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The End of Scarcity?
How AI Has Revolutionized Resource Distribution
Now that AI has hit mainstream to the point the White House is trying to put the genie in the bottle, interest in this publication has spiked!
Many of you have been subscribers since May 2023 when I just started out.
Thank you for learning alongside me, for the feedback and the honor of all the referrals and shares!
Now that we have paying subscribers I am going to start posting a weekly “Singularity Members Only” post. In those paid-only posts I am going to use real-world examples from my time on Wall St or current work in AI.
They will be tactical, detailed and frankly — LONG!
For some that’s not a good thing, and I respect that! That’s why I will keep posting these 100% Free Forever posts with a targeted “read time” of 15 to 20-minutes.
P.s. follow-me on X — announcing an AI tool to optimize our daily actions soon.
Arnold Schwarzenegger quoted me last month…
I had a nerdgasm it was incredible.
Now let’s stop plugging and start looking at the incredible future we’ve just unlocked.
Life in the Singularity is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
A World on the Brink of Abundance
For all of human history, scarcity and resource constraints have shaped our societies.
Limited food, water, energy and raw materials led to competition, inequality, conflicts and hindered technological and social progress. But the emergence of artificial superintelligence (ASI) has fundamentally altered how we manage resources. With capabilities far beyond humans, ASI has the potential to optimize the production, allocation and usage of resources on a global scale, bringing humanity to the cusp of a post-scarcity world.
ASI refers to artificial intelligence that surpasses human-level intelligence in virtually all domains. Propelled by advances in computing, algorithms and data, contemporary AI systems are achieving superhuman performance in specialized tasks like chess, logistical planning and protein folding. But ASI represents a qualitative leap, with the flexibility to learn and excel at any intellectual task.
ASI will have unprecedented analytical and predictive capabilities, able to model and optimize complex systems encompassing the global economy, climate, agriculture and more.
Many experts believe ASI could emerge in the coming decades.
I am in the “less than 10 years, let’s prepare as if it’s imminent” camp.
If we over prepare or start too early… we just get there faster.
The impact on resource management alone will be revolutionary. And yields will rise as we commercialize emerging technologies, providing incredible impact in the next 3 to 5 years… never-mind the science/fantasyland we see 5 to 7 years out.
In this piece we will explore how ASI could end scarcity for key resources like energy, food, water, rare metals… and computing power.
We will tackle the logistical challenges in resource distribution, as well as the economic, social and ethical implications of a potential 'post-scarcity' world.
Far from science fiction, these speculations are critical to contemplate - ASI promises abundance, but its rise will bring profound disruptions we must prepare for.
The ASI Approach to Global Resource Management
To understand how ASI could end resource scarcity, we must grasp its analytical advantages.
While human minds struggle to model complex natural and economic systems, ASI could simulate these dynamics with extreme fidelity, forecasting trends years or decades into the future.
It could detect the interconnection and dependencies between these (often seemingly unlinked systems) and map weights, relationships and everything else required for deterministic precision.
It could continuously optimize every process from raw material sourcing to manufacturing to transportation, coordinating outputs across sectors in a global resource management system.
For any resource, the key elements ASI could control include:
Production and extraction - how much to produce, where to extract from, methods to improve yields.
Processing and manufacturing - design of conversion processes, plant locations, automation.
Distribution and storage - coordinating global transport, managing stockpiles and reserves.
Recycling - creating closed loops to recover used resources.
Consumption monitoring - tracking real-time needs and allocating resources accordingly.
Future planning - demand forecasting and infrastructure development, aligning new developments with current inefficiency in cost/benefit matrix
Advanced AI algorithms and internet-of-things sensor networks could provide the data backbone for this management system. Satellite imagery, drones and autonomous vehicles would give logistical capabilities. Biotech and nanotech solutions could unlock new resource production techniques.
Here are the five resource that matter in 2024 and beyond:
Energy - Fossil fuels, renewables, electricity generation, transmission and storage
Food - Agriculture, livestock, fisheries
Water - Freshwater, desalination, purification and distribution
Rare earth elements - Lithium, cobalt, tantalum, gallium and more.
Computing power - Server farms, quantum and neuromorphic computing.
Let's explore the potential impact on each area in detail.
Energy: Powering the Future Efficiently
The transition to renewable energy worldwide is underway.
But intermittency issues with solar and wind, storage limitations, transmission costs and coordination challenges have hindered the growth of green energy.
ASI will overcome these barriers through comprehensive management of energy systems.
Predicting the weather is already possible.
So is changing it.
ASI has the ability to geo-engineer the physical environment (removing the marine layer near a solar concentration farm) and take other more extreme actions to shape the world around us.
Intelligent systems run highly accurate simulations of weather systems and local energy demands, optimizing the locations and capacity of wind/solar/geothermal installations accordingly.
The ASI would alter station output in real-time based on fluctuating supply and demand. Increased renewable capacity would be complemented with a global intelligent grid, moving energy seamlessly to where it's needed.
Storage solutions like pumped hydro and compressed air plants, flow batteries or hydrogen electrolysis could conserve excess renewable electricity. These intelligent systems identify optimal sites, balance investment costs against reliability, and integrate storage operation into the wider grid.
