Perhaps. And perhaps not. Most likely it is different, just like all those other times were different.
I hate to be skeptical, but when this same pattern of people saying "it's different!" repeats over and over again without it being different, I think the onus is on those making the claim to support their argument better. If anything, I think the metrics are different, and that leads to a lot of erroneous conclusions. I see a lot of economic activity that doesn't fit into the neat little categories we have constructed.
As an example, my wife is middle-aged, middle-income, and college educated. I helped her create a site about her hamburger casserole recipes. People liked the site, so she made the site into an ebook. Every day, hundreds of people either use the free site to cook dinner, or decide to buy the ebook (shameless plug: http://hamburger-casserole-recipes.com)
And it's not just her. She has a friend (also middle-aged, college educated, and out of the official workforce) who collect semi-rare books and resells them. Another friend sells household goods by leveraging her social networks.
The list goes on. We probably know 5 or 6 people who have some sort of unique arrangement that technology has facilitated. These are folks who do not have "jobs", yet they have income. They provide value to people.
So if I had to bet, I'd say the odds are 90% that the economy is evolving, not drastically changing. I might be wrong, but I'll need to see a lot more data than this before I'm willing to change my mind.
Its a simple failure of imagination. When 50% of the people were farmers, not many of them could imagine being airline pilots. A combine harvester must have seemed like a fearsome thing indeed.
You lay off 10,000 factory workers. Do you think they can ever be airline pilots? Or programmers? Or financial analysts? Or what-have-yous?
Sure, a small (very small) percentage of these folk will successfully retrain into another field, but the vast majority of them will be left behind. They do not have the educational background to pursue the knowledge-based jobs that are the only ones hiring.
And even if they did have the necessary educational background for retraining, who would pay for it? Education in the USA is already absurdly expensive, and the employer sure as hell won't be picking up the tab.
This is the reason that we need a wage for displaced workers. People who will probably never work again, due to lack of education or ambition. It's socialism, yes, but are we going to be responsible for allowing millions of people to become beggars while we enjoy the fruits of our labors?
I started my career right out of uni by developing software which eliminated hundreds of low skill jobs. Hundreds... really, what can you say about that? That I should pat myself on the back for boosting productivity by 3000% for a junior programmer's wages? That someone else would have done it if I hadn't? That these people have been freed up from tedious, repetitive jobs to become the creative people they always wanted to be? Honestly, the excuses ring a bit hollow.
It's my belief that as a result of our efforts, our drive to untangle complexity, that there will likely be 50% unemployment in the US by the end of the next decade. Let's design for that. I wish that our mentally absent congressmen would give a damn about what is happening to our economy under their watch.
Are you sure it's a good idea to systematically reward a lack of ambition?
> It's my belief that as a result of our efforts, our drive to untangle complexity, that there will likely be 50% unemployment in the US by the end of the next decade. Let's design for that.
You proposed design will become a self-fulfilling prophesy. Putting people on a permanent wage because they will "probably never work again" will signal to those people that society considers them worthless. You will never produce anything of sufficient value for anyone to consider it worthwhile to feed you for the effort.
You provide question and the answer. The idea of universal income (which this proposed wage is a limited application of) is that you give everyone a bare minimum stipend, while encouraging people to go out and earn more if they want more.
It wouldn't be event that expensive, considering what a modern social state already spends on its citizenry.
In a sense, modern government is partially already a mechanism of universal income (many government employees are unfit for being productive in private sector).
While it's good that there's a safety net so slip-ups and bad luck won't put you in the street and kill your children, institutionalising that dynamic (effectively removing it) will have catastrophic effects on the values of society.
These concerns are not crack-pot libertarian wet dreams, they were raised even by social democrats when the Nordic social democratic welfare states were designed. Britain has talked about anti-social behaviour and broken society for years (it's not just something David Cameron invented with his good-on-paper/WTF-IRL-"Big Society") - don't have that kind of language for it in Denmark, but the same dynamics are present.
Then find some more advanced goals for people to work at. If they really, truly, want nothing but a bare subsistence existence, and nothing else that modern society has to offer, then fine, let them sit around eating 2000 calories/day for free; maybe in the future robots will do all the work anyway, and lazy humans can just live off the munificence of their robot benefactors (we're halfway there). But an "advanced" society in 2011 where the reason people work is because they'll starve otherwise, despite the utter un-scarcity of food, now that seems like a pretty shameful dynamic. I'd be more interested in asking, rather than setting up artificial scarcity so that people have to work for the old scarce things (e.g. food) even though they aren't scarce anymore (there's only a distribution problem, not a scarcity problem), whether we can have a society where people work for something else. Maybe the answer's no, but to me that'd be a pretty sad answer.
We have moved beyond subsistence farming and free food - "food on the table" means a lot more, including many scarce goods.
You want tobacco? Go and work for it. You want booze? Go and work for it. You want PS3? Go and work for it.
Isn't this how food stamps are currently supposed to work? They only cover staples, and users aren't allowed to pay for tobacco, etc. The thing is, in the real world, food stamp recipients frequently barter their vouchers for these luxury items.
When considering such measures, we need to stop imagining what an optimal government might be able to do. Instead, look at the history of such efforts, and the incentive structures (consider Public Choice economics) to understand what is likely to transpire.
