Another follow up Q to this series:
- If all work is automated, what will humans be able to do?
- Do humans need some agency over the world around them for their lives to have some sense or purpose?
It's been established that I had/have the tendency to view the meaning of a human's life somewhat like this:
Agency -> Purpose that reaches beyond oneself -> Work towards that purpose -> Meaning
Therefore I viewed the possible rise of strong AIs with horror, because by being superior to humans at making things done they would remove the need for humans to work, they would remove meaningful purposes humans could strive to reach and by doing so they would remove all agency from humans and, in the end, make humans' lives meaningless.
I suspect this may be the error of treating work as if it was an intrinsic value, while in fact it always an instrumental value.
It seems the above model can be easily reduced ad absurdum. Let me attempt such a reduction:
- Among police officers (and other related occupations) there are highly idealistic individuals who fight evil to protect the innocent; who feel they have a mission and who draw their meaning from this activity (hereinafter 'Knights in Shining Armor'); there may not be too many such people, but they do exist.
- Should there be no murderers, sadists, rapists, other serious criminals, the work of Knights in Shining Armors would have no purpose.
- Therefore, there must be plenty of murderers, so that Knights in Shining Armor have something to do.
This conclusion is as abhorrent as it seems and I suppose Knights in Shining Armor themselves would strongly disagree with it. They would want nothing more than to see their work finally completed and the world free of the evils they fight so passionately.
By rejecting the above we must conclude that it is truly the end of the work, rather than the work itself, that matters. Therefore it is always preferable to have the end already achieved, without having to work towards it.
For example, if it truly happens that all art (literature, pictures, movies, video games, etc) created by AIs will be so incomparably better to whatever a human could produce and therefore no one will be interested in humans' art any longer then it will be a preferable situation to what we have currently, namely that humans need to work to create art. All that will matter is that high quality art will become widely available for consumption. Lamenting that humans will no longer be able to reach self-fulfillment by creating art able to be appreciated by others actually boils down to only petty pride: It matters not that good art is produced, it only matters that I can produce it. This is, in fact, primitive envy. I cannot outperform AIs so I wish to remove the fruits of their work from existence so that no one can consume them. If I cannot have it, let no one can! Same for any other goal / purpose than art or fighting crime.
Is the above argumentation correct? That full automation of all work, if possible, will be a beneficial situation and the resultant removal Agency and worthy Purposes for humans to pursue does not harm them in the slightest.
EDIT: Two possible weaknesses I realized now:
- This is a non sequitur. It is possible that all work is purely an instrumental value as described above, yet humans still need to have something to do to function properly.
- Again, this is a non sequitur. It is possible that if we look at any single goal in isolation we will be forced to conclude that it is preferable to have this goal achieved rather than be working towards that goal. Nonetheless if we look at all possible goals the conclusion can be different, since - for example - it is preferable to have at least one goal incomplete.