I'm telling you, that's not going to get you "great", just "average".


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#7
Whereas

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I'm telling you, that's not going to get you "great", just "average".
 

Without telling me *what* an intelligence couldn't conceivably reproduce.

 

And *of course* most such novels are going to be average, but *some* are also going to be masterpieces. At the same time most *human* novels are going to be far *below* that new average.

 

Also don't underestimate the value of personalized stories, which you can't have with classic novels - they can't speak to your life and issues specifically.


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