"In my view, it will lead to richer lives, and longer lives, but I would put an emphasis on the richer part. And I’m not just talking about financial riches. Life is getting [better] as we enrich our lives with technology. You can see that now—a kid in Africa with a smartphone has access to more information and human knowledge than the president of the United States did 15 years ago. People were lucky if they could get a book 100 years ago. We’re going to continue that expansion. Music is going to be richer. We’re going to have virtual reality experiences we can enjoy. All different forms of human expression, art, science, are going to become expanded, by expanding our intelligence."
He's infinitely more intelligent than me, but I fail to comprehend how a world without human labour could possibly lead to a richer experience.
A meme back then was from Buckminster Fuller, renowned architect, thinking, and systems analyst--what they used to call hackers back then. Fuller made a proclamation that in the future we will reach a point in society where a person will only need to work 1 full work to generate enough value that lets them live for the rest of the year.
How crazy is that?
Well when you have replicators and automation to do all the work, you have more time to focus on other things.
For example say you want to be an artist. To do so you endeavor on the artist path, living the artist lifestyle. You don't work a 9 to 5 so that you can focus on your art, because of that you don't have a lot of money, and thus you live the hipster way. In the cheaper edges of a big city, you work entry level retail jobs, and you're constantly at the edge of failure.
Many of us like to create art, but because we don't want to live that kind of poor lifestyle we don't pursue what our passions are. We're misfit, square pegs in round holes of society.
You absolve people of toil and now you have no fear. Without fear you create more. When you try more you do more.
J. K. Rowling credits her completion of Harry Potter based on England's welfare system. They removed her anxiety and fear by helping her out when she had no job. Because of that she took the plunge to write Harry Potter.
Imagine if all 7 billion of us are free to try, really try, at art. Think of the industrial revolution. Think of the internet revolution. None of that will compare to the next wave and all that new activities will bring.
That's how the world is enriched by removing work.
Or, we can all end up reverting back to living in caves.
E.g. in the German Ideology (1845), Marx wrote: "
In communist society, where nobody has one exclusive sphere of activity but each can become accomplished in any branch he wishes, society regulates the general production and thus makes it possible for me to do one thing today and another tomorrow, to hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, criticise after dinner, just as I have a mind, without ever becoming hunter, fisherman, herdsman or critic.
But this was not to my knowledge an idea that originated with Marx, but was a general driver behind a range of socialist and proto-socialist ideologies dating back to well before the term socialism came into use.
Though to Marx it was one of the reasons for why he saw the fall of capitalism as inevitable: It will, according to him, chase efficiencies due to competition to the point where it will eventually saturate markets at the same time as it seeks to minimize labour and minimize labour costs. Since capitalism is geared towards continuous expansion, he believed this would lead simultaneously to eventual increases in poverty and overproduction as society tries to reconcile a situation where labour becomes less and less necessary while capitalist companies depends on more and more spending.
So to Marx, the crisis of increasing economic output coupled with reduced need for labour is what eventually pushes society to a tipping point where Marx argued socialist revolutions becomes not only viable, but necessary (you'll note that noe of the countries where people tried to force through revolutions in the name of socialism have been anywhere near this level of development; starting with Lenin, a number of people went through any number of contortions to try to make excuses for how socialist revolutions would be viable in countries that did not meet the criteria set out by Marx, and every one of them have been proven wrong; though of course that does not prove Marx right), and that they will eventually happen with or without help.
Marx tacitly admitted that capitalism would be more efficient at growing manufacturing etc., for the very reason that capitalism diverts far fewer resources to welfare. And this is one of the reasons why a well developed capitalist society according to Marx is a pre-requisite for socialism.
Kudos! Michael J Pollard (who is 74 and still with us, was awesome in this episode).
The problem is, business models will probably bill you for time of use while you rent-out your replication.
Technology is great, but as long as their implementers seek profit over ideals, there's a pretty big obstacle to your utopia.
Except, of course, that all our experience indicates that once education levels, healthcare and general prosperity increases, reproduction rates drop.
If anything, if this effect continues, we'll reach a point soon enough where a shrinking population starts to become one of the things for us to worry about. Some countries already do worry about aging populations partially as a result of this, and it already is a major aspect of immigration debates in many European countries.
Firstly, human beings are omnivores, not pure predators.
Second, human beings have been evolving under the selection pressures of hunter-gathering lifestyles, semi-nomadic pastoral, settled farming lifestyles, and urban lifestyles for thousands of years now. The new lifestyles have been bred into our genes.
Third, if we really had no potential to behave like civilized people whatsoever, we wouldn't even feel morally drawn to civilized behavior at all. If we really were pure predators, "wild-born wolves", we simply wouldn't like cooperative behaviors or institutions whatsoever. The fact that we feel one mode of behavior is more moral is actually an indication that we are capable of that behavior, provided we actually choose to discipline ourselves.
Now if you'll excuse me, speaking of wild-born wolves, I have to go listen to that metal song again. Seid ihr das Essen? Nein, wir sind der Jäger!
As a whole, we hunt species to extinction just because some old geezers believe a horn is an erectile dysfunction cure.
Yeah, we can invade countries to search for a magic cauldron retconned to mean an easter souvenir, but we can't protect our home planet from an ecological devastation that will surely affect the future generations because we are now adapted to urban lifestyles and everything else is somebody else problem.
Somehow Agent Smith was right with the virus classification.
However, that doesn't negate your point that we could end up ruining it all through war. The thing is, most people want to follow, and they aren't very choosy about who leads them. Leadership tends to attract the kind of people who enjoy power, and so, even if resources are abundant, there is always something to fight about.
The technology that could bring about a lasting peace wouldn't be robotics, it would be some social mechanism through which we could obtain wise leadership. Which is certainly possible. Information technology opens up the possibility of entirely new levels transparency and accountability. Alternatively, there is the possibility of extremely rigid population monitoring and control.
Frankly, I think the most likely possibility is that there will only be a very brief period of time (maybe 50 years) between the point where we can automate all manual tasks, and the point where we have AI or augmented human minds, that are (by definition) impossible for us to predict.
A huge standing army will no longer be necessary. In fact, this is already slowly happening.
Looked at this way war has at least two 'opposites'. I put opposites in quotes because I think there are far fewer actual binary dichotomies than people make out.
While I'm on the topic. Same for love. They say the opposite of love is hate. But whereas love draws people together fear keeps keeps them apart so you could also say that fear is the opposite of love. Looked at in this way love has at least two 'opposites'.
I wonder how many other traditional binaries could be broken?
You can apply anything with anything.
War is just another expression of art.
What is that expression? "All's fair in love and war"
Plenty of UK bands from the 60s to the 90s have mentioned unemployment benefits as being an important factor in allowing them to exist before they got famous.
Noone is to my knowledge saying she did not also have a substantial impact on it herself - after all, we're not swimming in people who have achieved the same. But there can very well be more than one contributing factor.
To grasp onto your last statement: Try writing a book when you're an unemployed, uneducated mum if she did not have a working welfare system to "break my fall" as she herself put it.
It was her effort, but the welfare system made it possible for her to put in that effort.
EDIT: Though just for the record, as rich people go she is definitively one of the most sympathetic, not least for the way she has made it exceedingly clear that she believes it is fair for her to pay her taxes in the UK without complaint, given what she believes she owes to the system in the first place - and to the extent that she explicitly hit out at the conservatives for wanting to cut taxes for the rich.
This isn't hard to answer. As a share of the U.S. economy, the entertainment sector (movies, TV, video games...) has grown consistently. Why? Because people are spending less money on almost everything else thanks to declining human labor input costs. Another big winner has been restaurants which are, on average, much more numerous and of dramatically higher quality and variety in your median metro area than they were 50 or 100 years ago. Air travel is also, of course, way up, as more people visit faraway places.
