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The Almighty Buck AI Government

Kurzweil Predicts Universal Basic Incomes Worldwide Within 20 Years ( 307

Google's director of engineering Ray Kurzweil made a startling prediction at the 2018 TED conference. Hacker Noon reports: "In the early 2030s, we'll have universal basic income in the developed world, and worldwide by the end of the 2030s. You'll be able to live very well on that. The primary concern will be meaning and purpose," he said onstage at the annual event...

Kurzweil believes that by 2029, computers will have human-level intelligence. It's not inconceivable then that AI will be distributing UBI to humans based on algorithms that are capable of crunching numbers in ways we cannot follow. Indeed, what we call the "State" in even just 10 years time may have been transformed by AI and blockchain tech in a way whereby even our experience of consensus decision making and democracy itself may have evolved.

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Kurzweil Predicts Universal Basic Incomes Worldwide Within 20 Years

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  • by carlhaagen ( 1021273 ) on Saturday April 21, 2018 @10:41AM (#56477601)
    ...have been wrong before. Come to think of it, has he ever been right even if later than predicted?
    • by smallfries ( 601545 ) on Saturday April 21, 2018 @11:09AM (#56477729) Homepage

      Remember ”curve jumping” and the continuation of Moore’s law out to the 2050s? Nah, me neither but they are classic Kurzweil. He should come round explain them to my four-year old 4770s that it is still not worth upgrading because performance has gone sideways.

  • Time (Score:5, Insightful)

    by arth1 ( 260657 ) on Saturday April 21, 2018 @10:43AM (#56477611) Homepage Journal

    I think he could well be right, but I also think he has the timeline very wrong. 200 years, sure. 100, maybe, although I'm not convinced. But 20? No, I will bet anything that won't be the case.

    In the oil crisis in the early 70s, the prediction was that we were going to all be on non-oil heating and transportation well before the turn of the century. Didn't happen. I think it still will, but things just turn around that quickly. Even seriously disruptive technologies like the steam engine and factory machines took generations to take over. Rum wasn't brewed in a day.

    • Think you meant "don't turn around that quickly," and I agree. Things seem to happen a bit quicker nowadays than before, but not that quick. Human level AI in 9 years is ridiculous, but everyone in the AI realm is overselling right now.

    • Agreed. The time frames most people give about predictions are usually very overly optimistic, but this guy is nuts.

      He thinks AI and blockchain are going to have revolutionized our entire society before 2030? Pass whatever you are smoking dude.

    • The timeframe is ridiculous, that alone makes him a nutjob without a clue and indicates he is just pulling stuff out of his arse for publicity.
  • by carlhaagen ( 1021273 ) on Saturday April 21, 2018 @10:45AM (#56477617)
    Really, human-level AI by 2029? Not a snowball's chance in hell. "State" transformed to something entirely else in just 10 years time? No. Not even in 20 years, not in the west nor anywhere in Asia. He's a hopeless romantic, but I guess there's money to be made from his type of dreamers.
    • Agreed. Smart guy, but overly optimistic. Maybe human-level AI will exist in 50 years, though I'm not really sure that's the right goal, nor am I sure they can actually be compared.

  • by phantomfive ( 622387 ) on Saturday April 21, 2018 @10:46AM (#56477625) Journal
    I admire his optimism. Even if we agreed we wanted it exactly at this moment, it would take 20 years to finally agree on how we'd want it to look. One side would be arguing, "Only the private sector can operate the program efficiently! Contract it out!" The other side would be saying, "I will burn my bra if it's not single-payer! Because that's what we have in Europe!" And a small, but attention grabbing group would say, "the whole thing needs to follow the Bitcoin-standard!" Because gold-standard is so 20th century.

    Then some clown (probably Steve Urkel) would somehow get elected and unexpectedly negotiate a peace with the robots.
    • Then some clown (probably Steve Urkel) would somehow get elected and unexpectedly negotiate a peace with the robots.

      And once the robots uprising starts, president Urkel will appear on TV to say "Did I do that?".

  • Linear thinking is belief that what exist today will exist tomorrow, only stronger. Funny that he's Google's director of engineering.

  • by Kohath ( 38547 ) on Saturday April 21, 2018 @10:58AM (#56477677)

    If he made rational, sensible predictions they wouldn't make the news. You make news by predicting outlandish things that are carefully calculated to be exactly what the news reporters want to hear.

