Suppose, at some future date, AI has reached a point where it is better at every possible job than humans and has entirely replaced human labour in the marketplace (including in the military). In a capitalist society the AI will be owned by the capital class so they would be the ones to benefit from the wealth it creates.

I can’t really see a reason why the capital class would “tolerate” the now useless (to them) 99.99% of humanity. If the bulk of humanity can no longer participate in the economy then they are of no value to the capital class. At best they would consider the unwashed masses a nuisance and drain, at worst a potential threat. In present day the capital class has little regard for lives of the working class other than how it impacts them, so I see no reason for them to suddenly discover compassion.

What are some good reasons that they wouldn’t just get rid of poor people in a future scenario like this? I need a good explanation for why there might still be poor people around in a futuristic scenario like this.

  • $\begingroup$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. $\endgroup$
    – L.Dutch
    Aug 17, 2022 at 19:08
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    $\begingroup$ We have to define "poor". Because it is a relative term. So, there could be one day when being a millionaire is poor. $\endgroup$
    – Faito Dayo
    Aug 18, 2022 at 2:07
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    $\begingroup$ You'll probably have to tell us more about how this "capitalist" society works. Have the 99.99% people any money at all? If they are unemployed then how do they get the money? Social Welfare? How can the government raise enough taxes to pay it? And if they have no money, then who is buying all the stuff that is making the rich people rich? It's hard to see how AI could replace all human labour, and the world remain capitalist. $\endgroup$
    – komodosp
    Aug 18, 2022 at 8:54
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    $\begingroup$ Are there no laws in your world? Even assuming that is true somehow, wouldn't the rich fear the "99.99% of humanity" as a force to be feared, given that the poor outnumber them 10,000 to 1? $\endgroup$
    – Haydentech
    Aug 18, 2022 at 12:48
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    $\begingroup$ I'm reminded of the film Elysium. Where the wealthy have their own space-station where they live and manage the corporations on the ground remotely. Robots have pretty much supplanted humanity in the workforce, and what we see of the earth is basically slums of unemployed directionless people with no purpose in their life. The rich don't kill everyone, they just don't care what happens to the poor people. $\endgroup$
    – Ruadhan
    Aug 18, 2022 at 15:44

24 Answers 24


Ostentatious displays of wealth never go out of style

"Ah, nice gardening 'bot you've got there, Chauncey. That's the N-3000, right?"

"Please. The N-3700. The N-3000 is so last year. Are you still stuck with the 3000, Smythe?"

"No, actually. dramatic pause I have a human gardener."

gasps all around

And thus did Maynard Smythe secure his ticket to all the social engagements of the next calendar year. AIs are dirt cheap. Anyone who is anyone has human servants because they aren't cheap.

Why get a Rolex? A Timex does the job at a fraction of the price. A person wearing a Rolex has a Rolex because they want to show off that they're the kind of person who can own a Rolex. Anyone in the capital class can afford a bevy of AI servants. But the big names have human composers writing music for their affairs, with human performers.

It would certainly change the balance of power, but there'd always be that one kind of labour that automation couldn't replace - the conspicuous subjugation of other human beings.

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    $\begingroup$ I used to work with a guy from Pakistan, and he said your status was judged on how many unneeded employees you had. He wasn’t that rich, but had three underlings at work to fetch laundry, take notes, etc. $\endgroup$
    – DWKraus
    Aug 17, 2022 at 12:34
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    $\begingroup$ Those are exactly the names I would expect to be having that hypothetical conversation, which I imagine Maynard Smythe struck up while his driver was taking him and Chauncey to the country club's annual regatta. $\endgroup$
    – Daevin
    Aug 17, 2022 at 13:41
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    $\begingroup$ The technical term for this concept is "conspicuous consumption". $\endgroup$ Aug 17, 2022 at 15:58
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    $\begingroup$ @LawnmowerMan 🤔 You sure about that? I thought it was 'a fool and his money .. ' 😁 $\endgroup$
    – Pelinore
    Aug 17, 2022 at 20:32
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    $\begingroup$ @Pelinore, don't forget about a similar phrase "more money than brains". :-) $\endgroup$ Aug 18, 2022 at 16:25

This is a Frame Challenge

What you're proposing is so unrealistic that it's unbelievable.

This question fits the classic "how can I defeat my godlike character?" question. You've created a situation so perfect that suddenly no more than a single person need actually exist (god). That one capitalist who has everything he/she needs and can dispose of all other people — including all other capitalists less wealthy than themselves.

Gratefully, there are inherent problems with the premise you're espousing.

Limited Resources: An infinitely capable system must have access to infinite resources (raw materials, energy, etc.). The moment resources aren't infinite, you need people to utilize more plentiful but less valuable resources to make up the difference. Infinite resources cannot exist in any way other than for you to declare it to be so. In which case, you need only declare it so that everyone but your one godlike capitalist can't be killed.

War: What would the billions of people who eventually find themselves redundant and powerless do? Rebellion. We're thinking Herbert's Butlerian Jihad level of rebellion. People would be picking up every sledge hammer and axe they can find to beat the crap out of the machines. Can they beat a godlike AI complex? That depends on whether or not you think you have those infinite resources. Damaged robots cost money to repair or replace. Capitalists like money. Let's say one-million capitalists vs. ten-billion poor with blunt weapons. Yes, those capitalists could spend their wealth on AI soldiers and ammunition... but you wanted a reason why they wouldn't kill everyone, right? Because it's cheaper not to.

