Artificial intelligence and the future of capitalism

According to some predictions by 2029 the power of computers will rival that of the human brain. Whether or not this is an accurate prediction, it seems certain that eventually this will happen. While clearly this could have amazing implications in terms of economic productivity, it brings one question to mind – how will our capitalist economic system function at all? Capitalism is founded on a particular mechanism for the flow of capital. Capitalists employ workers, who produce products. In exchange the capitalists give the workers money. The workers then use that money to purchase the goods back off the capitalists. Thus there is a cycle of cash flow. The advancement of machinery has already made many jobs of manual labor redundant. As a result modern Western economies are founded on intellectual capital rather than manual labour capital. When the intellect of computers matches that of humans, this will render the remaining intellect-based jobs superfluous. Once we reach this point there will be very little left that humans can do that can’t be automated. As a result the capitalist cash flow cycle will be broken – the capitalists will no longer employ human workers, in favour of automated ones. My question is, what economic system will emerge from this? If human labor, both manual and intellectual, is completely superfluous then the capitalist system will be defunct as there will be no cash flow. Would a redistributive (i.e. socialist) system be the only mechanism by which to restore cash flow? Was Marx right? Or would there be some other mechanism by which cash could flow to the working class? Perhaps there will always be things that humans can do that machines will never be able to do. If 2029 is correct then this transition may happen in my lifetime. I’m interested to see what happens. Economics aside, from a philosophical perspective the implications could be enormous as well. If we were all rendered unemployed because computers were doing everything that we could ever do, what point would we all have in life?

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