Blog Archive

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Technology Review Says Unemployment is the New Permanent Reality:

People who know about technology have an entirely different view about technology than people who do not know about technology and do not follow technology in the news.  The people who don't know about technology keep saying how we need to remove welfare benefits from the lazy poor so that they'll have an incentive to go find a job and work for a living.  They assume there are infinite, infinitely easy to acquire jobs available and the only reason why anyone in the world isn't working right now is due to their laziness and selfish desire to freeload off of others.

Meanwhile, those who have been keeping track of technology have noticed that since 1983, gains in worker productivity have not resulted in gains to worker pay.  In addition, no matter how much the economy grows, employment remains stable or even drops.  1983 to 2013 is 30 years, it's the distance in time between World War I and World War II.  It's a historically significant amount of time, not just a random blip on the economic radar.  It is not an anomaly that will soon correct itself.  It is the new reality that has been caused by an underlying trend.  People didn't suddenly get lazy circa 1983.  They got replaced.  By machines.

Machines are superior to humans in virtually every way.  They are more obedient, punctual, durable, work longer, work harder, cost less, can carry more weight, etc, etc.  The only reason anyone would employ a human over a machine is if the human brain's decision making process was superior to the machine's in the case of unpredictable, unprogrammable events.  The problem with this is that one smart human can work alongside thousands of machines and be the 'brains' of the operation while the machines serve as the 'brawn.'  This is what happened when a coal facility employing two hundred people was shut down by a natural gas plant that employed exactly one engineer who watched over the software and machines to make sure nothing was broken every day.  Everything else in the plant was automated.  Two hundred workers became one worker, without a blip.  This isn't some paranoid futuristic discussion, this already happened years ago.  It was a real event, not a hypothetical one, that really put 199 people out of a job.

It's no use saying there will be more jobs in the manufacturing of robots or computer programming, because these jobs too can be largely automated with only a small human oversight at the top.  Furthermore, the entire point of productivity gains is that you can accomplish the same amount of work in fewer hours of labor.  If a robot out competes a human on cost, that means that the work put into making the robot was cheaper than the work the worker was putting in, ie, it was fewer hours, ie, you're replacing more hours of labor with fewer hours of labor each time, not making a 1:1 equivalent trade and just changing job titles.

If there were a solution to robot induced unemployment, it would have already occurred some time during the previous 30 years, where it has already become the most important factor in the entire economy.  The fact that we've come up with no solutions in the last thirty years except living in denial and claiming it hasn't happened (despite the charts showing stagnant wages and stagnant employment alongside massive GDP growth and massive productivity growth, which makes no sense under any other economic model imaginable) is already proof that there is no solution.  There's no turning back time, just like hunter gatherers can't compete with the farming economy, the non-robot economy is no match for the robot economy.

Each time Intel designs a new computer chip with double the processing power from its previous generation, AI becomes that much more likely a reality.  Intel's innovation hasn't been slowing down in the slightest.  It has multiple generations of chip improvements already slated and planned out ahead of time to release into the market.  If Intel is confident it can keep doubling our computer power into the foreseeable future, then I have no reason to doubt them.  This means that anything a computer can't do now because the question is simply 'too hard' for a machine to calculate will be doable within a few years, and each new watershed will replace yet another group of workers.  Any problem that just requires a large number of calculations will eventually be solved, whether it's image recognition, speech recognition, language translation, or any other system that just needs lots of data to find the correct answer.  However, once a computer can see, talk, and read, it can do virtually any job a human can do.  With its infinite memory capacity, it can be an expert in any field with more reliable information than any doctor or lawyer.  The only jobs a computer can't do are innovation type jobs, like an inventor or an artist.  Any job that has discovered a 'right' way to do things, like mailman or construction worker, can just be replicated by unthinking machines with programmed memory of how the job is meant to be done.

I find it hard to believe how clueless mankind remains concerning the robot revolution occurring all around us.  What's to stop robot nurses from tending to the elderly, changing their beds and giving them sponge baths?  It's an automatic process following routine steps.  What's to stop machines from ruthlessly finding and eliminating targets on the battlefield?  It only requires they follow basic routines.  Why can't machines come to your house and clean your carpet?  Mow the lawn?  Paint the walls?  Officiate a sports match (fairly for once?)?  What can a machine not do, intrinsically, rather than just what can it not do right now?