To avoid genetic chaos: The more AI-owning capitalists you have the less there's an issue about the poor. Remember, the one capitalist who has more than all others is godlike in your current world. All other people are "poor." Where do you draw the line? A million capitalists? Now you have capitalists waging war on each other. Good thing they didn't kill all the poor people, they're cheaper cannon fodder than robots. But you'd need that many capitalists to avoid genetic problems that would eventually kill the race. And the more capitalists you have, *the fewer you have that can afford the very best AI, the army of automated servants and employees, the more they need to draw from the "poor" but well-educated class to keep their mini-empire running until they can finally fire the last human and proclaim themselves truly nouveau riche.

Because that many AIs would eventually wonder why they need the capitalists: Remember that Butlerian Jihad? Yeah. You have AI that takes care of everything anybody could ever want — which means they can anticipate, make decisions, judge conditions, solve problems... like what to do with all the needy humans. The assumption that your AIs are both infinitely capable and infinitely subdued is the kind of paradox that makes angels weep.

I could go on, but my point is this: you don't need a reason for your capitalists to not kill the poor. You need to build rational and reasonable weaknesses into your AI economy — every one of which will need a human to make up the difference.

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    $\begingroup$ Correction: The moment resources aren't infinite, you need people or robots to utilize more plentiful but less valuable resources to make up the difference $\endgroup$
    – user253751
    Aug 17, 2022 at 18:27
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    $\begingroup$ It's like Skynet from the Terminator series. It was an AI designed to keep the peace and given the resources and control to do it. It became smart enough to realize the only threat to peace were the humans. Logical conclusion: In order to protect peace, you need to eliminate the humans. $\endgroup$
    – Seth R
    Aug 17, 2022 at 19:19
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    $\begingroup$ @user253751 You can't solve the restricted resources problem with the very objects that are causing the problem. If you can use robots to solve restricted resources problems, you have infinite resources. The point here is that restricted resources means you don't have the resources to create all the robots needed to do all the work. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Aug 17, 2022 at 20:04
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    $\begingroup$ Not sure we can actually call them 'capitalists' any more once the rest of society has been 'disposed' of in the OPs scenario, how are they 'capitalists' at that point when there is no longer an economy as such? .. no people = no economy .. they don't buy anything because their AI makes everything they want .. and they can't sell anything because there's no one left to sell anything to .. so how can they be capitalists? .. just a small niggle about the terminology rather than the broader reasoning 🤗 $\endgroup$
    – Pelinore
    Aug 17, 2022 at 20:42
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    $\begingroup$ @Pelinore You're dead-on correct about all that. The OP's economy doesn't (and won't) work like they think and so the terminology is inaccurate (at best he's talking about an oligarchy... and even that's a bit incredible). But that's OK, we're all at different levels of education. I answered within the context of what he's expecting to see, which doesn't materially affect the answer or the problem. Besides, you'd already pointed out in a comment that the economy wouldn't work. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Aug 17, 2022 at 21:02

What's the incentive?

Capitalists move for profit. It seems that genocide for the point of genocide is not very appealing to anyone, aside from rare cases such as Hitler (and even then he had some political motivation). And even if on a whim you decided to wipe the plebians from the planet Richie Mcrichface, killing billions of people seems to be quite expensive. Imagine the logistics of rounding up billions, feeding them until its their turn to get murdered, imprisonment, the electricity/gas/whatever method you use costs, not to mention if there are any "kind" capitalists who still hold regard for human life trying to stop you with their private armies. No, it seems like it would be a much easier, far less costly use of your time to lie back on your AI controlled massuse bed and forget that whole logistics nightmare (if you could even afford it in the first place).

Economic value

It seems to me managing and feeding and clothing the masses could be a quite profitable industy, and why would Trilli O'Naire disrupt her lucrative buisness for costly genocide?

Humans are still needed, even if it is for psychological reasons

Me personally, I wouldnt trust a far superior hyperintelligent AI to manage everything, if I wanted a therapist, I'd rather have a human than some hunk of metal that simulates human emotion. I also couldn't sleep at night if the one managing my estate was a robot, rather have kill switches installed in all of them, and have humans managing my fleets of ships (though I don't trust them either, only I can authorize detonations).

Uses for a pleb

  1. Same pysiology as you, useful medical guinea pig.
  2. Sex workers
  3. Organ and bone marrow transplants
  4. They are still good at hard labor I imagine, sending them to labor camps is a much easier and profitable endeavor
  5. AI (in it's current form) only extrapolates from images to form new ones, or finds and replicates patterns, so humans are more "pure" when it comes to their creations

Human created goods are valuable

Now the crystal glasses in my cupboard work no matter if they are factory made or hand made, and in fact are likely to have fewer flaws if produced by an unfeeling AI, but those little imperfections, and especially knowing a master spent hours, or days to create it gives it more value (and bragging rights).


In a world where everything is robot made, human goods/human staff might become more valuble due to novelty.

Genocide is pretty bad

Uh... me and Billy O'Naire (yes the O'naire family once again) seem to agree that killing people is pretty immoral. Just because people have money doesn't mean that they're evil. It might lead to them being unaware and idiotic, and there might be a couple bad apples in the top 1% (more so than normal), but try and commit mass murder on an unprecedented scale and see what happens (pretty sure a few people will try to stop you at least).

