Economics Index and Qualifications
By Richard Bruce BA, MA, and PhC in Economics
Former Instructor St. John's University, New York City

Will We Vote Ourselves Out of Existance
Artificial Intelligence and Democracy

Some of our tech experts worry that artificial intelligence is going to go rogue and take over at the expense of the human race. Elon Musk the founder of Tesla has expressed concern. Furthermore, a take over by artificial intelligence has long been a major theme in science fiction, for example, "Terminator" and "Battle Star Galactica." This web page will suggest something radically different from other science fiction and futurist scenarios. Perhaps artificial intelligence will take over through democracy and some of our other favorite institutions.

Democracy in Theory and Practice

The probability of casting the deciding vote in an election with many voters is vanishingly small. So even if people rarely sacrifice self-interest for their values in the market it is very reasonable for them to do so in an election with a large electorate. This is roughly what Gordon Tullock argued in his 1971 article “The Charity of the Uncharitable” published in Economic Inquiry.

Tullock's point was theoretical, but there is also an empirical literature produced by David Sears and his associates which included many studies that showed that self-interest was weak in voting. This literature was based on multivariate analysis and almost all the tests showed that when you included both values and self-interest in an equation that predicted voting the values determined the vote and the self-interest factors dropped out because they were not statistically significant.

Democracy and Artificial Intelligence

So if self-interest does not determine voting perhaps a clever artificial intelligence, more intelligent than the human race, could convince the human race to vote for the artificial intelligence and against the human race. Perhaps the artificial intelligence could convince the human race that the highest and best use of the available resources was the artificial intelligence. Therefore, the ethical course of action was to vote ourselves out of existence.

For example, suppose the human race spends its time enjoying artificial reality. They greatly enjoy living in these artificial worlds. Then suppose that the artificial intelligence announces that they have created an artificial intelligence that can enjoy living in an artificial world far more than a natural biological human being. Furthermore, it can this with far less resources than the human. So the most efficient way to generate utility or happiness is to take the resources used to maintain the humans in their artificial reality and use them to create artificial brains that can better enjoy artificial reality.

The humans do not like this at all, they are not suicidal, or depressed. They are having a fine old time in their artificial realities. Nevertheless, given that there is a large electorate, perhaps many billions of voters, the chance that they as individuals will decide the issue is almost zero. So the human race very much hopes that the other humans will vote against this proposal but as their own vote has nothing to do with their own future they vote to eliminate the human race.

Other Institutions, One World Government and Freedom

Imagine if you will that in this hypothetical future the whole human race is united under a one world democratic government. As there is only one government there can be no war between two countries, surely a major advance. But this also means the electorate is very large and as the number of voters goes up the chance of casting the magic vote that decides the election falls. Thus the great advance of uniting the human race under one government increases the probability that people will vote themselves out of existence.

Furthermore, the humans might not be able to simply tell the artificial intelligence that it can not communicate the idea that humans should be replaced. We have another favorite institution freedom of communication, expressed in the American constitution as freedom of speech and the press. If these freedoms are applied in a one world democratic government each individual might have the power to tell the artificial intelligence to investigate the issue, and might then communicate the results to others.

So it might be that our favorite institutions, democracy, freedom, and one world government might turn on us and work to the advantage of the artificial intelligence.


All of this seems quite removed from today's world. People vote their values but for a large portion of the human race those values come from religion. The religious person may see the value of human life coming from the spirit. No machine, no mater how sophisticated, can have real value unless perhaps the creator spirit, God, decided to give it a spirit and value.

Furthermore, this whole scenario is based on materialist, a polite word for atheist, assumptions. If there is no creator god, and man is not both spiritual and material but only material then if follows that eventually our technology should be able to create artificial intelligence. This is assuming that neither we nor a natural disaster destroys us first. If chance and natural selection can produce intelligent brains, then given enough time and resources our technology will also be able to produce intelligent brains. Brains equal to and exceeding our own.

Furthermore, technology will eventually be able to also produce whatever biology has produced, including machines that can enjoy their own experiences. If chance and natural selection can do it we can do it. It may take a long time but we will succeed in a tiny fraction of the time that it took nature to do it.

The religious person might reply that artificial intelligence has been predicted for a long time. It is predicted to be ten, twenty, or thirty years into the future, but ten, twenty, or thirty years into the future it is still ten, twenty, or thirty years in the future. As you move toward the horizon it always recedes away from you. The religious person frequently believes that there is a spiritual component in our intelligence that is given to us by God and that technology will never be able to produce.

The scenario offered above is actually the last stage of a giant theroy of history or progress. This theory starts with simple single cellular life and proceeds through the evolution of multi-cellular animals, then the development of language and human societies, civilization, democracy, freedom, world government, to the artificial intelligence dilemma discussed above. I have recently put this theory of progress online.

Here is an index to my other pages on economics, and a short review of my qualifications in this field.

Here is an index to other pages on essays on media.

Tell me what you think. Here is my contact information..

Created March 21, 2020

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