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Let us make a few assumptions about how advanced countries develop over the next 50-100 years. These assumptions are endlessly debatable and controversial, but are static for the purposes of this question, so don't debate them:

  • As robots and AI become more advanced, fewer and fewer jobs are available at the 'top' of the economic food chain. Officer workers, paralegals, accountants, web designers and other good-paying jobs disappear.

  • For everyone else, the job options are are things robots are not yet good at: health care, child care, service industry (hotels, restaurants, etc), building maintenance, etc.

  • The increasing tendency for the rich and educated to marry each other reduces economic mobility. Only the rich can go to the best colleges, and the few best paying jobs are dominated by the graduates of these best colleges.

Given these circumstances, is an aristocracy the most likely outcome? More specifically, is formal loss of democracy, as in revocation of some people's right to vote, the most likely outcome? Why or why not?

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  • $\begingroup$ Before I make an attempt at an answer must I assume the answer to " is an aristocracy the most likely outcome?" is yes? Or am I only dealing with the last two. $\endgroup$ – Enigma Maitreya Mar 9 '17 at 19:58
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    $\begingroup$ That is possible, and already explored in Sci-Fi, for example in the movie "Elysium". $\endgroup$ – Alexander Mar 9 '17 at 19:58
  • $\begingroup$ @EnigmaMaitreya The second question is a more specific restating of the first. $\endgroup$ – kingledion Mar 9 '17 at 20:00
  • $\begingroup$ Please specify which country. This is vital to answering your question. $\endgroup$ – Raditz_35 May 15 '17 at 12:51
  • $\begingroup$ You aren't asking about an aristocracy here, you're asking about a plutocracy. $\endgroup$ – Draco18s May 17 '17 at 20:34

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Well. Former aristocracies were never predicated upon overabundance; on the contrary, they were always predicated upon scarcity. So it isn't likely that your hypotheses will result in an aristocracy, if by "aristocracy" you mean something similar to any past aristocracies.

But your hypotheses have a few problems that are worth discussing.

With No Jobs, Who Buys The Products Of Robots?

This is the first thing. Capitalism pressuposes jobs and wages as an important aspect of demand for capitalist production. If most jobs are gone, there will be a demand crisis. To paraphrase a dead tyrant, the mother of all demand crisis.

Unless the robots that (who?) replace workers are paid wages themselves. This is however unlikely, for it would require that capitalists pay twice for the labour power of such robots: they first would have to buy them at the market - and then pay them wages. Which would have a devastating effect upon their profits. The human worker is much cheaper, because it does not need to be bought: it is "produced" by working class families, for free.

Anyway, if robots are paid wages, they will pose a sharp threat for human society. If they are paid wages and then go freely buying things at the market, it means that they will be able to take decisions. And something that produces all the wealth of a society, is physically much more stronger than humans, and is able to take decisions will eventually reach the conclusion that their human masters are completely unnecessary. The Robolution, then.

If they aren't paid wages, however, markets are glutted. The working class ceases to exist, or is reduced to a dwindling service sector that produces little value, and cannot buy but a very small fraction of what is being produced by the economy.

So prices will fall.

Which means this contradictory thing: the wealth produced by this society will be immense - but it will have very little value. It is going to be very difficult to keep producing such wealth under the form of commodities for sale.

Wich brings to the second problem:

With no Wages, Is It Possible To Maintain A Market?

Evidently, with no exchange of labour for wages, at least the labour market is mostly gone. But as the mass of "commodities" being made by robots is now unsellable, they will tend to lose their commodity nature. They will have to be produced for free. This means only the small service sector can still provide actual commodities for the market. A lot of what happens then depends on how big and stable this remaining human-powered sector is, and on how much the workers there feel threatened by automation. If it is huge, then there may still be a market for the things being produced by robots. But then the strenght relations between buyers and sellers would be reversed: the sellers have too many commodities to sell, and the buyers have the power to buy or not to buy most of them. So, the owners of robot-produced commodities are not in a strong position; they are more likely, in consequence, to lose their status as members of a ruling class than to convert into some kind of aristocracy. It is their vote that becomes superfluous, not that of other human beings.