I don't see why we should mourn the decline in traditional "labor". Robots aren't going to be cooking anyone a six course meal or directing the next Star Wars movie any time soon.
What do you replace 100 million labor based jobs with? So far, spanning decades, there hasn't been a good answer to that question, and the middle class continues to erode year after year. So now here we sit with 14% U6 unemployment ('the new normal'), and a labor force participation rate that matches 35 or so years ago (before the full influx of women into the work force, so the current numbers are that much uglier).
I'll note that in the last several years, the radical majority of job creation has been both part-time and hospitality based (eg hotels and bars). Hospitality pays notoriously terrible wages for the average worker. That doesn't sound like a good future to me.
The other important statistic you're missing is that corporate profits are way up, even better than pre 2008 levels in fact. The question is why, if the economy is so bad that employment is perpetually depressed, how are corporate profits so high? The answer is that production is in fact back to where it used to be. But through automation and piling more work onto fewer people, corporations are reaping ever bigger profits at the expense of the rest of the economy.
In fact, the problem we're seeing is a prelude to the very future folks like kurzweli talk about: a future where human labor is obsolete in favor of automation. It's not that the future is necessarily one of destitution for the vast majority of humanity, its one where current thoughts on how to best distribute wealth will have to change. These really are easy problems to solve: some form of basic income. The hard question is how do we get from where we are to there without a very nasty revolution. One good step would be to simply mandate a reduced work-week. Full time becomes say 30 hours rather than 40. These sorts of steps are going to become necessary to maintain social stability as these trends towards fewer and fewer jobs increase.
And they're up so far, because many areas of the world such as the BRIC nations, have seen a boom the last decade while America has not seen a real improvement in its situation. We're taking on water, while nations like Brazil, India, Russia, Canada, Australia and China have seen impressive gains (some of the gains are immense, as in China).
One reason labor in the US isn't do well, while corporate profits are booming, is because America's most successful corporations make most of their profits outside the US now. Companies like Apple and Microsoft hugely tilt the profit numbers, while earning very large portions of their profits from the global economy.
Some examples: Exxon gets 45% of its sales overseas; GE 54%; Ford 51%; IBM 64%; Boeing 41%; Intel 85%; McDonalds 66%; Nike 50%; Dow Chemical 67%
The question is whether this shift is a symptom or a cause: perhaps it's a symptom of a property of progress, whereby labor is becoming decreasingly remunerative, thereby forcing the best and the brightest into finance. The more cynical (and thus, to my mind at least, more likely) explanation is the pervasive, and plainly visible, influence that the financial sector has exercised on policy makers for the past half century, eventually leading to Wall Street's pull turning into an ever strengthening positive feedback loop, whereby savvy Ivy League-ers feel decreasingly adequate if they're not taking in seven figures within a decade of graduation.
And so instead of inspiring and setting wonderful examples for everyone else, America's most charismatic are busy cutting deals with each other and exploiting private information asymmetries.
It is my hypothesis that the Scandinavian social welfare model is a prequel to the way things need to be in the even more automated future: High taxation of high incomes, and either a very strong welfare system or negative taxation for low incomes / citizen's wage paid out to everyone regardless of income.
The US standard of living peaked back when the bottom 10% didn't have a flush toilet, houses were half the size they are today, amenities like air conditioning and washer/dryers were uncommon and entire families shared a single car. Many medical problems were simply incurable, and many of the technologies that make our lives happier (modern media, online dating, video games) simply didn't exist.
You clearly aren't using "standard of living" in the same way as the rest of us.
"The report provides a snapshot of a society in immense crisis. Poverty is at a near-generation high of 15 percent, close to the high point since the 1965 War on Poverty, the 15.2 percent rate reached in 1983. According to Tuesday’s report, 46.5 million Americans, including 9.5 million families, live in poverty.
Some 20.4 million people live on an income less than 50 percent of the official poverty line, 7.1 million of these being children under 18. More than 48 million remain without health insurance.
More than 31 percent of the population experienced some period of impoverishment during the years 2009-2011. Median household income, at $51,017, was slightly lower than in 2011, and down by 8.3 percent from 2007. The number of people 65 and older living in poverty increased from 3.6 million to 3.9 million between 2011 and 2012."
This data actually wildly overstates the real consumption of people in 1967, since CPI is a gross overestimate of inflation.
If you believe living standards are declining, please list the set of goods and services that people had more of in 1967 than today. If you are correct, it shouldn't be hard - the answer should be most goods and services.
I agree they do. However, lots of people no longer have just the dad working. Mum needs to work as well just to get by. And those goods are created oversees and bought for much lower prices. And -last but not least- all those goods are purchased using debt much more than in the 60's/70's.
I find it shocking the US now has more people on foodstamps than people in fulltime jobs. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports there are 97,180,000 full time workers in the private sector. But there are 103.4 million people currently enrolled in any one of 15 subsidized federal food assistance programs. It saddens me to see this.
Total hours worked/capita fluctuates and is down a little bit since 1970. There has been no upward trend. Mom works more but dad works less.
The poor specifically are huge beneficiaries of this trend, and work very little.
In any case, I'm glad we are in agreement that adventured is wrong and standard of living has gone up.
"Bureau of Labor Statistics data show that the ratio of part-time to full-time jobs has completely flipped this year from historical trends. Last year, six full-time jobs were created for every one part time job. This year, only one full-time job is being created for every four new part-time jobs."
It's hard to make sense of all the data...
What's your metric for this?
On the other hand, if you look at "median household income", that's grown a fair bit since 1967. We have more dual-income families today where instead of one high-earning male and a housewife we have a couple who on average work maybe a little less and gets paid a little less as individuals than that single-earner male did, but their combined income is higher than the single-earner salary of old.
(We also have smaller households today than in the past due to higher divorce rates. And a lot more salary taken in the form of "benefits" which makes comparison of the raw dollar rate misleading.)
Buying a house might be more expensive, but the average house is so much bigger and better today that it's hard to do a direct comparison.
Of course they won't be directing Star Wars - although a case might be made that that would be preferable - but I don't see any reason almost all cooking will not be done robotically 10 years from now. Hell, try and buy a non-sous-vide steak these days. That's a dramatic step towards automatic cooking right there.
That aspect of restaurants, of course, is a creative endeavor, as is directing a film.
Also there's no reason at all menus and courses can't be automated as well. Everything from the design of the menus to the design of the building, to its construction, and staffing, everything but the eating can be automated somehow. I think people are going to come to a shocking, ego-blowing realization that, yes, creative work can and will be automated as well.
Current AI algorithms are limited in the sense that they appeal to the common denominator. These algorithms can only observe and measure what humans like and iterate from there. Current AI algorithms couldn't have invented Jazz.
Also, digital actors may never get old, but most people don't want to fuck digital actors. And have you noticed that for some actors, getting old is part of their charm?
And most importantly, algorithmically generating plots is an AI-hard problem - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AI-complete - given our current status quo of machines that can't even understand what we are telling them, well, good luck with that.
We eat mostly the same food recipes, but there is a lot of variation in how that food tastes, depending on who makes it, not to mention the mistakes happening in the preparation process. That's also why you can't find in a restaurant the familiar taste of the home-cooked meals that your mom or grandma used to cook while you were a child. Can you automate a fast-food chain, like a McDonalds? Of course, but that's not food.
Plus, one of the reasons for why many of us like to try out restaurants is to get some variety and even though the database of all known food recipes is limited, the combinations possible for sweetness, sourness, saltiness, bitterness, and umami, as received by our tastes buds in various proportions is infinite. Therefore even though we have plenty of food recipes already, there's always room for more.
