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Regarding the first paragraphs where luddism is mentioned several times; Lord Byron, father to Ada Lovelace the first programmer, was one of the few on the House of Lords to defend the Luddites:

> But the police, however useless, were by no means idle: several notorious delinquents had been detected; men liable to conviction, on the clearest evidence, of the capital crime of poverty; men, who had been nefariously guilty of lawfully begetting several children, whom, thanks to the times!—they were unable to maintain. Considerable injury has been done to the proprietors of the improved frames. These machines were to them an advantage, inasmuch as they superseded the necessity of employing a number of workmen, who were left in consequence to starve. By the adoption of one species of frame in particular, one man performed the work of many, and the superfluous labourers were thrown out of employment. [...] These men never destroyed their looms till they were become useless, worse than useless; till they were become actual impediments to their exertions in obtaining their daily bread.

There is a lot of proganda use of "luddites" as anti-tech when luddites main grief was regarding income and inequality.

[1]: http://www.luddites200.org.uk/LordByronspeech.html

[2]: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/byron-was-one-few-...

There's a recent book about this, subtitled "The Luddites Are Right About Why You Hate Your Job": https://www.versobooks.com/books/3184-breaking-things-at-wor...

> In the nineteenth century, English textile workers responded to the introduction of new technologies on the factory floor by smashing them to bits. For years the Luddites roamed the English countryside, practicing drills and manoeuvres that they would later deploy on unsuspecting machines. The movement has been derided by scholars as a backwards-looking and ultimately ineffectual effort to stem the march of history; for Gavin Mueller, the movement gets at the heart of the antagonistic relationship between all workers, including us today, and the so-called progressive gains secured by new technologies. The luddites weren’t primitive and they are still a force, however unconsciously, in the workplaces of the twenty-first century world.

I frankly expect "smashing them to bits" (or setting them on fire) to be the response in France when self-driving cargo trucks are introduced.

In America and a lot of other rich countries I can imagine a large workforce just sort of slowly dissipating as they are made redundant by the unstoppable force of technology, but at least a few places may strongly disagree about the unstoppability, and put it to the test.

Indeed, that is why I figured (on a trip to the country a few years ago) why self-service supermarkets checkouts haven't been rolled out in South Africa. That is a country of very high unemployment, so perhaps one could expect violence if overt technology to save labour costs were introduced.

self-service checkouts also work well in high trust societies. By themselves, they aren't good enough to prevent shrinkage enough that it is cheaper to use them.

> I can imagine a large workforce just sort of slowly dissipating

Why imagine? The US working class is "slowly dissipating" in many ways:

* Homelessness

* Substance abuse, especially legal opiates

* Increase in mortality rates


Do you personally feel like smashing such a truck? Or would only ex truck drivers feel that way? Because if they are simply being faded out of existence (replacing retiring drivers with AI), there won't be any ex truckers to smash the trucks.

I don't personally, no; in fact I'm more likely to end up (accidentally?) contributing to the autonomous trucking revolution.

The faded-out version is what I think will happen in the USA. My point was that there are countries with much more confrontational labor movements (France in particular) and I think there will be truck smashers (burners, blockers, etc) there long before a majority of truckers become ex-truckers.

> Because if they are simply being faded out of existence (replacing retiring drivers with AI), there won't be any ex truckers to smash the trucks.


> Well paid drivers no longer exist. The last time he has seen a local work as truck driver was in mid-2000 and meanwhile salaries have dropped to ~€700 and less therefore only some Eastern Europeans can justify that working as a driver still makes sense for them. -- https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=25891779

You mean Brexit was kind of UK truck drivers smashing the trucks (because of cheap competition, and AI would be even cheaper, so more truck smashing)?

I would have to say that 'derided by scholars' is a bit much. Most historians who are aware of the luddites in any detail would agree with this take. While Luddites were derided in the past since around the 1930s and works like Herbert Butterfield's the Whig interpretation of History Historians have been very wary of ideas like 'the march of history' and luddites are certainly presented within the scholarship as an example where views have changed away from that kind of narrative.

I quit a job right after college because of the scene in Office Space where they smash the printer with a bat in the field. That movie was kind of a tip of the hat to the Luddites.

