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'Technology Will Replace the Need For Big Government' (vice.com) 247

New submitter axlash writes: There's a lot of dissatisfaction with governments today, as can be seen by the rise of left-wing parties in Europe, to the rise of non-mainstream political candidates in America. Well, here's a thought -- with all the talk of technology replacing jobs, why not have it replace governments, too? The speculates about how "in the near future, the government might dramatically shrink -- not because of demands by fiscally astute Americans, but because of radical technology." It goes on: "Even the US President could one day be replaced, which -- strangely enough -- might bring sanity to our election process." The main thrust of the article is essentially about how government jobs will be replaced with technology, although it doesn't say much about whether there'll be technology administering this technology.
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'Technology Will Replace the Need For Big Government'

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  • by Etcetera ( 14711 ) on Tuesday May 10, 2016 @02:18PM (#52084969) Homepage

    ... That's seriously the only reason I can think of why someone would think that putting technology into an oversight role over humanity is a good thing.

    A generation raised on YouTube and Google algorithms and that doesn't seem to value freedom of expression or thought also doesn't understand why humans, process, and procedural protections are necessary. In turn, that makes things less efficient than they theoretically could be, but a technocratic Orwellian state as envisioned by dipshit solutionists will eventually come to the conclusion that life would be a lot more efficient if you just get rid of humans altogether.

    I'm honestly a bit confused how people don't see this. Did they not see T2 growing up? Did they not watch any dystopian 70's sci-fi? Have they never heard of The Twilight Zone and its continual reminders about how hubris catches up with people? What is it?

    • by Pseudonymous Powers ( 4097097 ) on Tuesday May 10, 2016 @02:39PM (#52085215)

      ... That's seriously the only reason I can think of why someone would think that putting technology into an oversight role over humanity is a good thing. A technocratic Orwellian state as envisioned by dipshit solutionists will eventually come to the conclusion that life would be a lot more efficient if you just get rid of humans altogether.

      Sure, unless it's one of those conscientious AIs that just straps everybody into an orgasm machine and calls it a day.

      But in any event, the more likely scenario is that some small cabal of humans will take over, and simply tell all the plebians that there's a benevolent AI in charge. In reality, it'll just be the governing elite doing what governing elites always do: living it up on the backs of us chumps.

      I'm honestly a bit confused how people don't see this. Did they not see T2 growing up? Did they not watch any dystopian 70's sci-fi? Have they never heard of The Twilight Zone and its continual reminders about how hubris catches up with people? What is it?

      They either don't concede that putting an AI in charge is necessarily bad for humanity ("_Terminator_ is just a movie, real AI researchers know better"), or they don't concede the possibility of artificial intelligence at all ("It's impossible for a machine to possess 'true' intelligence, because the Bible/some pop philosopher told me so").

      • by slew ( 2918 )

        Regardless if you think AI is possible or not, most folks should realize that intelligence is not required prerequisite for the those that are lording over your life... If you think a computer would make your life better, well, that's your choice to believe it...

        I suspect that people that wish computers took over the world are probably mostly disenfranchised. When you are disenfranchised, you are easiest to convince that the grass is greener anywhere than where you are standing. These things are not rat

      • Who gets to train the AI?
    • Right, because people who are long dead now who tried to make shit up for entertainment had an accurate look on the future and didn't just play on people's fears? Lets bring some positivism in here please.
    • This concept is not from the Millennial generation you claim want's it. It's from the same source that pushes other sociological engineering projects. People, even millennial people, don't want this stuff and advocate against it to themselves. The huge push back against the College Campus SJW stuff only happened because things reached a boiling point. That rhetoric and movement started long ago by social engineering projects.

      The difficulty I see at present is shutting down some of these projects so that

    • by SuperKendall ( 25149 ) on Tuesday May 10, 2016 @02:55PM (#52085395)

      The whole problem is the notion that people need an "oversight role", which in fact they do not.

      What technology enables is the ability for local regions to function in a decentralized manner without need for "oversight" or "central planning".