Your impression that movie plots can be generated with random combinations stems from the recent wave of Hollywood movies filled with special effects and dumb plots. I personally like movies with special effects and dumb plots. It's mindless fun. But sooner or later I'll get tired of it, as will many people. Comedy and drama on the other hand need originality and while you can find traces of inspiration everywhere, every successful book or movie ever made also have original pieces in them.
You're also oversimplifying the technical challenges, as if random combinations of available plots is easy. It's not. This is not like playing chess. For this to work you need (1) a way to generate something coherent, because as much fun as it is to generate gibberish with Markov chains, the step from here to generating something meaningful is quite big and (2) a way to measure the fitness of a combination and drop the combinations that don't work. What are you going to do? Expose people posing as lab-rats to millions of combinations and measure their brain activity?
(yes, I'm the type of engineer that rains on people's dreams, by thinking of the technical challenges involved :-P)
>>Comedy and drama on the other hand need originality
While i believe at some point computers will have those abilities, i believe that crowdsourcing(maybe with a better search engine based on natural language understanding) can go a long way for those tasks, especially joke generation.
Imagine there are no more theaters, because they're huge, expensive money-pits and everyone watches movies on a device anyway. Because everything is distributed on the net, and the net is everywhere people can be exposed to any number of ideas, concepts, and prompts throughout their day. Gestural devices have become, if not ubiquitous, then quite common. Every phone and multimedia device has a camera on it which can read your emotions by measuring your skin's electrical charge or by measuring the subtle shift in your pulse. Everything watches you, notes you. Huge masses of correlated data about you, your friends, your likes and dislikes, even your emotional state over time and space, are being gathered from any number of companies and state agencies. There are attempts to virtually model your behavior and expectations in any number of locations, and these models are constantly refined over time until they begin to become predictive. Most of this already exists in some form or another, if only as prototypes.
So that part at I think is plausible. Or at least concievable. We've been building a vast and intricate Skinner Box out of the internet for years, it just hasn't become that obvious yet. Wait until the real quasi-transhuman augmented reality BS starts to get pushed. Wait until your appliances have their own social media accounts and actually have conversations with your friends. Or until you can have a digital analogue of yourself inserted as a background character into a film and follow it around like a Sim. Or pay to have yourself inserted into an Alternate Reality game, the plot of which is essentially generated on the fly. It just takes a couple of generations for this sort of fine-grain observation and feedback loop to become conditioned as being acceptable and commonplace. It may require redefining terms. I'm reminded of what the Architect said in the Matrix -- that there were "levels of survival" the Machines were willing to accept. What passes as a "blockbuster" or even a "movie" in the future may not bear any resemblance to what we know.
A system more complex than the algorithms currently available will doubtless be necessary, and maybe some fields like comedy will prove elusive, but the addition of the vast amount of data available through the internet and a global, always-on surveillance system may make machine learning more feasible. Your example of McDonald's is apt. They could make better food by hiring more competent cooks, using better equipment, and serving a better menu. But, they nonetheless make an insane amount of money paying people almost nothing to put garbage into styrofoam boxes, and that's only until they can make even more money replacing the people with garbage-into-styrofoam-boxes-putting robots. Quality isn't paramount when your market is billions of consumers who have the attention span of gnats. They can be taught to eat shit and like it on a massive scale, that's already been proven.
In a restaurant kitchen, generally only one or maybe two people are actually involved in designing the menu, out of a significantly larger number who do the preparation. And unless you're running a very unusual, top-end restaurant, that's a matter of a couple of months' work every year, at absolute maximum - closer to a couple of weeks a year for most normal restaurants, I believe.
Of course, some cooking tasks are going to be harder than others. I wouldn't want to bet on a top-flight pastry chef getting replaced any time soon, for example. But creeping automation in the kitchen is definitely a possibility: sous-vide techniques can already make things like preparing a hollandaise considerably quicker and simpler, for example. And baristas are staring down the barrel of robot barista workers right now.
Obviously you do not live in the UK, where finding places that serves steak that has not been chargrilled to to the point where it tastes of lighter fluid and coal is an extreme sport (it is getting slightly better, but you can go into almost any low end steak house in the US and find steaks that are better than most high end UK restaurants still; the UK is the only place in the world where I've had to explain to a waiter what "rare" meant)
And while seemingly most Americans think China is the big job stealer, manufacturing wise, the reality is huge productivity gains have killed off far more manufacturing jobs than China has taken.
Kurzeil is guilty of a science fiction style utopian dream in this case, in my opinion. He's of a generation that thought the future would sparkle. The future that has come to pass - so far - has been far off course from that expectation. I think he's placing far too much hope on technology unto itself.
I regard technology as a neutral player on the field; and in the right situation, it can provide a huge multiplier. Political issues are far more important than technology - if you have an environment that is hostile to innovation, science, starting businesses, manufacturing, employment, capital formation and savings, etc then no amount of technology will save you ultimately from erosion.
There's a joke in Zimbabwe, that goes something like this: what did we have before candle light? Electric light. Political situations can neutralize all potential technological benefits, leading to stagnation or worse. I think that effect is at least somewhat to blame for the problems America has seen in standards of living, despite the dramatic leap in technology.
I'm sorry, are you seriously arguing that the American median standard of living was better in 1963? I could spend 20 minutes or so going statistic by statistic, but more or less everything has improved dramatically since then, most especially for the lower 20% or so of the income scale.
It took one worker in the household to pay the bills; now, two people work and can't make ends meet. Mortgages were 15 years, not 30. The savings rate was extremely higher; now the savings rate is negative. America had little debt, and consumers had little debt. College education could be paid for with a part time job; now we're sitting on $1.2 or so trillion in debt on that end alone.
The minimum wage was equivalent to over $40,000 in 1967. Now a decent job pays that.
Using nearly any measurement, even the bogus CPI from the Feds, you find that wages peaked in about the late 1960s to 1970. And meanwhile, we've had to accumulate vast amounts of debt just to maintain these levels, so in real terms the standard of living has plunged.
In the 1960s, America had roughly half of all global manufacturing to itself. A lot of that was due to our manufacturing base surviving WW2 fully intact. However, we saw the benefit of that, and it showed up in the form of jobs and wages.
Now, welfare program dependency is at all time highs. Poverty rates are at multi-decade highs. The split between the rich and the poor is up dramatically, as workers drown, good jobs disappear and the rich shift capital to avoid the devaluation of the dollar. The % of the population dependent on food stamps is off the charts. The labor force participation rate is at multi-decade lows. The Federal Government is running a 3/4 trillion dollar deficit, propping up millions of jobs. Interest on all of our debt is as low as it can possibly go, and won't stay this cheap, that includes student loans, consumer debt, mortgage debt, corporate debt. Add it all up, and there has been an extraordinary real erosion of the standard of living over four decades.
While the "other worker" sat around and had her nails done? No. There's a reason women joined the work force en masse, and it was because the money they could make and the satisfaction they could attain in the work force was worth more to them than whatever value they produced scrubbing floors and steaming vegetables. Was that a mistake? I don't think any of the working women I know would say so. Why leave money and fulfilling work on the table?
This nostalgia is absurd. Look around. Go ahead and even ignore whatever revolutionary device you're using to browse HN. Ignore whether you're black or Hispanic or Asian. Ignore your extra eight years or so of life expectancy. How much of the modern world simply disappears if you remove what wasn't available in 1963? And if debt is the catastrophe waiting to happen that you seem to believe that it is, you will be comforted by the fact that Americans have decreased their indebtedness by over a trillion dollars since 2008.