You act like this is a fundamental feature of humanity; it's not. Its a learned response to thousands of years of scarcity. There were plenty of societies where food was plentiful and thus they never developed this sort of social conditioning.
In a world where food, shelter, necessities are plentiful people will be freed up to gain social standing through creative endeavors. Or perhaps we'll do away with our need to rank each other based on arbitrary metrics. I welcome this future.
It's an idea whose time has come.
The value of new research undertaken by people on transfer income: very small, if any at all.
The reason the idea requiring direct democracy is that it involves two wolves and a sheep voting on what's for dinner.
I guess it'd be interesting to read a study quantifying it, but I'd be surprised if it were really true that not much research comes out of people on transfer incomes, especially if you include the people who used transfer incomes to bootstrap the early stages of a startup.
Yes, unemployment benefits can provide a backstop that enables entrepreneurship, but Denmark has more generous benefits than most other countries, yet the levels of entrepreneurship don't follow.
Any other direct subsidy towards entrepreneurship (although often misguided) aren't transfer income in the sense being suggested by the GP.
The people who can just sit around and come up with exciting new research or who can become successful entrepreneurs are generally also the kind of people who can get a job if they want or need one.
Make that one wolf and 99 pissed-off sheep.
The thing is, it's not up to us to decide if it's a good idea: it's up to the people who would benefit -- which is the vast majority.
You can have concentrated wealth or you can have democratic principles, but you can't long maintain both.
No, I am not advocating a cash wage, what is needed is a wage that enables the holder to claim a fixed list of goods (e.g. food stamps allow the holder to buy food, not XBOX games). Likewise, I'm sure that the statistics show that giving money to the homeless to buy food is unlikely to produce positive outcomes, but giving them food or shelter directly is a more responsible option.
I believe that a broad application of this same idea -- to provide a wage for displaced workers in the form of rights to claim an enumerated set of goods rather than indirectly via a cash stipend preserves the incentive structures present in the other areas of our economy while taking care of those left behind yet not undermining ourselves in the process.
A final thought -- consider that an educated, well-fed population with a low infant mortality rate has fewer children. Therefore, a morally acceptable form of population control is available to us: feed and educate the populace. If we can do that, then we should be able to sustain 50% unemployment.
Why the assumption that if you pay someone a living wage when their services are no longer needed, they won't continue to seek meaningful work, re-educate themselves or provide valuable services to the community? I come from a working class family, all of whom have the option to not work yet choose to do one or all three of the above out of a basic need to participate in their community and be valued.
People who will probably never work again, due to lack of education or ambition.
There exist plenty of large areas dominated by people who are, let's call it "empowered to provide meaningful services to the community". Yet, these areas are more often examples of urban decay than they are of thriving communities.
The same thing doesn't work for people outside our tribe. Evolutionarily speaking, these were rivals for our food or mates or whatever. So we don't feel the same compulsion to help outsiders.
Here's a counter-example for you: I know several people (and I'm guessing that most of us do) that have exaggerated disability claims, so they're now "retired" and living off social security, when their disability isn't great enough to, e.g., run the machinery to dig a new septic tank.
How many people do not try to minimize their tax burden? Isn't that another example demonstrating that people don't naturally contribute to the well-being of those outside their tribes?
I mean, I think a some of the barrier to unskilled employment right now is cultural. Having someone clean your personal space is seen as extremely crass. Heck, expensive software engineers are expected to clean up their own cube. Even having a secretary is kinda weird these days. Man, it's really nice to have support staff, but culturally, we seem to look at it like owning slaves.
But really, I think most of the problem is just that the economy is in the dumps. It's hard for anyone outside of the top 20% skill-wise to find a job right now, doing much of anything. It's an employer's market.
>And even if they did have the necessary educational background for retraining, who would pay for it? Education in the USA is already absurdly expensive, and the employer sure as hell won't be picking up the tab.
This is the economy again. During the dot-com boom? anyone that looked like they might be able to become qualified (including a 17 year old me) could get a job learning to become a computer programmer or a sysadmin. These days, companies don't want to take those kinds of risks; but I think that has more to do with the economy than with any structural differences in the computer industry.
I mean, do you really 'train' a SysAdmin? that's not really how I've seen it work. You get a kid who is into that sort of thing already and throw some books at them, and it sticks or it doesn't. The cost is that the kid is going to make some mistakes while learning, you don't know if the kid is even capable of becoming good, and even if you pick the right kid, the kid doesn't break anything too expensive, you get them the right books, even then, once you have built a pretty good SysAdmin, well, they might just leave for a better paying job.
In Mexico and South America, it's even expected that if you're well off, you're going to have household people (gardeners, cooks, cleaning staff).
Here in Uruguay I used to have a cleaning lady (once a week) when my income was U$ 500/month ! (she made U$ 10 per visit).
Sure education is expensiv but self education is not!
Im not saying everybody should learn programming. There is lots of other stuff that will not get taken ofer by mashienes and its pretty easy to learn a lot of this because of the Internet.
The problem is that often its not really about beeing good, its more about having finished the right school or having the right certification. That a hole diffrent set of problems.
Farmers are highly entrepreneurial and work very hard, a combine is a welcome invention. It's the hired farm hands who are worried about the combine harvester. It's a very interesting question, what will happen to our society when we have less and less need for manual and rote labour.