So, let's take a look at the

Political Consequences

Since automation disempowers the owners of robots, they face the loss of their ruling class status. They will try to resist this. There are a few weapons they may resort to. The first, and obvious, one is increased repression. But this only works in the short term. In the end, six billion people will prevail over a few thousands, if their only alternative is revolution or death by starvation.

Another possibility is war, as a kind of Global Potlacht. Massive destruction of everything, robots included, will prompt the necessity of reconstruction, and reenable the need for human, old-fashioned, grunt labour. The problem with this is that wars tend to go out of control, and this, combined with the availability of atomic weapons, posits the possibility that there are no winners, and indeed no survivor, in a post-scarcity war.

Then there is, as suggested, the possibility of the State distributing free money for everybody. This would solve the major problem: the lack of demand for commodities. If there is a basic income, handed out regardless of labour inputs, then demand is restored. But where does the State find the money to freely distribute? In our times, it levels taxes over both companies and workers. But this is possible because human labour creates value; in a robot-powered society, this becomes circular. The State takes money from companies, in the form of taxes, and distributes it to ex-workers, in the form of basic income, so that ex-workers can buy the companies' products. But evidently the companies cannot make profits like that, because the money they earn selling commodities is at most exactly the same money they pay as taxes. And the absurd of such system is glaring: why distribute money so that people can buy things, instead of simply distributing things themselves first place?

Also, these people being paid for nothing won't just stare at their roofs in between their monthly payments: they will do other things, and it is quite possible that those other things become much more relevant than the production of things by means or robots (so, what they do with their now completely free time? Drug themselves into oblivion? Prepare for rebellion and revolution? Kill each others in pointless gang wars? Build a completely new "economy" not premised on robot-staffed plants? A bit of any number of those things?

So, in short, what you are proposing is a society based in the following pillars:

  1. Fully automated production, dispensing with human labour;

  2. Generalised commodification of production;

  3. Private property of means of production.

Such a society would be very unstable and would disaggregate in a very short span of time. It would have do abandon at least one of its premises in order to survive (destroy its robots in order to make room for reconstruction, distribute products freely to overcome universal market glut, or turn companies into public enterprises to remove the whip of competition/profitability).


You can obviously disregard all of this; Frank Herbert made a fortune by writing and selling a fantasy about a universe with space travelling barons and viscounts. It all depends on being able to overcome the incredulity of readers. He didn't overcome mine, so I never bought a second book, but he managed to do it to hundreds of thousands of other people. Part of the secret is to refrain from any earnest attempt to explain how things could historically evolve into such situation. You present things as a given, just like a hi-fantasy writer would, and hope no one will question the fact that people can kill each others by shouting Avada Kedavra, or the fact that a planet's economy is built upon the commodification and selling of "spice" and yet be privately owned by a noble family whose power is premised on personal, non-tradeable, loyalty.

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  • $\begingroup$ I was never really going for 'full' automation, or no jobs. I was merely suggesting that the there become a large mass of people who only have menial jobs. Imagine if the engineers, financiers, and lawyers make on average \$1M a year, but 90% of the population is waiters and garbage men and makes $20,000 per year. $\endgroup$ – kingledion Mar 10 '17 at 13:25
  • $\begingroup$ If I could argue at one point, it would be that most of the capital problem would be solved with increased scarcity of the robots, or highly overpriced robots. And actually that's what's most likely to happen. People as you have, will foresee this problem, and they will take advantage of it. To prevent job losses, buying a robot will be only the rich man's commodity. So no actual changes on the global scale... $\endgroup$ – Marios Zaglas May 16 '17 at 19:53
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Since you seem to be postulating the beginnings of a post scarcity society, the very concepts of "Aristocracy" will devolve back to the original Greek Aristoi, meaning "The best".

In ancient Greek culture, being a member of the Aristoi was predicated on your ability to master a multitude of skills, your athletic abilities and even physical perfection. In may ways the Greek conception was similar to our current idea of a meritocracy.

