Sunday, February 12, 2012

Let's Light This Fuse!

Federico Pistono has written an excellent article outline a growing threat to our society, which I feel the need to respond to.

Robots will steal your job, but that’s OK: how to survive the economic collapse and be happy

Federico Pistono


Great article!

Automation will soon be forcing man to retire and will create massive social restructuring. We do need to deal with this now, because the problems of the transition are already upon us. Sadly, people are naturally conservative and will reject the notion that man's self sufficiency is about to perish. It could be a very rough transition as we sail further into these uncharted waters. Let's not allow that to happen.

Federico Pistono asks the interesting question of whether our need for constant growth is a mistake in itself, and leads to a poorer quality of life. I don't believe it's possible to escape our quest for constant growth. Humans are hard wired to act so as to improve their lives. The very fact that Federico asks the question, shows how he is hard wired to look for ways to improve his life. The question itself becomes at least partially self contradicting when we realize he's asking if we could improve our lives, by not trying so hard to improve our lives.

Humans will always, in the long term, gravitate to the social systems and behaviors, that maximize the quality of their lives. In the past, working hard for a living has been the proven path to a quality life. It's a time honored tradition that goes back at least 40,000 years to the beginnings of human civilization. That path is ending, and a new path must be found.

First, more articles like this one by Federico Pistono must be written, and shared, to raise social awareness of what is ahead of us. The seeds of change must be planted into our social consciousnesses, so as things get worse, people will have an understanding of the cause, even if they rejected the idea, when first presented to them.

What is happening already as we slide nearer to this great future, is growing unemployment, and growing wealth inequity. Both wealth, and social power, is concentrating at the top. This trend is attacking the very foundation of our society. It's tearing down, brick by brick, our government for the people and by the people. Our governments are systematically transforming into "for the dollar, and by the dollar". We must stop, and reverse, this trend now.

This is not happening because the working class poor are too lazy or stupid to work for a living. It's because advancing technology is changing our social reality. The very fabric of our human existence is transforming. We can not stop these advancements because it's a core human nature to peruse them. They will happen, and we must deal with the consequences.

The solution, is actually obvious. Humans must retire from the work force, and turn over all the production, to our machines. Our wealth, and the better life we WILL live, will be created for us, by our machines. Our full time jobs of tomorrow, will be to tell the machines what we want. Those jobs will keep us very busy, and very fulfilled, and very happy.

Some people suggest that in this new future money will become obsolete. I reject that. What will become obsolete, is having humans spend their lives chasing the dollar. Money is the control signal of our production machine. It's what allows a million individual companies, and billions of workers, to auto-configure themselves into a highly efficient human happiness generator. We will need Adam Smith's invisible hand as much in the future, as we need it today and that means money needs to stay.

But since we will be retired, it will not be us chasing the dollar. It will be our machines. They are the ones that will have their economic behavior regulated by the invisible hand. We will be the controllers of that hand, by being full time consumers. We will feed our quarters into the machines, and they will respond to our every demand, with an amazing flow of products and services to improve our lives. The entire production machine, will be controlled by whoever drops their quarters into it the slot - just as it is today. The only difference, is that there will be no humans inside the production machine of tomorrow.

These systems will, in the future, create all the wealth of our society. They are already doing much of it. Google and Facebook are economic powerhouses not because there are humans busy at work looking up web pages for us, or deviling by hand, our jokes to our friends. They are economic powerhouses because they have built great machines, working in dark warehouse data centers, where humans rarely tread. It is their machines, that have turned these companies into economic giants, not the people.

Whoever owns these machines, will own the future. Everyone else, will starve. They will have no quarters to drop into the slot. What little they do have, their house, their land, their dignity, will be stripped away from them with no path left into this great future.

To stop this growing wealth inequity, we must, as a people, share the wealth. This problem first showed up in large scale at the beginning of the industrial revolution. It was solved, by giving workers the right to form unions that leveraged the combined strength of the workers, against the owners, to force the owners to share the wealth, in the form of higher wages. The owners needed the workers, so they were forced to share.

Advancing technology, is breaking this down. The workers are losing their fight, because they are not competing against just the owners anymore, they are competing against the machines now. The workers can not win this battle. As the machines advance, the workers wages drop. We need another solution now.