But what they lack is capital, scale, vertical integration, and access to enterprise IT systems.
The first casualties of technological advances were the manual laborers, but, as technology advances, and automation evolves further, the "independent farmer" will cease to exist in North America outside of the smaller retirement/sustenance farms (that are numerous, but don't contribute that greatly to the food supply) and niche areas that supply "Organically Grown", "Locally harvested" markets.
The Very Large Farms (that is, those farms doing > $500K sales/year) will continue to grow as a percentage of total farms, and those will increasingly become larger, and, as a result, eliminate farming jobs.
Farmers are stubborn, and resilient, so it won't happen quickly - but as those farms are lost to the mega-agricorps, they won't come back into the family. Average age of a farmer in the United States is around 57 - so, in about 10 years from now, as we see wider deployment of automated vehicles, yet another segment of the american job market will begin its permanent decline.
"As America starts to debate farm subsidies and big ag, while college grads are starting more small farms than any time in the last 100 years, look to the power of technology to break open an unhealthy and highly inefficient food distribution system that has left the world both obese and stuck with higher food prices."
"Corbin Hill is using Farmigo and a CSA model to deliver this healthy and fresh food at prices LOWER than the local Harlem supermarkets."
The majority of the western population has a fairly rigid definition of job: trade your time for money. Its one thing to change how you trade your time for money: e.g. going from plowing a field a shuffling papers at a desk. It’s a whole another thing to adopt a certain level of self-responsibility (and risk) in determining how you provide value for your employer/customers. This is intrinsic to almost all new-era, tech-enabled jobs.
This is what is different now.
A cultural evolution in the western world is needed to facilitate widespread success in the evolved economy. It’s going to hurt.
Patio11's article from a few weeks ago "Don't call yourself a programmer" illustrates this divide for the development community, but I'd be surprised if it can't be applied to most other fields. If you call yourself "factory worker" you're expendable and outsourcable.
So... How many single people earn a living, pay rent, bills, feed themselves and live to an acceptable standard from selling Hamburger ebooks?
Also don't forget that you don't have to live in a rich country for you to sell ebooks. Anywhere with internet is fine.
Rather than technology being a tool, of which humans ask, "what do I want to use this tool for?", instead there is this evolving technical-economic system that you have no choice but to interact with, and what you need to ask of yourself is, "how can I make myself useful to this system?" I.e., given the technical-economic system of your present moment, which you only understand a part of, where do you fit yourself in so you can be a tool that that system finds useful to employ towards its ends (whatever those might be)? Alternately, he hoped there was a way to re-invert the inversion of control, but no word on success on that front...
I read it mostly second-hand via Bernard Stiegler's Technics and Time, which is widely available in English and summarizes Gille extensively in the beginning portions. That's an okay intro in the purely summary parts, but is tied up in Stiegler's own project of somehow re-theorizing what time means via a mixture of technical evolution and Heideggerian philosophy, which may not be what you're interested in (I found it a bit over my head, but I'm not at all versed in Heideggerian philosophy). Maybe since it's caused a bit of a revival in interest in Gille, someone will re-print an English translation, or a good secondary work.
Oddly his only work that is widely available in English, Engineers of the Renaissance, is quite good but has none of this in it; it's just a straightforward, well-researched history of Renaissance-era engineering.
Incidentally, it appears you can also read Stiegler via Twitter, possibly to his chagrin (he's made some skeptical comments about what Twitter does for thought/communication): https://twitter.com/TechnicsAndTime
Unemployment is dominated by sectors directly connected to the real estate/financial boom (construction, real estate, finance) which are no longer booming and could not sustain historically high employment levels. We're simply seeing reversion to the mean plus a wee bit extra, which only looks cataclysmic when your recorded history began at the top of the market.
Also, finance didn't suffer so much - only about a 9% job loss. I suspect finance fared better than other bubble-related fields mainly because of their highly flexible wages. (I.e., construction or manufacturing has layoffs, finance just cuts bonuses.)
I graphed the figures a while back: http://crazybear.posterous.com/structural-shift-in-the-econo...
This is the thing that makes me skeptic about all the "distribute available work", "create subsidies for displaced workers" proposals. People still need houses, food, all that. It's the demand that starts the economic cycles.
Real state, at least in some countries, has been the "engine" that fuels the economy at large. But if it's stalled, some other area must become the lead.
"Radiologists, who can earn over $300,000 a year in America, after 13 years of college education and internship, are among the first to feel the heat. It is not just that the task of scanning tumour slides and X-ray pictures is being outsourced to Indian laboratories, where the job is done for a tenth of the cost. The real threat is that the latest automated pattern-recognition software can do much of the work for less than a hundredth of it."
a very naive understanding of radiologists.
This only one of the many task a radiologists must handle, including interaction with patient, which is the most important task. We are far away from replace that service with Ai. Software handling one task won't eliminate the need for radiologists.
"Lawyers are in a similar boat now that smart algorithms can search case law, evaluate the issues at hand and summarise the results. Machines have already shown they can perform legal discovery for a fraction of the cost of human professionals—and do so with far greater thoroughness than lawyers and paralegals usually manage."
