This could lead to a scenario with what happened when there was aristocracy. Land was a major necessary means of production and was overwhelmingly owned by the aristocracy, it was guarded since they had no reason to sell it and could rent-seek with it (and primogeniture guaranteed it didn't disperse much), and they simply owned nearly everything.
Craftsmanship and high demand for skilled labor led to the middle class. Automation could be the new land. A wealthy "owning class" owns all the means of production (and less skilled labor) and has no incentive to open it up. Automation could lead to a small wealthy class, but a rapidly expanding lower class with little access to self-ownership of means of production.
Decentralization of means of production tends to have a beneficial effect on society. If normal folk can own means of production, then they will do well in any scenario because they will have choices, but if there is little choice but to work for large corporations, then they will get squeezed on the monopoly of means of production.
Whatever is having that effect of enforcing centralization of means of production is eventually going to not end well. It might be the tech, it might be some of the regulations, it might be cultural, or it might be the "legal entity" nature of corporations and the ability to amass huge amounts of resources with them; but whatever it is, it ain't pretty.
Don’t look now, but that’s still the case. In England it’s really the case, and the old joke that it helps to have an ancestor who was close to William The Conquerer is genuinely true.
Again, that has largely already happened, and never really stopped. We just see things differently because we’re not one of billions who can only look up at everyone else’s boots, and because we’re at the tail end of a stable period born from two world wars and the teror of nuclear annihilation.
Key word being "encouraging". A possible(!) recent example of this would be the maga hat kid. The beauty of this incident is, the initial incident is guaranteed to polarize people, but even if more truth comes out it the result is even more polarization. Can't lose strategy, provided no one notices what's going on.
I believe this is a bi-partisan issue, I imagine many similar examples could be found with the political roles switched.
An effective modern day Napolean is going to need the persuasive skills of Donald Trump combined with political beliefs from both poles (~ Trump + Bernie Sanders), but even then with the top down control (censorship) over modern means of mainstream communication it could be difficult to even get your message out there.
So far there always seems to be reason for hope though, while Bernie is getting along in the years almost out of the blue here comes this Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez girl, almost like a "far left" Donald Trump to keep things interesting.
If 1000 people spend $1000, that isn't the same as a person spending all that in one month. The 1000 people are going to spend the money differently and on a variety of things. Phone bills, electric, car payments, groceries, rent, clothes, entertainment, coffee. Perhaps a restaurant or two or a bar. Might need school supplies and medicine. Even better, these 1000 people are likely to do this monthly.
One person spending 1,000,000 isn't likely to spend it on those categories nor spend that monthly. Even then, the spending is going to be different. The spending is also more likely to be stable.
The economy generally will survive if the one person doesn't spend their 1,000,000. Even if they stop spending that monthly, that'll be OK.
However, the economy will suffer if the many people do not spend 1000 a month, depending on how close the people are to each other. All in one town probably means an employer has had hard times, and eventually other businesses close because of it - unless, of course, things start getting better again.
The economy hurts if trends shift. When folks get more poor and cannot spend on small luxuries or stop buying as mnay cheap clothes, the economy suffers.
The person able to spend 1,000,000 a month likely very much depends on those 1000 people spending 1000 per month, consuming the things they do.
This is basically Marx and the theory of capital, e.g already describing our world since industrialization.
The computer is the greatest automation tool for office work, and that scenario is obviously not the case if you look at what happened to the PC revolution. Local area networks with various file and application servers were a huge market for small and medium sized businesses, and there was lots of hype similar to what you are describing. Now everyone is back to centralizing on virtualized remotely leased computers, just like small and medium sized businesses used leased time-shared (and for IBM 370 series, virtualized) remote mainframes in the 1970s.
Same thing happened with the centralization of the automobile industry in the 1910s, and is happening today in the centralization of agriculture: better combines, tractors, Round-Up pesticides etc. are all available to family farmers, which are all being bankrupted by large factory farms.
Of course, there's also an interesting worry that's not connected to jobs here, namely, whether we may end up in a new age of SaaS companies selling automation to small and medium sized businesses as their main business model. Imagine if instead of large companies using tech alone, or people buying these machines alone, the likes of Google/Amazon/Microsoft/whatever started leasing them through an AWS esque service for X amount of dollars a month. We've already got Maker Labs and what not, this could be the future for that.
