The Age of Em

Robin Hanson

Of course by not considering any particular regulations, I can also be accused of being biased against regulation. When it comes to avoiding accusations of political bias, there is no absolutely safe ground in social science.

This book violates a standard taboo, in that it assumes that our social systems will mostly fail to prevent outcomes that many find lamentable, such as robots dominating the world, sidelining ordinary humans, and eliminating human abilities to earn wages. Once we have framed a topic as a problem that we’d want our social systems to solve, it is taboo to discuss the consequences of a failure to solve that problem. Discussing such consequences is usually only acceptable as a way to scare people into trying harder to solve the problem. Instead, analyzing in detail the consequences of failure, to learn how to live with such failure, is widely seen as expressing disloyalty to your social systems and hostility toward those who would suffer from its failure.

Jordan, Gabriele, Samir Deeb, Jenny Bosten, and J. D. Mollon. 2010. “The Dimensionality of Color Vision in Carriers of Anomalous Trichromacy.” Journal of Vision 10(8): 12.

As the loyalty and reliability of an em is especially important in unusual crisis situations, simulations designed to test loyalties disproportionately portray such situations. Thus an em who finds itself in what seems to be an unusual crisis should suspect that it is in a simulation designed to test its loyalty and ability.

Retired ems are also good for unspecialized everyman roles, such as juror or voter, if they aren’t running too slowly to sufficiently understand the current society.

Ghosts are anti-social, avoid groups of more than a few humans, don’t seem to collect into ghost gangs

Such ghosts are real, and with trouble one can talk to them, but they aren’t very useful as allies, they get less moral weight, and one can usually ignore them without much cost. Because ems must pay

Such ghosts are real, and with trouble one can talk to them, but they aren’t very useful as allies, they get less moral weight, and one can usually ignore them without much cost.

Human aversion to death has many causes, but surely a big one is that growing productive humans takes years. For us, death can be a very expensive loss;

we often most mourn the deaths of young adults, in whom we have invested the most yet gained the least.

When life is cheap, death can be cheap as well.

Individual em copies may come to see the choice to end a copy not as “Shall I end?” but instead as “Do I want to remember this?”

Today, we are aware that suicide can have large opportunity costs,

suicide switches could help ems respond to threats such as torture or rape.

History shows that slave owners are the most eager to create and own slaves when wages are high and rising. When wages are low it costs nearly as much to feed and house a slave as it does to hire a free worker ( Domar 1970 ).

give stronger incentives for overall performance, compared with rewarding the best performers (Drouvelis and Jamison 2015; Kubanek et al. 2015).

It is possible that stronger punishment involves direct pain, and this has often happened in the distant past. But the extreme rarity of this practice today suggests that pain is not very useful as a motivator for workers in advanced industrial jobs,

Today, there are about 120 million people alive at each year of age between 5 and 30 years old,

In our world, gay men earn less than comparable straight men, while lesbian women earn more than comparable straight women (Carpenter 2008). This suggests that while disproportionally many female ems may be lesbian, disproportionally few male ems may be gay.

Relative to night owls, who stay up late, people today who are morning larks, and get up early, tend to have higher income, higher academic achievement, and to be less often unemployed, in ill health, impulsive, or undependable. Larks are more conformist, agreeable, and conscientious, although less smart. These suggest that ems tend more to be larks than owls. Women and older people tend more to be larks

Such ems are more strategic and careful in choosing the details of their career paths. They more often ask for things they want, even if rejection seems likely. They are more willing to sacrifice likeability to be seen as tough. They try harder to, and are better at, developing their network of useful social connections.

By randomly choosing a small jury of voters who will then decide an election, one might greatly increase the incentives of the voters who have been chosen to become informed (Levy 1989).

Today, most people over the age of 80 must deal with health problems, the death of loved ones, and many other difficult issues. While some of these people are further hindered by dementia, it seems that most of them deal well via their lifetime accumulation of mental strength and “cool.”

For example, a single em could conceive of a system design for a software project, and then split into many copies who each elaborate and implement different parts of the system design, continuing to split as needed for subsystems.

Ems can afford to have many children and young trainees compete, and then only select a best few to be allocated into jobs, with the failures ending or retiring. One might think that such low odds of success are demoralizing, but overconfident neglect of the chances of failure is aided by the fact that most ems remember almost always succeeding against the odds.

Young ems see the important part of their lives as their future peak productivity years, and one of the great questions of their life is whether they will live up to hopes about them and become one of the few greatly copied ems when they reach peak productivity. Most young ems eventually disappoint such hopes.

if a person suffers today to gain benefits in later days, such as by attending a difficult school with a high chance of failure, we almost never suggest that their future self is exploiting their current self.

People such as Yevgeny Zamyatin, author of the classic novel We, feared that the entire social world would soon be factory-like, and that firms and nations would soon merge into intrusive faceless oppressors that dictated who people married, where they lived, what they ate, when they slept, and pretty much everything (Richter 1893; Zamyatin 1924). Discomfort with big organizations lingers in our stereotypes of “soul-crushing” bureaucracies.

workers who focus more on pleasing their boss, and less on doing what they see as a good job, tend to be more successful and happier (Judge and Bretz 1994