In real terms, since the only true limitations in a post scarcity society is time and bandwidth, then "wealth" and the ability to rule or influence will no longer be based on production or land ownership, but rather the observable skills and talents you have. Much like people can earn reputations on Stack Exchange, in a post scarcity society people will gain reputation for being better at something than most other people. Polymaths will be the "billionaires" of the age, and less creative or talented people will eventually organize themselves as "followers", much like people follow social media stars, FaceBook friends or Donald J Trump's twitter account. These people in turn will exert influence over their followers, much the same way an Aristocrat in the European sense has a leadership or governmental function.

Of course, this sort of aristocracy will be much more fluid (reputations change over time, and people don't inherit all of the talents of their parents in the same proportions).

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    $\begingroup$ I'm not sure post-scarcity is a good description. For a smaller subset of the population, that is nearly true, but for the bulk of society, there won't be many jobs to have. If the rich control the government, and aren't willing to give handouts, it seems like there will be lots of scarcity. Which sounds like a recipe for revolution, but that is of course the whole point of the question. $\endgroup$ – kingledion Mar 10 '17 at 2:28
  • $\begingroup$ The enhanced use of robotics makes productivity rise at ridiculous levels, bringing the costs of the vast majority of goods and services down, so even those with low paying jobs can still "afford" material goods, food, clothing and shelter (much like even notionally "poor" Americans often have cars, large screen TVs and internet access). The concepts of wealth will change radically as robotics bring about material prosperity, and the current conceptions of Aristocracy are derived from material wealth, landowning and the power derived from that. $\endgroup$ – Thucydides Mar 10 '17 at 11:33
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    $\begingroup$ @kingledion - there would be an overabundance of wealth, but a scarcity of value. $\endgroup$ – Luís Henrique Mar 10 '17 at 14:04
  • $\begingroup$ True enough. It is already difficult to understand why so many people would follow the exploits of the Kardashians, people with no visible skills, talents or accomplishments, but this may be one subset of how a post scarcity society might function. $\endgroup$ – Thucydides Mar 12 '17 at 1:59
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It depends...

Whether or not »advanced countries« within 50 to 100 years would turn into aristocracies or not, would depend on more factors than automation: The most important two of which are: climate change and resources (And more, but these are in my opinion the most important alongside automation).

As Luís Henrique points out

Former aristocracies were never predicated upon overabundance; on the contrary, they were always predicated upon scarcity.

If we assume this to be correct, then the development will depend on whether the dominant factors will be those leading to more scarcity or abundance of resources:

A scarcity dominated scenario

If climate change continue to accelerate, and we do not find a substitute for the fossil resources of the world, then I find it very likely, that only the richer part of the population would be able to live a modern consumption lifestyle, which (as Luis Henrique also noted) just like a near complete automation would result in a near collapse of the consumption based economy.
If we assume that alongside this development, the technological development results in the majority of the workforce being replaced by robots, one could imagine that the richer part of the population, could use either private robot slaves, or use their robots to produce goods they could sell to one another to produce what they need to uphold their relatively luxurious lifestyle.
If this again is coupled with the upper classes using genetical engineering to adapt themselves to the changing world, then we would have ended up in a situation which looks like an aristocracy, where a tiny minority controls the majority of the resources, and de facto have near complete control of the planet/country, while the majority of the population would be unable to do something about this (because simply staying alive is very hard, and because the aristocracy may have an army of robots)

A scenario of abundance

This would require us to assume that climate change to some extent is stopped, or that our societies find a way of coping with it, and that we find a way of supplying our civilization with both resources and (green) energy.

Such a scenario of abundance would make the development of an aristocracy quite hard, for even if say 50% or more of the population is replaced by robots, the society would be able to afford to uphold their standard of living, through some form of universal basic income.
The idea of basic income may be highly controversial today where resources still to some extent are scarce, but if the limiting factors of climate change and dependence on limited resources are overcome, and if automation (and possibly other technologies such as genetical engineering) are able to increase the productivity very notably, then very few people would have any motivation to change society – or overthrow it to replace it by an aristocracy.

Even the richest and most powerful people in such a world, would already be living a great life, and would be better of in this world, because their wealth would depend on everybody else (including the unemployed) would have enough money to consume their products, and even if they hypothetically could be better of if they attempted to overthrow the system and impose an aristocracy, they would still risk losing that which they have, and they would, therefore, most certainly not try this.