Case discovery is only one of the many task a Lawyer must perform,
case discovery alone won't replace lawyers. It will only allow them to be more productive. Lawyers still responsible for many other task, they have to broker deals, consult clients and in the case of trial attorneys, win trials.
more thoughts at:
(Though for medicine in particular, I think a mixture of "you can always do more" and humans' seemingly infinite hypochondria means that medical spending will continue to eat up as much money as we're willing to throw at it.)
And it would be a nice side income for some young doctor.
Perhaps the number of dermatologists won't even decrease - perhaps we'll simply have an increase in quality/frequency of screening for the same number of dermatologists. Perhaps it will open things up so more people can afford to get regular screenings. I'm not poor, but that's one of those things that I classify as too much of a luxury to do regularly - there are a bunch of different screenings that people could do.
Yeah. Healthcare. Always getting more and more affordable!
It's also the one radiologists and other medical professionals routinely fail at.
Sorry, but if your argument is "computers don't have a bedside manner", I have to call that a plus... for the computers.
Well, yes, except that when an algorithm is doing all diagnosis and analysis, and all you need is someone with bedside manner to interact with the patient, your job requirements go from "N years at a good medical school" to "Experience as a receptionist". It is virtually guaranteed that compensation for this type of position will be driven downward.
In the 1950's people wondered what the future generations would do with all their free time. They predicted, correctly, that worker productivity would rise immensely. They also assumed that people would be just as wealthy while working much less.
People are wealthier in some ways. In america, its pretty much standard issue to own at least one car (partially perhaps because a car is needed to simply get a job in most areas).
But in other ways it does not seem like the average worker is as well-off as the past had predicted.
I could say things about concentration of wealth and other reasons the productivity gains were not matched by gains in free time, but I'm not sure I know enough to make those arguments.
People could get by with a much smaller salary (or keep the same salary but save a ton of it) by having an older car, a smaller house, less fancy food, etc. but everybody else has nicer things. I see people buying really nice cars on credit and then they don't have much time to drive it recreationally because they spend all their time working to pay for it. "Well there's your problem!"
For the other side, let's say I make $X but only need $X/2 to live. Try finding an employer who will let you work half time for $X/2. It's pretty tough, especially if you make $X at something "professional", rather than, say, digging ditches. Worse, for Americans, is the current link between employment and health care. Half-time employment generally means having to buy your own health insurance, which doesn't come cheap.
In short, it seems like it's pretty hard to work less and make less, and when you do work full time and make good money, it's very tempting to spend a larger portion of it on luxuries.
Have a look:
There are also less super-rich people here since people are overall taxed more. The oil industry also adds to the general income level, but this doesn't explain the entire effect. I'm pretty sure the same can be observed, in Sweden and Finland.
The theory is that employees should be paid more for producing more value per head. However if everyone produces more then wages can't go up without a corresponding increase in prices.
The alternative is reduced prices, new improved goods and services, and a steady wage giving the misleading sentiment of "everything is getting better, but I'm still being paid the same".
Now some massive productivity increase comes along and doubles output with the same workers. Now you're producing enough TVs for each person to have two TVs per year. Either the price of TVs will drop by 50%, or salaries will double. (Or half of the workforce will be fired....) Approximately. If everyone produces more then everyone has to be able to buy more, otherwise there's no reason to have the additional production in the first place.
My theory? Well somebody has to pay for all the useless people (Washington employes a ton of them and so do nearly all large companies in the world).
Rather than working ~20 hours a week, work ~40 hours a week, half your life.
Note particularly that statistics only work when applied to large enough populations. I will not be 70% dead at 70, I'll either be 100% dead or 0% dead.
So work 40 hours/week for until you pile up enough money to buy a lifetime annuity, and let the insurance company do the averaging over large populations.
$60k in one year is taxed at a higher rate than $30k/yr for each of two years.
RRSPs in Canada mitigate this... But you're probably still better off with $X/2 income.
Well, we may not all be working 8-hour weeks and vacationing in Hawaii and Mexico, but the simple truth is that people on average are a lot better off than in the past. The only stat I have in my head right now: Infant mortality has dropped from 2.6% to 0.6% since 1960.
A hundred years ago, poor people had dirt floors. That's unheard of today, except among the utterly destitute.
But obviously that hasn't happened: there is no real route by which I can put in 2% of full-time work, which by productivity gains is supposedly equivalent to 100% of 1900's full-time work, and live a basic 1900-era lifestyle. If there were, a lot of homeless people would take that option, working one week a year and earning themselves basic 1900-era accommodations/food.
It's just not an option you can actually pursue. Heck, even if you want to take some of the productivity gains in quality improvements: let's admit you don't have the option today to live like a 1900-era citizen, but have to, at a minimum, live 10x better. Then I should still be able to live ten times as well as the average 1900 citizen while putting in only 20% of a full-time job's worth of labor, thanks to that 50x productivity improvement. But that isn't really an option, either. Instead it seems that, if that 50x figure is indeed real, the only way to realize it is to take the dividend as material wealth, living 50x better rather than putting in less labor.
Now, if you worked at a good job that is actually 50x as productive (a waitress is probably not 50x as productive today as she was 100 years ago) I'd wager that you could work there for 1 year and live 1900's-style for the next 49, as I'm pretty sure 1900's-style subsitence farming is far more spartan than most people imagine.
