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The Age of EmWork, Love, and Life when Robots Rule the Earth$
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Robin Hanson

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780198754626

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198754626.001.0001

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13 Efficiency
The Age of Em

Robin Hanson

Oxford University Press

The em economy could draw from a large pool of ordinary humans willing to be scanned. That pool could, in effect, be greatly expanded via many possible tweaks of each scan. In addition, a single em can dominate a large labor market by making many copies of itself. These factors can together produce strong competition. Such competition may drive profit-seeking firms to try hard to select the most profitable combinations of scanning, tweaking, and training. The best such combinations would then dominate the em economy. A thousand diverse able scanned humans seems sufficient to induce competition in most labor markets, as the best few ems can dominate each labor market. Thus it seems likely that most ems are copies of fewer than a thousand or so, and perhaps only dozens, of the original humans. These few highly copied em “clans” of copies might be known by a single name, as are celebrities today such as Madonna or Beyoncé. (Of course ems also need identifiers to distinguish particular clan members.) Familiar one-name em clans might be typically favored in most social interactions over billions of unfamiliar two- or three-name clans. The usual human preference for interacting with familiar personalities rather than strangers might discourage ems from interacting with ems from less wellknown clans, increasing inequality between clans. Ems may even justify this unequal treatment by saying that it is less moral to end an em copy from a small clan, because not as many similar other ems continue on. However, an aversion to having multiple copies from the same clan in each small social circle may limit this clan inequality. Em sociality might thus become more like that of our forager ancestors, who only ever met a few hundred people at most in their entire lives, and were quite familiar with the history, personality, and abilities of everyone they met (Dunbar 1992; McCarty et al. 2000). When they stick to associating with one-names, ems might know well who they liked or didn’t like, and how best to flatter or insult each one. There might be clan jokes analogous to our ethnic jokes, such as “How many Freds does it take to screw in a light bulb?” One-name ems cannot “start over fresh” by moving to a new city or job; strong reputations follow them everywhere.

Keywords:   animals, clans, first ems, hardware, labor, memories, pre-skills, slaves, theory

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