Imagine an ancient oarsman, rowing in a galley boat. Rowing takes effort, and risks personal injury, so all else equal an oarsman would rather not row, or row only weakly. How can his boss induce effort?
In "Good to Great" Jim Collins' team of researchers found that so called "level 5 leadership" was the single most advantageous asset a company could have in improving a business' prospects of success. Level 5 leadership is characterized by a paradoxical mix between personal humility and strong professional ambitions. The personal humility exhibited by these personalities would manifest itself in the way they forfeited celebrity status and admiration from others and channeled that effort into ensuring that the company did well.
I don't know how a docile slave would willingly internalize the objectives of his workplace and ensure its long-term success if he has a hostile relationship with his boss and his workplace. Investing in motivating personnel is a largely fruitless effort (motivational speakers, team building etc). According to Collins et al workplaces wherein employees are internally motivated outperform those where they are externally motivated. Internal motivation is another aspect of Level 5 leadership.
Granted, this only appears to apply to leadership positions and creative positions, but in an Em world it is conceivable that AI is sufficiently advanced to complete almost all mundane tasks. In this case the only positions worth enslaving Ems over would be held by AI, and for all positions where level 5 leadership is required Ems would be used.
So I don't think slavery would occur in an Em economy.
I am skeptical of the enslavement and torture arguments. Why would it make sense to go to the trouble of torturing them when for every environment we could just choose to copy the most successful ems *in* that environment?
I also suggest there would be diminishing returns. In order for torture to be effective, I infer the ems would have to devote compute cycles to remembering and anticipating the torture. In regular humans, too much suffering induces trauma, which is where our memories and expectations interfere with our lives.
I expect that there would be curves of compute cycles devoted to remembering/anticipating torture, and also of productive compute cycles. I propose every em would have a 'trauma point' beyond which the added compute cycles devoted to torture exceed the added productivity cycles, thus *reducing* productivity. Even supposing torture occurred, it seems much more efficient to produce many copies of ems who are at the trauma point already, eliminating the need for further torture.
When the labor supply is functionally infinite and the cost of firing and hiring both approach zero, why even bother finding out how productive torture would be?
What I meant (and thought David Lindbergh meant) by "state of nature" (inasmuch as it's in quotes and also fits the context) is the state of all against all - strict egoistic competition. I think we're crossing Hobbes and Malthus.
Pretty much all humans before a hundred years ago lived at near subsistence level incomes.
I don't get why the price of cycles would climb that way. Suppose it did and produced ems who behaved that way. Why should we believe that will impact productivity in a positive way? What about productivity gain?
I saw someone on Caplan's blog mention the old materialism vs. dualism argument. Dualism, except for the narrowly defined information paradigm used for discussion of "uploading", has been utterly discredited as a viable concept for well over a century.
Not the actual human state of nature. Humans aren't cut out for the "state of nature." Could society even exist in such a state?
A less complete commitment would mean that the available air will be sold to someone else who earned more, and can pay more.
But since ems (like humans) don't work effectively under such stresses, wouldn't it be in the employers' interest to shield their ems from such dire competition.
How is that different from the way all wild animals have always lived?
Isn't this just a description of the "state of nature"?
I think that neither you nor Brian are realistically modeling the precarious situation of the em who must pay the market price for CPU cycles with wages. Analogies to productive workers in our economy are beside the point, because they are not facing death if they don't economically outcompete all their rivals. But this is exactly the situation all ems are in. Forced laborers in WW2 are a much better analogy, but they still had it easy compared to ems, because they only need to satisfy their guard in order to survive. Ems need to out-earn *copies of all of their most productive rivals* in order to survive, a much taller order.
We could all earn an extra dollar if it meant the difference between our life and death, and another, and another... but if the price for breathable air kept going up so that even the most productive workers would struggle to afford it, our approach to our jobs and lives would change profoundly. The survivors wouldn't be anyone's slaves with whips at their backs. They would be the kind of people willing to sacrifice everything simply to be able to breathe another day - their leisure, their non-existential priorities, their dignity and their scruples. A less complete commitment would mean that the available air will be sold to someone else who earned more, and can pay more. I'm trying to say that this argument about slavery is completely a red herring, because em scenarios are in no way analogous. A much better analogy for em lives is a permanent lifeboat crisis, where an effectively infinite number of strong swimmers are competing for a finite number of rafts. Forever. With sharks that eat everyone who falls off.
There is also the problem of acquiring productivity gain. One might come up with a decent strategy for maximizing productivity withslave-like employees, but productivity gain is needed for competing groups. Try doing that with docile employees and see how far you get.
Having a good idea of an em's abilities isn't much help if the noise comes from the difficulty of the task they are performing. Even a very good idea of an em's ability doesn't help much if you want it to solve different problems each time and there is substantial variance in the time to solve the same problem (as I expect there would be if ems were proving theorems or writing code).
Of course, one could probably measure how much effort an em was putting in fairly easily. Not only could you make sure the em was particularly poor at faking hard work and gather data on the em's tells you could simply examine the simulation of it's brain to see if the appropriate brain regions were being used.
However, the part of Caplan's argument that seems totally unfounded is the assumption that extreme and stressful punishments would be the most effective way to extract the most work from ems even assuming their performance could be measured. As you point out historically this hasn't been how high productivity has been achieved.
If ems are like most humans I would expect the stress and worry induced by such terrible threats to make them worse at complex intellectual tasks. On the other hand if they are robot-like workaholics it would be superfluous to threaten them as they will have no inclination to slack or do anything besides put their all into doing their assigned task.