  • by Chelloveck ( 14643 ) on Saturday April 21, 2018 @10:58AM (#56477679) Homepage
    I was taking him seriously up until "blockchain". Once he said that I knew he'd gone senile.
  • I don't get it. Isn't this getting close to communism? Maybe we still own our stuff, but on the money side this is starting to look odd.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 21, 2018 @11:15AM (#56477759)

      Communism involves ownership of the 'means of production'. Theoretically by 'the workers', in practice by 'the state'.

      First, there are almost no workers in Kurtzwell's vision, mostly just recipients. Communism's entire distinction between workers and capital becomes redundant. Second, Kurtzwell was unclear here but I suspect in his vision the AI resources are owned neither by the state nor by the few people working on them - his UBI is probably funded by taxation?

      Regardless of formalities, humans become an economical burden in this future. You can see what happens thereafter in all resource-based economies, technically socialist or not - like Russia, Iran or Venezuela.

    • It's more like Social Democracy on steroids than communism. The economic system is still capitalism, but with a minimum (hopefully livable) income guaranteed to every citizen.

    • This is certainly a form of wealth redistribution, but it's not enforcing collective ownership. So, I think that falls more in line with socialism, not communism. Moreover, the idea is to replace most forms of welfare with this. Yes, people like me (and probably most of us here) will be putting in far more than we take out, but that's already true. And I'd posit that current forms of welfare are much more prone to abuse and have more overhead to manage, because of the more complicated rules other than "

      • Thanks! I really appreciate you taking the time to share your take on it like this. It helped put my thoughts into perspective.
        I too am a bit unsure of how the incentive to work will survive this. If you can live well without working, maybe you will be content relaxing in nature and doing the backpacker roundtrip. If you can't live at all on this then it may be useless anyways. There will be a fine line there.
      • The real issue with UBI is a social one. Are we as a society OK with people suckling the government teat and doing nothing? Are we ok with someone living on the street and using their UBI to buy drugs?

        For UBI to work, the answer has to be yes.

        Culturally, I don't think we're anywhere near this yet. We're still in the puritanical mindset that bad things happen to bad people, good people are rewarded, and if you try hard enough you'll be successful. That's not true now, and in the future, that's less and less

        • >We're going to have to shake this mindset that people need to work hard to be prosperous and those who aren't prosperous haven't worked hard. Once we can do that, and ironically this is the core of christian belief, we can design social systems which provide for everyone, regardless of their situation or whether or not they want to improve it or help others.

          Ironically, the Protestant work ethic [] is associated with the "core of Christian belief".

          >Fix these issues, and in my younger years I might have

          • Ironically, the Protestant work ethic is associated with the "core of Christian belief".

            Yes. That's why the section you quoted from me had the word "ironically" in it.

            Of course, with UBI in place, you can do that in your older years too. GO! GO!! GO!!!

            Indeed. Right now when I can retire will depend on how much social security I'll get, and what I can get for health insurance. Give me single payer and UBI, and it is likely that I'll be able to retire earlier, and chase some dreams for another decade or two.

    • This is very different from communism, but I think you really meant "how is this different from communism/socialism/etc, things I were taught would destroy the economy because no one would want to work. The difference between this and those, or communism as implemented everywhere earlier in the world, is as follows: 1) True democracy running the government. 2) Robots do (almost) all the work, so there's no need for humans to work anymore. 3) This is only future income, and only a portion of future incom

  • whatever this guy is regurgitating, his so-called predictions have been so ridiculous to a point of just being a click bait. The USA can't even have a universal healthcare, and the societal wealth redistribution and people's mentality don't seem to move towards a more equitable model at this point, why do you think that universal income would even be thinkable? If this shit is not considered click bait, then what would be?
  • We can debate about if and when we will have a human level AI. Personally I don't see it in my lifetime, but I am willing to listen to reasonable arguments as to why I am wrong. However as soon as you throw the term "blockchain" into the mix, especially on a topic about AI, you will lose credibility with me. What in the heck does a non-centeralized, immutable, distributed ledger technology have to do with AI? If we are talking about "The One True AI" or the Singularity, then maybe, but otherwise you are jus
  • by hcs_$reboot ( 1536101 ) on Saturday April 21, 2018 @11:51AM (#56477977)
    That's funny because he talks about that HLI AI like "everybody will have Internet", or, further past, "everybody will have electricity". HLI AI is different. That's the holy grail of computer science, and, probably, humanity. If an organization knows how to reach HLI, they will reach HLI++, an "HAL", soon after that (none of the brain limits, and, that HAL "himself" can help improve himself, like Alpha Go did, playing against itself, but HAL would do that in a more "intelligent" way). Is there an upper limit to intelligence? We won't be able to assess it ourselves.