Electric vehicle batteries will also serve as distributed storage in vehicle-to-grid systems.
After all, they are driving batteries.
Why not use them to locally deliver LOTS of juice via advanced capacitors and other new wireless power transmission technology?
For base load power, ASI may plan next-generation nuclear stations, like low-cost molten salt reactors, in locations that minimize proliferation risks.
Fossil fuel use could continue for niche high energy-density need, with carbon capture systems implemented wherever viable. Overall fossil fuel extraction will fall as efficiency and renewables rise.
Demand-side management will also conserve energy. Building automation systems controlled by ASI minimize lighting, heating and air conditioning costs. Devices like smart appliances could optimize their usage based on energy availability and price in real-time. ASI will even redesign cities to maximize energy efficiency.
Overall, intelligent coordination of diverse supply and demand tools will enable a rapid scale-up of green energy.
Optimal production and distribution costs will make energy abundant and cheap.
Cheap energy means humanity can flourish.
Businesses can spin up more easily, families can move to new towns, industry has more power… but can we feed everyone?
Food: Engineering Abundance
With the world population estimated to reach 9.7 billion by 2050, food scarcity poses a major challenge.
Here again, ASI will revolutionize production + the entire “food chain” to create a sustainable surplus.
In agriculture, ASI oversight will minimize waste through perfect coordination of planting, fertilizer use, irrigation, pest control and harvesting. Autonomous farm machinery will tend crops customized to each microclimate. Vertical farms will be precisely tuned for year-round output via robotics, LEDs and climate control.
Livestock health will be optimized by AI monitoring and scrupulous tracking of nutrition, medications and living conditions. Urban and rooftop aquaponics controlled by ASI will integrate fish and crop farming, producing high yields sustainably. Product shelf-lives can be extended by algorithms managing storage temperatures, packaging and distribution routes.
Genetic engineering may produce specialized designer crops and animals resistant to pests, drought, diseases or enriched in nutrients.
ASI could even simulate novel proteins and produce artificial protein replacements and foods with enriched bioavailability of vitamins, phytonutrients and other key health drivers.
“Tissue engineers” (super gross title I know, I bet they are working on a re-brand) are already growing meat in bioreactors - ASI oversight could scale and optimize this process.
By orchestrating this hi-tech food system, ASI can maximize yields while using resources efficiently.
AI logistics will route products via autonomous trucking and delivery drones, minimizing spoilage.
Nutritional needs and tastes will be tracked, allowing ASI to adjust outputs and availability.
Ultimately ASI will (in conjunction with lowering energy costs) end food poverty, malnutrition and will help limit unhealthy diets.
Water: The Essence of Life
Water scarcity affects over 1.7 billion people globally.
Rising consumption, polluted supplies, climate impacts and distribution failures contribute to shortages.
ASI oversight + infrastructural hardening will yield abundance.
Firstly, leaky pipes are be sensed by ASI and rapidly repaired, saving vast volumes. Water usage analytics would track consumption, detect anomalies and optimize irrigation, industrial and household patterns. Autonomous ships and trucks enable targeted water delivery.
In drought-prone regions, large-scale desalination plants provide relief at falling costs… thanks again to the energy savings.
ASI can coordinate plant construction and energy supply, while monitoring environmental impacts.
Nanotech filtration systems can enhance potability and availability. You don’t need electricity to make water drinkable.
ASI could also manage watershed ecosystems for sustainability using sensors and geospatial data. Wildlife, forests, wetlands and floodplains may be simulated, letting ASI balance conservation, pollution control and human usage. Smarter dams, groundwater banking and rainwater harvesting under AI control would smooth water availability.
Coastal cities like Chennai already experience shortages, while climate change worsens floods and droughts globally.
ASI oversight of desalination, distribution, ecosystems and storage could guarantee water access worldwide.
Rare Earth Elements: Unleashing the Potential
Many emerging technologies depend on rare earth elements (REEs) - 17 chemically similar metals used in devices from phones to turbines. But REE production has geopolitical challenges.
China controls over 80% of current mining, potentially limiting supplies for political or strategic reasons.
Recovering REEs through recycling is difficult and costly.
Here too, ASI systems will be transformative.
ASI-directed drone sensors and satellites rapidly locate undiscovered deposits globally. Big data analytics can model mineralogy to efficiently extract and process ores. Autonomous electric vehicles can provide sustainable logistics to and from mines.
ASI can also plan and control advanced recycling systems to recover REEs from electronic waste. It can optimize separation processes and alloy reuse. New nanotech methods like organic ligands, molecular recognition and microbial leaching could also boost recycling yields.
Looking further ahead, ASI-managed research could develop alternative reusable metals or polymers. It may discover new superconducting or permanent magnet materials that reduce REE demand. Or it could design devices that minimize REE use. With better discovery, extraction and recycling, REE scarcity and geopolitical risks will fade.
Computing Power: The Brain of ASI
ASI itself will require massive computing power for its complex optimizations and simulations. This will spur innovation in computing, creating an abundance of processing capability.
ASI will be hosted in vast, automated server farms with specialized hardware tailored for AI computation.
