As Cheap as Human Life Itself…

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In the book about the first Man-Kzin war, The Children’s Hour, there is a scene in which agents from earth have been sent to Alpha Centauri to kill the Kzin leader (think “sentient tiger with opposable thumbs”), who is an exceptional Kzin and in a leadership position to actually make changes detrimental to mankind’s survival as a free species.  Meeting with Japanese criminals, descendants of the Ninja clans, they seal a deal and are then offered a free meal.

The senior of the two agents observes that they would be out of place, being served in a “fancy live-service place”.  I.e., food prepared and served by humans.  The Oyabun, the leader with whom they have just dealt, replies “You would do well to observe local conditions, man from far away.  It has been a long time since automation was cheaper than human life.”

As I said in The Robot/AI Curve Accelerates:

It is just penetrating our consciousness that our pond of human employment may have a robotic lotus problem. What will we do, what will happen, when – amazingly and almost overnight – the pond is covered?

And… how long before, in the words of the gladiator trainer / slaver Lentulus Batiatus from the classic movie Spartacus, will all these people displaced by AI and robots be viewed “… as cheap as human life itself.”?

(c) 2016, David Hunt, PE

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