You might say "well, those are all gadgets." Fine, but if you cut all of those out of your life you'll probably save more than $3000 per year. That itself is a huge boost for the average worker.
Cell phones, cars, computers, internet... these aren't luxuries. These are mandatory investments that people have to make in their career. Investments they have to make out of their own pocket.
Try getting a job without a phone. Doesn't work.
If I was a retired millionaire I could cut them out.
If you want slightly more convenience, you can (for example) get a decent car that will take you from point A to point B for about $5000.
In the end, you really are mostly paying for convenience.
You are so out of touch. Most people I know who are having trouble either have no car or a $400 beater car. A $5000 car would be considered lavish.
You have a trust fund or something don't you?
A mobile phone is absolutely a requirement to get a job. Employers expect you to have it and expect you to answer when they call. Guess what happens if, after a job interview, you don't answer your call.
"Sorry boss, I was at the grocery store." is not an excuse.
"Sorry boss, I was on the toilet" is not even an excuse.
You either answer or you don't get the job.
Guess what happens if, at a $12/hour job, you don't answer your phone and come in for extra shifts when they are short workers? They take away your hours. They financially punish you.
You've never tried going without the internet if you think the library is a substitute. Employers require you to have email and web access from home, and they don't accept, "Sorry boss I didn't read your email yet. I haven't had a chance to get down to the library. It takes while on public transport you know" as an excuse.
My last job paid $9.10 an hour and I was expected to review my email daily as well as visit the company website occasionally to do these little quizzes and courses. The public library closes at 6pm. It wouldn't even be possible for me to get there.
Try going into a job interview and telling them you can't be reached instantly by email or phone at any time. See what happens.
You sound like Marie Antoinette. "The unemployed can just get a $5000 car! What the hell are they complaining about?"
Anyway, though, I suggested that $5000 car (which is a once-a-decade splurge) as a convenience. I explicitly said that. Many people, including me, have made do with public transportation or lousy cars (at a $10/hour job, yes — this is from experience). I still maintain that there are much cheaper options than the "plasma TV, high-speed Internet, cell service" lifestyle that was under discussion here. For example, you definitely don't need TV, and if you're looking fo a job and really need a phone, you can get a prepaid one for like $10 without committing to an expensive plan.
And it is simply not my experience, nor that of anyone I know (who range from unemployed to poorly employed to very gainfully employed) that hiring managers will not wait a few minutes for you to call back. Has that actually happened to you a lot? I believe it happens sometimes, but again, I don't believe that is the common case.
If you really work for somebody that horrible for $9.10 an hour, I would urge you to seek alternative employment at someplace like Subway, Albertsons or Starbucks, where they have similar compensation and in my experience they tend to treat people better than that.
Also — and I mean this sincerely, not to be snarky — I would suggest you look at how you approach people, because frankly you come across as rather hostile and negative. I understand you find your situation frustrating, but you need to try to stay positive. That will impact your chances of landing a job much more severely than your ability to answer an email within 30 seconds of it being sent.
Anyway, best of luck to you, whether you agree or not.
This means that employers who are actually hiring have so many applicants, if you don't answer the phone, they just go to the next applicant.
This isn't the Google hiring process. This is where there are 50 applications for a single opening at a crappy part time customer facing service job like the McDonald's drive-through.
It's not because they are so fun or make life worth living. It's because they give you access to a job.
Same reason a homeless guy buys a suit instead of his last dinner. The suit is an investment: it makes him money. He doesn't enjoy the suit.
And thanks for the correction on landlines. It's been forever since I had one, so I didn't know how much they cost these days. My bad on that one.
I own a manufacturing company with >100 employees, a mix of manufacturing and office/service jobs, and I don't expect answers from home from anyone except a couple top execs and the sales team, who are all based out of their home anyway and have company provided smartphones.
According to benchmarking data our company is not lavish, pays competitive wages but not way over the market, and has good productivity numbers.
Manufacturing? Are you sure you're not in China?
Most jobs available right now are customer facing service jobs. They give a typical employee 32 hours per week to avoid being legally required to treat them as a full time employee, and they change the shifts on a week to week basis. Good employees are rewarded with more hours or better shifts, while bad employees are punished by reducing their hours or giving worse shifts. They expect you to answer the cellphone and come in to do extra shifts when they are short-staffed, and you must apply online through their website and then come in for an interview where you dress well.
They expect you to get there on your own which in many cities means a car is necessary. They ask if you have a car on their website application forms, and they mention that a car is not mandatory. You are statistically more likely to be hired if you display signals on the application form that indicate you are wealthy or higher class, which gives people who don't really need the job an advantage in the hiring process (such as high school students).
If you take sick days, they will reduce your hours to punish you, but of course will never tell you that that is why because it is illegal. But all employees understand that this is the situation.
For the record, I'm not in this situation. I'm one of the wealthy people who decided to work a $9.10/hour job by choice, for fun. I don't work there anymore -- early retirement. But I have lots of friends who are in this position. Usually they are there because their parents are poor and had major issues. Many of the people in these situations suffer from mental health disorders but cannot afford treatment.