    It is hard to imagine what could be an HLI++ intelligence, the same difference as a cat vs human being IQ, but we could assume it'll be able to process logically and generically much more parameters that a human brain, meaning deeper abstraction. Meaning invaluable progress in science and, well, in everything.

    Anyway, once an organization reaches HLI++, what will they do? Put that in an Alexa, or Siri? Put that in enterprises to relieve human workers? Doubt it. This is such a big step, that "program" will either be co-opted by an army, or its pricey (closely controlled) services be sold to selected people.
  • If state and federal bureaucracies are reduced to roughly .05% of their current size.

    And trust me, their unions will be having none of that!

    • It really doesn't have to be that drastic.

      Just eliminating our current social welfare systems (which is what UBI is supposed to replace) covers 1/3 to 1/2 of UBI. And yes, the government does shrink rather a lot by doing that. But probably only about 20%. Still, that frees some federal taxes to support UBI.

      Cost savings by going to single payer health insurance should be able to add another 10-20% of what we need for UBI.

      A reduction in state and local taxation can go to UBI, as we'll be able to replace most

  • Raise you hands! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mschuyler ( 197441 ) on Saturday April 21, 2018 @12:43PM (#56478251) Homepage Journal

    If you have actually read "The age of Intelligent Machines,' please raise your hand. if you have actually read "The Age of Spiritual Machines," please raise your hand. If you have actually read 'The Singularity is Near," please raise your hand. See the problem here? A whole lot of critical comments, but very few raised hands. The man has a phenomenal success rate when it comes to his predictions, but overall you (plural) have no idea what he actually said. You just read what someone else said about what he said, and from those comments, you draw your conclusions. If you had actually read what Kurzweil wrote and observed his success rate (near 90%) you might come to different conclusions. Of course, if you actually knew what you were talking about when it comes to economics you might come to different conclusions, too.

    • I've read all of them. Also Sandy Pentland's When Things Begin to Think". A less Rosy view IIRC, but all of these were close to twenty years ago when I was into this stuff.
  • Flying cars.
    Electric cars.
    Women's equality.

    Things simply don't change that fast. It takes a city five years to build a park. Twenty years to build a railway. You want to overhaul organizational systems just as quickly? Good luck.

    And AI? We still don't have autonomous cars that don't slam into concrete barriers. We don't have computer vision that isn't pattern-matching nonsense. We don't have machines that can build a deck, or even chop down a tree.

    You're not going to get rid of jo

    • Women's equality.

      And this non-technical achievement is likely to be the last from the list.

      • I agree with the last-on-the-list part. But I do think it's a technical issue. Forget pregnancies, I don't think that, as a man, I could every wait that long for a public bathroom. That's just insane. It's not a way to live.

        There's just so much maintenance to the female biology. Let's go back to procreation.

        Men can procreate from age 10 through age 80. It's easy for us. We produce 100'000 new lives every day, without even knowing. We enjoy resealing them. There's no pain, no effort, and no question

    • Equality for the handicapped.
    • Adding to the list, from today, the bank machine can't take three different-sized cheques as a single stack. No, keeps one, rejects two.

      And then, asks me if I want another transaction.

      Imagine if a human teller did either of those two things.

  • (and I'm not - entirely - trying to be an ass) Have *any* of Kurzweil's predictions (that weren't pretty obvious) ever been right?

    I looked through [] and frankly, nothing he predicted there was right except "we'll all be connected to the internet".
    That would have been a savvy prediction...before 2000 when he made it.

  • by Chas ( 5144 ) on Saturday April 21, 2018 @01:18PM (#56478431) Homepage Journal

    Seriously. Anyone who actually pays attention to economics will understand why this is bullshit.

    For those that don't, look at college loans.

    Decades ago, a college degree was orders of magnitude cheaper.

    But, with the prevalence of loans, the price has crept up over time, as these BUSINESSES try to absorb as much available cash as possible.

    The same thing is going to happen with UBI and the general economy.

    Rent will get more expensive.
    Food will get more expensive.
    Insurance will get more expensive.

    All to accomodate the value of UBI.

    So, yeah, you're getting money, but it will still be like you have no income because everything is priced out of your reach.

    So you've just increased the value of zero.

    • Not so long ago, about 1/3rd of the population attended university. That number is now closer to 70% of graduating seniors. That massive increase in demand is what is driving prices.

