The fraction of a normal distribution that is six or more standard deviations above the mean is one in ten billion. But the world has almost eight billion people in it. So in principle we should be able to get six standard deviations in performance gain by selecting the world’s best person at something, compared to using an average person.
Agreed on the calculation being interesting. I was mainly complaining that the post (especially the sentence I quoted) makes it sound like the surplus earned by a clan will either be spent on worker leisure by the clan, or be divided among typical em workers to be spent as they see fit, when there is actually a lot of uncertainty about how the surplus will be spent.
I agree it isn't obvious how clans will spend any surplus. I still think it is interesting to calculate how large a surplus they'd have to spend.
(Ah ok, there was some misunderstanding earlier where I thought I had asked you why a clan would spend on worker leisure and you didn't give an answer.) I agree the members are similar but I think their interests could still strongly diverge, and it seems likely the most efficient clans wouldn't spread control evenly amongst all their members. For example suppose an important new technology comes along and the clan needs to learn it. It may be most efficient to have one member learn it, turn off all the others, and make new copies from that one member. But if control is spread evenly, the clan wouldn't agree to this plan (assuming the members inherited their human sense of self-preservation).
I don't agree that the clan won't have such a reason. Because members are so similar, clans are a best case for an organization whose members can effectively control it.
In the post you wrote "If future em income ratios were like this current wealth ratio, then the best em worker could afford roughly an extra hour per day of leisure, or an additional six minutes per hour." But now you're saying it's not the em worker who can afford that, it's the clan who can afford to spend on leisure time for the em worker if it wants to, and you don't have a reason to think that the clan will actually want to spend on worker leisure time. Isn't that a big difference?
Many contrary factors go into that, so that seems hard to say.
I'm calculating how much they could spend on leisure. They could of course spend it on anything else they like.
Do you think the productivity gap between the best and second-best clans would grow over time, shrink, or stay the same?
If part of one's wage contractually goes to one's clan, don't owners of the clan get to decide how to spend it? Why do you assume it's spent on leisure time for the em workers?
Your clan pays for your training and marketing. In exchange they'll get a fraction of your wages. When a new job opens up, you can spin off a copy to take the job if you'll pay that fraction to your clan. But to do that you can't agree to earn exactly subsistence wages. So you can't agree to the job unless it pays enough. That is a contract, and it is enforced.
Of course. I was hoping to learn something further about how the contracts you envision would be maintained. I did as you advised in the conclusion: I tried to see an em's world from its perspective. When I did, I got the sense of sheer brutal terror of living in a world in which I am the most competent and hardest working em in some economically useful field, and my continued existence depends on maintaining that first place. When copying is cheap, there is never an economic reason for getting the second-best expert for a job. Because this post offered a much-needed discussion of how you see a wage surplus being possible, I hoped to press you on questions that I didn't see answered in the book. There you talked about "group loyalty" (230) as one organizing principle, but this is inadequate to address situations like the one upthread. If we're extrapolating from social science we know that ems will not routinely lay down their lives out of clan loyalty.
The new work on contracts made me think you might be picturing some kind of clan-leviathan enforcer. That's worth exploring, but I didn't find it discussed in the book. When faced with the choice of either death or accepting a lower wage than the clan demands, or between death and allowing copies, it takes just one dissenter/escapee and the margin for the clan is gone. Of course, a new clan arises, composed of copies of the traitor. But everyone except the original traitor - who got paid handsomely - now lives on the Malthusian margin. Your whole discussion in Chapter 19 presupposes that this won't happen, that many ems will not live each day on the edge of annihilation. For example, you think they will have the luxury of being picky about the jobs they accept.
The core of my argument is this: In the em world every time a block of CPU cycles comes online or becomes free, it will be auctioned off to the highest bidder, that bidder will put those cycles to the most valuable use. Since this is an em world, some cycles go to running ems. Since many running, wakeable or copyable ems exist who would be wiling to pay their full earnings to use those cycles to run, preferring this - just barely - to death, that will set the floor on their price. Of course, only the most work-to-the-limit productive ems will win these auctions. If an em earns a higher wage than what its cycles cost, it will be undercut by a similar em (perhaps a copy) willing to work for one cent less, up to the limit where wage = CPU cost. But this is true only for the most productive ems. The rest are dead.
In this discussion you challenged the premise about copies undercutting the wages of an em who, if she weren't thus undercut, would earn a surplus. I'm trying to press you on how you think this would be prevented. There would be no shortage of ems *willing* to undercut a copy if it meant not dying. I get that you think the answer has something to do with contracts within clans, but no contract magically enforces itself. Why would I agree to a contract which says that when given the choice of a low wage and death, I must pick the latter? And if I did enter such a contract, what do I have to lose when I break it? Torture from my clan-brothers? Will they really pay my CPU time so they could torture me? Is this what you had in mind?
Or maybe they will own me and negotiate all my job contracts without consulting my wishes. They allow me to die in order to create an artificial scarcity of me's, to mine the margins. If this is more like your view, I'd be curious how it gets decided which copy in the clan is the slavemaster. More importantly, how do the clan members prevent some underground railroad from liberating me and letting me negotiate my own employment? This assumes without argument an unprecedented development in data security. It's made worse by the fact that the data is also a clever mind who is actively trying to escape.
You casually threw around a figure of wages being about double the hardware costs (ch12), but I think that every principle of extrapolation that you endorse should lead us to believe that wages will equal hardware cost. This is more than an argument about coefficient values. Most things you say after chapter 13 can't be right if the em world consists of a few trillion exceptional persons who work at their maximum capacity merely to live another minute and judge their lives to be only slightly better than suicide. Of course, their threshhold for this will be far higher than anyone we know, because the em world selects for minds who would rather endure shocking depravity than die. Pickier ems just won't do what it takes to earn that extra dollar, and when you're a dollar short when bidding on the next round of cycles, you're dead.
That still seems to me the most defensible story about how the last few chapters should look, but you've thought about this harder and I'm probably overlooking some stuff, which is why I'm hoping to see this conclusion rebutted.
Almost all ems are the very best at what they do. So their leisure is the typical em's leisure.
I did write a whole book on this. Such contracts are required to ensure that fixed costs of training, marketing, etc are covered. Clans that don't do them go bankrupt and go away. Those that remain do this.
Robin, FWIW your relative productivity estimates seem to ignore that the best-to-median productivity ratio increases radically as job difficulty increases (approaching infinity when difficulty increases beyond what can be achieved by 50% of the population).
I would probably know this if I'd read your book, but why focus on the top Em clan's leisure time? Do you expect them to be numerically a significant fraction of all Ems?
Why should they agree to such a contract? And even if you are talking about slavery, does every clan "boss" hold the contract that enslaves the rest and decides who lives and dies? What would account for such a huge intra-clan imbalance of power?
I can't tell whether you think this is just one possibility or if it's your economic analysis that such arrangements are the likely equilibrium. I think the default assumption should be pure second-by-second anything-goes Malthusianism, and if anyone else thinks that stable equilibria could also be elsewhere, the burden is on them to describe the mechanism behind the stability.
Clan members need not be free to negotiate any wage. Contracts with their clans might limit them.