I'm usually not one to demand a citation in casual online conversations, but this is just screaming out for one. Did women really join the workforce en mass for "meaningful work", or was it out of economic necessity. I can imagine the majority of jobs available to women in that time weren't exactly what anyone today would call "fulfilling". Nor would I consider a survey of your female colleagues who themselves are likely well educated professionals, and thus a non-representative bunch, as a useful statistic. No, it is very much not obvious that women joined the workforce because working is more fulfilling than "scrubbing floors" (aka watching your children grow up).
The trend is clear: As more satisfying and economically rewarding career options became available to women, more women educated themselves for those careers and took them. A young middle class girl today doesn't take $40,000 in college loans to become an accountant because she's desperately in need.
That just defies economic reality: As you say, there is a lot of value produced in keeping a home and raising kids. A job has to return a solid amount of income to make up the difference, and yet women continue to go to college at a rate outpacing men, and before the recent recession, they were on a pace to have more jobs than men. There's no economic gun to their head: In fact, as the economy got worse, women chose to stay home at a greater rate.
Um... because women didn't have the same opportunities then so the household would make less money, and it was considered really bad for the man to be a stay-at-home "bum"?
Of course we may end up finding a solution to the constrained housing supply - maybe populations will decrease, or robotic cars will make commutes shorter / less painful, or maybe we will develop virtual living, with people hanging out / working in virtual reality, not real reality.
Housing isn't the only scarce good. Being able to go to a live performance of your favourite band, and indeed the host of things that you can't do today at any price are other examples. But housing is far and away the scarce good that has the largest impact on most of us, and that is only going to continue to grow in importance in the near term.
Everything that isn't housing, healthcare, or higher education is vastly cheaper today than it was before. Food especially.
The 1960s was also the same time that rivers were so polluted they were catching fire. That would never happen today- and that has a cost associated with it. Your food is significantly safer. So is your water. So is your air. So is the building you're reading this in.
There is vastly less crime. This has been expensive- we've locked a lot of people up to get there, and paid lots of money to police. The mafia is basically gone, and modern criminal organizations are pretty limited in scope north of the border. There are still bad places in the US, but there are awfully few no-go zones.
Media is better now. It's cheaper, it's broader, it's better, it's more democratic. This is true both for news and entertainment.
The national debt is a bullshit non-problem.
So all those illegal drugs just magically appear from nowhere?
There are still bad places in the US, but there are awfully few no-go zones
How many major cities in the US have you been in? How many of them have no-go zones? How many compared to 1950?
Can you elaborate? I ask because debt (along with domestic snooping) is at the top of my voting criteria right now -- city, state and national.
I don't see why you should care about city debt either, unless you live somewhere near bankrupt. Interest rates are incredibly low meaning there is no better time to be in debt, and you probably have some crumbling public infrastructure in the area.
i don't disagree with you, but i'd love to hear why you think that.
Life now ain't perfect, but it sure as shit is better overall than it was in the 60s.
No. Real GDP/capita was about $20k back then - the average person produced about half of what you claim was the minimum wage.
And today we produce 2.5x more than we did back then. Manufacturing has not declined, it's merely become more efficient.
People forget this, mainly because they want to, but also because their TVs say we're living in the golden age.
Okay, let's apply a gross reality check. You're an alien. You're
observing Earth with an infinitely powerful telescope from Alpha
Centauri. You have a simple question. Since 1950, has human
civilization - or American civilization, which amounts to pretty much
the same these days - advanced or declined?
Apparently the easiest way for Sam Altman to answer the question is to
trade it for a different one. He is not alone in this. He asks:
since 1950, has human technology advanced or declined? Clearly, the
alien, you, I, and Sam Altman all have the same answer to this
Any question with an obvious answer is a stupid question. "Is an iPad
more advanced than a Smith-Corona?" is a stupid question. Who asks
stupid questions? Obviously, blithering idiots.
But we can compose an interesting question by factoring out the stupid
question. Which world would Sam Altman rather live in? 2013, with
iPads and teh Internet? Or 1950 - with iPads and teh Internet?
In a sense, this 1950 is just as real as the "real" 1950. Neither
exists. Sam Altman cannot pack his bags and move to either the real
1950 or my imaginary super-1950. Both exist only as thought
experiments. It is not hard to construct or define the super-1950,
though - one run of a time machine, with a printout of Wikipedia,
would be pretty much all the real 1950 needed. Send the technology
back to 1945, and you'll have iPads by '55 at the latest. Those guys
got things done.
The interesting (and scary) question this thought-experiment asks is
whether, aside from technical progress, human civilization has
advanced or declined since 1950. In actual reality, this too is a
stupid question. The answer is no less obvious - I assert.
- Due to better modern reporting (and the 24h news cycle), despite generally lower rates of crimes and various other bad stuff, we feel like their rates are higher now, so we get all nostalgic for the 1950s.
- More importantly, 1950 was a good time for certain kinds of people and not so much for others. Within the US, internet or no, 1950 is not a great time to travel to if you are LGBT, disabled, female, non-Christian, or ill with any of a variety of chronic conditions, and it's especially shitty if you are black (or, to a lesser extent, of another minority). Outside the US, Europe and Japan were still basically starving from post-war deprivation, the Soviet bloc was hitting the worst parts of Stalinism, China was approaching something like a thousand-year low in terms of civilisation, and most of the rest of the world were moribund colonies of the dying European empires.
If you're a middle-class able-bodied white straight Christian (preferably Protestant) man in the US, though, sure, 1950 sounds super.
Roger Sterling: "Buying a Jaguar is how you know you've arrived."
Don Draper: "I grew up on a farm. Indoor plumbing is how I know I've arrived."
You have to be careful with statistics. One of the thought experiments posed later in that same Moldbug post is this: how much of the Earth's inhabited area is safe for a person to wander about at night, alone? And how much was in 1950? His conclusion is that much more of the Earth's inhabited area (in particular, large parts of many cities--Detroit is his example) is unsafe now vs. in 1950. Crime rate statistics don't usually get broken down to that level of detail, so you might not see the pattern there. (Although in other posts Moldbug also quotes the statistic that the crime rate in Britain today is something like 50 times higher than it was in the Victorian era.)
What happens with the US (and the UK) is a global redistribution of wealth. The US economy is basically stagnating, but developing countries are booming.
And yet just before the Victorian era, crime was so bad that people were sent to literally the other side of the earth for crimes as minor as stealing a pair of scissors.
It would also suggest that the murder rate would have been ridiculously low - in modern times, it's 1.2/100k. In 1831, the start of the era, that would mean that the UK had a mere 3 murders of its 13 million people for the entire year. Difficult to believe. In 1900, the end of the era, it would still be less than 10 for the 30-odd million. According to this article , homicide rates weren't too far from what they are today, neatly bracketing the modern rate (which has the advantage of better reporting; historical homicides were likely higher)
A 50-fold reduction in crime is astounding, enough so that it sounds like baloney. Particularly for a country famous for shipping its criminals around the world during the 'low crime' period.
Difficult indeed. Wouldn't 1.2 per 100k translate to 156 when scaled to 13 million?
You're confusing the crime rate with how crimes are punished. The fact that punishments were severe for what we today consider minor crimes was a major part of the reason why crime rates were so low.
It would also suggest that the murder rate would have been ridiculously low
Murder is only one crime; the factor of 50 is aggregated over all crimes.
The thing about murder is that it's fairly unambiguous and usually recorded. Just about every other crime has interpretations and wild variations in recording - it's hard to compare across similar culture countries, let alone across time, without voicing an armload of caveats.