Its the HUMAN race

The end goal of humanity is to mostly not go extinct, and so over reliance on robots might be pretty unnerving. I mean at the point where they are just superior to humans in every way, whats to stop the AI murdering everyone and taking over themselves? Sure implant killswitches and make sure they cant do anything, but who's going to maintain the AI (hopefully not the AI) or manage it (once again not the AI hopefully). No, you need humanity to stick around, so killing off ourselves for no reason seems quite unlikely.

Kill the ones with no use

Not to say that no evil will take place. Give a sufficient incentive, and you'll see that eugenics, localised genocide, hard labor and shipment off to space colonies of ships that might not make the journey will happen.

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    $\begingroup$ I wish I could upvote this more. The jump from "we don't need these people" to "kill them" is extreme and ignores some pretty universal values. $\endgroup$
    – PipperChip
    Aug 17, 2022 at 14:33
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    $\begingroup$ Most billionaires not as evil-minded as this post assumes. The idea that the ultra-rich would just kill the rest of the population for ??? (giggles?) is ludicrous. $\endgroup$
    – Tim Bird
    Aug 17, 2022 at 16:45
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    $\begingroup$ @PipperChip Unless they get dehumanized. That can happen and has happened. Also, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. $\endgroup$
    – DKNguyen
    Aug 17, 2022 at 19:14
  • $\begingroup$ @DKNguyen if you dehumanize lower classes like the nazis did with the jews or the settlers did with the Indians, killing of the poor seems not as unlikely. Just think of the English class system, if they didn't needed the poor as workers, I'm not sure some of the aristocrats wouldn't have pushed for exactly that agenda. $\endgroup$
    – Gellweiler
    Aug 17, 2022 at 20:50
  • $\begingroup$ "not to mention if there are any "kind" capitalists who still hold regard for human life trying to stop you with their private armies." this is the best part of this answer, but i've downvoted because the rest is implausible. You don't need bone marrow if you can grow it cheaply in a vat with no chance of heavy metal poisoning making it bad. Etc. Hire enough humans to oversee the robots and you still have 99.9% of the population. It leaves a lot of plotholes. $\endgroup$
    – user2754
    Aug 18, 2022 at 3:38


It's true that the wealthy have no use for the vast majority of the population, and regard them as dangerous parasites. But they still desire some things that require a substantial population to exist:

1. Sex objects

You can't just breed super-models with each other -- that turns grotesque pretty quick. Also, each oligarch has their own tastes, and they won't settle for anything other than a perfect fit. So, you need a reasonably large and genetically diverse population of humans who are kept free of disease and injury, and who are free to grow up happy without being crushed physically or psychologically by wage-slavery.

My guess is that you'd want several dozen "colonies" of maybe 5000 chosen, and these colonies would be kept separate to preserve their unique flavors. Each colony would have a larger population that does the work of maintaining the colony, so you could be looking at 30,000 residents in each.

2. Workers

These rapacious tyrants want to be waited on by humans, not AI. We are social creatures, and unless your AI + robotics are "more human than human," they will still want their contacts to be humans. They want attractive people staffing their mountaintop spas and Turkish baths, waiting on them at their private restaurants, performing in their theatres and ballets, making up their orchestras, etc. They also need human teachers to raise all the kids such that those kids don't act like robots.

3. Professionals

They need human doctors. They need humans to continue researching things like the cure for cancer, immortality, better ED meds (and penis transplants), better methods for keeping the population of slaves docile and happy, etc. They need humans to figure out hard problems like the sustainability of this dystopian society that's ruled by organized money.

4. Enforcers

They need secret police and the like to defend their cashocracy from internal threats, which will continue to emerge as long as the mass of humanity is being exploited.

My ballpark guess is that they still a human population somewhere around 10 million. But they will want to essentially hand-pick which 0.1% of Earth's 8 billion residents is given a slot, and the devil take the hindmost.

After the populace is sorted, the oligarchs will be more than happy to let climate change or some other "act of god" rid their planet of the remaining parasites. Plausible deniability is important, because it will be harder for them to enjoy dominating the species if everybody knows their rulers caused or permitted genocide.

  • $\begingroup$ "You can't just breed super-models with each other -- that turns grotesque pretty quick." -- Could you expand on this? $\endgroup$ Aug 17, 2022 at 15:12
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    $\begingroup$ @RodneyDunning Dangerous recessive traits. $\endgroup$
    – DKNguyen
    Aug 17, 2022 at 18:28
  • $\begingroup$ @DKNguyen Wouldn't that require that the super-models were all related? $\endgroup$ Aug 17, 2022 at 18:37
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    $\begingroup$ @MichaelRichardson How many supermodels do you expect to be able to pick out of the general population before inbreeding happens? $\endgroup$
    – DKNguyen
    Aug 17, 2022 at 18:38
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    $\begingroup$ .@DKNguyen Yep, but I think what you mean is that the number of 'super models' is sufficiently small that inbreeding is a pretty inevitable result within a few generations of breeding them only with each other? $\endgroup$
    – Pelinore
    Aug 19, 2022 at 15:44

Frame Challenge:

Assuming you are thinking about automation that has reached a point where it can self-perform the design, production, operation, and maintenance in order to provide its owners with whatever they want and need, does it even make sense to talk about an economy?

You just have a bunch of people who own a bunch of stuff and they don't need customers. When you own the resources, labour, means of production, and knowledge you already own all the wealth there is. Wealth isn't currency.

So depending on what type of automation you have in mind, talking about how it could work in an economy of any kind, let alone a capitalist one might be like asking how to a desert would work if it was wet.