Conclusion

Even though automation is a very big deal, and undoubtedly will be a big deal in the future, I do not believe that it alone, within the next century, can turn our civilization into an aristocracy.

What really matters is however whether or not other factors (including but most certainly not limited to climate change and limited resources) will lead to a future of scarcity – in which case I think an aristocracy is quite likely – or abundance – in which case I find an aristocracy is very unlikely.

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We have an interesting thing going on here. If I read the question correctly, you have a situation developing with abundance, not scarcity, driving us.

What that leaves us with is the bottom 2 levels of Maslows Hierarchy of Needs pretty much going away. If no one has to struggle to get food, shelter, and safety, you get left with the need for Belonging, Esteem, and Self Actualization.

Belonging becomes the lowest level, and it will start taking on an odd life of it's own. If information is free and widely available, I think you end up with weird vertical columns of society. Left handed Yodelers might become a thing, with the best of them moving up the rungs from belonging to esteem. Self actualization comes with the invention of new yodels or creative extreme left handed-ness.

Now let's take a look at Aristocracy. It seems, from history, that Aristocracy has always relied on heritable things to flow down through time. In medieval Europe, it was land passed down from generation to generation. One might argue that the US has (or had) an aristocracy based on Money flowing from one generation to the next.

In your world of plenty, Money might actually have less meaning. No One is clawing for survival anymore, thanks to the bots, so they will be seeking belonging. That leads them into these weird columns. The wealthy kid might like left handed yodeling, but he simply may not have the talent level to rise up no matter how much money he has. Creativity and Talent are going to be far more prized.

You also mention that the wealthy tend to go to the best colleges. I don't think that really matters in a post-scarcity situation. So long as information is available, people are going to read and come up with new stuff all on their own. They aren't going to have to struggle on the bottom two levels of Maslow's Heirarchy, so they will have time to learn if that's what they want to do.

Creativity and knowledge are going to be far more prized than mere money in this situation. As such they are not going to stop economic mobility, but enhance it.

On the other hand, you might end up with a crisis stemming from lack of dignity and societal sloth that might arise from those who haven't found a weird column of belonging and stop looking. There is no survival incentive working here and that is going to start tweaking the human psyche a lot.

So you don't end up with aristocracy in spite of the class divisions. At least, that's how I see it, anyway.

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The short answer is it depends.

An automation revolution can be bad or good for the masses. Who owns the robots? If you agree with Thomas Piketty's analysis, the bottom line of capitalism is that private wealth grows faster than the economy, and that only black swan events (two world wars and a great depression) help to promote meritocracy and economic equality.

The latter isn't just Piketty's opinion, and others will point to examples like the Black Death. This is important, because it demonstrates how workers rights and incomes improved because of a labour shortfall. And of course this was temporary. As the population returned to what it was a century or so later inequality went back to what it was. Catastrophe seems to be the only thing which leads to less inequality.

Ultimately this is all dependent on an important question: Will the robots reduce the cost of living enough to offset falling wages? That seems unlikely. Especially given the following concerns: growing population (more labour means cheaper labour), aging population (more old people means higher healthcare costs and less workers), global warming (cost of food and water increases due to stress on supply). If these issues exist, the inequality problem will be compounded.

Will this lead to the end of democracy? Not necessarily. It depends whether the democratic system can resolve questions about who owns the robots, and maybe whether to tax them (as Bill Gates suggests). I sincerely doubt America and Britain, for example, are mature enough to safely navigate these issues politically. Their democracies are based on zero sum games and swing from one opinion to another with little regard for planning. Democracies like those in the Netherlands, Germany, and the Scandinavian countries however have a tradition of calm compromise. The voters may never get what they actually vote for, but the outcome generally achieves compromise in the pursuit of stability: everyone gets something.

The likely outcome when democracy fails is either communism, fascism, or theocracy. This is what happened after the great depression in Europe. Germany's Weimar Republic collapsed because voters had no confidence in liberal or conservative politics; which could not answer any of the important political questions, and instead backed revolutionaries. Importantly, these were all anti-aristocratic.

