Tag Archives: healthcare

The ‘feel-good’ horror of late-stage capitalism [ThinkProgress]

These kinds of feel-good stories drive me crazy when they turn up on the news. If we offered maternity leave, a livable minimum wage, and affordable healthcare, people wouldn’t have to rely on handouts from co-workers. Nobody should have to walk to work twenty miles because they can’t afford a car and we don’t provide public transit. We should not celebrate our societal failures as feel-good news.

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It’s easy to derive the wrong lesson here. The point is not that Ayn Rand was a hypocrite. If you have strongly held political principles, you can’t live in the world without compromising them.

The point is that it’s impossible to build a market-driven healthcare system that works. Even the 20th Century’s greatest advocate of free markets needed government social programs to stay alive.

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Co-founder Peter Diamandis predicts that within the next decade, self-driving cars will eliminate driving fatalities, artificial intelligence will surpass the skills of human doctors and remove inefficiencies from health care systems, AIs will invent new pharmaceuticals to cure previously fatal diseases and 3D print customized medicines based on the genetic analysis of individual patients, and cheapening production costs will make this care essentially free.

And that’s just the beginning for Silicon Valley’s Singularity University.

It’s common for tech industry rhetoric to invoke the ideal of a better world, but since its 2008 inception, Singularity University has articulated an astonishingly ambitious series of goals and projects that use technological progress for philanthropic ends. Medicine is just one of many domains that Diamandis wants to fundamentally change. He and others at Singularity are also working to develop and support initiatives that will provide universal access to high-quality education, restore and protect polluted environments, and transition the economy to entirely sustainable energy sources.

His audience was a group of 98 executives from 44 countries around the world; each had paid $14,000 to attend the weeklong program at Singularity University’s NASA Research Park campus in Mountain View, California. As Diamandis moved through the sectors of the economy that artificial intelligence would soon dominate—medicine, law, finance, academia, engineering—the crowd seemed strangely energized by the prospect of its imminent irrelevance. Singularity University was generating more than $1 million of revenue by telling its prosperous guests that they would soon be surpassed by machines.

But his vision of the future was nonetheless optimistic. Diamandis believes that solar energy will soon satisfy the demands of the entire planet and replace the market for fossil fuels. This will mean fewer wars and cleaner air. Systems for converting atmospheric humidity into clean drinking water will become cheap and ubiquitous. The industrial meat industry will also vanish, replaced by tastier and healthier laboratory-grown products with no environmental downsides. He also predicts that exponential increases in the power of AI would soon render teachers and universities superfluous. The best education in the world will become freely available to anyone.

I’ve previously laughed at this kind of thinking as crazy optimism, but I’m not laughing now. Sure, it’s Utopianism, and Utopia is unachievable, but we need more Utopian thinking. We’ve become small and petty and afraid. Only by Utopian thinking to we make a better world.

Like the saying goes, if you aim for the stars, even if you miss you can hit the moon.

So shine on you crazy Singulatarian diamonds.

Singularity University: The Harvard of Silicon Valley Is Planning for a Robot Apocalypse [Nick Romeo – The Daily Beast]