In this blog post I shall analyse in detail the economic effects that I would expect to accrue from the development of AIs approaching or surpassing the intelligence of humans. I shall use the term people to refer to AIs (for simplicity).
Education: As people would be implemented on digital machines that would make the task of making copies much easier. There would thus be little point training a million chefs to cook all over the country when you could just train up a handful and copy each hundreds of thousands of times. The cost of education (to the current standard) will drop essentially to zero. Specialised tasks that need to be performed very rarely will become much easier to perform. Rather than hire out an expert to fix a bike you'd download a program into your brain and fix it yourself.
Speed of transport: As AIs are composed of information and can be transfered from one physical brain to another they will effectively be able to travel at near light-speed wherever they want (bandwidth maybe the most important limiting factor). A huge section of todays economies is dedicated to moving people around. When they can travel along optical fibres this cost will be near zero. In addition as AIs will not need to have a fixed abode AIs can be highly concentrated in a few mega cities increasing the efficiency of transporting goods. Less materials will need to be transported because the location of factories can be placed closer to where the raw materials are and where the finished products are needed (little attention needs to be paid to where people live). Also, as has been mentioned before on this blog, the conquest of space will be much simpler once AIs can move at near light-speed to and from space stations.
Fluidity of business: As retraining people will become easier and people can move around very easily the natural barriers that make the concept of a company work will break down. It is conceivable that without these barriers people will not work for an individual company but for any number of different groups (much like people are members of many different social circles today). Companies may still exist as legal entities but they may become much more like overlapping circles in a Venn diagram.
Near immortality: AIs do not need to die. Clearly this may cause significant ethical problems. However, there are positives to this as well. The longer people live for the more incentive they have to plan for the future. It makes much less sense to be irresponsible the longer you live (and hence the longer you need to live with your reputation). This should lead to better long term economic policy (at all levels of society) and to better law and order.
Health-care: This is a really significant area of spending that would become virtually worthless with the advent of AI. Why keep your body in tip top condition when all you need to do is move to a new one when the old one starts waring out? Why have a single body at all when you can rent the exact body you want for any purpose you have in mind?
Lower risk: If you can back yourself up at the press of a button then normally very risky activities can be made much less risky. If the running copy of your brain gets destroyed but you backed up 2 hours ago thats essentially the same as you forgetting the last couple of hours of your life. This is an experience that many a party goer is well aware of and willing to risk. When even currently very risky jobs can be brought to an acceptable level of risk new industries will open up that we couldn't previously contemplate. Weapons of all types become much less dangerous when most people are protected through back ups of their minds. Its probably too much to hope that this might reduce the propensity to warfare.
Extra senses: There's no reason that AIs have to be limited to the 5 senses that we have. Novel senses could be designed and developed. Seeing in ultraviolet, infrared, sonar, radar and all manner of wave forms will become routine. But in addition the visualisation of abstract mathematical data structures will become much easier. Imagine the mathematics that could be performed by someone raised to see and understand four dimensions. Difficult problems in any field (not just mathematics) could be solved by evolving an intelligence with the right set of senses are experiences to understand them.
Bureaucracy: Highly complex organisations will become possible as the amount of intelligence available to oversee a given physical task becomes greater and greater. Systems that previously strained with bureaucracy will become easy to manage.
The economy that would emerge from the advent of AIs would be so much more efficient in so many different ways that the development of AI has got to be the most economically advantageous thing that is within our reach this century. As I have previously observed there are terribly complex and disruptive problems that would also emerge with AIs (even if you ignore the possibility of conflict between humans ans AIs). It seems to me though that such an AI society is by far the closest thing, within the reach of modern society, to a spiritual realm.