One example is comparing the assault rates in Australia versus that in the US. Australia has a much higher assault rate... until you look at the details. An assault in Australia carries several charges, the most severe of which sticks, but each of those charges makes it into the total stats. In the US, the stats are only published on aggravated assaults - those with a weapon or serious bodily harm. Two guys having a fistfight outside a bar will add to the Australian stats, but not the US stats. It's the same story with the same country across time - not to mention wildly different reporting rates, especially when you're considering a period where modern policing was still in its infancy. Murder is one of the most consistently defined and reportable crimes, hence why I used it.
was a major part of the reason why crime rates were so low.
That is very much putting the cart before the horse. Victorian England was rife with theft, unsurprising for a place with plenty of poverty and no welfare. I'd buy a 50-times increase in drug crime, because that's a crime now more than it was then. I wouldn't buy a 50-times increase in debtors crimes, because debtors prisons are no longer a thing and bankruptcy is no longer a crime. It's just hard for anyone with any familiarity with Victorian England to see it as 50 times safer than modern day England - this was a tumultuous time, with the industrial revolution obsoleting jobs left, right, and center. There was huge amounts of poverty, and there was legal reform at the time because the rise in petty crime against harsh penalties meant that there was a lot of dissatisfaction from the disproportionate response at the bench. There were huge problems with alcoholism (gin being very cheap) amongst the urban poor causing fights.
So, in context, is it safer to walk around Victorian England than modern-day? Well, the assault rate would have to be astonishingly low, because theft certainly wasn't, and we've already seen that murder was equal to or greater than today's rate.
Do you have a link to Moldbug's comment where he discusses this 50-fold decrease? I tried to find it as I wanted to see how it was sourced, but there's a lot of waffle - the front page is only two posts (and one announcement) that total 20k words. I have no idea where in the archives it might be.
Yes, there is. There are purposes for which it may not be the most important metric, but it certainly exists.
> You can't aggregate "a crime rate" across all crimes.
Sure you can. And if you can measure the rates for individual crimes, its trivial to then aggregate them across crimes. Whether that's useful depends on the purpose you are applying it to, but it certain can be done.
> Different crimes have different rates - you can't fold a murder into a rape into an assault into a burglary into a failure to pay a debt.
you certainly can fold the rates of instances of a specific subtypes of the event "crime" into a general rate of occurrence of the whole class, though, to be fair, failure to pay a debt is generally not a crime, its a tort, and so it would be invalid to include it a measure of crime.
> The thing about murder is that it's fairly unambiguous and usually recorded.
Its fairly unambiguous -- assuming that there is not a missing body situation -- that someone has died. It is less unambiguous that they died through homicide, and even less unambiguous still that the homicide was criminal homicide, and even less unambiguous yet that the specific subtype of criminal homicide was murder.
> In the US, the stats are only published on aggravated assaults - those with a weapon or serious bodily harm.
This is true of the FBI's Uniform Crime Reports (and publications based on those reports), but not BJS's National Crime Victimization Survey (and publications based on that survey.)
Can you please furnish a link where someone describes 'the crime rate', actually giving a number? Preferably from an LEO website and not a sensationalist newspaper. I've not seen a 'the crime rate' number before, and I'd like to see how its presented.
[ambiguity of murder]
Which is why I said 'fairly' unambiguous - and it's one of the least ambiguous crimes, especially when comparing across time, countries, or culture.
Increase, not decrease. He mentions it in a number of posts, but this one has a link to the statistics:
The statistics link he gives, unfortunately, appears to be broken:
Crime statistics are on p. 14.
Moldbug is saying that the Victorians nearly abolished crime and that the modern UK government can't - so is the solution the same as in Victorian times: just don't record so much of it?
Edit: Thanks for providing the links
Yes, but the change can be in both directions. Improved reporting means more offenses get recorded; but changes in how society perceives crime means things that used to be indictable offenses (such as stealing a pair of scissors) no longer are--either the laws are taken off the books entirely, or they are no longer enforced because people don't think it's "fair" to convict someone of a crime if all they did was steal a pair of scissors. These two effects work in opposite directions.
It even says that improved reporting is responsible for part of the effect in the first dot-point after the graph.
But it doesn't say how much, because it can't; there's no way to know. And it does not say what difference changes in the laws and in society's perception of crime made, or whether that difference was, as I suggested above, in the opposite direction.
is the solution the same as in Victorian times: just don't record so much of it?
I think the solution Moldbug is implicitly suggesting is to make it clear to everyone that if you commit a crime, you will be caught and you will be punished; in other words, he is saying the problem today is with society's attitude towards crime.
Not to mention, much of the prosperity of the '50's was a "fringe benefit" of most of the rest of the industrialized world blowing itself up for the second time in 30 years.
And of course there's survivorship bias: No one remembers all the terrible inventions of the '50's. (Had they come up with Smell-O-Vision yet?) All we remember is the transistor radio and the hydrogen bomb. Look back on the 2010's in 60 years and you'll see all sorts of amazing stuff that made its mark on the future, I'm sure.
It's: what do you get for your labor, what can it buy and for how much, what kind of savings do you have, how hard do both parents have to work to make ends meet, what does an education cost and what income can you get for it, how many jobs are available?
Simple questions that can be easily answered with real data that was available in 1970 and today.
I'd advise you to read the essay I linked. It might change your thinking on a few things.
To fill in the gap in what I wrote: Even if the physics and the roadmap were known, the infrastructure and background engineering expertise needed to go from vacuum tubes to fabs making cheap ICs at nanoscale in volume would take longer than a decade to build.
Moore's law has been in operation since about 1958. That's 36 density doublings, at one per 18 months. You don't get 36 doublings in 10 years, because that would be one doubling every 3 months.
The only reason I bothered to comment is that I tire of the outlandish claims and "everything you know is wrong" posturing of UR. It was really only worth the original two-word rebuttal.
I am typing on a small device whose internal electronics exceed in complexity all electronic devices that existed in 1940. Combined. Yet this is a commodity item.
Stop and think about that. And then you might recognize the absurdity of claiming that a few tips and a can do attitude would have created the results of decades of modern technological progress in 10 years.
I concur with this point of view. I very much doubt most smartphones are used to access the wealth of knowledge on the Internetz. They are used to play games. Source: my time on the NYC subway system.
Perhaps he was referring to the difference in purchasing power, which was most definitely greater back then. There were no iPads, but lots more people were getting by comfortably.
Health is better, and people are better educated, but it's just not paying off for the average household.
Most countries don't have this problem though.
By what measure?
1) The cost of a home compared to incomes, along with mortgage durations. In the late 1960s, the average house cost about $18k to $20k, and the average income was around $9k (2.x ratio). Today that's about $220k and $50k income (4.x to 1 ratio).
2) The savings rate. In real terms it's negative.
3) Debt accumulation across the board, from personal to government (the people have to pay for that one way or another too).
4) Minimum wage and average incomes. I don't regard the CPI as a very legitimate measure given what they don't include, but even using that average incomes for the middle class haven't moved in 40 years (and that's the best case scenario). If you price wages in oil or gold or silver or the Swiss Franc, they're drastically lower. Meanwhile the cost of being in the middle class has gone way up.
5) Unemployment rate. From 1950 to 1970, it averaged about 5% give or take, with a floor of 2.9% in 1953, and 3.5% in 1969). The closest equivalent measurement to that is the U6 today, which stands at near 14%.
6) Cost of education to just join the middle class. It's in the stratosphere.
7) The average cost of a new car in the late 1960s was about $3,000; against an income of $9k (3 to 1 ratio). Today the average cost of a new car is $31,000, against an income of $50,000.
For (1) to make sense we would have to look at the ration of rents to incomes. Otherwise, the relation is obscured by the huge impact of falling real interest rates. (Falling real interest rates is probably a good thing!)