The owners of the production system, must be forced by the people, to start sharing more of the wealth. It must happen, through the government, before the government by the people, is lost. Once that power is lost, the people will have no option except revolt and war. If we wait too long to act, we will force our society into that civil unrest.

Our governments are already highly socialistic, in the services, and laws, and tax structures they have put into force. The wealthiest of our nations, are already carrying the lion's share of our social costs. But this trend, of wealth sharing in the form of government services, is crushing us. It's making our governments, massive. Governments are not efficient. They are nearly immune from Adam Smith's regulatory hand. The more we channel funds through our government services, the more hard won wealth, we throw away.

We must do more more wealth sharing. The unions are losing their power to the machines. Government services, are no longer an effective solution to the problem. Tax structures are no longer an effective solution to the problem. The jobless, and the working poor, can not benefit from tax relief.

We need our governments to become our Robin Hood. They need to take from the machines, and share not just with the poor, but with everyone. We need the purple wage. We need the "Citizen's Benefit" as I recently saw Neil Newman describe it on Facebook.

We need to tax the machines that are generating all the wealth in today's society, and start distributing the wealth to everyone, just because they are a member of our HUMAN society.

It should start out very small, but grow over time, as we get closer to the day when we are all forced into retirement by the machines. Tax and spend by the government, needs to change into tax and distribute. We don't want our government spending for us, let the people spend!

Such direct redistribution of wealth will fit nicely into our society today. We already do it, for those with special needs, all over society, from welfare, to subsidy and grants, to scholarships, to government backed mortgages. Wealth redistribution is already a foundation of our society. The strong always help take care of the weak.

In our new world, the machines are the strong, and the working man is the weak. People need to understand this. It's not rich and productive against the poor and lazy, it's the humans against our own machines.

Though humans are still a big and fundamentally important part of the production machine, our days are numbered. Many humans are already suffering, and they need our help, just because they are humans.

We could continue to try and identity the needy, and assist only them, with more government services such as unemployment insurance, welfare for the poor, minimum wage laws, and more free worker re-education. But it's inefficient to continue this, and it's often highly demoralizing to the very people we are trying to help. To accept such help, is to instantly cast yourself into the lowest and most worthless class of society. No one likes to ask for a handout, and no one likes to feel weak and helpless. It's immoral for us to make people feel that way, in a world that is so rich and powerful.

We need to replace all the conditional help, provided by complex, inefficient, wasteful, bureaucratic red tape, with unconditional support for all citizens, just because we are all members of this society, for the people, and by the people.

This redistribution of wealth from the production system, to the people, won't be a hand out. It is a basic human right. It will be the same basic human right, we grated workers when we allowed them to form unions, to force the sharing of wealth from Capital to Labor through the threat of a strike. It is the same human moral right, we exercise, every time we help the needy, when we are strong.

But unlike the past, it is not the fruits of our labor we are sharing with the weak. It's the fruits of the labors of our machines we must now share with everyone. We need to share the machines, not hoard them.

When we share a slice of the wealth with everyone, it will slow, and then stop, the growing wealth inequity trend, and put the power back into the hands of the people where it belongs. The more simple and straight forward wealth redistribution system we select, the less we will need all these other government services for the weak. We will be able to reduce, and then eliminate minimum wage laws which will free industry, to produce large numbers of low wage jobs, to allow more people to feel good about their ability to participate in society. No longer will they feel they are the bottom of the barrel of society. Poverty can be eliminated. Crime will be reduced due to fewer people having to turn to crime to feel they are getting a fair share of the wealth of the society they live in. Money and resources wasted on our growing prison populations, and law enforcement, and lawyers, will start to return to more productive uses in society.

Everyone will have some money to spend, spurring the growth of retail in low income areas, where once they dare not grow.

With everyone in the nation feeling they have guaranteed security in the form of food to eat, and a place to live, and minimum health care, all without begging for handouts, eating at a soup kitchen, filling out any government forms, or fighting red tape, there will be a ground swell of growing optimizing about the future.

The economy will explode.

All we need to do, is light that fuse, by instituting a small, direct, guaranteed for life, redistribution of a slice of the wealth, from the production system, to the people.