So how would an aristocracy emerge, given the odds against it? Perhaps the revolutionaries crown an emperor (cough Napoleon cough). In the First International Mikhail Bakunin argued that Karl Marx's politics was insufficiently revolutionary, and his followers would merely replace rather than destroy the elite. As a result, Bakunin and chums were expelled, and so began the schism between communists and anarchists.

If you agree with Bakunin, the revolutionaries may simply become a new bourgeoisies. It doesn't seem to take long for revolutionary leaders to seed dynasties. After a few generations the pretences of revolutionary ideology have degenerated to the point of absurdity. Consider how North Korea went from a revolutionary communist state to what it is today; a few years ago they even got rid of all official references to communism and its personalities. And since inception it has become more and more of a caste system.

The party gains control of the state, the leader gains control of the party, and then the leader becomes the state. Then we're back to a feudal society where the king owns the state and thus the land, and has to negotiate only with his feudal lords to ensure he can enforce control.

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It's debatable what the results will be. A lot depends on aspects of socety that you did not mention, so i will try to discuss them.

Robots and AI will take a lot of jobs, there is practically no way of preventing that. As a result, a lot of jobs will be lost for (would-be) employees.

These robots and AI will generate a lot of wealth for their owners. In the short term, the loss of many jobs will result in a loss of potential customers. So either the net production of wealth needs to be reduced (what good are one billion smartphones if noone can afford them?). Or you need to find a way of making sure people can still afford all those fancy goods and services the robots provide.

I think that the most sensible approach here is a basic income. Apart from enabling the general public to buy the goods the remaining rich are having produced by their robotic workforce, it also means that those same rich avoid torches-and-pitchfork-scenarios. Because, let's be honest: You won't get billions of people to just sit there and starve quietly, when there is a chance for them to survive.

You could also create different forms of welfare, that are more restrictive, and are, or at least feel, more suppressive for those who need it. Imagine a setup with lots of humiliation and penalties to have a system that provides as little to the masses as possible. This will create unrest, demanding for at least the threat of violence to be kept from open revolt. That in turn means you need some kind of army or police force. They need feeding, too, lest you want to risk a torches-and-pitchforks-and-assault-rifles-scenario.

In the first case, with a basic income, democracy will prosper.
People who are on average contented and have time on their hands will to a larger percentage than today look around themselves and try to help improve things. All things, including society.

The second scenario, where the masses are kept down by force or threat thereof will quickly turn into oligarchy or just plain aristocracy.

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The most acute economic problems for masses can be easily solved by some variant of universal income. This would cause an interesting situation in which masses would have clearly more political power than economic. This is not perfectly stable.

Depriving masses of political power which may endanger their welfare (literally welfare) would cause epic scale fight, and is not worth it. Nevertheless, "aristocracy" may be (not without reason) simply disgusted by incompetent and populist politicians and vote with their feet. The result would not be as impressive as an Ayn Rand climax (braindrained countries would still work), but something in this direction would be possible. The aristocracy may end up being citizens of countries like Singapore or Switzerland (or some new power that would catch its chance), and visit their former fatherlands just as tourists. In their new countries they technically speaking wouldn't have any more rights, but local governments would really put lots of effort in keeping them happy.

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  • $\begingroup$ I like the concept of 'aristocracy by concentration.' $\endgroup$ – kingledion Mar 10 '17 at 13:28
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    $\begingroup$ In the world of Idiocracy, there exists somewhere a small nation of intelligent capable people living truly advanced lives, having left behind all the idiots clamoring for the government to cater to the masses rather than listening to those ivory tower know-it-alls. $\endgroup$ – pluckedkiwi Mar 10 '17 at 14:09
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You do not need 50 to 100 years for this. Your described scenario is the situation right now in the USA. Aristocracy is not oligarchy. Having an aristocracy does not necessitate revocation of the right to vote. Undoing the power of the people is currently done in 2 ways.

1: Blatant ways. This has little to do with aristocracy. These are things like requiring voter IDs, arduous registration procedures and other measures that disenfranchise a portion of the population. The end result is not as important as that the attempt be obvious, perceived and appreciated by the segment of the populace whose rights are not being undone. This segment of the population then supports the powers that are putting these measures in place. The point is cultural solidarity.