He wasn't defending destroying the frames though, he was commiserating with the plight of the workers. In modern developed countries we have social security benefits, health care and such, to varying degrees depending on the country, to try and make sure people don't starve like that.

> He wasn't defending destroying the frames though


> In modern developed countries we have social security benefits, health care and such, to varying degrees depending on the country, to try and make sure people don't starve like that.

And the country with the highest GDP lacks anything other than the bare minimum social security and the article is very-USA centric. (Both China and Europe have a more stable society compared to the USA so not quite sure how the bet of this thread would have gone if evaluated over either Europe or China)

> the country with the highest GDP lacks anything other than the bare minimum social security and the article is very-USA centric.

As with many similar topics, the US actually spends a much higher amount on social welfare than people realize, more than most developed countries. As always, it just does so uniquely inefficiently, for reasons that are complicated and possibly related to our sclerotic politics.


> more than most developed countries

Basically this article is about someone's exercise to persuade themselves a lie is true. Keep squinting, keep finding ways to tilt the numbers, until, like a word you've read over and over they become nonsense and then pronounce yourself satisfied that you've proved Up is Down and Black is White. Congratulations I guess, to Kirkegaard? A Wall Street firm sends an exec on a $10M tour of Europe for "wellness" and that's now welfare expenditure, but there's tax charged on the food an unemployed steel worker in Liverpool buys so his unemployment cheque doesn't really count as welfare after all.

I look forward to a study showing that the US has really good paid leave compared to the rest of the world, so long as you denominate it in dollars not hours so that a marketing exec's six months "gardening leave" to prevent them stealing accounts outweighs Amazon warehouses with zero paid holiday...

> A Wall Street firm sends an exec on a $10M tour of Europe for "wellness" and that's now welfare expenditure, but there's tax charged on the food an unemployed steel worker in Liverpool buys so his unemployment cheque doesn't really count as welfare after all.

Does this comment have a point, beyond lurid and ill-thought-out analogies? Notice that even your contrived example isn't self-consistent: the only way the steelworker's unemployment check "wouldn't count" is if 100% of it was taxed away in the course of spending it.

Even your fevered conspiracy theory doesn't make any sense! What motivation do you imagine the paper author has? The paper[1] spends a substantial amount of time focusing on poor US outcomes, and its point is that current US policy isn't actually saving us any money relative to the rest of the OECD, so our outcomes aren't even trading off against net economic benefit (at least first-order). Suboptimal distribution of our social spending (as in your ridiculous examples) falls squarely into this category, and as such is a potential target for the paper's criticism.

[1] https://www.piie.com/publications/pb/pb15-4.pdf

I'm not really imagining any "motivation" beyond the intellectual exercise of proving America spends lots of money on things it actually doesn't spend money on, by squinting until the whole world is blurry.

Economists would like everything to be dollars, because that means you can plug numbers into a spreadsheet and get answers that work. Centuries of this not working haven't dissuaded them and I don't expect my rant to change that.

People who actually think we should care about population welfare do not try to squint at the dollar figures like this paper, you'll see them looking at policies qualitatively rather than quantitatively, and this way you don't need to draw a dozen charts to come to the apparently startling revelation that the US is a wealthy country in which money is being stolen from the poor to be wasted by the rich and this is a bad idea.

Sometimes this sort of work will be excused on the rationale that it will guide political decision making. This is an error perhaps everywhere and certainly in the US. A Republican is not going to read this paper and say "Aha! My policies were mistaken, I can actually have better impact by reducing tax breaks on the wealthy and directing the increased income to the poorest". They're going to glance at it, conclude it does not support the policies they wish to enact and so it's irrelevant.

It would be oddly specific, IMO, to claim that a country doesn't spend enough on (for example) social security. What people actually talk about is outcomes.

Interesting that a lot is spent on it, but not really much of a counterpoint since, as you say, it's done so 'uniquely inefficiently' that the outcome remains less.

> What people actually talk about is outcomes.

This is not my experience at all. I feel like the vast majority of conversation on the topic I've read is about differential _political will_ for social welfare and other redistribution, usually due to perceived cultural failings.