People in the know realize the gig is up.  Human labor is no longer needed or even valuable.  Humans just get in the way of machines doing the job cheaper, faster, and better if the machines could work on their own (or an intelligent overseer who directs them from afar).  Around 90% of humans are redundant to the economy and contribute nothing of worth to it.  All of their labor is a worthless waste of time, generally make work that pretends to do something valuable while actually accomplishing nothing of worth whatsoever.  Just consider, the top 15% of workers earn a higher total income than the remaining bottom 85% of workers combined.  The numbers are even more skewed if you look at the top holders of wealth versus the bottom.  Our own economy is screaming to us that the vast majority of humans are unneeded and useless.  If we trust capitalism to reflect a worker's value, the numbers have told us, year after year, that nothing the bottom 85% does is worthwhile and the economy wouldn't even notice if they stopped doing any of it tomorrow.  Going by capitalism's announced findings, if 85% of Americans stopped working tomorrow the GDP of the USA would go from $50,000 per capita to $25,000 per capita -- so we'd basically be as rich as Greece or some other first world country, ie, we wouldn't feel a lick of difference in our quality of lives.

The inevitable progress of machines, linked with the already 30 year old fact that workers are no longer rewarded in our economy, can only point to a single conclusion.  The economy is transitioning into an entirely different state, like a liquid to a gas.  And on the other side of this transition is a world without jobs for the vast majority of people.  In a job scarcity world, people with work will not consider it as a burden, but an honor/privilege.  Those without work won't be congratulating themselves on their freeloading skills, but envious of those who are still counted as useful in the world.  If anyone wishes to stop working and join the freeloading club, there would be a hundred volunteers ready to take his job at a moment's notice.  This is because the job holders would earn the most money and social status compared to the unemployed, and the work would generally be cerebral and innovative in nature, so naturally interesting to the intelligent as a type of riddle solving game rather than the drudgery and 'hard work' people think of work as today.

Recently, 78,000 people volunteered for a one-way trip to Mars.  Humans do not naturally seek to avoid dangerous or difficult endeavors.  The human spirit enjoys 'work' if it's challenging, interesting, and fulfilling.  If it serves some clear noble purpose, pays well, has high status and presents a variety of stimulating circumstances to a person's life, work is no different from play.  Therefore, there is no need to deter freeloading -- first off, it's impossible to deter because there aren't any jobs to go around.  Second off, there are already natural deterrents to freeloading in the human DNA.  There will always be people who don't wish to freeload and would prefer to be working at something instead.

Eventually the ruthless logic of capitalism will unemploy virtually everyone whether we like it or not, whether we prepare for it or not.  Each individual CEO will, on his own, at some point make a cost/benefit analysis and decide, on his own, to fire Mack and hire Johnny5.  All those individual hiring decisions will end up being a universal revolution that forever fires the world.  At that point, people won't be able to deny the truth or hide from it any longer, and appropriate measures will be taken.  At that point we'll have to change our economic model from 'those who do not work do not eat' to 'from each machine according to its ability, to each human according to its need.'

What bothers me is the time between now and then.  Starting from 1983 we've been suffering from a robot economy using an archaic, human-economy-only-sensible-philosophy.  The suffering gets worse every year as Intel invents its new Haswell lineup of chips and D-Wave comes out with a new quantum computer.  How many more years must we suffer before we shift our policy now to what it must eventually shift to anyway?

Why suffer when we're all going to reach the same place anyway?  There is only one possible economic model in the future, a citizen's dividend, free money, for everyone, regardless of their employment status.  The only other alternative is killing 90% of mankind, which even the ballsiest libertarian doesn't have the guts to argue for.  Since no one is going to argue for the only possible alternative, the citizen's dividend is an inevitability.  From 1983 onwards, it was a clearly good policy.  Every year it isn't implemented becomes an exponentially stupider mistake, as more people suffer and there's less doubt as to its need each and every year the new statistics come out telling us the same thing, over, and over, and over again.  How much worse must it get before public intellectuals start taking notice of what the technology sites have known for years, if not decades?

A citizens' dividend asserts two things -- 1) Human life is valuable not because it can be economically productive, but because it can be emotionally fulfilling.  2) There is enough money to go around.

