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Sam Harris: Free Markets Must End

“Redistribution is the end game,” said Sam Harris in an April interview with Joe Rogan, speaking of what he described as economic inevitabilities resulting from the ascendance of artificial intelligence (AI) and mass automation.

Harris pondered a future in which many human needs and wants are fulfilled by AI and mass automation.

The inevitable ubiquity of AI and mass automation, said Harris, will drive rates of unemployment far higher than contemporary levels. Dealing with such a future, he added, requires a political paradigm shift away from free market principles (emphasis added):

“There precipice we’re getting to is, virtually everyone is gonna be [made redundant by artificial intelligence and automation]. And that’s a good thing. Why can’t they figure out that they just wanna learn new languages and spend more time with their kids and play frisbee and have fun. We need a new ethic and politics that decouples a person’s claim on existence from doing profitable work that someone will pay you for, because a lot of that work is going away.

This is the greatest opportunity in human history. We’re talking about canceling the need for dangerous, boring, repetitive work. And freeing up humanity to do interesting, creative, fun things.”

The spread of AI and mass automation in a free market environment, continued Harris, would almost certainly exacerbate “wealth inequality.” He pushed a Marxist narrative of free markets inevitably yielding extreme polarization of wealth between groups, with class warfare resulting in revolution:

“At a certain point, the wealth inequality will be obviously unsustainable. You can’t have multiple trillionaires walking around living in compounds with razor wire, and just moving everywhere by private jet, and then massive levels of unemployment in a society like ours. At a certain point, when the richest people realize, ‘Enough is enough. We have to spread this wealth because otherwise people are just gonna show up at our compounds with their AR-15s or their pitchforks.’ The society will not sustain it. There has to be some level of wealth inequality that is unsustainable; that people will not tolerate … Redistribution is the end game.”

Harris did not comment on levels of government control – either in the social or economic spheres of society – that citizens or subjects “will not tolerate.” In other words, growing restrictions on human freedom resulting from increasing governmental centralization of power and control were not commented on.

Self-reliance in the vein of Calvinism, said Harris, is a value that must be overcome to transition to a future era of plenty:

“If we have a culture of people who think, ‘I don’t want any handouts. And I certainly don’t want my neighbor to get any handouts. And I don’t want to pay any taxes so that he can be a lazy bum,’ if we have this hangover from Calvinism, it makes it impossible to talk creatively and reasonably about what has changed.”

Harris and Rogan discussed “universal basic income,” a contemporary rebranding a socialist and communist state-driven redistributionist “”social welfare.”

Harris and Rogan touched on futuristic speculations made by political economist Jeremy Rifkin in his 1995 book, “The End of Work,” which predicts rapid increases in leisure time resulting from a fusion of AI and mass automation fulfilling many human needs.

On “climate change,” Harris pushed the narrative of anthropogenic global warming. “We need a carbon tax, clearly,” he said, describing “clean tech jobs” as a growing and profitable industry.

Follow Robert Kraychik on Twitter.

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