2 and 3 don't have a direct bearing on standard of living. Lower real interest rates play a role as well.
For 4 you have to differentiate between the average among all Americans and the average fate of each individual American. They are different because of an influx of new Americans.
I agree about 5.
For 6, education was never as cheap as today, thanks to the internet. What went up is the price of the piece of paper that certifies you went to a specific university.
For 7, we have much better cars. You can buy a used car that's much better than what was available in the 60s for a similar fraction of income as back then. (And again, lower real interest rates play some role.)
I would argue that is only true in an environment with negative real savings rates which are in my opinion not a good thing. It used to be that 'savings' accounts actually paid meaningful interest on savings.
(Of course, low real interest rates mean that opportunities are scarce relative to capital.)
That is an insightful observation, though I would argue that the scarcity of capital in a high-interest environment is an effect rather than a cause.
The root cause of our current low-interest rates is actually the Fed and their unlimited printing press creating an endless supply of US dollars via quantitative easing.
Honest Question: If real interest rates continue to remain low (indicating a scarcity of productive uses for capital) what happens over the medium/long-term?
That is certainly true in the US. I wonder how the effects in the rest of the world come to pass. For example, running the printing presses in Zimbabwe didn't cause inflation in the rest of the world. On the other hand, the USD is the world's reserve currency.
The low interest rates on the USD seem to drive up the prices of productive uses of capital. Be it start ups, other stocks or real estate.
Another is that the term 'unemployed' can be readily redefined - here in Australia, one government managed to make good unemployment figures by redefining under-employed people so that they were out of the picture. They now counted towards the 'employed' numbers, even if they were literally only working a couple of hours a week.
Well, the thing is: IT HAS.
Now more people work than ever. People continue working instead of retiring like they did in the past, and women work(almost doubling the jobs).
Also the population has grown, a lot. So yes, there are lots of more jobs.
Robotics, technology should make everybody work less and live in a better world. Capitalism won't make this happen.
This transfer of wealth that make the rich richer and the poor desperate for food on the table is not healthy for the political stability of the country.
If we leave this unchecked it's just a matter of time before we will see the masses declare a war on technology out of desperation.
My understanding is that humans are limited. For a robot to function, you need to build and maintain it (minimal maintenance). Humans requires lots of effort, though. They get sick, they have to go to work, they can't work long hours, they get tired, bored...
What is the result of capital spending? More commodities. But who will buy the commodities? Workers. But they can't afford them, they just lost a round in the capital/labor fight. So kick the can down the road, have the workers go into debt to buy the commodities. That works for a little while, but then the problem becomes worse and a bigger collapse will happen at the next crisis.
Despite just coming out of the "worst recession since the Great Depression", the Federal Reserve etc. did save the US economy for now. I'm of the belief that sooner or later the world economy is going to hit the skids and even Keynesian New Deal measures won't bring things out of it. Only time will tell of course.
Its not just economics, but also the human nature; we have to change the way we see and interact with the world, resources, other people..
The "Use everybody, everything, and profit whenever you see a chance" mantra is a social cancer, and will end badly for everybody.. even the ones running the show and laughing of everything
"According to Marxist analysis, class conflict within capitalism arises due to intensifying contradictions between highly-productive mechanized and socialized production performed by the proletariat, and private ownership and private appropriation of the surplus product in the form of surplus value (profit) by a small minority of private owners called the bourgeoisie."
As long as we're focused on individual consumers buying things for themselves, there will be fewer and fewer jobs available or needed to make those things. While it may happen elsewhere, I'm very pessimistic about anything like a basic income happening in America.
But without basic income or a job, there's no effective mechanism to distribute cash. You need a job to receive cash.
Yet there could be many jobs available if we shifted the focus of our consumption from individual needs, and put some of that focus into community needs. Large projects. Infrastructure improvement and operation. Solar power. Transportation.
Just get it into our mindset that we're building and operating big stuff. Because providing for our individual needs will not provide jobs for most of us.
I think it may take decades for basic income in America to go from unthinkable, to radical, to controversial, to reasonable, to seemingly inevitable, to reality. But that's all the more reason to start talking about it now. Let's get the ball rolling!
If you guys think that machines are going to decrease our standard of living-- that the separation of (production value)/wages is going to cause poverty-- you have to prove to me that the same thing happened during the Industrial Revolution.
 Karl Marx: Communist as Religious Eschatologist
Regular economic history assumes that life before the industrial revolution must have been worse. Sure, people worked 11 hour days, had no weekends, but if it were that bad why did they go and work there in the first place? It must have been better.
Similar arguments today are made about sweatshops in 3rd world countries.
The answer is simply that they were kicked off their land via the enclosure movement and the game laws. So they were left with very little option. This was intentional.
Their were communally owned lands that peasants had access to. Landowners seized those lands, and the British crown was more than happy to back them up with mass violence.
Technology empowers and magnifies the productive ability of creators while decoupling their dependence on and/or displacing traditional economic structures (e.g. companies and markets). As an added bonus technology prices have historically fallen over time which further reduces the value of (demand for) capital.
These aspects enable individuals to minimise "Marxist alienation" by creating goods without needing (much) capital, owning the output of their labour, and increasing their share of the surplus value of their goods (PG's "100x multiplier").
No we don't. We just have to show that the benefits only go to a select few, and the "workers" generally get screwed (as in paid a lot less than their value).
If you accept the above, then relative poverty is rather easy to show (99% vs top 1% etc)...
EDIT: To simplify my point, relative poverty has a massive effect on standard of living.
The honest truth is that it's already mostly luck that determines who gets the big payouts and who doesn't. There are so many factors beyond your control that play into your success.
From that perspective, a society where we were up front about that fact would at least be "more fair" in the sense that it would reduce lauding some for their unearned success while disparaging others for their equally happenstance failures.
However to say people should be payed based on the percent yield. Most people consider only physical value in looking at labor. I imagine you would believe that someone working for a corporation carving blocks into a statue should be payed a percentage of that sale of the statue.
Yet it's obvious that that line of thinking (physical value only) is incorrect. How much would you pay doctors? Doctors don't create anything, but they generate value by instructing surgeons, nurses, etc on what they should do. By physical value only, coal miners would make hundreds, doctors 0.
Okay, so we concede that intellectual value should be also considered in the percentage yield owed to an individual.
Then that brings us a really good CEO. Per product, a good CEO might only cost a fraction of a cent. You can calculate finding a number of sales of a product and dividing into it the CEOs billion $ salery. A bad CEO might make an OK on a failed product that costs the company 5 cents a product. This costs him billions of dollars of his own money. A really good CEO might one day decide to test a method of production, or a new mass production strategy that decreases cost of making each good by 10 cents. He is payed hundreds of Billions. You might agree that based on this, it would make sense to pay CEOs based on output, but once you realize that the good CEO and bad CEO are the often same person, and once you charge a person hundreds of billion of dollars for their 5 cent mistake, they would have make the risk needed to gain the the 10c discovery, you might begin to understand that CEOs simply cannot be payed based on this method of value.
Okay so we try the opposite approach. It's based on luck so we should pay everyone the same. No one would want to take on the stress for a low-power, high risk, boring job like supervising a reactor core. Especially since that job pays the same as a fun job like stopping crime, or something more interesting and easy to get into. There would be a constant problem of not enough people in some jobs and too many in others. Redistributing people would be completely random and people would be placed in to jobs they hate, and paid the same amount as people doing jobs they would love. So here, much more people are unhappy, and incompetence is all around. (Then some guy says he's going to fix it and everyone rallies around him and soon dictatorship).