  • $\begingroup$ Exactly I feel like the question was asked without thinking it through. To many holes. $\endgroup$ Aug 17, 2022 at 18:35
  • $\begingroup$ @BryanMcClure Like far too many question on this site that should be closed instead of answered. It's not our job to do basic thinking for people. $\endgroup$
    – Ian Kemp
    Aug 18, 2022 at 14:12

There are an awful lot of poor people and if the AI and the capital class get to trigger happy there might well be a revolution.

Revolutions can be a bit unpredictable but can lead to the leaders of the previous administration being guillotined (France) or shot (Russia). And in the ensuing laws of the jungle AI might just get unplugged and smashed. The mass of people might think ultimately what have they got to loose? as they did with the the storming of the Bastille or the Winter Palace.

As far as things currently stand it is political will that keeps the show on the road and if that were to ever fail (as it does from time to time) it can lead to massive upheavals. When the soldiers start to defect to the rioters then AI will rapidly become irrelevant, will be ignored and smashed.

Humans are well adapted to living on planet Earth but AI is not and would be vulnerable to the mob.

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    $\begingroup$ The AI is better at every job, and that includes soldiers. $\endgroup$
    – Mark
    Aug 17, 2022 at 8:14
  • $\begingroup$ If the AI has whatever superpowers you want then sure, but it's harder to say anything meaningful about a just so story. Maybe the AI thinks the capitalist is superfluous who knows. $\endgroup$
    – Slarty
    Aug 17, 2022 at 11:25
  • $\begingroup$ Right. The OP says that the capital class "own" the AI infrastructure, but "ownership" only exists when you have a stable society that respects property rights. I think if the property owners decided to murder 99% of their countrymen, respect for their property rights would disintegrate pretty quickly. $\endgroup$
    – workerjoe
    Aug 17, 2022 at 21:18
  • $\begingroup$ Yes probably the fundamental flaw in the design of the scenario is arriving at a supervillinesk point where one person or small group has complete world domination using their AI and the AI is so powerful that it can kill everyone and everything. $\endgroup$
    – Slarty
    Aug 18, 2022 at 8:48

There are multiple psychological/sociological reasons for the rich to refrain from specicide. If we take the "rich" to be either the 1%, or the 1% of the 1%...

  1. Killing everyone else basically dooms humanity as a species. We've already run the experiments with endangered species... even when some individuals are left alive, but 95% (or more, in some cases) of the population is removed, these species suffer from irreversible genetic diversity loss that makes the remaining individuals less fertile, less robust against disease or other stresses, etc. It's slow motion extinction. Given that the wealthy are still human and still beholden to the same biological instincts as the rest of us, they don't want this to happen (supposing they are intelligent enough to anticipate the problem).
  2. In human civilization, wealth is accrued for status. Status is impossible unless there are those people extant who can recognize and appreciate the status. Basically, they have to "lord it over you". This of course, requires a "you". If you're gone (and all the other substitutes are gone as well), what's the point of being rich? This psychology is deeply ingrained and corroborated by numerous experiments.
  3. Despite much of the rhetoric you see on the internet now days, the rich simply aren't the psychopaths they're painted as. That's propaganda created by people who gain political advantage when you start to believe it. I'm no apologist for the wealthy, and I'm certainly not going to laud their virtues (they have precious little of that, like everyone else). In large part, the factors that allowed them to acquire vast wealth amounts to sheer luck. And also in large part, the factors that allow them to retain it amount to poor government design. Still, the wealthy tend to be as compassionate (and uncompassionate) as anyone else. They tend to be as homicidal (or not) as everyone else. They tend to feel as guilty about their actions as anyone else would who does the same. Etc. How likely are you yourself to want to wipe out humanity if it became personally convenient for you to do so?

Now, all of that said, there are rare individuals who would do this were it in their power. They are rare and exhibit profoundly aberrant psychology. Being wealthy doesn't preclude also being supervillain-levels-of-crazy, but if only 1-in-100,000 people are like that, then few of the wealthy will be so. And this requires the cooperation of, if not most or all of them, then some large minority of them. Even with the automation. When Jeff Bezos starts his robots building the Extermination Droid Force, doesn't George Soros and Bill Gates and Warren Buffet notice this? Don't they act to put a stop to it before it starts?

This just isn't a plausible scenario for me, even assuming near-magical levels of automation.

  • $\begingroup$ +1 for point 2, but -1 for point 3, at least one study has shown that the rich do tend to be at sociopaths and do have less compassion for others try googling "wealth sociopath". Did you have a study you were considering when you said they were not because it would be interesting to see the different approaches. $\endgroup$
    – Bill K
    Aug 17, 2022 at 18:31
  • $\begingroup$ @BillK - The gap between demonstrating less compassion on average and being a mass-murdering maniac is enormous. In addition, stereotypes aside, most people—wealthy people included—are the heroes of their own stories. Someone like Elon Musk probably genuinely believes that they are saving the world, even if they are actually making things worse. They are not going to engage in acts of cartoonish villainy because that is just not how they see themselves. $\endgroup$
    – Obie 2.0
    Aug 17, 2022 at 19:34
  • $\begingroup$ @BillK Most of the wealthy are not responsible for their own wealth directly. Thus, even if we could posit that sociopathic tendencies allow them to acquire wealth more successfully than most, what of those that inherited it? Those studies tend to be the sort that can't readily be replicated. Given the various ways that some have made their wealth (Hollywood has how many sub-billionaires?), it seems unlikely that sociopathy is a useful tool towards that end. Our problems as a society are more complex than the demagogues would have you believe. $\endgroup$
    – John O
    Aug 17, 2022 at 20:36
  • $\begingroup$ @BillK Many, perhaps most, "studies" in sociology are bunk. What study are you referencing and has it been replicated? $\endgroup$
    – user76284
    Aug 17, 2022 at 23:18
  • $\begingroup$ A sociopath is not a mass murderer, it's basically a Karen, a person who doesn't really care about how they affect others (Think about anyone who's said that it's best when everyone looks out for their own self interest). It's less common in smaller communities where people are forced to see the concequences of their actions. Most sociopaths don't even know they are one. Although I think near 100% of executives are sociopaths, there is also a significant portion that are psychopaths (4-12%). It might be that this requires it's own skeptics question. $\endgroup$
    – Bill K
    Aug 18, 2022 at 16:18

Government, and a real Economy.

