Don’t Laugh at the Stupid: AI is going to make us all look stupid

When wealth can literally buy superhuman intelligence, what worth is human intelligence?

Pity the stupid. Seriously. They’re about the only people that are allowed to be derided publicly besides the overweight, and the overweight at least have the body acceptance campaign supporting them. Who comes to the defense of the stupid?

It actually matters, for reasons more immediately practicable than compassion and empathy. Why?

Robots. (Really, artificial intelligence)

See, the thing is, being smart is right now (and honestly, often) pretty in vogue because we still get to use it as a rough yardstick of worth in a competitive world no longer using the material grace of God or bloodlines as that measure. But that’s because being smart is scarce, and what is scarce is cool.

For a few generations now, in America anyway, smarts and wealth have been growing more correlated in a self-sorting process. There are reasons why – female empowerment in spousal selection and education both being predominant – and the current American meritocracy has been slowly pulling the ladder up behind them in that self-selection.

The end game of AI, though, is going to break that up. At first, the robots and AI are going to be replacing low-skill labor and the upper meritocracy won’t mind, but when investment bankers find that corporate conglomerates just need IT guys to keep the servers running and an HVAC system to cool the servers and everyone else is disposable, and what’s even more disruptive, you can just buy “smart” and it’s no longer scarce and you can download a hedge fund superstar or materials engineer if you have the gear to run them… the bottom is going to slowly rot out of the meritocracy and it’s going to turn into something much more plutocratic than I think America can be comfortable with. Wealth will finally be able to self-perpetuate financially without the messy middle process of making or keeping it.

If by that point we don’t have an infrastructure in place that recognizes that people have worth beyond their contributions to capitalism, well… we’re going to be finding out how generous the top 1% feel like being, and the answer is probably going to be what it is right now: not very.