The elites used to pay people to stand around and practically wipe their arses, that quickly diffused as more markets developed, and there were other, better things to do.
The issue is not 'automation', it's 'the rate of automation' and the extent to which the economy can re-absorb those out of work by whatever means: retooling, retirement, UBI, whatever.
That trend is very cyclical and depends on the state of the inequality in the economy, not on automation. Marx observed that the number of servants in England increased dramatically during the height of the industrial revolution:
> The extraordinary productiveness of modern industry… allows of the unproductive employment of a larger and larger part of the working-class, and the consequent reproduction, on a constantly extending scale, of the ancient domestic slaves under the name of a servant class, including men-servants, women-servants, lackets, etc. [footnote: Between 1861 and 1870 the number of male servants nearly doubled itself. It increased to 267,671. In the year 1847 there were 2,694 gamekeepers (for the landlords' preserves), in 1869 there were 4,921.]
Capital volume I, chapter 15.
The same thing has been going on in the last 25 years: elderly caretakers, nannies, personal shoppers, personal assistants, virtual assistants, personal chefs, personal trainers, food delivery persons, package delivery persons (especially Amazon contractors), Lyft/Uber drivers, dog walkers, pet sitters, pet groomers, etc.
Times have changed, at least a bit. You will see pitchfork revolutions unless state provides basic needs to the masses, via taxation to the robot owners.
So if you want people to do more than spit on us as we pass, we should put effort into ensuring a safety net for them when the work we domtskes their livliehood away. Right now that doesn’t happen, the wealth just accumulates at the top while we suckle drops of it when it “trickles down” on us. It’s easy to talk about how machines will give us more free time, because we can afford it.
Far more than that, coal workers take pride in their work, it's part of their identity and it commands a certain degree of respect as being "hard labor". If it was just about "bringing home the bacon" they might as well take any other job.
This is in contrast to working for Wal-Mart or McDonalds, there's no pride in it, it's not part of people's identity. People want to move on from these jobs, but there are less and less opportunities to move on to.
> So if you want people to do more than spit on us as we pass, we should put effort into ensuring a safety net for them when the work we domtskes their livliehood away.
A safety net is well and good, but if people lose their jobs and get stuck in the net, it destroys them. Again, it's about pride and identity.
Since pride in one’s work tends to tie with the value that broader communities put on the work, would a broad-based ongoing PR campaign by well-resourced organizations (incl. local and federal governments) help with that? Perhaps we can put the DeBeers experience with creating a shared cross-generation myth of diamonds representing true love to good use.
Elderly care, for example, would be hard to automate cost effectively over the next couple of decades and possibly longer. If society puts more value and gives more prestige to the job, more people would be willing to train to do it.
(Obviously, the society should help people transition to their new roles as well for example by covering the costs of living and training for a substantial period.)
 Lump of labor fallacy
As concrete examples:
- Has every piece of potentially useful land well-developed as a magnificent public or private space?
- Has all public infrastructure needed been built and well-maintained to the best quality possible?
- Does every person, adult and child, have access to world-class education/training they want or need, including private tutoring if they wish?
The well-resourced organizations seem to be backing broad-based ongoing PR and political campaigns to do exactly the opposite of providing people with a good education:
This seems more like the Industrial Revolution + Twitter. Just like all the studies that the world is technically better off in every modern metric of improvement (poverty, starvation, mobility..etc, but things feel shitty because you are forced to read about the one dude kidnapping and eating children one state over, I think it's probably just amplified fears (and ultimately seperation of teams) than it was during other large periods of change.
It's also worth noting that people dont die, jobs just shift unexpectedly. Sure it can crush a generation (see the american midwest from 1960-2020), but most people move to where the work is geographically and intellectually or just die out.
> Sure it can crush a generation (see the american midwest from 1960-2020), but most people move to where the work is geographically and intellectually or just die out.
That is possibly the most heartless thing I have read on this site. I imagine your perspective would change markedly if it were you that were stuck, unable to afford to move, in a dead town whose industry left, while you contemplate your time until you die out.
And yes, of course our response to these facts are even more important. Do we just short steel mill stocks and Pittsburgh bonds or advocate for retraining, for subsidizing emerging industry establishments in the affected areas, etc.