Everyone will be able to get back to work, doing what each of them feels is best, to build a better future for themselves. We will once again, be working together, each following our own paths, building that better future, for everyone.

If we can get this started, it will snowball into an economic explosion unlike anything seen in the past. It will accelerate the coming of this new age, where everyone will be retired, and the machines will be doing all the labor for us. It will accelerate the coming of the time, when we all become full time consumers.

When people understand where we are going, they won't fear it, they will fight to get there as quickly as possible. Automation won't be the downfall of humanity, it will be the beginning of the true golden age our forefathers worked their lives to create for us.

Anyone that invents a better automation system, will be seen not as the goat, but as the modern day hero! Yay, a million more humans put out of work! We are all richer now! Put a million taxi drivers out of work with automated cars, this company that created this auto-taxi gets rich, and taxed, and people get more money to spend!

There's a golden age waiting for us all, and here we sit, with our global economies stalling, with so many people in trouble, so many people not able to work, so many people part of the working poor with little hope for the future, so many people feeling helpless, when the power to light this fuse and see the world explode with optimism and hope and energy is right here at our finger tips.

Let's not wait until we have to go to war to make it happen.

Let's light this fuse now!


5 comments:

  1. Good to see you blogging Curt Welch. What do you think of the idea of a minimum living wage for people affected by this type of future ?

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    Replies
    1. That depends on what you are asking. The concept normally relates to laws that define how much money employers must pay workers so the workers are guaranteed to have what we socially are willing to accept as enough to live off of if they will work a 40 hour week.

      In the future, post singularity, if we as a society institute the sharing I'm suggesting, then everyone will have far more than just a living wage, and they will get it for "free" without having to do any work at all. That's the world we are heading towards when the machines do all the work for us. Humans won't need to work. Within 50 years, that future will be here. Probably much sooner.

      The issue at hand is how do we best transition from what we do now, to that future. I think the answer is that we need to start taxing, and distributing cash (not just free services) to everyone today. It will have to start out small, and will certainly not be enough to be a living wage at first. But it will make life a little easier for everyone, especially the poorest of our society, and will help us start addressing in a reasonable way, the growing wealth inequity problem.

      Using minimum wage laws is tricky. It does guarantee anyone that can find a job, a fair wage. But it does not guarantee everyone a job. In fact, it helps to prevent people from working by preventing companies from creating jobs they could others have created, if only they could offer the workers less money.

      If the minimum wage is $8 an hour, companies just simply can't afford to hire a person, if the person's work is not worth $8 an hour to the companies bottom line. So even if the company has lots of work, for $4 an hour, it can't offer anyone that work.

      If we can implement direct cash distributions to everyone, then we can lower the minimum wage levels by however much money people will be getting without working. That will create more low end jobs, which will allow more people to work, which will help stimulate the economy which grows GNP, which allows even larger amounts to be distributed as this free purple wage.

      At some point, the purple wage, aka the free money everyone gets just for being a good citizen, will be large enough to be a living wage. Anyone that is willing to accept just a minimum existence, won't need to work at all. When we reach that point, we can eliminate all minimum wage laws and allow companies to pay whatever wage the market will bear.

      As a society, we are already so wealthy, there's really no excuse that people are forced to live below the poverty line. We should already be sharing the wealth to the point of keeping everyone above the poverty line.

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  2. The unemployment rate looks pretty dominated by noise at the moment. It seems rather premature to claim that there's a trend towards greater unemployment. Peak unemployment in the US was in 1982 - according to The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

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  3. I don't think its premature to note the decline of employment at all. Take a look at this data from the BLS:

    http://data.bls.gov/timeseries/LNS11300000

    It shows that the post-WWII increase in the percent of the population employed, which was mostly the entry of women into the labor force, stopped in 2000 or so and has been declining since. Last month it reached its lowest percent, 63.7, since 1982, at the same time that the percent of people looking for work is declining. In other words, the "unemployment rate" is a not tightly connected to the "percent of the pop employed". curt is absolutely right that it is time to start fighting for a universal basic income guarantee since that is the only way to maintain economic productivity and keep people fed as jobs disappear.

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  4. How does this interact with the rest of the world having substantially lower GDP/capita?

    The taxes associated with generating the revenue seems like it has to push corporations around the map.

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