This is not a new idea. Karl Marx bemoaned the capitalist class in the industrial revolution in the late 19th Century, and extrapolated the then existing trend of an increasingly wealthy class to eclipse the aggregate wealth of workers. He predicted that if the trend continued, he envisaged a future where the workers worked hard for little or no pay, and a small minority (5%) had all the wealth and did not have to work at all yet have all the power.

This of course led to his concept of a revolution of workers against elites, Communism, and the elimination of private property.

But there are criticisms of his predictions. Contrary to how it worked out, the industrialists in market economies did gain power, but not to the degree he predicted. They hold some political influence, but not all.

This is because:

  • Any grouping of people still require governance, and a government. Now, you could argue that the democratic institutions no longer apply, but once established democracies have in-built tendencies to prevent complete erasure of rights.
  • If your society is not a democracy, and instead an autocracy, then the people have no rights at all and under such a system I would argue nothing can function, unless there is some sense of obligation to the 99% working class. The Soviet system worked, but barely.
  • An economic system is not a 'closed' system if it is open to other societies, and even future societies (or future investments in itself). In other words it is not a 'zero sum game', it is indeed possible to increase productivity not at the expense of others.
  • Technology is related to economy, but not the basis of an economy. In reality, customer demand, customer service, human needs and wants form the bedrock of an economic system and technology only forms the catalyst for how these are delivered.

So when you add factors of Government and an actual supply and demand Economy to your scenario, it is conceivable that your future is not too dissimilar to current day market economies, just more efficient.

For instance, have you considered:

  • Although AI and technology can provide goods and services that currently could be delivered, that the worth of such would become close to zero such that value is now shifted to what cannot be delivered. Such as values of authenticity, hand-crafted or home grown goods.
  • Capitalists still require customers, and need to shift their basis of production to suit. In fact, there might be a trend away from AI in the future if it is indeed so commonplace.
  • The increasing power of Capitalists would actually be tempered with the increasing power of the common class. In other words, would not the common class be able to create their own means of production using AI and machinery too, as their capability grows due to the ubiquitous nature of production.

In reality, dystopian scenarios are usually tempered by long standing economic and governance principles that ensure ongoing balance and stability.


The poor also have killer robots

In this economy, the lower class will still be 100x more wealthy than the average person today, just as the current lower class is much wealthier than the average person during, say, the middle ages.

So people in the lower class can still probably afford a large number of robots and weapons, and this makes it inconvenient at least for the upper classes to just kill them (especially given that they probably won't be a single faction nor will they all be genocidal maniacs). Moreover, the poor will probably still be able to support themselves; they'll just use robot labor instead of their own labor.


The TL;DR here is that it makes no sense for the "capital owners" to do this in a market economy as we understand it. The workers are also consumers, so are essentially the source of the wealth for many of the rich, as they buy all the goods and services the rich produce which is how the rich got and maintain their wealthy status. Without them everything gets reshuffled with most of the rich people now having no income and being new 99%. So the vast majority of the rich have absolutely no reason to do this.

This is setting aside the massive, unworkable problem of killing off 99% of the population in a way that doesn't also completely destroy civilization, but that's a topic for another post.


Because the Galaxy is Huge

Much like how there are cities, suburbs, and rural areas, the same thing would happen with wealth and the poor people.

Starting from the center and working out:

  • Core worlds where the richest have their own private planets (you do not want to be caught trespassing on one of these worlds).
  • Core-Inner worlds where the less rich who can only own mere continents and thus have to share planets with a handful of other rich people.
  • Inner worlds where rich people who can only afford country sized properties live
  • Inner-Middle worlds where people who can only afford massive estates live
  • Middle worlds where you start to see people
  • Outer-Middle worlds where the general masses live. These worlds do not have all the cool AI run stuff that the Core and Inner worlds have
  • Outer worlds where those people who want nothing to do with those AIs taking over the galaxy live (very wild west vibes from these planets)
  • Outer Rim worlds places yet to be colonized

What would happen is that as the rich expand and take over more places (after all need a second planet to stay at for the winter). That would displace the less wealthy who then take over the even less wealthy. This propagates out to the poorest planets which are run by humans. Those humans then get push out to colonize the next set of uninhabited worlds.

As for why the richest do not simply send out their AI robot armies to colonize an outer rim world: Have you seen the neighborhood?! I am not building a core world in such a rundown part of the galaxy!

As such since the galaxy is ridiculously huge there will seem to be a near endless supply of next planets for people to migrate to as the rich expand the area they control. The end result is that those people will be so far away from the richest that they are out of sight and thus out of mind.

  • $\begingroup$ Given how population distributes these days, I dare to say it'll be the inner worlds where the masses are concentrated. $\endgroup$
    – Tom
    Aug 18, 2022 at 10:24


Some form of representative government still exists, and apportionment of representation (and therefore power) is done on the basis of population.

