“The technological progress we make over the next century will dwarf everything we have accomplished since we first harnessed fire and invented the wheel,” Sam Altman writes in his essay “Moore’s Law for Everything.” “If we as a society manage this revolution responsibly, it will generate enough wealth to ensure that everyone has what they need.”
Altman is the chief executive officer of OpenAI, one of the largest and most influential players in the field of artificial intelligence. His argument is as follows: Since the 1970s, computers have improved exponentially in performance while remaining affordable, a phenomenon known as Moore’s Law. Altman believes that artificial intelligence has the potential to bring us closer to Moore’s Law for everything: it has the potential to make everything better while also making it cheaper. You name it: housing, health care, and education.
However, what struck me most about his essay was the final sentence: “if we as a society manage it responsibly.” Because, as Altman acknowledges, if he is correct, A.I. will generate phenomenal wealth primarily through the destruction of countless jobs — which is a significant part of how everything becomes cheaper — and the transfer of enormous amounts of wealth from labor to capital. And whether that world becomes a post-scarcity utopia or a feudal dystopia is entirely dependent on how wealth, power, and dignity are distributed — on politics.
Thus, this is a discussion of the political economy of the next technological era. Of course, some of it is speculative, but much of it is not. This rebalancing of power and wealth is already taking place. Altman proposes a solution: a shift toward taxing land and wealth and redistributing them equally. We discuss that concept, but also the political economy that underpins it: Are the people gaining all this power and wealth truly willing to submit to increased taxation? Or are they going to fight it tooth and nail?
Additionally, we discuss who is funding the A.I. revolution, the business models that these systems will employ (and the dangers inherent in those business models), how A.I. will alter the geopolitical balance of power, whether we should allow trillionaires, why the political debate over A.I. is stalled, why a pro-technology progressivism must also embrace a radical politics of equality, and what global governance model will emerge.
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