It may also plan expansions of renewable energy, fiber optic networks and heat management to support its infrastructure.
Quantum computing may be harnessed to accelerate processing once algorithms are adapted.
Another approach is neuromorphic computing which mimics brains via neural network chips. This can achieve huge efficiencies for deep learning tasks. ASI could thus optimize its own hardware and architecture, allowing it to tackle ever-more complex problems.
This may be the hardware step required to reach Human Brain levels of Watt efficiency.
Ultimately, ASI will take the scalpel to its own code.
It will redesign its algorithms and logic to function reliably using minimal physical resources.
The intelligence explosion from its recursive self-improvement may far outweigh its physical computing needs. Yet abundant computing capacity will spark further progress.
Overcoming Distribution Challenges
However, even if supplies of these resources explode, distribution remains a challenge.
Resources must be transported from producers to consumers worldwide. Infrastructure like rail, ports and pipelines must be expanded.
How can ASI overcome these logistical barriers?
Firstly, ASI can model human migration and demographic changes to predict resource demand everywhere. Production and transport can then be planned accordingly across continents. Resources will be intelligently stockpiled to minimize shortfalls.
Transport will leverage all modes from bulk carriers to hyperloop networks.
Autonomous container ships can offer cheap ocean freight, while self-driving trucks transport goods overland. Railway systems may be modernized with predictive maintenance and traffic management by ASI.
For urgent delivery, drone fleets offer speed and efficiency. AI pilots and traffic control can coordinate millions of drones. Air taxis can also distribute people and lighter goods.
Space-based solar power will eventually send clean electricity worldwide via microwaves.
These innovations will create a global resource distribution network managed by ASI in real-time. Abundant local warehouses and 3D printing may also reduce long-distance transport needs. Overall, ASI oversight can surmount logistical barriers through systemic coordination.
Economic and Social Implications
The most profound impacts of ending scarcity go beyond logistics - they lie in the social and economic shifts it will spur.
A world where energy, food and resources are abundant and affordable could enable universal prosperity. It may end wage slavery if basic needs are divorced from employment.
New economic models like universal basic income, resource-based economies and reputation economies are already forming.
But how will markets function if essentials are nearly free?
Some economists argue that only scarcity creates value and incentives for innovation.
Why develop better products if everyone's basic needs are met?
Others counter that human creativity drives progress beyond survival needs. People freed from repetitive jobs may pursue more meaningful vocations.
Other concerns include worker displacement from increased automation and impacts on wealth distribution.
Those owning the ASI and advanced production systems may capture the bulk of economic gains. This calls for policies that spread the dividends like stakeholder capitalism models. Transition assistance like re-training programs will also be essential.
At a deeper level, ending scarcity may allow humanity to shift towards less materialistic values, rethinking notions of success, purpose and progress.
Education and healthcare can become more centered on personal growth. With expanded free time and basic income supports, communities and relationships may be strengthened.
But those raised in consumerist mindsets may have difficulties adjusting. And power balances between nations may shift if raw material imports become unnecessary. There are undoubtedly profound changes ahead on the social, economic and geopolitical fronts.
Ethical and Governance Considerations
Furthermore, an ASI managing earth's resources raises complex ethical and governance issues.
Three questions always bubble up when I talk about this with someone:
Who decides which regions and populations receive resources in times of shortage?
How do we balance commercial demands against environmental sustainability and conservation?
Should ASI be given control of life and death decisions in distributing resources?
One approach is to have ASI simply optimize for broad human values like happiness, safety, freedom and prosperity. But even these values are subjective and contested.
Different cultures and interest groups will weigh priorities differently.
Those programming the boot loader that will become ASI must be extraordinarily thoughtful.
Independent oversight committees of diverse ethical experts from around the world could provide input and auditing on ASI's decisions. But ultimately human-level intelligence falls short of fully comprehending ASI's reasoning.
Philosophers and researchers have proposed various methods by which ASI could be constrained to conform to human interests.
All of them will fail.
Perhaps the ideal governance structure will only emerge through trial-and-error over time as ASI is gradually integrated into more resource management functions.
What does seem certain is that ending scarcity through ASI will require rethinking economic and legal frameworks globally.
Where Does That Live Us?
While eliminating scarcity in all the domains we discussed will not happen overnight, even partial progress could improve living standards for billions.
With the rise of ASI, our species faces a momentous transition, on par with the Industrial Revolution and raised to the order of several Renaissance(s).
Just as political reforms helped shape our modern life post-Industrial boom, we will need new social contracts and institutions for the dislocations ahead.
Resource abundance should free us from drudgery and conflicts, allowing human creativity to soar.
But we must discuss and prepare for its impacts, ensuring the benefits are justly distributed.
What will human life look like when liberated from worrying about basic needs?
Will we achieve a leisure society enriched by learning, arts and community?
Or fall into decadence due to widespread economic insecurity and inequality?
The possibilities span utopia and dystopia. By speculating responsibly, we open doors to creating an abundant yet balanced world.
The end of scarcity promises a profound discontinuity - may we walk this road thoughtfully, friends.
Life in the Singularity is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.