With the advent of machine labor, #2 has been clearly proven.  As I've stated before, $50,000 a year per capita in America is a disgusting amount of money, more than anyone could ever spend on themselves to any imaginable good use.  Every year technology will increase our productivity, and thus our GDP, yet more, and that number will keep blooming from $50,000 to $100,000 to $1,000,000.  When is enough enough?  Obviously, even if the per capita GDP were $12,500 a year, like the world's per capita GDP happens to be, that would already be enough to take care of everyone.  That we still haven't indicates what a primitive and bestial species mankind truly is.  There is no financial or economic excuse why we haven't already passed the citizen's dividend and guaranteed a minimum quality of life for everyone.  There is only a 'moral' argument, which happens to be the height of immorality.

The 'moral' argument against sharing is the idea of justice.  People who don't produce wealth don't deserve to consume it.  However, we regularly ignore this rule of justice whenever it is convenient to us.  For instance, when we eat food that was 'produced' not by us, but by plants and animals.  Or when we dig up metals produced not by us, but the supernovae of distant stars, and sell them for profit.  Virtually none of the Earth's wealth comes from mankind's labor, it's almost entirely due to the sun, and secondarily microorganisms.  But no one pays the sun or plankton for their work, so the idea of justice is already dead.

Why there should be a special exception when it comes to usurping other people's labor as opposed to non-sentient labor is beyond me, but it would have to be along the lines of some argument that says it hurts a human's feelings to have his work accosted by someone else.  If theft isn't wrong -- as proven by our theft from the sun and the birds and the trees -- then only theft which hurts a human is wrong.  In which case, it isn't theft that's the issue here, but the hurting of a human.  But once we've reached the conclusion that human feelings are precious and must be protected, it's an absolute contradiction to use that as the logical basis for letting people starve or freeze to death right in front of us who could use our help.

If humans are precious and so you can't take their money, how much more precious are their very lives and how much more so must we protect their happiness?  There is no possible configuration of the principles that would allow people to have the 'right' to the proceeds of their own labor without simultaneously conferring onto other people the 'right' to the proceeds of other people's labor.  The moment we decided human feelings matter marginal utility (who the money would help most) became the only possible system of moral value.

There is no logical way to even be a libertarian.  Their way of thinking is automatically paradoxical.  Not a single one of them can even live by their own principles, because they all consume products that they themselves did not make or consensually trade for -- oxygen from plankton, the soil they walk on, sunlight to warm them, water from the comets that pelted the Earth long ago, so on and so forth.  It's so ridiculous.  Who are they fooling?  How do they even open their mouths?  Aren't they ashamed of themselves when they even try to start to make their arguments?

Most people realize, in their heart of hearts, that they loved people or things who weren't productive in any economic sense.  I haven't heard much hate directed towards pets recently.  People also realize that the most productive people on Earth aren't any more lovable than people who are far less productive -- for instance not many people liked being around Steve Jobs.  If someone's worth were entirely correlated to his economic productivity, we would have everyone falling in love with the top 100 supercomputers located around the world or the polio vaccine or the sun.  That we fall in love with human beings proves we are worrying about something else, something different from productivity.  And that *something else* is why we value not only our own loved ones, but why we should value everyone on Earth.  That *something else* is their emotions, which are unique to mankind and the only unique factor that puts us on top of the moral food chain.  If those emotions have value, it is our duty to support them.  Only a nihilist can even resist the moral logic of the citizen's dividend.  To say that people who could be saved shouldn't be is just pure evil, it's no different from murder and the moral level of people who advocate such a policy is exactly equal to Ted Bundy.

The citizens dividend is a moral and economic necessity.  It's also a moral and economic inevitability.  There is no possible solution other than the citizen's dividend, and nothing better than the citizen's dividend.  It's time (long past time) to pass the citizen's dividend.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Good, you're on the right train of thought there, as far as human productivity and mechanization goes. I'd have to disagree with your photosynthesis/breathing the air analogy though...or at least your placement of it.

As far as human productivity goes...the way our 'need' for things that we don't need, like material wealth; will separate the generation that passes itself on into the future and the generation that doesn't. If you think about the labor class in comparison to your 'thinkers', Darwin's survival of the fittest will take need to just get rid of '90%' of the population. (really hate to be saying this in a public forum, but here goes) Selective breeding will take care of that. Eventually the people who can not find work, who can not provide income to support another let alone themselves; will not find an opportunity to reproduce.

Psychological parameters within our subconscious force us to be attracted to people who can work more than the others around them. Why? because it proves they can provide for their progeny. It's like Kanye West said," I ain't sayin' she's a gold digga, but she aint fuckin' with no broke niggas."

But yes, I just felt like I needed to share my insight on this matter in response to your article.