Some of the affected people feel it as elitism, socialism, etc. Usually because outsiders are blind to and ignorant of the local complexities, and also because good fashioned bias and denialism. It's easier to simply deny climate change and hate green liberals than accepting that coal is out. And that software has a much higher ROI due to the marginally aomost zero cost of adding new users/customers than hard labour jobs, etc.
For instance, I remember the wave of de-industrialisation of the 80s. While I wasn't personally affected, I knew plenty who were. For many tens of thousands it wasn't a simple case of just move to where the work is.
How do you do that when your house is worth a quarter or tenth of of what you paid, but the mortgage debt remains? When almost everyone else locally is trying to move to get work too. Who is going to buy the house? In a town with no work. They may lose the dozen ship builders or steel works, but also lose the hundreds of businesses that serviced, supplied and depended on the products of those major works, then everything that depended on the money flowing from those - the takeaways, supermarkets, cinema, garages etc. The whole supply chain breaks. You may as well ask them to flap arms and fly out of the ghost town.
If one of the lucky few that were able to get out, carry a debt that can never be paid off, whilst earning half or less of the former skilled wage. They can't all move to the outskirts of London to work in banking or retrain in age discriminating IT in their mid 50s. Who's going to employ that junior? It ruins more than just one generation. The kids deprived of education and other life chances, or just the consequences of having parents from whom the hope has been sucked, perhaps on anti-depressants long term. Little wonder most of those places gained a huge drug and crime problem in the aftermath. Some places have still not come close to recovering.
Clearly we can't artificially keep every rural pit village viable, but we could, and should try not to lose whole towns, cities and regions, unless we want more civil unrest and more extremists elected. That history even goes some way to explaining Brexit. So yes, from what I've seen over those 40 years in the UK, we should and probably must subsidise through tax and incentives new industries and services establishing in deprived areas until they can sustain once again. Ignoring whole regions as acceptable losses in a "free" market was a huge, unforgivable mistake. Adequate regeneration help is probably far cheaper for the state once you consider all consequences anyway. Particularly in a future where it appears likely many more will lose their work, much more quickly, than in the past.
edit: some words
Nobody really cared as the blacksmith, farm hand, or the secretary lost jobs. Coal mining is a celebrated profession for some reason.
Whereas farm hands and secretaries have transformed, and were not so densely localized. (And farm hands are still needed, large industrialized farms are still rather labor intensive, just more area can be successfully managed by the same sized staff + a lot more capital/machinery.)
I am not sure where you got that impression. The loss of blacksmith (and nailmaker, etc.) and farm hand jobs in 19th century England was a huge social issue (hundreds of thousands of people starved to death after being thrown out of work in England alone; over a million if you count the displacement that lead to the Irish famines), with regular government inquiries, newspaper coverage, and many, many books written about it.
In particular, there was a very famous book, called Capital, written by Karl Marx, that, among other things, points out that popular anti-automation anxiety goes back much farther than the Luddite movement:
> In the 17th century nearly all Europe experienced revolts of the work-people against the ribbon-loom, a machine for weaving ribbons and trimmings… Abbé Launcelloti, in a work that appeared in Venice in 1636, but which was written in 1579, says as follows: "Anthony Müller of Danzig saw about 50 years ago in that town, a very ingenious machine, which weaves 4 to 6 pieces at once. But the Mayor being apprehensive that this invention might throw a large number of workmen on the streets, caused the inventor to be secretly strangled or drowned." In Leyden, this machine was not used till 1629; there the riots of the ribbon-weavers at length compelled the Town Council to prohibit it… After making various decrees more or less prohibitive against this loom in 1632, 1639, etc., the States General of Holland at length permitted it to be used, under certain conditions, by the decree of the 15th December, 1661. It was also prohibited in Cologne in 1676, at the same time that its introduction into England was causing disturbances among the work-people. By an imperial Edict of 19th Feb., 1685, its use was forbidden throughout all Germany. In Hamburg it was burnt in public by order of the Senate. The Emperor Charles VI, on 9th Feb., 1719, renewed the edict of 1685, and not till 1765 was its use openly allowed in the Electorate of Saxony. This machine [the ribbon-loom], which shook Europe to its foundations, was in fact the precursor of the mule and power-loom, and of the industrial revolution of the 18th century… About 1630, a wind-sawmill, erected near London by a Dutchman, succumbed to the excesses of the populace. Even as late as the beginning of the 18th century, sawmills driven by water overcame the opposition of the people, supported as it was by Parliament, only with great difficulty. No sooner had Everet in 1758 erected the first wool-shearing machine that was driven by water-power, than it was set on fire by 100,000 people who had been thrown out of work. Fifty thousand workpeople, who had previously lived by carding wool, petitioned Parliament against Arkwright's scribbling mills and carding engines. The enormous destruction of machinery that occurred in the English manufacturing districts during the first 15 years of this century [19th], chiefly caused by the employment of the power-loom, and known as the Luddite movement, gave the anti-Jacobin governments of a Sidmouth, a Castlereagh, and the like, a pretext for the most reactionary and forcible measures. It took both time and experience before the workpeople learnt to distinguish between machinery and its employment by capital, and to direct their attacks, not against the material instruments of production, but against the mode in which they are used. [footnote: In old-fashioned manufactures the revolts of the workpeople against machinery, even to this day, occasionally assume a savage character, as in the case of the Sheffield file cutters in 1865].