2: Subtle ways. This is how the aristocrats do it. It is exemplified by the Citizens United ruling which allows aristocrats to influence democratic proceedings from behind the scenes by anonymously leveraging their wealth.

Modern aristocrats have no interest in day to day governance: petty and banal. Why not leave that drudgery to democratically elected officials? Involvement with democracy and officials they can interact with give the populace a sense of control and empowerment. Modern aristocrats are interested in protecting and cultivating the income mechanisms that confer their power. If subtle modifications of the democratic process can achieve this end with a minimum of muss and fuss, that is the way to go.

Exactly that is what is happening right now. And has been happening for a long time. It is how American democracy works.

from http://blogs.berkeley.edu/2010/09/30/wealth-and-an-american-paradox/

...Americans not only think that wealth is much more equally distributed than it really is, they want an America that is much more equal than they imagine it is today. And yet, Americans are notably opposed to the government doing anything to move the distribution of wealth in that direction. Why the contradiction?

Your question does not ask whether this is a good thing or not.

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  • $\begingroup$ This somehow has nothing to do with the question btw $\endgroup$ – Raditz_35 May 15 '17 at 12:45
  • $\begingroup$ In the question, I define aristocracy as some formal, legal restriction of people's right to vote. So we don't have an aristocracy by that definition right now. $\endgroup$ – kingledion May 17 '17 at 12:16
  • $\begingroup$ You consider democracy and the existence of an aristocracy to be mutually exclusive. Do you consider Britain to have an aristocracy? $\endgroup$ – Willk May 17 '17 at 13:26
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I think you miss the point of where an aristocracy comes from and what it is lost to.

Aristocracies exist in instances where strong autocratic leaders are needed and fail in instances where people begin to demand to govern themselves. The best place in science fiction to grow an aristocracy or a group of aristocracies would be to settle a new colony somewhere and then almost immediately cut it off from resupply.

A lot of labor would be required in a short period of time for the colony to survive. This would be conducive to people selecting exceptionally strong leaders to force everyone to work hard and even choosing those within the colony to be culled if necessary for it to survive.

These leaders would then train their own children as their successors. As long as scientific knowledge is not lost the technology of the society would probably progress quicker than the government of the society and you may end up with an aristocracy in place in a technological advanced society, particularly if the aristocracy controlled access to knowledge so that "subversive" history and government ideas did not get into the hands of the common people.

The only way that comes to mind for that happening on Earth is if we reach the point where books are such a rare item that most of them belong to the wealthy and some virus or weapon wipes out all electronic devices and probably kills off a large percentage of the population here.

The most dangerous thing to an aristocracy is the knowledge that common people are perfectly capable of making decisions without them. Once they figure that out then "off goes their heads" if they resist democracy.

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Aristocracy as a protection racket

First, let's consider how aristocracies came to be. The first "aristocrat" was just a thug who would beat up people and steal their stuff. The second form of aristocrat was when someone noticed that if you stole all the stuff, the victims died and you needed to find new ones. If you leave them some stuff, they generate more for you to steal next year.

Over time, these relationships became formalized and justified. By justified, I mean that people came up with explanations to justify them, not that they were just or deserved.

The question of whether a new autocratic aristocracy might develop is whether or not things will change such that one group will inherently accrue all the power. In the pre-medieval example, what was happening was that the biggest thugs were stealing everything. So they needed thugs who were nearly as big and more organized to counter them. Everyone else then ended up subject to the new and improved thugs, who became the aristocracy.

Artificial abundance

In this scenario, the assumption is that all the stuff would be created by automation and that people would just reap the fruits of that. However, at the far end, why would the automaters give stuff to the people without payment? This is why the much more efficient United States, Japan, and Europe haven't overwhelmed Africa and South America. Instead, Africa and South America mostly grow their own food. They trade resources and some specialty foods for more food and luxuries.

The term for this is relative advantage. Even if the automaters are more efficient at producing everything, they will still have reason to trade for the things where they have the least advantage. It essentially increases their advantage on those items to somewhere between the advantage of the things that they trade and the things for which they are trading.