If I'm angry at the silver spoon people on hacker news it's because I was raised to believe that technology would liberate humanity and create a world with no poverty and limited human suffering. But instead I have discovered that technology has been used by an elite to enslave the vulnerable.
They live tiny compartmentalized lives dominated by oppressive faceless systems that exploit them at every turn. Every injustice is accepted with resignation to the fact that the dejected human cannot even beg the system for mercy, because robots have no feelings. The bank algorithms charge $40 non-sufficient fund fees when the rent check on Monday is withdrawn, even though the paycheck was deposited Friday, because some bank algorithm re-arranges the order of the deposits to ensure there will be a fee. The worker is told not to complain about this -- when they opened the account they accepted the agreement which indicated that this could be a possibility.
Instead of the whips of slave-masters, faceless corporate "policy" and computer algorithms are the overlords that teach them their worthlessness. They are told to cheer up by the self-absorbed on HN, and they learn that it is essential that they lift up the corners of their mouth and pretend to love their slavery in order to pay the ever expanding grocery bill.
This is your high tech society. It's a society of faceless high tech oppression, a society where the hungry have jobs and internet but cannot afford food, a society where there is abundance but corporate policy says that only rich people are allowed to eat.
A society where when the dejected and pitiful complain for help, they are told to cheer up, at least they have cell phones and internet. But they can't eat their cell phone, and they also can't trade it for food.
For the record, most of the poor people I know do not have plasma TVs or cable. They would gladly trade their cell phones and internet for more food and shelter IF they could function in society without a cell phone or internet. But you can't. They are not luxuries, they are mandatories.
So how can this be true while we also apparently have been enslaved by computers and corporate overlords who refuse to let us eat?
1) You use the word 'slavery' very loosely.
2) You ignore the ability of population increases to nullify productivity gains.
3) You have let your emotions overpower your thoughts and so instead of analysing issues you rant.
Are we better off than America 40 years ago?
Are we as far ahead as we should be?
There is still food scarcity today, and there doesn't need to be. There is still environmental destruction today, and there doesn't need to be. Freedom, democracy and prosperity came about with enlightenment philosophy, but computer technology has actually caused a reduction in freedom and prosperity for Americans. This is a problem.
My rant would not have been made 40 years ago in this country. Things have gotten worse in this country.
Read this: http://www.isteve.com/How_to_Help_the_Left_Half_of_the_Bell_...
Ditto for intelligence. Things like iodine and breast feeding seem to be capable of boosting IQ by a few points each. Doubtless there are other factors. And yet, there is little reason to doubt that there is a genetic ceiling to any given person's potential IQ, at least if you accept that IQ stems from physical properties - in which case, how could it be exempt from genetic determination?
This is reality, and there is little hope of improving the lot of those who did not win the genetic lottery without first accepting that there is, in fact, such a lottery.
The first question is, how much of the currently observed variability in height (and IQ) is explained by genetic factors and environmental factors respectively? Meaning, how much of a lottery genes actually are?
The second question is, how could we take control of the variability? Meaning, how much could we deliberately influence height (and IQ) through genes and environment respectively?
By itself, the first question is of high academic interest, and low practical interest. The second question is just the opposite. But more important, those two questions should be treated separately, so everyone knows what we are talking about.
You had to do your company training on your own time? This is ridiculously exploitive. Surely there is a class action lawsuit here? Walmart got in trouble for making people work off the clock.
Imagine a world where people could enjoy the variety of clothing that existed in the world 300 years ago and that has been now elliminated by the hustle of modern life and by a global trade in clothes. Even if they will be produced by robots, designing these clothes will remain mostly a human job. Virtually anyone could wear designer clothes, and many people could become such designers. The same could be applied to food, music, movies, and so on.
Education and corporal care would also become a large part of the economy that would hire humans and not robots. There will be plenty of niches, and people will have the time to invest in developing specialized skills, rediscovering skills long forgotten.
Eliberated by the stress of modern life, life will simply become more enjoyable.
Do you really think that the history of wealth production is somehow going to change radically to a sudden redistribution of wealth to everyone so they can relax and take it easy while living off the fruits of others investments?
Oh wait 200-2010 was the single greatest decade in all of human history for the amount of people raised out of subsistence living to a reasonable standard of living and 2010-2020 promises to be even better.
Darn reality messing up my morality plays. Real life is not a status game.
What I was wondering about in my post was what happens when capital no longer requires much labour. This is happening now, hedgefunds are a great examples of this. They are amazingly efficient and produce very large sums of capital for the amount of labour required (revenue per employee). I'm not saying all labour is equal, I am saying capital is producing more in industries with less labour. Potentially, a financial model could get so good (or so stable) that it requires only minor updates to the system in order continue deriving a profit. You then have a situation where capital creates capital with only a statistically insignificant amount of labour. Efficiency pushes the system forward and delivers much to people while people have a valuable product to sell, their labour. When their labour is not valuable, they are unemployed. If their labour cannot generate enough value, why would they ever be employed in an ultimately efficient system?
My argument still stands, if you would like to respond to it. Why would capitalism suddenly change to give accumulated wealth back? Will the masses just rely on philanthropic whims?
Food and wellbeing are the main things keeping civilization together. Wealthy regions are also stable regions, so it is necessary for the poor to be supported.
Or alternatively the economic force of competition kicks in and these goods become virtually free above the cost of the machinery and raw goods.