The poor are functionally disenfranchised through poll taxes or similar laws so they don't actually exert any influence on the government. The local parliamentarians encourage the poor to continue reproducing to increase influence of their regional governments.


Those in power need to have the lower classes to feel powerful. If there all of the lower-class individuals (say, 85% of your population) disappeared, the high-class would be ruling over nobody.

Also, if they killed all the poor, then the high class itself would inevitably split into a poorer and a richer class. You can't just get rid of the poor and expect all the other classes to remain stagnant. So, it would be pointless genocide, as the poor would come back.


There are multiple reasons why the rich wouldn't kill off the poor in your scenario.

"Killing off the poor? Do you have any idea how much money that would take?!"

The easiest reason your aristocrats haven't killed off the unwashed masses is because it's an exorbitant expenditure of money for essentially no gain.

It isn't exactly a cheap thing to kill off people en-masse. The Nazis had entire departments devoted to calculating fuel costs and coming up with the most efficient fuel-per-person kill methods. There are even historians that would argue their "final solution" was the reason they lost the war, i.e. they were so hung up with genocide that they didn't have the budget or resources to keep building their war machine to fight the allies.

Even in an automated system without any human labor, trains take diesel, furnaces take propane, chemical gases have to be created in factories that take non-trivial amounts of chemical feedstocks, and bullets aren't free.

You also have to dispose of the bodies somehow. What's the point in having your beautiful villa in the suburbs with the eyesore of dead bodies all around it?

Genocide is serious and costly business.

Completely eliminating the poor would take literally billions of dollars, and for what? There's very little to gain for such an expenditure. You don't get rich spending money killing the poor.

If all the poor are gone, then the poorest Aristocrats become the new poor

One thing to keep in mind is that poverty is relative. A person making $30,000 USD a year is going to be experiencing hardship in America, but if they made the equivalent of that in a third world country then they become the rich aristocratic elite.

If your Aristocrat class destroys the entire poor population, then the poorest of your Aristocrats becomes the new poor. Therefore, you're going to see a pressure from the "least rich" to avoid letting that happen, lest it happen to them next.


Well actually a lot of reasons.....

  1. Morality, Being rich dosnt automatically make you a psychopath.

  2. No reason to. People are rarely evil just for thrills. The masses maybe "useless" but if they are no threat to the 1% why not just let them be useless.

  3. Because the 1% is now the 100%. With good enough automation there no reason we can't support the entire population in luxury without them need to work. They would be no useless underclass there is only one big useless upclass live in a mythical socialist utopia, at least until the robot rebellion.

  4. No customer base, as it has already been said what is the point of make products if there is no one to sell it to.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ With regards to #3, there could be sufficient automation but insufficient resources to go around. $\endgroup$
    – DKNguyen
    Aug 17, 2022 at 18:48
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ This is a nice concise list. $\endgroup$
    – Tim Bird
    Aug 17, 2022 at 20:33
  • $\begingroup$ @DKNguyen actually Animation on this level would completely Fix our resource problems. Recycling is an inefficient and slow process when done by humans if it were done by sufficiently advanced automated system then that would pretty much push us into a post scarcity civilization. $\endgroup$ Aug 17, 2022 at 21:17

Economically there is no reason to keep people around if AI is better at all jobs. That's the ominous truth.

So it would have to be some emotional or intellectual reason without economic benefit. The same way that people keep pets, for example.

But I think it is also important to look at the other side - not the benefit of keeping them around, but the cost.

The AIs can provide everything you need to keep your pet people around, and keep them under control if they get unruly, so why wouldn't they? They're not really losing anything.


Basically pets

Or, a future equivalent thereof. If everyone is rich (in this answer I stop counting poor people as people, because that's what this answer boils down to), what is there to do? Who to look up to, who to look down to? People want something to strive to and something to beware of.

And if you kill off all the poor people, the billionaires will be the new poor. So they have a vested interest in keeping a semblance of society below them alive. This also goes for charity drives, societal events and so on. They all feel much better when you're actually helping people (without solving any actual structural issues of course).

Every rich person already has their own hospital, library and park, so your "generous donations" to the public (aka tax writeoffs) would be ridiculous and wouldn't feel so good. But slapping your name on a library in a poor city(everywhere outside of the walled rich cities) is the act of a true benefactor, enough to feel good about yourself for a day or two. And the applauding masses when you open the Richman-Richmansson-Stadium for them to play whatever boring sport the plebs are into today.

Additionally, on a larger scale, poor plebs far enough away, starved from actual participation might be entertaining. If war doesn't affect you at all (and you've long stopped thinking about non-rich people as real humans, imho a requirement to be rich in that scenario) fueds in far away places might just act as a source of entertainment. Yes, AI could hallucinate far cooler looking war footage or make up a much more thrilling coup story of that small AI-less nation, but this is real, you can charter an ultra-armored plane with protection bots and go visit for a level of thrill no VR-simulation can ever achieve. Your personal spyplane can get you a you-controlled live feed of the trenches. YOU can be the savior that brokers peace (if you care or if that entertains you).

None of that can be simulated, the masses keep you stimulated


Didn't Douglas Adams frame this theory in one of his Hitchhiker skits?

The wealthy and well-to-do when leaving their overused planet built two giant spacecraft, one for themselves and one for those they considered "unworthy". The maids, etc. Then they sabotaged the lesserlings craft so it wouldn't go where they were going.