Eg, "the US doesn't want to take care of its most vulnerable because of muh freedom"

The notion that the US has lots of _political will_ for infra, redistribution, homeless care, etc but simply has an incompetent government is anathema to polite-company discourse, usually leading to handwavy rationalizations about how "starving the beast" has caused the government to be incompetent.

I don't want to be a stickler, but Europe isn't a country. It is simply inaccurate to claim that "Europe have a more stable society compared to the USA." There are countries within Europe that has extreme wealth, and extreme poverty, while most countries in Europe are still far better developed than, say, most countries in Africa. With that said, the best developed countries in Europe do seem to have a better social security system than the USA, but at a high cost.

Why is it inaccurate to claim that? Sure, Europe is not one country but is made out of several countries, but so what? The USA is comprised out of states, some of them poorer than other; heck, even inside a single country there are richer and poorer regions/counties/lands/whatever, with money/labour flows and dynamics very similar to the international ones.

>money/labour flows and dynamics very similar to the international ones

It’s quite different in my experience. Workers can be employed in another state with almost no friction (with the possibility of a income tax declaration at hire) but it’s a lot more complicated to work internationally.

China does not have a stable society. You never hear about most of the social issues that happen inside China.

A country committing genocide against its own citizens is not a stable society.

Well I'm a Brit, but I did write that with an eye to the fact that most people here are yank... er, I mean my esteemed colonial colleagues. Yes you have fewer and more threadbare social safety nets that in Europe, but a heck of a lot more than in China.

I am from Latin America though and have a 0.025 USD / year tuition on my current math undergrad education, public healthcare, and a more robust social security net overall.

Is the education, healthcare and social security you’re getting at the same level you’d get in the US?

I live outside the US and I can assure you the universal healthcare here doesn’t not provide the same level of care that even Medicaid does in the US. Sure if I had a routine broken arm there would be little difference, but if I had a serious cancer I’d be dead here.

Sure. I'm a capitalist and free marketeer, but support social security systems and even public health care. I think the US goes too far, particularly it's health care system is appalling, but I have to admit it's thin employment protections do make it a lot more flexible and responsive to economic conditions. Just look at how rapidly it recovered from the 2008 crisis compared to Europe, it was a whole year ahead of us on the curve by the early 2010s including in terms of jobs growth. There are pros and cons both ways.

> Just look at how rapidly it recovered from the 2008 crisis compared to Europe

I'm not EU or US, but the US printed a heck of a lot of magic monopoly money. And yet the dollar remained as strong as it ever was. Yes, some smartie pants will no doubt explain this away as "quantitative easing" which is the magnum opus of magic monopoly money.

EU central bank doesn't seem to like that very much being so risk averse. So we can say the EU is keeping financial wizardry in check because if left to the US, no one would know what is going on.

The EU might just save us all.

So the US bailed out the banks with a Trillion dollars, got it all back with a profit, used massive QE to successfully cushion their economy, without inflation. Which is bad.

Meanwhile the EU which at the time was crippled over Greece, lagged far behind in the recovery and still haven't properly addressed deep flaws in the Euro are our saviours?

If you can forget the divide in the wealth gap in the US, sure the US has been very successful at recovering from '08.

Not sure this is particularly true, it took the US 6 years from 2008 to recover all the jobs lost in the recession [0]. I would assume the bulk of those were low-skilled, manufacturing roles, the ones ever more at risk of being rendered obsolete by automation.

[0] https://www.cbpp.org/great-recessions-jobs-deficit-much-deep...

Well given that the biggest looser of 2008 crash were the poorest slice of society that almost could afford a house.

They were tricked into loans they couldn't afford. And with all blue-collar jobs being exported at alarming rate to Asia, i would say that the recovery after that recession doesn't ring true to me.

Sure economy and gdp are higher up, but its not because poor recovered. They were left behind.

Trump won presidency mainly because he turned to those people and promised them the good old time, where the town had its steelworks and everyone had quite life.

Yes and we need to avoid the nirvana fallacy. I live in a country with public health care and every so ofter people are sent home to die from scheduled surgery because there aren't doctors or other staff available. My dad had 99% clogged heart arteries before he got treatment. My brother works in the US and prefer their system, but then he's got a good job - still a data point for the discussion.