Developers make AI and machines capable of replacing farming, mining, power generation, resource refinement completely, except for technicians and mechanics.
It isn't far off from the same machines entering the human service workforce, replacing the cashier and drive through clerk. They replace cars and planes (already have auto pilot, google car in ~10 years).
At this point, we have crisis. Our current system has you buying a good and the company providing it making the money. If the company consists of hundreds of technicians as its only labor force because the entire production process is automated (your big Mac is farmed by robots, overseen by robots, butchered, packed, shipped by robots, cooked by robots, and served by robots) and the ~$5 you pay for it goes entirely to the company coffers.
It would not take long for everyone's wealth to trickle into the hands of the few hundreds of people positioned to rule over the production of 99% of goods. It is kind of like what OWS is doing right now, but much worse. There is no fast food job for the high school grad to do - you must learn engineering, art, or hard science to have any function to society, because any rote task or even service job has been replaced by robots.
And then they replace the mechanics and programmers with genetic algorithms. The company becomes a siphon of any money they make straight into the stock holders. And there would be no employees, because everything is automated. You don't even need an engineer to watch the top level of maintenance bots, because you have 10+ of them and they know how to fix themselves.
The end result though is that we have this situation where we pay money for what robots do, not people, and the money just goes to those that funded the robots original creation forever. That kind of situation would not last long, but it would be nice to avoid. It will require a huge reinterpretation of any viable economic system when you can make goods and provide services without any human interaction.
Factory farmed animal meat is just something so morally repugnant to me. If there's no real need for it, why do it?
>And then they replace the mechanics and programmers with genetic algorithms.
I don't think this is logically possible. The job of a programmer is to transform human intention and desire into a computer readable input. How would you determine a heuristic for the genetic algorithm? The heuristic would have to be written by a human being on some level. There's only so far you can automate automation itself and I think you are grossly underestimating how difficult it is or will be.
Programming is a trinity between human paradigms, algorithmic mathematics and magic. The closer you bring the math and algorithms to the human paradigms and desires, the more it will resemble magic. It is an asymptotic progression. The magic will be never achieved.
What you are talking about is constructing the perfect programming language. People have been trying to do this since the start of previous century (Lambda calculus). You really think we will experience some tremendous leap in the close future?
In short: you will always have to have a way to describe what you want of the computer, and this is called a programming language.
"Life could become dedicated to enjoying art"?? Ugh!!!!
"...could enjoy the variety of clothing..." are you kidding? That sounds horrible.
There is a basic human need to be needed. People who have everything but are not needed are miserable. People who are needed, but have little are happy.
That opens up all kinds of possibilities to how to spend our time. For example, if you didn't need to work to meet your basic needs, you could decide to devote your time to beating videogame records. It would be completely useless, but still lead to lots of appreciation for your skill. Doing a hobby all day long could become the norm.
I have to second the culture series as good reading on this topic. It paints a believable picture of an Ai-driven post-material society where people still feel that they live full lives.
If it were not for women, I'd just sit home playing World of Warcraft, drinking energy drinks and masturbating, to put it bluntly.
Even if our basic material needs are met through automation, we are all still engaged in a very bitter competition for other resources, you do realize. There simply can not exist a state of utopia as long as we reproduce sexually (I have a very Freudian view on this). This is a catch-22 of course. The state we are in defines what we consider an utopia.
You are assuming that if we didn't have to worry about producing material resources, creativity and intellect would be the determining factor in who gets their way. Why not violence? Why not intimidation and sociopathy? As tightly knit social groups (small villages and communities) break down and we live in one global village, nobody really knows each other. Most of the people we meet are complete strangers to us. It's much easier for exploitative and cruel personalities to thrive, because they can stay hidden in plain sight. They can pretend and manipulate to their dark hearts content without the fear of retribution. If they get discovered they can just move to a different location.
As we have more material resources as welfare and a legal arm heavily protective of women and children, women don't need a protector nor a financier. They can just get the sperm they want and raise kids outside of marriage. Old institutions that were the bedrock of civilized society will all but crumble to dust. Widespread soft polygamy will replace it. Those with the most instant charm and good appearances will win, instead of those who build things to last on the long run. Short term strategies will win over the long term ones.
These are all hyperboles I use to describe my views of the modes of societal change and interaction.
It is my theory that the easier it is to meet material needs, the lazier people get and more prone to instant gratification. It's not that difficult to extrapolate from this one simple truth.
Also one of the problems I didn't touch upon, is how our natural instincts that were developed for a very different world will overtake and corrupt us: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Supernormal_Stimuli. Slow seduction of irrational and unbalanced stimulus can make our behaviour very self destructive on the long run.
And yet all literature (fiction and non-fiction) ever written on this topic concludes that above all humans want to feel connected and valued. I completely disagree with your theory and believe that given the opportunity to not require demeaning work for subsistence, our species will overwhelming choose to seek meaningful activities above becoming a permanent couch potato. Why else would we have such a rich culture of arts and music, if our ancestors preferred to spend their downtime watching the horizon/fireplace instead of creating. Yes, there may be some who choose a less engaging existence but given that of everyone I know, from poor cousins to independently wealthy ex-financiers prefers to do something with their time, I am confident the majority will also prefer meaning over stagnation.
