We live at a time when artificial intelligence is booming and major breakthroughs are happening, with a lot of people thinking about what is coming and how will it impact society. Robin Hanson is an economics professor at GMU with a background that ranges from philosophy, to physics and computer research.

He joins me today to talk about his book ‘The Age of Em: Work, Love and Life when Robots Rule the Earth’ which is shipping as we speak, where he outlines what he thinks will happen when humans become able to emulate a human brain in a machine. We discuss what are the things that might be different, what are those that will change less than we expect, and how social institutions will change once AI reaches such a level.

Don’t skip his blog and you can order his new book from Amazon…rth/dp/0198754620

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I'm an entrepreneur, thinker, and communicator dedicated to the relentless pursuit of freedom. I'm the founder and CEO of Praxis, an intensive ten-month program combining real world business experience with the best of online education for those who want more than college.


  • I’m an daily listener of NPR on my commute to and from work and I’ve been hearing a lot of buzz about the future of robotics and Artificial Intelligence. By the time I got out of the Marine Corps, drones were a regular part of the battle field, and only I seemed to be disturbed by the fact that we were killing people with remote-control airplanes. While at college after the Corps, I kept up with the advancements of DARPA, and watched as we inched our way closer and closer to a world with Terminators controlled by our military and local police forces. Police in Houston, the city in which I now reside, use drones to monitor streets and look for persons of interest. Not only does the city have cameras at nearly every street corner and on tall polls along every major highway, but we now have remote control airplanes and quad-rotors patrolling. My worry comes from logical conclusions that follow from this path in technological advancement, not from being scared of a movie. I wasn’t scared of Jaws in every body of water, just in ones they are known to feed in. Nor am I worried about every machine becoming self-aware, just fact that humans seem destined to create them. Convenience and comfort seems to be the bars that hold us in the jail cell so often, and it seems that this situation is no exception.

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  • I have serious doubts that capitalism can survive the advent of strong artificial intelligence. It is terrifying to think how marginalized the individual will be when mass producible, strong AI dominates the labor market. The resulting mass unemployment would lead to desperation, homelessness, riots, widespread crime, theft, murder, and chaos. The people, sadly, would clamor for more government; and the government would leverage the enormity of the situation to create “convincing” anti-capitalism propaganda.

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  • What does everyone think of the alarmists worrying about massive human unemployment resulting form the rise of artificial intelligences?  Case in point:  C.G.P. Grey.  It seems technology usually improves our lives.

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  • What is an individual? If an entity is created through some other means than natural reproduction, at what point can we say that entity is an individual?

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  • There is a theory that our Universe is actually a holographic projection, this recent study seems to support this theory:   Star Trek has several instances of Holograms displaying sentience. Voyager has “The Emergency Medical Hologram” (EMH) a holographic doctor that replaces the ships real doctor after he is killed in the opening episode. At first the EMH can only exist in sick bay, but eventually gains autonomy through a device taken from the 29th century called a Mobile Emitter. He is fully aware he is a hologram and interacts heavily with the rest of the crew. DS9 has a character named Vic Fontaine, who is a Rat Pack style crooner in an idealized version of 1960’s Las Vegas. Vic can only exist in a Holosuite, but he is fully aware he is a hologram, and acts as an informal station counselor, even to the real station counselor Ezri Dax. On a few occasions the crew band together to save Vic, both from malfunctioning equipment and from villains within the program. This idea poses some interesting questions. So if there existed Holographic people in our world, would they have rights? How might there rights differ from ours? Also, if our entire universe is hologram, how does that affect our rights? How we view our existence?

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