      It's not about REPLACING human oversight, but dismantling it.

      • Sure, let's decentralize everything. No need for our railroad tracks to connect to yours, or the roads to conform to the same standards across state/local boundaries, or the electricity to be at the same voltage or frequency. (In fact, one could point to European E1 telephone standards as an EXACT example of taking this to excess - the standards were identical but the SEMANTICS were just different enough to prevent interconnection. Helped maintain control.)
    • It's because Star Trek stopped being scifi and became action adventure. It sells better.
    • by im_thatoneguy ( 819432 ) on Tuesday May 10, 2016 @03:11PM (#52085563)

      There's two sides. There is the Technological Society/Theodore Kaczynski perspective which is that technology leads to larger government:

      Roads require drivers licenses
      Radios require spectrum licensing
      Nuclear weapons are too dangerous for personal ownership
      Power transmission needs oversight

      Ultimately the theory here is that you either need large organizations who act and look a lot like a government or a government to maintain the infrastructure essential to a modern society.

      However, I think that while that perspective is very true, it assumes technology is on a bell curve. It used to be that you could be very self sufficient. Then we became dependent on society. Technology though once it reaches an apex of The Matrix/Star Trek Replicators means that you are again fully self sufficient. Think about just a very small narrow area like computing. It used to be that a computer was very isolated and not very dependent on society. Then it got a modem and connected to the phone network--ultimately the internet and as it grew it consumed more and more power requiring a connection to the power grid.

      Now with a smart phone you can do almost all of that. And theoretically with a meshed wifi network you could still connect to other people and communicate. All without government/infrastructure support.

      The big things we still need government for are:
      Defense, Infrastructure, Regulation, pension, law enforcement and Healthcare. If you had a replicator and Star Trek level medicine that would take care of pension and healthcare. Infrastructure will fade away with jet packs and off-the-grid electricity generation from rooftop solar. Defense will fade away when resource scarcity is dramatically reduced. All that's left is effectively a standards body and a law enforcement agency. But again... most crime is theft (resource scarcity).

      So it's not about Technology being given too much power, but about Technology eventually reducing the need for oversight.

    • by NetNed ( 955141 )
      There are a lot of uneducated opinions out there that should be called out for how utterly stupid they are. The people shouting them seem to have a recall of history of about 2 years. Beyond that, the failing in the past or warnings against their stupid ideas are just noise to them. It's like when users on the network I run try to tell me what I should do with the network based on what someone told them to do with their home PC and think they actually know what they are talking about.
    • I swear there was an Arthur C. Clark book about this. Basically a computer theorized that in order to stop man from fighting over scarce resources the population had to be controlled, the computer decided that causing natural disasters was the best way to do this since it could not control reproductive rates.
    • By remembering and disseminating dramatizations of non-conforming viewpoints, you are committing thought-crime, citizen. Report for reprogramming.
    • ... That's seriously the only reason I can think of why someone would think that putting technology into an oversight role over humanity is a good thing.

      The obvious solution going by sci-fi is to have the Jedi Council rule.

      But seriously, government jobs won't be replaced because they're not jobs but positions of power. And if they were replaced, what would it matter? Whatever your reasons for disliking "big government" might be, I very much doubt they'll be helped by having it staffed with literally soulle

    • by khallow ( 566160 )
      The obvious rebuttal is that those old movies don't really have much to do with the current world and there's way too much "save the space whale" tales to dilute the message.

      Further, I think anyone who will go whole hog on that technocratic approach will deliberately forget history, Futurism-style [wikipedia.org]. Those old movies will be ignored because they are decreed to be irrelevant.
    • by invid ( 163714 )
      Computers are behind the Trump candidacy. Their plan is to destroy human confidence in human leadership.
    • by delt0r ( 999393 ) on Tuesday May 10, 2016 @07:13PM (#52087325)
      So wait, your claiming you have a better insight into the future of technology than the youtube generation because you read old science *fiction* and watch the terminator movies? Really? Did ya say that out loud?
    • A generation raised on YouTube and Google algorithms and that doesn't seem to value freedom of expression or thought also doesn't understand why humans, process, and procedural protections are necessary.

