The Autonomous Revolution—Reclaiming the Future We’ve Sold to Machines
By Bill Davidow & Michael S. Malone
For the third time in the history of humanity civilization is undergoing phase change. The first was the Agricultural Revolution, the second the Industrial Revolution, and we are now in the midst of the Autonomous Revolution.
Everyone is familiar with the miracle of phase change in the physical world. We marvel at snowflakes that are just water in disguise. When water goes through a critical temperature, it turns to ice—a phase change. It obeys different rules, we use different tools to deal with the different phases, and our intuition about water tells us nothing about ice.
Civilizations undergo phase change driven by equivalences—a food equivalence for the Agricultural Revolution and a power equivalence for the Industrial Revolution. When they do, their institutions change form, obey different rules, and our intuition fails us. For example, due to the invention of money, markets and commerce replaced barter—new forms obeying new rules. During the Industrial Revolution mass production replaced cottage production—a new form for producing goods.
The Autonomous Revolution will bring with it new forms of work, business, news, space, government, change the meaning of liberty and privacy, and bring with it new value systems and change the meaning of life. It will create a world of abundance where there is enough for all and the issue will be how is it shared.
If we manage the transition properly and effectively apply new rules and use new tools, the Autonomous Revolution will take use one step closer to Utopia. But we must remember that pumps and pipes don’t work well with ice and that ice breaks pipes. A poorly managed phase change will break civilizations pipes as well.