Perhaps their surplus value should be shared amongst all of them? (Poor capitalist would lose out though... so that's a horrible idea, right?)
The marxism is much more sophisticated and deep; I think maybe trotsky could make a better socialism.. but even than probably away from the Marx vision
But you know, politicians will always think about their own selves in the end of the day, no matter what they say, as long people believe in them..
So, in the day we have real altruistic people on power, things might change for the better... Socialism requires a much more sophisticated politician type.
But let me make clear, that i dont defend pure left or pure right.. if nature teach us something is decentralization and and micro-management..
If a government has the tendency to concentrate power, its like a dead body to the crows... it will seduce only the people with fetish for power, and control over the lives and destinies of others..
Thats why the history of world politics has been a greek drama where the weak(and sadly the majority) always lose in the end
Our society doesnt even get into the Nietzsche philosophical level were we are free of this State+Capital controlled lobotomization ideology where human beings are far away from their freedom and humanity.. which is our fuc$##%ng natural rights for start
Its sad that the people that has shaped the last century has listened more to Comte than Nietzsche..
So it's capitalism where all the money goes to the state, which is the government, which is the people... which is exactly what "communism" is. If you think of a "commune" as a "corporation", then it's almost identical.
I'd be happy to see the arguement, that they are a pretty bad communist state, and they don't allocate their money too well, and they (like every other country) have problems with corruption. But "they are not communist" is just as valid as "the US is not a democracy" (Technically it's kind of true, but it isn't useful as a discussion point).
My point is, Communism is pretty much just as popular as democracy... so saying it's died, is just being ignorant.
Not it's not.
It's called state capitalism because the state interferes directly on the market, instead of abolishing corporations and capital. It's a different kind of regime, that allows China to be inserted in a free market world without making the communist party lose control of the country.
So I can say: America isn't a democracy, because it's an oligarchy. (This statement isn't true, but is equivalent to yours).
China achieves it's communism, through state capitalism... Or is that not a true scotsman... I mean communist?
Communism hasn't died, Chinese officials still study Marx and Mao, and it is well and truly part of the Chinese propaganda message. There is still a large picture of Mao hanging in Beijing, and the leaders constantly profess to be Marxists...
But of course, how could I think that communism is still alive!?
I've yet to see a solution to the seemingly inevitable outcome of traditional human labor dropping to nearly zero value. And or why we'd want to prevent it from happening, given the upside to robotics.
The only way to stop (slow down?) the rise of robotics, is to place arbitrary restrictions on machines to hamper their value proposition. I expect politicians all over the world to begin attempting this before another decade goes by.
Will we see a dramatic increase in the formation of unions as a defensive response? Most likely.
I'm struggling to follow how a union could help this situation. What would happen? Workers would go on strike if their firms use robots? Seems like that would just push the owner to accelerate robot orders. My guess is that unions are pretty useless in the face of automation. Does anyone know any precedents?
I agree in spirit though. What I think is likely is the rise of populism. I think the battle will have to be waged in the political arena.
And yeah, if it gets really bad, violent protest is just a more extreme continuation of unions.
Organized labor will pull for machines being restrained to as much of an equal footing with human labor as possible. Whether that will actually happen or not, impossible to guess. I do expect various cities, jurisdictions, countries, etc. will try implementing various schemes though.
Why does money make sense?
Do your magic robots work on perpetual motion? And the robot owners are going to provide all these necessities ? Why ?
That said, since "temporary" here may well last several generations, there's plenty of societal upheaval ahead.
There could just as easily be some sort of technology or industry that takes off tomorrow because it's more able to use this abundant supply of low-skilled workers we're worrying about.
My own dystopian vision is of a world made almost entirely of services to those few with money - most of us will be/are selling nonessential services (entertainment, leisure, nonessential medical services & care, advertising, etc..). Most of government is probably in the "nonessential" category.
Some % of the workforce will still work on R&D and essential services of course.
Having all the basics covered by a small percentage of the workforce doesn't mean the rest will have to work less.. on the contrary, the battle to divest people from their money will be fiercer than ever - more and better and more exotic services, more advertising, etc. It would be interesting to live in a post-scarcity society, but we're nowhere near there yet (and I'll be a bit Malthusian and say that we should curb the population growth a bit if we want to have what I consider to be a good standard of living in the future)
Depends a bit on how international competition between jurisdictions will play out.
Maybe that's true for some people. If so, then the problem isn't robots, the problem is that there are people who are less useful than robots. For a human to survive in the era of intelligent machines, he/she needs to have unique skills that are not possessed by robots. If they don't have those skills, they need to find them.
For those in the tech industry, those skills are already there. It will be decades, or longer, until we can automate software/hardware engineers. Entrepreneurship is another unique skill that will be even harder to automate. I believe that once machines are capable of conceiving, starting, and operating businesses, they will no longer be called machines.
What we must never forget is that humans aren't intrinsically special. We just happen to be the most capable organisms on the planet right now. The current rate of technological progression suggests that this will eventually change. When it does, we'll need to adapt or we'll go extinct.
If we cannot adapt to this reality, we will simply end up serving as the spawning ground for a new species (biological or otherwise) that will make humans obsolete. If we survive, it will be as little but a historical curiosity.
To adapt, we cannot look at robotics and automation as an enemy. It IS the future - we need to accept it, exploit it, and ultimately incorporate it into ourselves.
That's not what they're saying. The labor market isn't automatically going to expand to accommodate their need for employment. "Finding" new skills all too often means amassing a crippling amount of loan debt (in the US at least), to enter a job market which simply has no room, nor a desire to find room, for the population it put so much effort into letting go.
Humans may not be intrinsically special, but being biased towards human survival, as a human being, should not be difficult to understand.
Charles Eisenstein makes the case for it in chapter 14 of Sacred Economics: http://sacred-economics.com/sacred-economics-chapter-14-the-...
When the state stepped in and seized control of our homelands, and then said: "This person, with this piece of paper, now owns these resources", essentially creating out of thin air the concept of "wealth", they took upon themselves a moral responsibility to see to it that wealth was distributed in a way that everyone gets at least a living share.
The current system, where you are either born into a dynasty with resources, or you are for all intents and purposes enslaved to people who are (albeit with some small chance of moving between groups) fails at that promise, even though the poor largely fulfill their end of the bargain by making themselves available for labor. Many go without their basic needs taken care of. A basic income would fix that. The situation is absurd, and it's an utter waste of human capital to throw talented "low" class kids into the thresher.
Agriculture was generally borne of desperation and scarcity, and cultures that adopted agriculture also adopted government and notions of land ownership. It was still a pretty raw deal compared to being a hunter-gatherer though, especially since hunter-gatherers were still better at warfare than farmers so from time to time a group of hunter-gatherers might show up and take whatever they wanted from you.
But even among hunter-gatherers, there were no human rights. You had to work, you received your share, but only if the hunter-gatherers from around the way didn't run short on resources and showed up one day and killed all your men and captured all your women.
Welfare via the state is probably as old as Rome, and probably much older than that.
When you implicitly demand that people work for money, you're making an intuitive error that brilliant economists, from Adam Smith to Karl Marx, have mistakenly stepped into many times: the idea that value comes from a day's work. That's the folk version of it, but in economic's early days it was professionally argued for enough to get its own name: the labor theory of value. There's a long history of debate around it, and even today there are highly sophisticated versions of it floating around that have added epicycles and epicycles of subtlety, but the long and short of it is that it's been proven wrong. Not from a normative point of view (which is impossible anyways, as that's just moralizing), but empirically speaking.
And the moral version of it doesn't make much sense either. I'd be the last to say that an investment banker doesn't work hard, but does he work harder than a single mother on food stamps holding down three part time jobs? Or, for that matter, do either of them work harder than a peasant in rural India?