So, how rich is your dad?

Because unless it was "can drop quarter of a million dollars or more" rich, then no, in the US he would've just been sent home to die.

The existence of a public healthcare system running at capacity is not evidence the US system "doesn't have this problem". Being denied treatment because you can't afford it is objectively worse then being denied treatment because the system is busy.

One problem is fixable.

EDIT: And also, unless your brother has had a major health event, then the reality is he has no idea whether his insurance is any good.

Perhaps there's another way to put this. In an ineffective public healthcare system, people are denied treatment because the public body has determined it is not worth the cost. In an ineffective private healthcare system, people are denied treatment because they cannot afford to pay.

> Being denied treatment because you can't afford it is objectively worse then being denied treatment because the system is busy.

Is it? I am fortunate enough to not be in this position, but I'm not sure how much I would care about the reasons why if I were.

And it will matter just as little if you can't afford to pay. The problem is, you seem to think you'd be able to - but that is statistically improbable. The cost of heart bypass surgery in the US (literally the highest in the world) as of 2019 was USD$123,000 - https://www.statista.com/statistics/189966/cost-of-a-heart-b....

That's not including the costs of follow up treatment, the increased cost of your insurance after an event which changes your risk category, or the byzantine system by which your job will be gently encouraged to let go of a "significant risk factor" because it will reduce the cost of them providing health insurance.

And in reality - people in socialized healthcare systems aren't denied life saving treatment. The availability of treatment is a priority list for "elective" surgery - that is, surgery not immediately necessary to save one's life. And this also does not affect the availability of private care - in Australia you always have the option to pay for private treatment, but controversy over waiting times exists precisely because the vast majority cannot afford to pay. And our costs are cheaper then US to start with if you do.

Hence the original question of how rich the OP's father was: because the reality is, if he wanted surgery right away he most likely could have got it. That he didn't is telling - because he actually couldn't afford it. Couldn't afford to fly to the US and have it done either. The US would have "denied" them treatment just as assuredly. And they did eventually get it where they were.

I want to be clear that I do not think the US system is a good one.

However, we should not be blind to limitations of a UK style system. There are also in-between alternatives, such as in Germany or to a lesser extent Japan.

Well my point was to not compare with rainbows and unicorns but how it works in the real world. Also I'm not saying the US has a better system.

But just to entertain this discussion (big mistake), the problem is that you can't pay for surgery even if you're rich, which means that useful price signals for how to allocate resources are missing. You'll perhaps say: "Well it shouldn't be like that". I agree but there is a reason it ended up like this.

My brother doesn't need a serious health event to know (for a reasonable definition of "know") because he has a brain and people to talk to with direct and indirect experience of the system.

>the problem is that you can't pay for surgery even if you're rich, ...

Yes you absolutely can, here in the UK I've had private health insurance from my employers for the last 23 years of my career. I'm not aware of any country that outlaws paying for private treatment.

This is the case for some provinces in Canada, and is used as a healthcare boogie man in the USA. At the same time, US politicians for a single payer refuse to state whether private supplemental insurance would be allowed. This mixes up debate between universal coverage and eliminating private insurance entirely.


>Because unless it was "can drop quarter of a million dollars or more" rich, then no, in the US he would've just been sent home to die.

Not trying to be argumentative, but what is this based on? I’ve known people who received major heart surgeries without insurance and certainly didn’t have that kind of money.

> One problem is fixable.

Both are fixable. Given enough money.

But if not fixed the results will be the same.

How do you know that was because of their job market?

As far as I'm aware, that was because they printed tons of money. Money was printed in the EU too, but stopped much sooner - far too soon. As if people forgot about Keynes.

And actually I think you have some of this backwards. If you have a good social security net, you don't have to protect workers as much.

Likewise, health care is an investment in human capital. When people are ill, they can't produce.

There are very few countries with good social security nets and strong public healthcare and very low worker protections.

Conversely low worker protections correlate strongly with the absence of the above.

Why do you think that is?

Well the British recovery was almost certainly slowed by the introduction of austerity following the return of the Conservatives to power.

The European (i.e Eurozone/EU) recovery was knocked back by the raising of interest rates by the ECB in 2011.