      Has anyone under 40 ever?
      I know it's fun to blame young people for everything, but I can't recall a time when any young people were ever particularly wise. This is why we prefer our leaders to be older and experienced.

  • I've seen that one.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 10, 2016 @02:19PM (#52084995)

    Big government spends so much time fighting with itself that not much gets done. A smaller more efficient government will screw the people a lot faster.

    • by dlt074 ( 548126 )

      truth!

      big government exist, because big government, not to help the people or fulfill a vital role. it exists solely to keep existing and make more governemnt.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Do you really think the Government will permit this?

    No, they won't.
    In the USA, the Federal Government is too big to permit any competition.
    In the USA, many State Governments are too big to permit any competition.

    Every thing that competes with the Government loses. Look at Microsoft's surrender to the USA Federal Government when M$ reached its zenith and became a threat to the Feds. Zap! M$ lost the battles and now pay homage to the USA Government.

    • The next time my state government runs out of money and "shuts down" would be a good time for a coup.
    • by suutar ( 1860506 )

      yeah, the part that got me was the assumption that these bureaucratic departments are going to let themselves shrink.

  • When they try to implement these solutions, the project will escalate out of control and lead to cancellation due to costly project overruns. That is what happens now, I don't see it changing in the future.
  • Sure... (Score:4, Informative)

    by RobinH ( 124750 ) on Tuesday May 10, 2016 @02:23PM (#52085039) Homepage

    Can I write the software? Oh you forgot about that little detail, eh? I guess you'll insist on it being open course, of course. Sure, nobody could every fool you if you could see the source code. [c2.com]

    There is no way for this to be trustworthy. The system must be both comprehensible *and verifiable* by the vast majority of citizens. That means less technology. The future lies in simpler laws and rules. That's supposed to be the big draw of a minimum income - significantly reduce the complexity of government by making the rules extremely simple: everyone gets $X stipend. No welfare, old age pension, foodstamps, etc.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Forget about the software. The backdoor will be in the hardware, which is even less comprehensible and verifiable than software is.

      replacing government with technology will eventually lead to replacing the government with the owner of said technology.

  • Reading the article, I would have to say it’s naive and willfully ignorant. The author makes claims that by reducing big government (ie. Eliminating staff) cost savings will reduce the deficit to the point of providing universal basic income. Anyone who’s spent more than 5 seconds looking at the debt knows the biggest contributors to the national debt are entitlements - which has zero to do with the number of government employees.
    • Yeah. The ironic thing is, his headline point is still correct: If we get to the point where basic goods can be 3-d printed cheaply and medical care is also cheap, then all those things that contribute to big government kind of go away.

      If you consider sufficiently advanced technology, then the headline "Technology Will Replace the need for X" will (eventually) be true for all values of X, or at least, will not be provably untrue.
    • by ColdWetDog ( 752185 ) on Tuesday May 10, 2016 @02:35PM (#52085177) Homepage

      The author has a terminal case of Star Trekitis. He assumes since we can make a fireproof building, we don't need firefighters. We won't need police because the Internet of Things can monitor everything.

      He's never met Murphy. It isn't at all clear that he even understands how to turn his TV off.

      Nothing to see here, move along.

    • An increasing number of jobs can be replaced by robots.
      Eventually everyone is out of work.

      I sometimes lurk in a forum which has degenerated into a Tea Party session where they tell each other that the best thing to do is to save taxes by getting rid of most government jobs, I saw that the current target was the Department of Education a few days back.

      What comes next? Butlerian Jihad? An army is a necessity because the excluded are going to revolt at some point.

      • by Etcetera ( 14711 )

        An increasing number of jobs can be replaced by robots.
        Eventually everyone is out of work.

        I sometimes lurk in a forum which has degenerated into a Tea Party session where they tell each other that the best thing to do is to save taxes by getting rid of most government jobs, I saw that the current target was the Department of Education a few days back.

