The Brave New World of Computing, Automation, and Outsourcing

©Fernando Caracena 2015

About the Title

This post has a name similar to Aldous Huxley's dystopian novel, "Brave New World", because it deals with a similar theme.  Even if the view is dystopian from here, I am optimistic that the future will bring on new developments that will admit a ray of sunshine into an otherwise grey future for humanity.

Brave New World is a prophetic novel written in 1931 by Aldous Huxley, which does not offer an optimistic picture of the future. Now we are in Huxley's future, and I see trends worse than what he foresaw. We are headed in the wrong direction, perhaps for a big train wreck. My big concerns are: can humanity put itself back on the right track before disaster happens, and how can we do this?

The Developing Problem

Who gets rewarded for supporting research that makes drudgery obsolete, by replacing stultifying work with robotics? A lot of taxpayer money has gone into high-tech research; but the average citizen is not being rewarded by the positive results, instead, people are being penalized and reduced to poverty. Why? Is the economic system unable to cope with progress?

The great investment in research made by tax payers in the US after WWII produced significant progress in America's standard of living that has paid off in a huge way. But, who benefits from government sponsored research? Since everyone paid for it, shouldn't everyone benefit? Initially, this was true; but what we see today is that big corporations are making record profits as individuals are struggling to just get by. While the average American has fallen on hard times, large corporations and the super rich have had windfall profits, and diminishing taxes. Has the whole scheme backfired and left the poor blokes at home in a bad way?

Black Budgets

Much of the past, government-sponsored research on warfare was invested in doing super secret research funded through black budgets. Of the vast amounts of money spent that way, a little bit of the results produced, have resulted in vast benefits to society; but the bulk of the results remain secret and benefit only a few large corporations that pay almost no taxes. Some of the results of that research we can plainly see now: the military has developed push-button, automated weapons. Some nerd in Virginia can assassinate a designated Middle Eastern "terrorist" at the touch of a button by remote controlling a drone. The military has gained a global reach over small targets. People now have a new worry, that the government could mistakenly target them as "terrorists", or that they could become collateral damage by being too close to a designated target.

Secretive, military research is bad for human progress in several ways. It not only puts individuals globally at risk, but it also deprives most of humanity of the benefits gained by that research. Further, it enriches defence contracting corporations that are given the products of that research which was funded by taxpayer money. Also, secret research mines human talent and puts very little back into the intellectual infrastructure. Historically science has grown exponentially by freely sharing information and discoveries; however, with the rise of the National Security State (NSS), a lot of potentially beneficial research is done covertly, and the results are kept secret. Those researchers outside the cloak of secrecy may then be left pursuing a lot of blind alleys, because they are not privy to critical information. There is no direct pay-off to society from secret research, except perhaps through government contracts with military, weapons firms; but these benefits are very small compared to what more open enterprises would have done for society.  Yet there are companies that have not invested time, money, and talent in the covert research that are skimming off most of the benefits. Meanwhile, the common citizen is cut off from the great font of scientific discovery and becomes the captive of his own ignorance. The result is a toxic brew. This idea is developed in a previous post: The Human Race May be Self-destructing by Cutting off the Flow of Information.

Some Military Sponsored Research Does See Daylight

Fortunately, not all government-sponsored research is kept under wraps. Some of the federally sponsored science is allow to see the light of day. What we see then are some great breakthroughs appearing in journals, such as the one recently posted in Opli magazine about a recent advance in quantum computing, which itself literally promises to be a quantum leap over ordinary computing capability.

the recent article by quotes the definition of the NSS below.

What is the NSS? We are offered this definition from the Oxford Dictionary of the US Military:

“A post-World War II state in which nearly all aspects of political, economic, intellectual, and social life are dominated by considerations of national defense and the drive to maintain a defense establishment capable of protecting the state against all comers.”

We have been progressing deeper into a NSS ever since WWII, perhaps even before that. Scientific questions resolved and discoveries made under the veil of secrecy back then, have been not declassified, and remain hidden, although they may no longer be vital to national security. In science, this creates two levels of science: those who know deep secrets, and those who know the standard, declassified stuff. Meanwhile, those corporations that contract back to the military employ scientists doing sensitive work and sworn to secrecy. When they no longer work for the defence establishment, they are still obliged to talk only about standard stuff with their colleagues in the outside world. That inside knowledge, therefore, is contained, compartmentalized and useless to society at large.

Meanwhile the Visible Advance in Science Destabilizes Society

Kurzweil's book, The Singularity is Near,  paints an awesome picture of the acceleration of high-tech progress.

Recently posted in Opli magazine was a recent advance in quantum computing. Quantum computing literally represents a quantum leap in computing capability.

Automated McDonalds, ref.2Fired employee trashes a McDonalds. HP outsources.


In addition to the above problems, there are the bad effects of what we are doing to our environment, which will be discussed in a future post.

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