2015 July 14 Tuesday
Split In Democratic Party Between Old School And Tech Democrats

Very insightful article by Greg Ferenstein about the developing split between the highly affluent tech Democrats and the old school union-supporting Democrats.. The tech Democrats are winning a lengthening list of battles and the old school Dems are losers. On some subjects rich Silicon Valley company founders are more libertarian than the average libertarian and yet on other subjects they are more interventionist than the vast majority of Republicans.

So what do tech founders want? They have a unique mix of extreme beliefs in meritocracy, competition, collectivism, and novelty-seeking (Poll)

They have a much greater faith in the power of education than is warranted. They do not appreciate just how much less smart the vast majority of the public is compared to them.

The Republicans are willingly letting themselves get wiped out by immigration. So they are not going to matter much in the future. The tech Democrats are going to become the most powerful force in politics if they aren't already. In recent years all new billionaires have come out of tech. I think Wall Street's power is going to wane though not as severely as union power or Republican rural and suburban power.

I am curious to see how the tech Democrats try to handle rising unemployment in the lower cognitive strata as the problem finally becomes too big to ignore. Mind you, the problem of unemployed less bright folks has already gotten amazingly large without getting accurately described in the mainstream media. The unemployment rate is highly misleading and yet still gets all the attention. But at some point this problem has got to get some recognition. What will the tech Dems decide to do about it?

I'm more curious than worried. I'm not a member of the elites or the tiers right below them who advise and support them. The people who I would consider as my (shrinking) faction matter less and less every day and so do our potential allies. So I see myself increasingly as an outsider in someone else's country.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2015 July 14 10:18 PM 

map said at July 14, 2015 11:46 PM:

None of this really makes any sense. How are these cognitively elite people going to amass all of this wealth when everyone else is too poor to actually buy what they are selling? Cognitively elite billionaires do not become so as a reward for being elite. They become billionaires by producing something that people want to buy. Who is going to buy with all of this widespread poverty.

These lottery billionaires with their "big data" Facebook-style solutions have very small pools actual, paying users. Those users, in turn, hope to market to the increasingly impoverished masses. How is that going to work out?

Brett Bellmore said at July 15, 2015 2:51 PM:

Well, speaking as a tooling engineer, let me state what talk about worker productivity obscures: Less and less of the production in modern factories is actually due to the workers. The machinery is doing an every larger part of it. As though George Jetson, who just sits around all day to occasionally push a button, (With a robot present to remind him should he forget to push it.) is actually highly productive.

It's the machinery that's productive, and it has ever less need for human labor to be productive. You've maybe heard of "lights out" factories?

We're headed in the direction of factories that require no human labor to run, and the ultimate goal, which I expect to see within 2-3 decades, (If I live that long.) are the classic Von Neumann "replicator", a machine that can manufacture copies of itself, and other useful items.

So, the cognitive elite genuinely aren't going to need anybody else. Eventually. It's the biggest looming issue of the latter half of the 21st century: The world is going to be chock full of people who are, simply, horribly, incapable of doing anything that contributes to the economy. And, yet, they'll still be dependent on it's output for their survival.

What will they do, when they have nothing to contribute except more warm bodies, equally incapable?

Will genetic uplift make their descendants adopted members of the cognitive elite? Maybe a few releases behind the curve, but still smart enough to contribute?

Will the elite remove themselves from the larger society, leaving everyone else to fend for themselves, at whatever standard of living the non-elite can manage with each generation of new elite abandoning them?

Or will it be genocide? A gentle genocide, mind you.

My money is on a combination of all three.

Fake said at July 15, 2015 6:19 PM:

For outsiders, what do you see as a viable plan? I feel the same way, but I don't know what to do about it besides try to make money now and become totally independent in the future.

Brett Bellmore said at July 16, 2015 3:02 AM:

I think the reprap project shows the way: They were in large part responsible for the consumer level 3d printers you see today, and their explicit goal has been to try to create a Von Neumann replicator.

As long as the masses have them, too, they won't be totally cut out of the equation.

That, and MOOCs, (Massive Online Open Courses) have a lot of promise, too.

Finally, we have to fight the government's restrictions on all sorts of enhancement tech. The elite will get it regardless, the restrictions will keep it from the rest of us, increasing the gulf.

But there's no mistaking the dystopian implications of the capabilities of automation marching across the bell curve. People could see that one coming over 60 years ago. (Read "The Marching Morons" by Kornbluth.)

One thing, though: The negative effects of this are being exacerbated by government policy. The government LIKES concentrations of wealth and power. A lot of government policies push the economy in that direction.

Randall Parker said at July 18, 2015 7:22 PM:

I think the response to automation and mass unemployment will play out in many ways:

Most robots will not work for the poor unemployed masses. Capitalists with lights-out factories will move many of these factories to countries with small populations. Why pay taxes to a government that has a large population to support when you can pay taxes to a government that has a small population to support? The latter will be cheaper.