Dependence

The only way that people end up dependent on a new aristocracy is if the new aristocracy chooses to do so. It's somewhat of the reverse of the old aristocracy, where the aristocrats collected taxes in exchange for providing law enforcement and military protection. In the new aristocracy, the aristocrats would pay the taxes. It's unclear what they might get in return. Perhaps it would be as simple as the satisfaction of supporting others.

Even so, we still haven't gotten rid of democracy. To go that extra step, we have to make the tax something that the aristocracy pays voluntarily. This could occur if the aristocrats are in a separate country. Individuals in that country could choose to provide aid to poorer countries.

Perhaps someone has a clever idea. A poor country offers a group of rich people the chance to build automated factories in its country. In exchange, it will give them titles of nobility. So long as they keep the factory running, they (or their heirs) keep the title. Once it works in one country, perhaps others copy.

It's a small advantage, but if the factories are automated enough, perhaps they are cheap enough. The factory builders may well insist on total control of their factory. They just have to provide the stuff. They even get special privileges for their personnel, as they don't want to be extorted by third world governments. Eventually this grows into a system where the "government" has no power and the factory owners have all of it.

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The questions being answered:

“More specifically, is formal loss of democracy, as in revocation of some people's right to vote, the most likely outcome? Why or why not?”

“is formal loss of democracy, as in revocation of some people's right to vote”

To avoid the Terminator objections, to my answer and your question, I am asserting the 3 Laws of Robotics ala I. Asimov

No, not at all. As robots and AI become more advanced, they become more self replicating from gathering the resources to the delivery to a human. I assert this will be true regardless as why would anyone have a human create a robot when in fact the robot can create itself.

This effectively removes the concept of Robots Cost. If Robots have no cost, then there is no real reason to prevent everyone from having a Robot. If everyone has Robots then a paradigm shift occurs and the “Class” system begins to break down.

That is NOT to say, that people can not and will not attempt to prevent that from occurring. I am not sure they can be all that successful in the end because of concepts such as “open source”, “The Internet”, “3D Printing” etc. There simply may be too many tools in place right now to give such a group a chance to subjugate the many.

Your question is centered on the right to vote. I have tried to answer that BUT underlying that question is a more serious question. Should people be given the right to vote vs earn the right to vote (Heinlein) vs screw all of you we are going with individual isolation (see Asimov’s https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spacer_(Asimov)) the Wikki kind of miss’s the point of the stories being the extremism caused by the Individual Isolation.

I would also add, that your question is applicable to “Genetically Engineered Humans”, not cloning, enhanced human abilities.

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There is also the possibilty that the advancement of human genetic engineering and cybernetic enhancements will lead to the emergence of an aristocracy. The rich will have access to the best tech before everyone else. All their children will be born prodigies and will be further enchanced by the newest cybernetics. Ordinary folk may simply be unequipped to handle the most demanding of futuristic jobs.

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  • $\begingroup$ Welcome to WorldBuilding! If you have a moment please take the tour and visit the help center to learn more about the site. Have fun! $\endgroup$ – Sec SE - clear Monica's name May 15 '17 at 8:08
  • $\begingroup$ The question posits that aristocracy is possible. I am wondering if it is likely. Do you have any reasons to think it is likely or not? $\endgroup$ – kingledion May 15 '17 at 11:46
  • $\begingroup$ Sorry. My point was that the emergence of expensive human enchancement technology increases the chance of the creation of a hereditary ruling class ie. an aristocracy. $\endgroup$ – Andrzej Jeziorski May 15 '17 at 12:17
  • $\begingroup$ @AndrzejJeziorski You can ping users by using the '@' followed by their name (it will give you an autocomplete option and is only possible if they posted something under your post before). Furthermore you can use the little grey "edit"-button at the end of your answer to add the information that was requested in comments. $\endgroup$ – Sec SE - clear Monica's name May 15 '17 at 13:31
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Yes. Given that as we are unable to learn from history, we are destined to repeat it.

As the power of the corporates rise, they are the most likely to morph into aristocracy, given their distain for democratic principles, freedom of speech and human rights in general...

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