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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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17 (p.227) Lifecycle
The Age of Em

Robin Hanson

Oxford University Press

How many kinds of tasks does a typical em worker regularly do in the course of their job? Looking at job performance today, we see that while extreme specialization can give maximum productivity in the short run, over a longer time a modest degree of task variation is often more productive, because of improved learning and engagement ( Staats and Gino 2012 ). Ems add an important new consideration to this usual tradeoff between task specialization and task variety. Whereas human minds have a limited rate at which they can do tasks, em minds can run at different speeds. So the limited subjective career length of an em can be spent either on more scope in tasks or on more scope in time. That is, an em worker can either run faster and simultaneously do and coordinate more related tasks, or it can run slower and coordinate fewer tasks over a longer period of time, and improve at those tasks in the process. Some tasks require a continual response to external drivers. These tasks include managing physical systems, such as driving cars. Such tasks usually require mental response times as fast as the slower of two rates: the rate at which outside disturbances arise to which it is useful to respond, and the rate at which the managed system such as a car is capable of responding to such disturbances. When choosing between mind speeds faster than this minimum response rate, one of the main tradeoff s is between getting really good at each task, and coordinating more related tasks. One can either do a more specific task more times over a longer narrower career, or do a wider range of related tasks over a shorter career. During either sort of career one could split off many spurs to do short-term tasks that do not need to be well remembered. Long, narrow careers can achieve high levels of competence while adapting to changing job detail, but require expensive communication between workers to coordinate related tasks. In contrast, having the same worker do a wider range of tasks allows for flexible coordination without communication across those tasks, but comes at the cost of more transitions for each worker between different tasks (Wout et al. 2015), and often lower competence because of less task specialization and a shorter career.

Keywords:   adaptations, bets, combinatorial auctions, deterministic, economy, flexibility, incentives, judges, nations

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