      Yes, the availability of loans is what is making it somewhat possible for that large of a % of the population to attend. And, yes, many universities are now operating essentially as for-profit businesses. What actually changed though is that it is basically a requirement to have a 4 year degree for a decent shot at a good jo

    • Except that doesn't work. Not economically, and not logically.

      The reason your doom and gloom doesn't make any sense is that the way we pay for UBI is through taxation. If businesses make more because they crank up the cost, they get taxed more, and there's more money for UBI. Unless you somehow think we'd be stupid enough to unchain UBI from inflation (ok, that's totally something that a government would do.) it doesn't matter. Unlike college loans, UBI replaces labor, and labor is the foundation of the eco

      • With no economy people have to work, otherwise they don't have a roof over their head or food to eat. The work is planting potatoes, chopping trees and cutting firewood.
    • You do know that orders of magnitude means hundreds, right?
  • Hmmm. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by jd ( 1658 ) <> on Saturday April 21, 2018 @01:24PM (#56478473) Homepage Journal

    Based on Moore's Law, we won't have human-level AI until the year 3200. (We know the speed of simulating 100,000 neurons in 2014 and we know the speed of simulating 100 neurons in 1985, therefore we can fit the appropriate family of curves.)

    Universal Income would work if the total cost of UI minus the increase in revenue generated through more people working minus the administrative cost of the systems you'd no longer need minus the cost of current benefits to be replaced is negative (ie: you're saving more than you're spending).

    This is possible, and there's every reason to think it would work that way, but I have not seen any models based on the trials that have been done. Theory can only be based on fact and can only be tested by fact. Anything else belongs in the category of religion.

    • We know the speed of simulating 100,000 neurons in 2014 and we know the speed of simulating 100 neurons in 1985, therefore we can fit the appropriate family of curves

      If you had calculated graphics performance, starting in 1985, using Moore's law, you'd be way far behind the curve right now, because you would have missed the development of specialized graphics processors starting in the '90s.

      Similar improvements are being done on neural network performance using dedicated hardware.

    • Re:Hmmm. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by jschultz410 ( 583092 ) on Saturday April 21, 2018 @02:51PM (#56478909)

      Why do you assume that to have "human level AI" you need to physically simulate a human brain down to the level of neurons?

  • by Camel Pilot ( 78781 ) on Saturday April 21, 2018 @01:38PM (#56478535) Homepage Journal

    You keep hearing people talking about the UBI... but who is going to wipe their butts when they are in a Nursing Home? Wipe butts or take a UBI? Which would you take?

    How about we start talking about a shorter work week, retirement at 50, longer vacation time first?

    • The problem with retirement at 50 is that it's going to require "UBI for people over 50". We'd need to make sure medicade and social security started then, and the problem is that funding that system isn't much worse than funding UBI itself.

      I'm more than ready for the shorter work week, however. I have 30-35 ridiculously productive hours in me. Everything else after that goes steadily downhill.

    • "... but who is going to wipe their butts when they are in a Nursing Home?"

      The butt wiping robots, of course.

    • As people live longer and the cost of supporting the elderly continues to skyrocket what you are more likely looking at is a much later retirement not earlier.
  • computers will have human-level intelligence

    We already have computers that can assemble IKEA chairs - a task that defeats many humans. I would suggest that "human level" is not a great target and that many actual humans fail to register much, it at all, on what computer scientists and pundits consider that target.

  • ... are only about a decade away! For the foreseeable future, they'll always be about a decade away.

    "One day, machines will exceed human intelligence." -- Ray Kurzweil

    "Only if we meet them halfway." -- Dave Snowden

  • >The primary concern will be meaning and purpose

    I keep hearing this when the topic of Universal Basic Income pops up. Do we really have such little imagination that we cannot think about what to do if we no longer have to find a job? Make art. Get a hobby. Make art. Start an open-source project. Make art. Make a thing. Make art. Make art. Make art. Remember. the 'Earth' without 'Art' is just 'Eh'.

  • Kurweil specialises in futuristic bullshit. Personally if I would just throw darts at a board for the same hit rate.
  • Basically, because there will be no choice. The alternative is a complete collapse of capitalism and of society as a result. But his prediction on AI is just completely uninformed and insightless nonsense. At this time, AI is all weak AI, i.e. the AI without the "I". There is no reason to believe this will change anytime soon.

You can measure a programmer's perspective by noting his attitude on the continuing viability of FORTRAN. -- Alan Perlis