This is where I think your argument falls apart. It's not because of some drive created through scarcity that encourages you to get up and be productive, its to gain social status (as communicated through wealth) to attract women.
This drive will be ever present in a society where basic needs are free. The only difference is that one will have to be more creative and intelligent to stand out and attract a mate. As society evolves, one's criteria for a mate evolves with it. But that drive to acquire status is ever present.
Isn't this exactly the same thing? The love of women is the scarce resource that drives me to exceed. I don't understand your point here.
>This drive will be ever present in a society where basic needs are free.
It already is. It's called sexual selection. Males protrude themselves and women choose. This is exactly my point.
>The only difference is that one will have to be more creative and intelligent to stand out and attract a mate.
You (and the OP) are making some huge assumptions here. Like that creativity and intelligence has any merit without social skill and boldness. Another assumption is that through creativity and intelligence one gains power instead of just through the skill of manipulating other people. Just look at the current situation. Are the ones with the most money and power currently adept at making great technology and art themselves, or is it instead the most daring and the most merciless? The ones who can exploit other peoples skill to the fullest.
>Isn't this exactly the same thing? The love of women is the scarce resource that drives me to exceed. I don't understand your point here.
It can certainly be viewed this way. What I was referring to when I said scarce resource was food and wealth. The point is that, even if your necessities were taken care of, you wouldn't sit in your basement playing WoW all day. Those drives that push you to go out and create now (in an environment of scarcity) would still be just as present in an environment where wealth was not scarce. What society deems as status-worthy would simply evolve.
The point is that we would NOT become a society of "couch potatoes and drug addicts", as you claimed, as the drives that push us to excel today would be just as present in the supposed robot-utopian future.
Sounds like Heaven on Earth to me. Now to make it happen during our lifetimes!
I think what the current trend means though is that we're going to have to teach people to learn and re-work education to maximize the ability to adapt.
I feel a little sorry for the radiologist whose effective supply is apparently rapidly expanding, but there is still a long way to fall from a $350,000 annual income. :)
I'm scared that as we optimize test-prep and narrowly focus on passing children through school, we're potentially decreasing the likelihood that people learn on their own. We're decreasing the amount of effort it takes for a kid to learn some [probably useless] skill, like drawing force diagrams on pulley systems, where the point of the exercise [imo] in the first place was to stretch the mind and force the kid to fill in the gaps and think for himself. That same kind of stretching that might come in handy when he finds himself displaced for whatever reason, be it technology or something else.
What can we learn from how they handled it? Our civilization already seems more similar to their's than any other.
yeah, it's not like increases in productivity could simply create a surplus that is then directed into other sectors. I write for the economist and cannot into economics hurrdurr. This is like saying that a machine that lets me do laundry faster is bad because I don't need to do 20 loads of laundry per day.
It's mainly how points of control incentivize some of these factors to move faster, or out of step with the other factors.
So stop whatever it is you are doing and instead destroy these things instead. Then stand back and watch the ground swell of prosperity that sweeps the globe.
Radiologists are no Dilberts.
* automation leading to increasing wealth
and less employment in redundant jobs
* social safety nets freeing people up to do work
they LIKE to do because it gives them satisfaction
* guaranteed housing, food, and sexbots for all (basic maslow's needs)
with ability to get more expensive things through capitalism
* speculation by abusing resources and cornering free markets
* government monopolies (patents, etc) restricting
freedom of production in fast moving industries
* increased risk of terrorism leading to significant
culture changes around security/freedom issues
just my point of view.
See, for example, Charles Mann, 1493, on sugar plantations in Africa and the Americas.
The key lies in seeing that when humans no longer have to do mundane repetitive tasks, then they are freed up to do far more powerful and interesting things. The last job to be completely automated is the programmer, engineer and designer. And that too will one day be automated. I like to believe that humans and AI will merge so that together, a human and the machine will always be more powerful/more in control than just the AI.
I don't really have a guess myself. I think it depends pretty sensitively on some hard-to-predict parameters; change some rates 2% here and 3% there and technological transitions (and the distribution of labor/wealth that results from them) look much different.
The learning curve for the jobs that may be created might be too steep for those whose jobs were displaced.
If you find a way to make the marginal cost of educating someone near 0, then many more people might discover things that they're good at that they wouldn't have had the chance to otherwise.
I think this requires some socialist-style changes to what the govt. is willing to support, though, since many people can't afford to take time off. If this was bundled with unemployment benefits or welfare, though, I think it could be very powerful.
As leverage increases, the wealth disparity will almost certainly grow, just because some people will be able to create much more wealth than others. Not sure how to deal with that.
I don't like the argument: "This human has such an aversion to learning that they must be supported forever like a pet". I suppose you wait for them to die and the problem solves itself. They can learn, they just have been positively reinforced to not learn.
Oh, undoubtedly. But they will go down the path of least resistance which will more than likely be a life of crime. It's also important to recognize that not everyone is cut out for intellectually demanding jobs. There is a wide variety of intelligence levels throughout society.
People are not rational actors.
In a sense libertarian ideals are quite virtuous and moral depending on your values, but they're terribly impractical. They take as many liberties with human nature as does pure communism.
Not that I think we are quite at the point were machines can do everything yet...