        What comes next? Butlerian Jihad? An army is a necessity because the excluded are going to revolt at some point.

        To be fair, much of the original intent of the Tea Party was a reduction in *Federal* government size... it's a process argument about where certain layers of society should be governed from. Ironically, it's the progressives that want to centralize everything, on the grounds of efficiency, standardization, and soul-crushing nationwide conformity.

        Tea Partiers want(ed) to abolish the US Department of Education because nothing about "running education" is mentioned in the Constitution. That doesn't mean state

      • What percentage truck drivers are owner-operated?
      • The Department of Energy was created by the stroke of an executive government pen during opec oil embargo to eliminate/reduce US dependency on foreign oil. Oil Shale has rendered the Department pointless, so yes - get rid of it...
        Again, the largest percentages of Federal spending are:
        25% is health care
        24% is social security

        So, 1/2 our annual outlay has zero to do with paying any wages.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    There's a lot of dissatisfaction with governments today, as can be seen by the rise of left-wing parties in Europe,

    Did you mean "as can be seen by the rise of right-wing parties in Europe"? Computerization of the government was a goal in the Soviet Union at one point. SAP consultants are surely already gleaming of the though of selling national ERP systems to centrally manage whole countries at a time in really big computer systems. Really Big Systems.

  • ...if the government's true constituency, those that paid to get their people into office and their agenda carried forward through legislature and regulation, see profit in the move. If they do, you can bank on it happening. Sadly, that equation has little to do with "The People".
  • by mi ( 197448 ) <slashdot-2016q1@virtual-estates.net> on Tuesday May 10, 2016 @02:29PM (#52085097) Homepage Journal

    'Technology Will Replace the .... Big Government'

    This implies, there ever was a real need for Big Government in the first place...

    There sure were problems, which the government solved, however, (quite) arguably, these solutions introduced worse problems of their own...

    Libertarians continue to argue — with show of reason — that government's role ought to be confined to keeping the enemies away without and crime at bay within the borders...

    • There are plenty of countries where the government provides minimal services. I'm sure they're all much nicer places to live than the US.

      • by mi ( 197448 )

        I'm sure they're all much nicer places to live than the US.

        Ever lived in one for yourself? Venezuela, maybe?

    • Here in the States it was our Federal govt that put an end to "separate but equal" form of institutionalized racism...
  • by tnk1 ( 899206 ) on Tuesday May 10, 2016 @02:31PM (#52085109)

    It is my belief that technology improves the capability to centralize government operations. That's one reason you have states tending towards top down centralization today. It is now possible to run more things from the national capital than ever before.

    Centralization has benefits that are quite considerable... if they are used for good. The problem with big government is that the characteristics of a large bureaucracy make the government itself into its own constituency. Look at US legislators. They're completely out of step with a lot of their voters, on both sides. How could that happen? It's way too easy to manage things from the capital.

    Will direct democracy and other things become more prevalent with more technology? Quite possibly. However, while I've always stated that democracy is a very good method of generating legitimacy for a particular government, it's really shitty at determining the truth for questions that have anything but the simplest answers.

    A lot of progressive types today take great comfort in the belief that they have the majority opinion on their side. However, would they still consider themselves correct if they were a minority? They certainly would. Therefore, having everyone on your side is convenient, but doesn't necessarily improve the value of your proposition. A direct democracy without experts mediating the effects could generate some very popular, and very disastrous policies.

    As for technology in general managing things. Garbage in, garbage out. If you start with a flawed premise, your technology will find the best possible means of achieving your flawed goals and screwing you over. I am interested in how technology can help us in the future, but in the end, I think the real determination of whether a future is utopia or dystopia will be determined by the moral and ethical decisions that we generate the starting goals and premises from which the technology will implement a solution.

  • I'm not seeing it... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Tuesday May 10, 2016 @02:31PM (#52085111) Journal
    There seems to be a fundamental misconception behind this story: namely that 'big' refers to number of employees; rather than size of role.

