Wednesday, January 4, 2023

Attack of the Killer Robots

The day of the killer robot is nigh, at least according to analysts of the current war Russia is waging against Ukraine.  It seems that advances in drone technology will soon allow both the Ukrainians and the Russians to employ self-directed drones to carry out strikes without having to worry about interference with their remote directional systems.


"Your place or mine, Sweet Cheeks?"

Of course, there was no question about Russia’s ability to develop such self-directed killer drones.  It is highly unlikely that with its deteriorating economy and technology base it will be able to do so.  Ukraine, on the other hand, is already working on it, which ought to give Russia pause . . . not as much as allowing the megalomaniacal dictator Putin to continue to kill tens of thousands of his own citizens in furtherance of his personal glory and profit, but still, it ought to cause some concern.  Unless, of course, Putin intends to play the nuclear card to stop a war he started by destroying the world, but why get picky?

In any event, the news account is a trifle late.  Robots have been taking over from human beings in many areas already, “stealing” jobs from workers and leaving them without incomes.  The use of killer drones in warfare, especially against other killer robots is actually less of a problem in a sense, as they are taking jobs that humans don’t particularly want to do in the first place, being destroyed defending your country against a warmongering nutcase who is willing to pay any price for victory as long as someone else pays it.

"I'm here for the job opening."


Here’s an idea.  If all warfare could be carried out by killer robots attacking other killer robots, why not set up a “military reservation,” some piece of wasteland in which two or more countries’ robots could slug it out without harming private persons or property?  It would just as costly as “real” war and wreck an economy just as effectively by diverting national resources to the effort, but in the end the boob who started a war would face the wrath of an enraged citizenry tired of paying for some idiot’s dreams of glory.  Science fiction writer Mack Reynolds created a world in which countries and companies settled their difference in such a fashion, the difference being that being a socialist, he assumed warfare could only be carried out by humans against humans, thereby creating jobs in a stratified and stagnant society.

"I'm here to save your income, not your job."


Such a solution would be even more effective if ordinary people owned the robots that displaced them from their jobs and from the battlefield.  As Louis O. Kelso pointed out in an interview in Life magazine in July 1964, “If the Machine Wants Our Job, Let’s Buy It.”  If you own the robot that is doing the job, then you get the income because you own the robot.

Similarly, if you own the robot used for defense and some jackass uses it to start a war instead of using it to defend the country against attack, you’re going to be angry.  You didn’t pay millions for defense to have some looneytoon use your assets to profit himself.  Get real.  You’d get rid of that so-called leader as fast as you could.

Of course, the big question is how ordinary people can afford to own such robots, or any other robots, for that matter.  Frankly, there is no reason for ordinary citizens to own killer robots, so they should be owned by citizens, but only for lease to governments.  Of course, to make the lease payments, the government will have to tax the citizens, so it would be a wash as far as the citizens are concerned, but that still wouldn’t mean they would want their property destroyed in a stupid war, thereby losing their investment, such as it was.

Own or be owned.  Or fired.


It's the other robots, those producing marketable goods and services, that are the real issue.  How can ordinary people own the robots that are replacing them in their jobs and thus taking away their income?

That’s what Louis Kelso looked at.    As a corporate finance lawyer, he used methods of corporate finance to solve the problem.  It turns out that it is possible, even preferable, to finance new productive capital by increasing production in the future instead of decreasing consumption in the past.  That is, instead of accumulating savings by not consuming all your income and buying capital, you can turn future increases in production into money now, buy capital and make it productive, then repay the new money and cancel it.

Believe it or not, finance has been carried out that way for thousands of years.  It’s only in the last couple of centuries that people got it fixed in their heads that the only way to produce something was already to have produced something . . . which is a contradiction.  If it impossible to produce without having first produced . . . where did the first production come from?  Keynesian economics, which virtually rules the world today, assumes this contradiction as an absolute . . . which means that the global economy is today based on an illogical fantasy.

Fortunately, this situation can easily be corrected by adopting the Economic Democracy Act, and by dismantling the weird Keynesian universe that has done so much to keep poverty, racism, and — as you might expect — war going.  After all, Keynes admitted that if politicians couldn’t think of anything better, war would solve economic problems for us.

How’s that working out for you, Keynes?