Governments will try to do taxing of the upper classes with more wealth redistribution. Governments that have rare earth metals or other natural resources will be able to tax their harvesting to support their local populations.

People who still have useful skills will have incentive to move to those smaller countries which have most of the manufacturing robots. Those countries have lower tax rates.

MOOCs only help the cognitively more able. Got a 140 IQ? Watch a MOOC when you are 15 years old and learn something valuable. Got an 80 IQ? Sorry, you are so out of luck.


I think the upper classes can sell to each other. I'll get my robots to build you mansions and you get your robots to build me a yacht or a marina or a great hot house with robots in it to grow me and my party guests vegetables and fruits of every kind. Someone else will have robots for making brewskies. Engineers will still work in companies to design, build, service, fly airplanes (including supersonic airplanes to fly between island sanctuaries all over the world). Humans will still come up with new fashions in clothes and interior decoration. Engineers will need to oversee photovoltaics factories, wind turbine factories and new designs and installations.

Humans will conduct medical research with lots of robotic help to develop new rejuvenation therapies.

One thing I can see happening: if the smart people migrate out of some big population countries then those countries will still have human labor in their borders because they won't have the capital to buy the robots. Some countries can basically stall at the less-than-totally-robotic stage and even ban robots for some purposes. Look at New Jersey requiring human attendants to pump gasoline. Make lots of jobs human-only. Ned Ludd rides again.

Brett Bellmore said at July 19, 2015 4:45 AM:

"Governments that have rare earth metals or other natural resources will be able to tax their harvesting to support their local populations."

See the "natural resource curse"; When governments have resources like rare earth metals, and don't already have a robust private sector with secure property rights, it makes them less likely to care about the population under them, because they don't need that population as a revenue source anymore. The people running the government treat the resource as their own private property, and the population as annoying squatters on that property.

I expect the 'problem' of assortive mating, (It's only a problem for the people on the losing end, for the people on the winning end it's all benefit.) is going to dramatically expand. I'm a high IQ American engineer. My wife is a Philippine college grad with a high IQ. The Philippines, already doing badly in that regard, lost out on the deal. Mobility means that IQ outliers in lower IQ countries will be recruited into higher IQ countries, the brain drain turned to 11. Until we get intelligence enhancement techniques that are fairly cheap, we can only expect the disparities in IQ between nations to increase.

It's only a matter of time, I think, before somebody tries to create a real life "Eureka", to see what a whole city comprised of people with unusually high IQs would be like. You know, most people with high IQs are somewhat socially warped, due to growing up as the smartest person in the room, having a lack of peers at an early age. It would be genuinely interesting to see what such people grow up to be like if surrounded by other people of comparable intelligence. Better adjusted is my guess. Maybe even smarter, due to being continually challenged.

I think I'll return to my original prediction: The elite are, as technology renders their wealth less and less dependent on non-elite labor, going to withdraw from non-elite society. Then, when the technology becomes available, they might view the non-elite as fit subjects for uplift. But might go the genocide route, instead. But genocide with a smiley face, free birth control, not gas chambers.

John Quincy Adams said at July 19, 2015 2:49 PM:

Brett Bellmore,

America already has an astonishing degree of cognitive stratification. We're already to the point that the highly able only socialize with those whole fall within their own range of fairly narrow band of ability. Yet education has eroded, companies are coasting on the accumulated inertia of previous times, governments seem to be run by munchkins, the poor get their welfare checks in the mail, the cognitive elite has sub-replacement fertility, and we're importing truckloads of not-able immigrants into their very own land(!). That last point, especially—if they really gave a shit, I don't think they (the technocrats, specifically) would be voluntarily surrendering to the dusky hordes to the south. They're practically genocide-ing themselves.

John Quincy Adams said at July 19, 2015 2:51 PM:

*we're -> they're

map said at July 21, 2015 3:20 PM:

John Quincy has the correct take on the matter. There will be no robotic future. The whole point of importing all of these Third-Worlders is to hedge against technology, to hedge against the robotication of the economy. The cheap labor does not require the cognitive ability to manage and program a robot, can be easily replaced, and, because of high social costs, can siphon away capital that could be going to robotics.

In the end, the Third-Worlders will rape and kill when their conditions get bad enough, the ultimate poison pill.

How are all these small robot islands going to protect themselves from invasion?

Engineer-Poet said at July 21, 2015 5:57 PM:

Then robotization simply goes to Japan, where they refuse to allow a flood of third-worlders and have no bias against lights-out factories.  Everyplace that tries to go the route of Brazil becomes Brazil without industry.

Randall Parker said at July 23, 2015 9:34 PM:

Brett Bellmore,

Yes, smart kids growing up with other smart kids will be better adjusted as a consequence. They'll unfortunately also not have much experience with just how dumb the dumb can be.


Lots of robotics start-ups today. Lots of people getting Ph.D.s in machine learning. The robotics market is rapidly growing. The mobile robots market is growing fastest.

How to protect robot islands? With robots of course.

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