Thursday, February 21, 2008


The immigration debate provokes a very strong reaction. This debate takes place in the same poisonous environment that characterized the beginning of the Iraq war and didn't allow for serious debate. People started asking the hard questions only after the occupation failed and we got screwed. So, in the interest of creating calm dialog and clarity, I'm going to respond to a recent comment with a story, written in the spirit of the fable of the dragon-tyrant .

Also, the Democratic debate muddles have brought up the issue too.

Bear with me, please.


The year is 2050 AD. Humanity has been exterminated from the planet. They imbued machines with the spirit of man and intelligence far beyond that of man. Result? Annihilation. However, the machines now occupy the earth in different areas, each adapting to the climate to generate energy in different ways. Some are more efficient than others, such as the nuclear machines in the resource poor areas, while some are less efficient, like the machines in the oil rich areas of earth.

The objective of the entire machine society as a whole is generating knowledge, while individual machines strive for utility. In order to gain utility, however, they have to use some of their time and energy towards productivity. Now, the machines in different parts of the world have different production curves. Machines using nuclear energy are very numerous in area A of the world. They tend to have high productivity and therefore are accustomed to a high utility of existence. In area B of the world, most of the machines run on oil and coal. They have low productivity and are accustomed to low utility. The rest of the world is a mixture, with some countries having huge diversity, with solar powered, nuclear, oil, coal, fusion powered machines and so on.

There was a large area of the world, area C left untapped, with various different energy fuels. It was first discovered by Area A, and so it was mainly populated by nuclear machines, or A machines. Area D was right next door, and was mainly populated by machines from area B, or B machines.

Eventually the machines in area C came to expect a high degree of utility as a daily reality, while the B machines in area D, due to their inefficiency, had a lower productivity, but were never willing to re engineer themselves into nuclear powered machines in order to have higher productivity. So, the average machine in D had a relatively low utility.

The thing is, is that area C still had a significant amount of empty unused space that could be used by machines in other parts of the world, which was relatively crowded. So, the area C grand AI began inviting machines from all around the world to come in. However, the selection process happened to use energy efficiency as a means of selecting machines. So, more nuclear machines (A machines) came in, as well as some fusion machines (F machines), solar powered machines (S machines), and the rare outlier efficient coal/oil machine. These newcomer machines also happened to be very productive and so enjoyed a large amount of utility.

The only problem with the society was that there were some very basic functions that were left unfulfilled in the society because they required too much time and rewarded a low amount of utility, as the did not utilize the high productivity functions of the local machines.

At some point, some management-oriented machines looked nearby and took notice of the machines in area D. They noticed that the machines in area D, though very unproductive, were used to low levels of utility. The management machines also noticed that these machines had about the same level of productivity (in terms of time investment) for the low level functions that were needed to be done in Area C. So, they brought in the B machines to do the low level work.

Things seemed to go well. Most A machines in Area C benefited from the labor of the B machines, who needed very little utility to work. Some A machines were displaced, and went on to higher level functions, while others simply did nothing.

But things changed. Being surrounded by the higher utility demands of the A machines made the B machines adjust. All utility is relative, and so the B machines adjusted to requiring more utility in order to do the same work as before.

So, in the long term, what happens is the B machines now demand large utility for the development and creation of NEW B machine spawns, but yet the new B machines will still only produce as much as the old machines, but we had to bear the additional cost of making the machine. The creation of new machines is handled by a central factory that all machines put labor into.

In addition to this, the B machines now requires maintenance, and also requires maintenance of non-useful parts of the machine (for example appearance). However, there is one central authority that does appearance maintenance and it is all machines contribute to the central authority.

The machines also use a different programming code, so the local machinery has to adapt their code to the new machines. It was fine originally, because there were special management machines that converted the code of local machines to the code of the new machines. But after the new B machines needed more utility from different sectors of machine society, the other machines in society had to reprogram themselves to be able to accommodate the new machinery. And so since all of the area wasn't operating in the same language, overall efficiency went down.

Finally, the machine also starts to spew out large amounts of pollution that doesn't really harm the owner but has significant external costs on society.

So the impact of the machines is felt at different levels of society. Many native machines in the short term, especially the elites, benefit from the machines and encourage them to keep getting imported. However, some parts of the machine society generally dislike ALL new machines and exaggerate the drawbacks of ALL new machines.

Of course, since Area C is an area of machines that were new at some point, and all the machines in the nation ultimately came from some machine or another, the policymakers ultimately reject the position that new machines should be banned from entering the country.

However, these low quality machines keep getting imported and by the time that the locals realize that not all machines are equally useful, it is too late. The machines have become too embedded in society to be shipped out on an mass scale. So, the best working machinery has to spend more effort maintaining the crappy machines instead of pumping out products.

So, ultimately the addition of the new machines hurt in the long run, but wasn't bad in the short run. If there was some way to import the machinery only after it was built, and remove the highest polluting machinery, and not spend resources on maintenance of their appearances, then the imported machines could be a net benefit. However, that is unlikely.

So, instead what the policymakers should try is to only import new machines that may have high building costs and maintenance costs, but don't emit alot of pollution and have huge levels of productivity to balance out the other costs.

Unfortunately, the debate around the importation of machinery has gotten quite heated. In one camp sit the people who hate all new machinery. In another camp sits the machines who thinks all new imported machines are great and don't want to stop and new machines from coming in. In a third camp sits those who think that the new machines are good because they have such low costs for their owners.

In the fourth camp sits a tiny minority that points out that certain machines are more productive than others, and that we should only import the machines that produce more than their costs.

However, saying that not all machines are equally productive in the long run is considered an affront to the engineering genius of the great creator, and so is rarely mentioned.

And so, the problem remains unsolved.

And remember, humans are just organic machines.

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