Lots of things determine income. But by far the biggest is economic productivity, which is heavily correlated to capital intensity.
As a collective whole, we are far more productive now than we were a couple decades ago, let alone a couple centuries. For that we get far higher incomes for far less work. Does being born in a first world country in the 21st century deserve extra income? No, not really. Yet we live with it and don't beat ourselves over the head for it: we do it because we can. And even once developing countries have caught up with us, we'll still have to ask ourselves if we deserve greater income than our ancestors merely for coming after them.
Capital will continue to grow exponentially for the foreseeable future. It will not be long before the labor of maybe a billion people worldwide are able to provide a standard of living for everyone that's higher than people in first world countries get today.
Do the people who aren't part of that productive core "deserve" the money? I mean, maybe, maybe not, but does the answer to that question even matter? None of us really deserve what we have, so so long as we make a workable system where the incentives line up so that everyone can live rich lives with a base level of income, I'm all for it.
Where did Adam Smith say this? From what I understand of Smith's position, it was that value comes from either use or trade: you produce something and either use it yourself, or trade it for something else. How long it took you to produce it is irrelevant to what you can use it or trade it for.
The full answer is a bit more complex than that: it's also true that Smith says contradictory things. I'm not enough of a Smith scholar to give a definitive answer, but it seems that Smith mostly purposed it for rhetorical effect, since it is so compelling on a folk level. Other classical economists like Ricardo bought into it much more heavily as an analytic tool.
The statement that "They contain the value of a certain quantity of labour which we exchange for what is supposed at the time to contain the value of an equal quantity" is the closest Smith comes to saying something like the labor theory of value, but note that he says "supposed"--in other words, our intuitive sense is that, on average, equal amounts of labor should produce equal amounts of value. So he's still not saying the same thing as the labor theory of value says; he's talking about an effect of the free market, not how prices should be set in such a market. (And, as you note, the full answer is more complex: for one thing, we have to account for differences in productivity.)
If you have any quotes from other classical economists like Ricardo, I'd be interested to see them; my sense is that the labor theory of value is mainly due to later schools of economics, not classical economics.
I don't have a general problem with big abstract theories. They can be useful. They can also be blinding. Worse, they can lodge themselves as a person's political identity. Realistically, they are very imperfect and we should probably use a bunch simultaneously to try an understand a trend like this one.
Here's an alternative vocabulary that IMO is relevant inasmuch as economic growth takes the form of of new technological product (smartphones, internet). Who/how many get to consume the new products. IE, airlines get invented. How many people get to use them? Personal vehicles proliferate. How many people get to own one.
From that perspective, a lot of recent growth is remarkably equitable. Cellular phones penetrated right down the worldwide income ladder. In 10-20 years they outpaced earlier technologies like cars & electricity. Now most of the world gets to use them. PCs, the internet & smartphones are available to most of the lower income people in above medium income countries. I would say that overall, the common person gets more access to new consumer technology than a decade ago.
Another framework I would like to see used would focus on freedom to make choices, specifically lifestyle choices. How many people choose to take a different job, change careers, work less, etc. I'm not sure how one would go about quantifying this.
I'm not saying this should be the primary method of looking at the economy. I am saying is that if using different frameworks leads you to different conclusions, be suspicious of all of them.
The collapse of an industry used to take decades but now can happen within a five-year timespan.
Frank Rieger and Constanze Kurz raised this point recently when they pointed out that self-driving cars will make hundreds of thousands of drivers unemployed within Germany alone.
What if, at some point, these people, justifiedly feeling thrown aside by technological progress, take to the proverbial pitchfork?
(1) I don't know if people are better or worse off now than before. (2) I'm don't think we have a very good quantifiable way of deciding that argument. (3) Many arguments of intelligent people are trying to provide an answer to this question smells a lot like intelligent people trying to fit their world into their philosophical framework. (4) The answer to that question (or some aspects of the answer) may be subjective or at least a bad fit for the economic vocabulary we typically use to tackle it. IE, Has the value of a median family car gone up over the last 50 years because its objective quality has improved or has it gone down because the the people buying them grew up expecting to own one whereas their grandparents found themselves able to afford one, exceeding their expectations when growing up.
Any specific statement you find objectionable?
1. Ban the technology, Amish-style
2. Cut working hours
3. Introduce some new kind of re-distribution, such as basic income
If you told a farmer in 1813 that, in the future, less than 5% of the population would be needed to grow all the food, he would assume that the other 95% would be mostly unemployed and starving. But he would be wrong, for the same reason that you are wrong.
As long as there are unmet desires, there is necessarily more work to do. When increasing productivity frees up capital and labor, it gets applied to create entirely new industries. Just because you can't imagine what they might look like (any more than our 1813 farmer could imagine what many of us do for a living) doesn't make them any less likely.
It is a logical impossibility that technology throws the bulk of the population into poverty -- either they have access to all the cheap robotic goods, in which case they are not poor in any meaningful sense, or they don't have access to the cheap robotic goods, in which case the robots are not competing with them in their ability to sell to each other.
IMO, all those hypotheses are utter bullshit and are the sign of a crazy individualistic society, but I admit this is mainly a question of personal ethics and values.
The most important things are education, housing, food and health. There is no reason not to unconditionally provide that to everybody if we can afford it, and when I say "if we can afford it" I mean even if that implies e.g. cutting the number of iPad by a factor 100 and increasing the price of gasoline by a factor 3 or 10 or whatever. Obviously, the ruling class does not want that kind of thing to happen, because that would mean impairment of the capitalist ideology, the loss of a big part of their power (perceived and real), and worst of all the loss of a perceived "way of life".
> It is a logical impossibility that technology throws the bulk of the population into poverty -- either they have access to all the cheap robotic goods, in which case they are not poor in any meaningful sense, or they don't have access to the cheap robotic goods, in which case the robots are not competing with them in their ability to sell to each other.
Irrefutable arguments are suspicious, and this one is no exception; you are not going to produce e.g. drugs yourself when you can't afford to buy one at "market"^W arbitrary prices, and the same is true for lots of products of today life.
And even if you could, that also starts with the hypothesis that people should work (or have an enormous amount of capital, but I'm obviously not very worrying for those kind of people) to be allowed to live a mainstream life. This is a point of view, but when technology make the alternative possible, I see no reason you should be allowed to impose it on everybody, especially when in lots of case this is done by creating artificial scarcity even when this involve waste...
Then nothing prevents the 90% from forming their own economy.
I'm not at all saying that we'll see that happen: I'm speaking to the fact that people's marginal utility really can drop to zero. And although we might like to console ourselves with thoughts that everyone can end up a productive person with enough education and self effort, that's just a pleasant fairy tale. I've worked in service jobs before, and the people in the underclass there, though often genuinely nice people, aren't capable of being independently productive.
Why can't they just form their own economy? Well, they will. In many places you can see what happens when the bottom rung run things: think the favelas of Brazil. Some level of cohesion with the broader economy, where it provides goods that for whatever reason are suppressed by the State in governed areas, coupled with rule by brute violence.
In the real world, some of the 10% would be slackers, and some of the 90% would think up ways to enable the slackers in return for some of their income. They, in turn, would need to employ more of the 90% to satisfy demand. Indeed, whole new classes of "goods" would be defined, such that only members of the 90% would be qualified to provide them. Of course, the 10% would strive to automate these away, only to find new classes arising of slackers with new demands to be satisfied by new entrepreneurs among the 90%.
As a particularly lazy member of the 10%, that has been my experience. Long may it continue!
Likely paid in digital currency for performing manual labor or creative work inside Virtual Worlds.