From chapter 15 of volume I
There are a lot important questions that will need to be answered in a very short time. Where will the future unemployed be redeployed? Will the lack of employment lead to instability and civil strife? What about social mobility and advancement? Will the inequality gap worsen?
Pay attention to which jobs currently pay well, those jobs are the most likely to get pressure from surplus labor.
There's also a big and growing demand for health care and care for the elderly.
I doubt that automation will truly replace such a massive amount of labor as some predict, but even if it does, that will cause an equally strong lowering of the cost of living, requiring less labor to live, cheapening welfare, etc.
One example from the NYTimes.
> A couple of years ago I began seeing ads for 23andMe, a service that analyzes your saliva — you spit in a test tube and mail it off for analysis — and provides you with information about ancestry, health and DNA relatives.
Translated Spanish via DeepL:
> Hace un par de años comencé a ver anuncios de 23andMe, un servicio que analiza tu saliva - escupes en un tubo de ensayo y lo envías por correo para analizarlo - y te proporciona información sobre ascendencia, salud y parientes ADN.
Translated Spanish (professional translator):
> Hace un par de años, comencé a ver anuncios de 23andMe, un servicio que analiza tu saliva —la pones en un tubo de ensayo y lo mandas por correo para que se analice— y te da la información de tus ancestros, salud y familiares según tu ADN.
DeepL’s translation has the same faults as other services. Namely, in Spanish, object pronouns are very important. In the sentence describing how he sent a saliva sample, the DeepL translation does not use pronouns correctly like a native speaker would. Also, it stumbles on what is the most common vernacular. The DeepL translation does not use the right way to say “DNA relatives” which is “familiares según tu ADN”. “Según” is commonly used to denote authority of a source or in other words “according to”.
Sure, which is why I said over time. If you look at any isolated period you’re not going to see any trends that take place over longer periods of time. The standard of living world wide goes up over time, and has done so at a very accelerated rate since the industrial revolution. The world is generally becoming a better place, it’s much better than it was 100 years ago, and still even better than it was 10 years ago. New technology, and the progress of emerging economies makes life better for the whole world. There’s plenty of people who have an interest in selling fear, especially when it comes to technology, but that deception has been around for as long as technology itself. They said all the same things about mechanization back then as they say about automation now. The sad truth is that good news is critically dangerous to too many people with agendas, that it’ll end up getting ignored or denied with ignorant passion.
There's already a hedge fund where an AI has a board vote on acquisitions. This isn't that far out of reach.
Also ML/AI isn't even near strong enough to make the varied decisions necessary to run a publicly-traded company, but it could augment decision makers with recommendations.
CEO's start the company and suffer share dilution. They did their job if the shares are valuable.
Future CEOs don't get the same incentive package, and need something somewhat comparable.
Is it fair that society lets someone keep so much money? Maybe not. But if you are an owner (directly or through stock) or even an employee who de facto wants the company to succeed, it is mutually beneficial to have such highly compensated executives.