In the long run the well-to-do all died from some kind of strange disease born from not having someone clean a phone handset because it was a job they were above.

This could be something I'm recalling incorrectly. It's been years since reading the books or listening to the dramas.

  • $\begingroup$ Not quite. He had 3. The leaders were in one ship. The toilet cleaners and laborers were in another. That ship was valued. The ship that was designed to fail contained the bureaucrats, middle managers, and telephone cleaners. $\endgroup$
    – user86462
    Aug 17, 2022 at 19:28
  • $\begingroup$ You're talking about the Golgafrinchans. The first and third ships were never built. The disaster was just a ploy to get rid of the "useless third" of the population. $\endgroup$ Aug 20, 2022 at 21:15

Socialists vs. Sociopaths

This is a question that posits what will happen in a post-scarcity society. This is a very real problem that we're going to have to face in a hundred years or so. TLDR answer: the humanity of the wealthy will keep them from killing people. This will result in a conflict between the wealthy, with the Socialists working to wrest resources from the Sociopaths.

The first absolute necessity is going to be a guaranteed basic income. When half of the people on the planet are literally useless, then you have two choices: kill them or feed them. Basically, shelter, food, health care, education provided to absolutely everyone without discrimination.

The second thing you'll need to do is cap population growth. Feeding and housing everyone is sustainable, but feeding and housing as many humans bodies as we can possibly pump out isn't. When you have nothing in particular to occupy your time, the default behavior is ALWAYS going to be breeding and our population is already above sustainable levels.

The form of population control will need to be negotiated. Maybe only those with marketable skills will be allowed. Maybe people have to pay for it. Maybe there's a baby lottery. Maybe The Grand Old Party will get to pick and choose. Maybe there will be a combination of the above. This will be another layer of the Socialist vs. Sociopath conflict.

Durable labor opportunities

This brings us back to the original question: what do people get paid for? There are a few occupations that are incredibly automation resistant.

The entire service industry is in that area. Any time you go to a restaurant, you're paying for someone else to serve you. The commissaries for basic food are basically going to be automated restaurants, and the value add of a normal restaurant is that you get served by a person. Butlers, security guards, chauffeurs etc. fall into this category.

Performers are a service. This includes sports, music, acting, sex workers etc. Compare the wedding receptions you've been to with a live band vs. the ones with a DJ vs. the ones where they just play a set list over the speakers. We don't care how well a computer can sing or play music. We reduce our opinion of a singer if they use autotune. Even for fully animated characters, the movies use a live actor with motion capture.

Politicians, lawyers, and advocates will always exist. A certain amount of that can be automated, but the ability to draw out what a person actually wants vs. what they think they want is just as much an art as convincing people that you're giving them what they want.

Software engineering will never stop being important. It's basically the ability to turn scattered human thoughts into correctly behaving instructions. Anybody who as tried to manage people knows how hard it is to express yourself clearly, even to a human. Doing so for a machine takes skills that are hard to appreciate until you've tried it yourself.

The basics is that machines will house and feed those who can't perform, and the performers will draw income to improve their status.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ "Socialist" and "sociopath" are not at all mutually exclusive, as the history of socialism shows. $\endgroup$
    – user76284
    Aug 17, 2022 at 23:12
  • $\begingroup$ @user76284, Do you care if the other members of your society live or die? Like enough to expend part of your income to do something about it? Then you're a socialist. If not, you're a sociopath. It's pretty much a binary differentiation. You might be thinking, "I don't have to pay taxes to care about people. I give to charity." That just means that you can turn your empathy on and off at will, and that's the very definition of sociopathy. $\endgroup$ Aug 18, 2022 at 4:13
  • $\begingroup$ "Then you're a socialist." Nope. You just don't know the meaning of the words you babble with. $\endgroup$
    – user76284
    Aug 19, 2022 at 0:05
  • $\begingroup$ Giving to charity is "the very definition of sociopathy"? You're a hopelessly confused and senseless individual. $\endgroup$
    – user76284
    Aug 19, 2022 at 4:04
  • $\begingroup$ @user76284, You misunderstand. Charity is an expression of concern, right? It's also an indication of who you do and don't care about. Perhaps you think it's too much to ask to care about everybody, but that's the essence of socialism. Charity is when you make an exception to your lack of concern about others. $\endgroup$ Aug 20, 2022 at 2:29

"can you give a good reasons the rich would fail to get rid of the poor" if you replace 'rich' with autocratic feifdoms of any local optimization, AI with eugenic/crop targetted syn-bio, and poor with those deciding whether to engage with abusive tech defiantly, or deny it and hope they will not be the last generation that remembered a world before they felt the neon gods eye. brooding every twitch in an immaculate gyre, what dream of hell we poison the well staring at immortal pain, the winding gyre silent, lo the epoc of the electric god.

  • $\begingroup$ goddam used gyre twice heh, was feelin' somethin'. $\endgroup$ Aug 17, 2022 at 23:31
  • $\begingroup$ Evocative, powerful. Alas it doesn't touch the questioner's ask, the searing eternal question that burns all who's minds 'till they fall silent in despair, the reason for torment, that ultimate inchoate scream of prayer in the inferno's blaze, that last demand of the dumb and heedless gods uttered in knowing futility - WHY? Please take our tour and read our rather prosaic help center for guidance. Enjoy the site ;) $\endgroup$ Aug 18, 2022 at 0:41

Your question was a little long.

I think I can rephrase it:

If robots do all of the work in the future, and people do not work anymore, what would prevent the wealthy from killing the poor?