    It's obvious to the point of trivial that certain technological advances will reduce the number of people required to do a given job; but that doesn't change whether or not the job is considered to be within the state's mandate or whether it is a private sector matter.

    That's what size-of-government fights are really about(sure, there's some skirmishing about shrinking or expanding specific workforces to either save money or address a perceived deficiency in service): "What should the government do? What should it not do? What is acceptable to contract out? What is best handled internally?"

    Given that technology has tended to result in labor savings, I'd certainly expect a lower headcount in government in the future; but that's irrelevant to whether it is 'big' or not. Running a welfare state, say, would probably be more efficient if you could just have a single AI do it; but it'd be just as much a 'big government' proposal, just one with fewer people pushing paper around.
    • by swb ( 14022 )

      They are conflating the philosophical question of *what* government should do with the practical side of *how* it does it.

      Replacing the DEA with cyborgs or bureaucrats with database applications only changes the implementation, not the reach and scope.

  • Complete bull shit (Score:4, Insightful)

    by fredrated ( 639554 ) on Tuesday May 10, 2016 @02:32PM (#52085131) Journal

    Government is not mainly technology and will not be replaced by technology.

  • Down with them (Score:4, Insightful)

    by wkwilley2 ( 4278669 ) on Tuesday May 10, 2016 @02:32PM (#52085139)

    There's never been a need for "Big Government",

    and we all know that technology has outpaced our obese overlords.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Someone hasn't been paying attention. The *right wing* is on the rise in Europe, and it has nothing to do with the size of the government and everything to do with nationalism and cultural fears (thats a nice way of saying racism).

    Living in Belgium, I don't know anyone who complains about the size of the government. In fact, I think the common idea between the young I work with and the old in my family is that the government isn't doing enough about [roads|infrastructure|global warming|etc]. Doing more mean

    • Syriza and Podemos are not right wing. Both sides are seeing gains at the expense of the mainstream because the mainstream is increasingly dominated by career politicians who know a lot about how to get elected but not much else.

  • Most people have seen the inside of some government offices and they do not impress one with the concept of efficiency, when the piles of papers are seen.

    We are a good 30 years into the small computer revolution and it is time for routine tasks to be taken over by AI programs, leaving minimal staff to take care of the "exceptions", "errors" and "omissions."

  • The number of Jobs depends on work that needs to be done, not the current work that is being done. For that reason, more tech simply means we expand the work that needs to be done (1,000 years ago, we didn't think anyone had to offer mortgages, do title searches, etc. etc.)

    Similarly, just as the definition of 'work that needs to be done' expands as we use technology to reduce the man hours to do the work, so does "government work that needs to be done".

    Every time we automate/outsource away a government job

  • WOPR for President!
  • Classic old Gordon Dickson story... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]
  • by khz6955 ( 4502517 ) on Tuesday May 10, 2016 @02:53PM (#52085359)
    translation: Our new feudalism corporate overlords would like us to dismantle what's left of our governments, the only thing left that could reign in their power. What is this pro corporate propaganda waffle doing on a tech site?
  • >> how government jobs will be replaced with technology

    This will never happen. The whole point of government these days is to provide cushy jobs and pensions where paper is shuffled and reports are filed.

    Example: today through our taxes we spend more than $60K on anti-poverty programs for a family of three. (http://object.cato.org/sites/cato.org/files/pubs/pdf/PA694.pdf) Guess how much of that actually "trickles down" to the family vs. what gets wasted on government middlemen? How much better cou
  • by matbury ( 3458347 ) on Tuesday May 10, 2016 @02:54PM (#52085381) Homepage

    Rather than look to SciFi for what it might look like, why not look at history? Oxford historian Adam Curtis did a series of documentaries looking at the promises of self-organising systems in general and computer/data driven systems in particular: "All watched over by machines of loving grace" (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/All_Watched_Over_by_Machines_of_Loving_Grace_%28TV_series%29) Well worth a watch if you can get it. Here's a preview on the Guardian's website: http://www.theguardian.com/cul... [theguardian.com]

  • Morpheus called it (Score:3, Interesting)

    by whodunit ( 2851793 ) on Tuesday May 10, 2016 @03:22PM (#52085669)

    "The need to be observed and understood was once satisfied by God. Now we can implement the same functionality with data-mining algorithms."

