Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Coding the economy to cut the high price of low cost

Photo by Ray Hennessey on Unsplash

The allocation of resources - and the cost of optimising that allocation - has always been humanity's most profound challenge. Artificial Intelligence may offer our best solution - but only if we are prepared to think globally.

Capital and the market model it sustains has been held up as our best bet for resource allocation for centutres. Yet capitalism and its governance are not necessary states by any means. They are emergent properties of the complex adaptive system we describe as the economy.

One transaction allocating value does not capitalism make. Multiple ones at scale can. Just as a molecule of water is not a wave, let alone a tidal force. These are emergent properties of complex adaptive systems.

The interactions within the system are what creates those emerging properties. Change those interactions and the properties change.

The best modifier we have had to date has been Government intervention - taxes, laws, welfare etc. But complex aqdaptive systems are notoriously difficult to tinker with. Think of the butterfly effect as applied to weather (another complex adaptive system).

So a Trump here or a Brexit there is going to have some impacts, but predicting exactly who, where and what feels the chill wind is a somewhat more exacting science than knowing that change will come.

As our economy has become more connected (and decentralised) it is becoming more anti-fragile. Make no mistake the economy will keep on functioning no matter what governments do. The question is can it be controlled somehow to ensure the emergent properties are desirable for humanity?

As we head towards quantum computing and ever more intelligent automation the point looms at which decisions to allocate resource will patently be better handled by machines.

Our machines will be better able to calculate the global economic costs of each transaction. They will factor for the environment as much as for human need. If we code that in.

But this is going to be a greater race for power than military applications of AI. Those who choose not to take part will be at significant compertitive disadvantage to rivals.

So the pressures to allocate to meet immediate human gratification will be huge. Only through global agreement on total costs will we give our children a chance.

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