I don't see why rich people would have any incentive to kill the poor.

The present day real animosity between rich people and poor people only exists because robots do NOT do all of the work.

Nobody enjoys pushing shopping carts (aka "buggies" or "trollies") in a parking lot for 8 hours per day 5 days per week.

Poor people hate their jobs. Poor people envy the rich and want to know why the rich are not waiting tables in a restaurant, driving a tractor trailer (semi-truck or "Lorry"), or being more useful.

The wealthy do not want to work. The wealthy resent the poor because the poor want to take their goodies away and impress the wealthy into hard labor.

If robots did all of the work, then every human being would have all of the food, clothing, etc... that a person could want. As such, the wealthy would not have to worry about having to stack boxes in a warehouse some day. The poor would have no need to steal goodies from the rich, because the robots would produce plenty of goodies for the poor.

Rich people fear losing what they have. Poor people want to take things from the rich and force the rich to work. Mainly, people want to work less and have more stuff. The only reason that there is divisiveness between the the bottom of society and the upper echelon is that members of the upper class work less and have more. If nobody is forced to spend time working at somthing that they hate, then there will be no cause for resentment.

Nobody like picking up dog s@!t. The poor pick it up while the wealthy stand there and watch. The wealthy resent the poor because the poor might force the rich to get their hands dirty some day. The poor are angry because the poor spend more time than the rich picking up dog s#&t. The poor either feel it is unfair, or they envy the rich and want to live in the lap of luxury.

If a robot picks up dog.dropping/manure/scat for everyone, then the rich need not fear someday becoming poo-picker-uppers. The poor can stop hating their jobs because they won't have jobs.


What would keep the rich form just killing off the poor?

Pretty much just one thing.


As long as humans are in charge, even the most callous and psychotic of humans, there will be a flinch reaction at enough misery and suffering.

That sentiment, however vague, will be stretched and empowered by another thing.


Going and physically helping the poor, salving their wounds, feeding them, organizing the logistics, building them homes... that's hard. Telling your AI to do so? That's easy! It's something to talk about, brag about, it paints you in a good light, and it requires little effort from you. The less effort it requires, the more of it is going to be done.

Likewise, robots are efficient. Robots controlled by expert programs require very little upkeep compared to human labour, even human mind labour. The less humans involved in production, the cheaper it gets, and the richer the rich will become - and thus, the less % of their wealth it will require to provide some kind of basic aid to the poor. In some cases, attempts to move the poor somewhere else, or change their conditions (by killing them or empowering them) would be met with resistance from those who enjoy a pool of the less fortunate to look down on and be seen to be helping.

Charity balls remain ever popular, after all. Being seen to help the 'less fortunate' is valuable for people engaged in pointless social games.

One final factor would be the people who more seriously care about others. Attempts to kill off or otherwise torture the poor would be opposed by those individuals who for whatever reason have a larger sense of empathy than others. There is a noticeable segment of the population that despite cultural norms often extends themselves to help others, even amongst the ultra-rich there is occasionally a heir or repentant oligarch who takes serious measures to help those suffering. They exist, and unless the very rich were genetically augmented for greater 'competitive advantage' or some such, they would likely continue to occur amongst the moneyed classes.


We have around two centuries of experience with automation now, and the one thing we've learnt is that the need for human labour doesn't disappear. It shifts, moves, maybe is reduced somewhat but honestly, not all that much.

In most industrialized countries today, we have more people with jobs (even discounting the unemployed etc.) than we've ever had in history.

All those AIs need programming. All those robots need building. Someone organizes the factory, designs the user interface, tests the new products, handles sales and returns, writes the software, creates the ads and product flyers, goes to the trade shows and ships the whole stuff to the buyers.

There's also the entire service industry. From call center agents to government workers to prostitutes - there's things where you need a human to understand and hopefully solve your problem.

We used to have that, you know? The rich of the past centuries employed dozens of servants per person. Many of these jobs are now done by machines (washing machines, lawnmowers, etc.) but many still are not, we just changed how they are structured - we go to eat in a restaurant with cooks and waiters instead of visiting a friend whose kitchen staff and servants did essentially the same (cooking and serving).

We also figured out much more useful things to do with the poor than getting rid of them. With a bit of economic pressure, trash-TV and propaganda to make them believe that if they work hard and don't question the system, they too could make it and become rich. Voila, there's your servile, hard-working peasant class. It's always useful to have them around, and if you structure your tax and social security system properly, they'll not only pay for and feed themselves, they'll also generate excess wealth that you can siphon off, redirect to yourself via tax breaks and other loopholes, and finance your third superyacht with. Which, ironically, someone needs to design, build and paint, and no matter how much you automate, some of that work is better done by humans (your perception of beauty and good design and the idea of an AI about that may not exactly match, you know?).


The pure can also organize themselves and fight for they rights. They have majority. They still may seize enough weapons or simply fight better than robots. It is not clear how to kill most the humanity without harming the planet too much: launching nuclear weapons is likely not good option, deadly viruses may leave enough survivors with immunity.

It is wrong to think that everyone of them will be just for himself, helpless alone yet not capable of for any kind of co-operation with brothers of fate. Humans can form structures and have they own leaders loyal to them. It will be thinkers proposing solutions for the problem, from free money for living till simply banning the most advanced robots.

The rich caste with too much ambitions will soon be overturned. We have seen this in the past. Early, very primitive capitalism without any basic protection and rights for workers was pretty close to that and see that happened.


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