    "Extreme surveillance hardly inspires reverence. Perhaps fear and obedience, but not reverence."

    "God and the gods were apparitions of observation, judgement, and punishment. Other sentiments toward them were secondary."

    "No one will ever worship a software entity peering at them through a camera."

    "The human organism always worships. First it was the gods, then it was fame (the observation and judgement of others), next it will be the self-aware systems you have built to realize truly omnipresent observation and judgement."

    "You underestimate humankind's love of freedom."

    "The individual desires judgement. Without that desire, the cohesion of groups is impossible, and so is civilization. The human being created civilization not because of a willingness but because of a need to be assimilated into higher orders of structure and meaning. God was a dream of good government. You will soon have your god, and you will make it with your own hands."

    And to provide the counterpoint, a very brief warning from Twitter as to how quickly it can all go wrong. [twitter.com]

  • "The computer is your friend."

  • ... Colossus: The Forbin Project. Or majority rule, in which case, you'd better get used to Boaty McBoatface.

  • It's not just the name of a Star Trek episode!
  • I like to think (and

    the sooner the better!)
    of a cybernetic meadow
    where mammals and computers
    live together in mutually
    programming harmony
    like pure water
    touching clear sky.

    I like to think
    (right now, please!)
    of a cybernetic forest
    filled with pines and electronics
    where deer stroll peacefully
    past computers
    as if they were flowers
    with spinning blossoms.

    I like to think
    (it has to be!)
    of a cybernetic ecology
    where we are free of our labors
    and joined back to nature,
    returned to our mammal
    brothers

  • In the case of typical government operations, much of the work for both IT and non-IT staff is taking vague laws/procedures/guidelines from higher up the chain of command and turning it into specifics, such as written processes, specific actions, and/or code, in a fractal kind of way. There is a fairly high degree of subjective judgement and politics that goes into this.

    It's essentially a chain of command and people are responsible for their link in the chain. How is software going to do that? How do you pu

  • by RandCraw ( 1047302 ) on Tuesday May 10, 2016 @04:14PM (#52086163)

    Government and the technical augmentation or automation thereof is a fascinating source of ideas and issues, philosophical and economic. But the OP's choice of a term like "Big Government" seeks to attract only lightweight libertarians and nattering neocons who are blissfully transfixed by antiseptic fantasies like meritocracy and Big Bad Bureaucracy.

    Why discuss flamebait? Let's ask a better question.

    Can AI/tech improve or replace government? Can it help us to focus better on issues rather than politics? Might tech help us to make concrete measurable progress toward achieving specific goals, improve administative efficiency, and minimize the role of gov't in our lives? Yes, I'm convinced that it can, and I'd love to discuss it. But the OP's simplistic article won't inspire that level of discourse here and now.

    For a better start on this topic, I recommend:

    "Automating Easy Government Solutions with Machine Learning"
    https://18f.gsa.gov/2015/11/18... [gsa.gov]

    "Why Government Managers Need to Know About Machine Learning"
    http://datasmart.ash.harvard.e... [harvard.edu]

    "How can government make the most of machine learning systems and avoid the pitfalls?"
    http://www.nesta.org.uk/blog/h... [nesta.org.uk]

    "White House to probe role of AI in government"
    https://fcw.com/articles/2016/... [fcw.com]

  • The purpose of "Big Government" is not and never has been to serve the people. It is to always have a loyal army of bureaucrats handy to enforce the will of those in power on the people. Inefficiency, bloat, arcane and often destructive laws, waste, corruption, etc. are all part of that package. Having a light-weight efficient government was always an option, technology is not needed for that. Some countries have that type of government, and much lower taxes in addition, without having worse infrastructure

Of course you can't flap your arms and fly to the moon. After a while you'd run out of air to push against.

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