And finally, the US did recover better because they put a lot more proportionally into stimulus (even though it wasn't enough, as later events showed).

I'm not sure that you can suggest that the flexible labour market was a cause of that (and indeed, one would have expected the UK to recover quicker than the rest of Europe then, as they have more flexible labour laws).

Nowhere near as flexible as the US though. The ability to hire and fire quickly without high costs has helped the USA recover from crises many times in the past as well. Employers in countries with high protections for workers are often reluctant to hire because it costs so much to slim down the work force once you employ them. It's not like the aftermath of 2008 was the first time this has ever been tested.

To be clear I'm not saying their system is superior, I think it goes too far. Poverty and what I consider labour exploitation are much more common over there. Also I think it's pretty clear now that significant increases in minimum wages don't seem to significantly increase unemployment, for example, but on severance pay particularly it's pretty clear this is a tradeoff.

The US did not "recover" from 2008. It retooled its economy even further towards precarious hiring, with predictably disastrous political consequences.

There are proven links between economic insecurity and the rise of political extremism, and it's manifestly incorrect to suggest that corporate economics operates in a moral and political vacuum with no political consequences.


The US system is truly the worst of a both worlds: a highly centralized, bureaucratic system, with a handful of winner capturing huge margins on the top. The level of regulation and corporatism means that free-market people should be as dissatisfied as those on the left.

Recovered from the 2008 crisis that it caused. Those sub-prime mortgages were all in the US.

Belarus has a more stable society than the US?

You need to look at per capita GDP, not GDP.

In any case, the US has very high levels of per capita social welfare spending.

This reminds me of the "lump-of-labor fallacy" fallacy [0]:

<< When economists invoke the "lump-of-labour fallacy" I have to wonder how much research they have done on the history of the fallacy claim and how much documentation they have looked at on opinions of people who are alleged to believe there is a fixed number of jobs in the economy. I have done extensive research on these matters and the answer seems to be 0 and 0. >>

[0] http://econospeak.blogspot.com/2016/01/sandwichmans-lump-of-...

Sure, over the long term 'lump of labor' is clearly wrong.

However, that does not mean that those displaced from work will not struggle to find new jobs. You're not going to turn most coal miners into coders. There's also no guarantee that you replace automated jobs with better jobs. Much of the service sector work that's been created in recent years has been low wage.

TLDR: Just because there will still be jobs, does not mean they will be good ones or that the workforce can easily shift to them.

I mean that's the definition of the term "luddite" in our current understand of English. The only thing that could be labeled as propaganda is the application of the term to that movement

Still, it's important to know the story for two reasons. One, to realize that the "luddites" according to current meaning of the word never existed. Second, to realize that the people historically called "luddites" were fighting for the same reason communist revolutions happened, for the same reason you have a good chunk of world's population hating the elites (and arguably for the same reason many prior historical revolutions happened) - and it has nothing to do with technology. It's all about economic insecurity, about being poor, suddenly becoming poor, or being afraid of suddenly becoming poor, all while seeing fruits of your labor accumulate in your economic superiors' laps, and then trickle upwards towards the even more wealthy.

Language changes.


Have you read Lovelace’s notes on her translation of Menebrea? They are perceptive and foreshadow much of modern computing, including hints this sort of computer could become a universal machine.


I understand your gripe. I myself thought Ada Lovelace was a brilliant thinker and mathematician but not a programmer and had little to nothing with even the early precursors of modern computing - at least compared to someone like Alan Turing or George Boole.

But she part of a long line of those special people with far seeing "eyes" and undeniable talent.

> Lovelace is a perfect mirror for our society: a vapid socialite with shallow understanding of the problems and a willingness to make grandiose claims without the ability to back them up.

Can you provide some more context to this? Given that I'm viewing everything related to heroism as problematic(and that includes Claude Shannon) I'd be curious to know more about the context of this statement.

EDIT: I have personally seen/witnessed and experienced plenty of environments where credit was given to those that brought solutions into writing rather than the ones who did all the work to bring things to fruition. So this is always of interest to me (it's also tightly related to the German saying: Wer schreibt, der bleibt/roughly: Only written proof counts)

I added some rebutals on a reply here: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=25998041

(Pointing there to avoid duplication)

You know there's a difference between a computer and a computer program, right?