> It is the great merit of E. G. Wakefield to have discovered, not anything new about the Colonies, but to have discovered in the Colonies the truth as to the conditions of capitalist production in the mother-country… First of all, Wakefield discovered that in the Colonies, property in money, means of subsistence, machines, and other means of production, does not as yet stamp a man as a capitalist if there be wanting the correlative - the wage-worker, the other man who is compelled to sell himself of his own free will. He discovered that capital is not a thing, but a social relation between persons, established by the instrumentality of things. Mr. Peel, he moans, took with him from England to Swan River, West Australia, means of subsistence and of production to the amount of £50,000. Mr. Peel had the foresight to bring with him, besides, 3,000 persons of the working class, men, women, and children. Once arrived at his destination, "Mr. Peel was left without a servant to make his bed or fetch him water from the river." (E. G. Wakefield. "England And America," vol.ii, p. 33)
In the United States, the slave labor system kept the workers from subjecting their masters to this "violation" of property rights. There are many historical records of European colonists running away from indentured labor to join Native Americans (the reverse does not seem to have ever happened).
The wealthy need poor laborers a lot more than vice-versa. What is really happening with automation is that it is being used to build militarized police states around the world that keep the poor from squatting the land held by the rich, to force the poor to work for the benefit of the rich (for example, someone is going to have to keep working on oil extraction for a long time to come, even if all the farming will be done by robotic tractors). A police state forcing people into wage slavery is the necessary precondition for the "rich live in automated luxury" scenario to occur.
If there is all this automation in your predicted future, how would people not be able to automate growing plants, filtering water and cutting down trees?
I'm not sure any of us are going to live to see that dystopian time, but o boy if I were one of the ones...
There will be automation, it will take much longer to deliver than is being pitched. It will deliver smaller benefits (initially) than are being pitched. It will probably not realise the type of value that is easy to pitch.
In the meantime lying liars are scaring people; this suits all the liars because scared people are compliant.
The agenda of the so called "Davos Elite" is to maintain the status quo. Because that is all they know what to control. Automation and AI and the future unknown unknowns scares them to hell.
That said, there are broader trends that can be studied and discussed, like the impact of the industrial revolution on the world wars, global trade, etc. But those are academic in nature and don't directly indicate investment potential, so tend to stay in academia.
They kind of already do that though.
If it works out like that and the displaced workers are supported by their governments with equivalent income that will be a net positive. Those whose skills are still in demand will have jobs, others will have UBI and not many will complain.
However we don't learn anything - UBI will never come in time and there will be a lot of needless suffering and upheaval as a result of hurried, ill-managed drive towards automation.
There is also the whole identity crisis thing - many people equate their worth with their job and not having one will make for a lot of unhappy people.
Interesting times indeed.
secondly, the horrible, unanticipated errors will be the catch, while the raw capacities of the machine side will continue to soar..
Seems like a short sighted race to extinction.
Not everything that can be done should be done.
Footnote:in the long run if society survives the initial shock, I predict it will actually lead to a resurgence in artisanal crafts to manufacture bespoke items that are prized not because they are perfect or the best, but because they are unique and have a back story.
There is no dictum that consumerism is the only way an economy can work. Consumerism is (not exclusively) a manifestation of mass affluent democracies, but I can imagine other systems. The economy ultimately is a mixture of social norms and economic laws. There's enough leeway that I don't think you need mass consumerism.
The devil is in the details, however, and the big question is: who will inherit the earth? Increasingly it's a question of motivation and not survival.
That really does not describe hunter-gatherer or feudal economies. And it's not even true for capitalist economies: for instance, there were periodic gluts of cotton (1820s, 1860s), or in the textile products made from cotton (1850s, during a global economic crisis). Famine has different causes, independent of the economy: either deliberately caused by forced displacement (ex: Irish famine), or a result of local weather patterns (for any geographic region, there will be a weather event, like drought or late/early frost, that will cause harvest failure roughly every 15 years). Improved shipping, which in a positive feedback loop was the cause of and response to increased trade, is largely what is responsible for eliminating famine. You first of all need to be able to ship grain to a region that is experiencing famine (agricultural over-production in a different region does nothing to prevent people from starving to death otherwise), and the region experiencing the famine has to have something to trade for the grain (people have, and continue to, starve to death in places that experience agricultural surpluses).
I'd say this has been happening for one or two decades already.
This automation will be no different than the early proto-hominid hunter put out of his job because someone made a spear. Or the scribes that died out because of the printing press.
Everything that can be automated will eventually be automated.
There will always be work that machines cant do.
The point of life is to keep entropy forces at bay for long enough to raise the next generation. As living beings, the core point of humans is to gather enough food and build a good enough shelter to survive through the next winter.
Society will succumb to nihilism, depression and lack of meaning long before those 'infinite' amount of work will ever be tapped.