The funny thing is that your low effort zinger is factually wrong. Something you'd learn in second year compsci:

>In computer science, a universal Turing machine (UTM) is a Turing machine that simulates an arbitrary Turing machine on arbitrary input. The universal machine essentially achieves this by reading both the description of the machine to be simulated as well as the input to that machine from its own tape.


> Babbage was the first programmer seeing as he invented the first computer.

Einstein invented the theory that later went on to predict black holes yet Einstein himself didn't believe they were possible.

It's entirely possible to invent something and yet still underestimate the practical applications of it. Heck, the hacker culture and even a great many musical genres are based on people saying "this thing is cool, but what if we do this with it instead?"

> In short: if you are the type of person to think she had anything important to add to computer science you are the type of person to think Steve Jobs was anything but a snake oil salesman with a decent understanding of typography.

Lovelace and Jobs couldn't be more different. One was a socially revered individual who made millions selling other peoples work. And the other was mathematical genius who had a significant amount to contribute but society forced to work in the shadows because of her gender.

I'm not saying Lovelace didn't have her flaws. But dismissing her achievements as being Baggages is, ironically, akin to your complaint about Jobs.

Your "low effort" response proves that a computer program can be the same as a computer. Not what OP said.

I'll rely on the first hand accounts and correspondences of those who knew these people personally rather than yours, thanks.

Here are some of Ada Lovelace's notes on Menebrea's paper on Babbage's Analytical Engine: http://www.cs.yale.edu/homes/tap/Files/ada-lovelace-notes.ht...

> Again, it [the Analytical Engine] might act upon other things besides number, were objects found whose mutual fundamental relations could be expressed by those of the abstract science of operations, and which should be also susceptible of adaptations to the action of the operating notation and mechanism of the engine . . . Supposing, for instance, that the fundamental relations of pitched sounds in the science of harmony and of musical composition were susceptible of such expression and adaptations, the engine might compose elaborate and scientific pieces of music of any degree of complexity or extent.

Some AI generated music: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gA03iyI3yEA

> It is desirable to guard against the possibility of exaggerated ideas that might arise as to the powers of the Analytical Engine. In considering any new subject, there is frequently a tendency, first, to overrate what we find to be already interesting or remarkable; and, secondly, by a sort of natural reaction, to undervalue the true state of the case, when we do discover that our notions have surpassed those that were really tenable. The Analytical Engine has no pretensions whatever to originate any thing. It can do whatever we know how to order it to perform. It can follow analysis; but it has no power of anticipating any analytical relations or truths. Its province is to assist us in making available what we are already acquainted with. This it is calculated to effect primarily and chiefly of course, through its executive faculties; but it is likely to exert an indirect and reciprocal influence on science itself in another manner. For, in so distributing and combining the truths and the formula of analysis, that they may become most easily and rapidly amenable to the mechanical combinations of the engine, the relations and the nature of many subjects in that science are necessarily thrown into new lights, and more profoundly investigated.

The second quote in particular was important for Turing later on: https://mindmatters.ai/2020/05/lovelace-the-programmer-who-s...

Back to your comment,

I believe Steve Jobs was a buisnessperson with a focus on design and Steve Wozniak provided most of quality engineering on the early years. I also like to bash Apple for a lot of stuff and I have never bought nor owned a single Apple product but recognize their early products as great and not snake oil.

So that is "anything but a snake oil salesman with a decent understanding of typography" and by modus tollens I am _not_ the "type of person to think she had anything important to add to computer science". Contradiction.

Also, it is no coincidence that the first programmer was working with the person building the first general computer (albeit neither digital nor electronic)

Thanks for providing details. I can think of many phrases for someone who writes careful notes about the promises of a newly-invented technology, but "vapid socialite" isn't one of them.

Is the claim here that what Ada Lovelace wrote is original to her and not Charles Babbage? To be specific: is the claim here that Lovelace saw in Babbage's invention something he himself failed to see and anticipate?

[please don't simply downvote. This is a sincere question. Do we know the answer?]

Yes, we do know the answer. We have many letters written by them.



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