Re: A Challenge To All Extropians

Paul Hughes (
Fri, 01 May 1998 20:11:18 -0700

Peter C. McCluskey wrote:

> Suppose 10 million people were laid off tomorrow because a new invention drastically
> reduced demand for the jobs they had been doing. Instead of starving, wouldn't
> they be better off forming their own economy, using simple technology
> and trading among themselves?

Yes. I agree with you what you've said here, but it doesn't address the fundamental
challenge I first proposed. Beyond the fact that I am playing devil's advocate, I'm
trying to elicit positive constructive scenarios of which otherwise very intelligent
people on this list haven't seen free-markets address.My point is that when you
combine free-markets with automation you get an increase in overall wealth - a good
thing. However over the last 5-10 years, this increase in wealth has continued to
trickle towards the top. At last count, 94% of the wealth in the US is in the hands
of the top 20%. The greatest discrepancy in US history. So my challenge to
free-market advocates is to demonstrate how free-markets can bring increased
prosperity to *more* people rather than concentrating that new wealth into the hands
of fewer and fewer people.

I doubt anyone on this list can argue that technology is not accelerating. Along with
this acceleration we see an increasingly stringent and rapid requirement for
re-training. The IT industry is a testament to what I'm saying. The problem in the
IT sector is obvious. The change is so fast, that the market is finding it
increasingly difficult to find qualified applicants who can do the job. According to
recent surveys, there are 10 vacancies for every qualified applicant; and for every
100 applicants only 2 are hired. Those that do get hired have seen their wages
increase more than 20% a year. A vindication of supply and demand economics.

To then say that the millions rendered superfluous in the retail sector (thru
e-commerce) will find new ones in the information sector is ludicrous.

Obviously many won't take starvation lying down, that's why we already have the
economic system you describe in inner cities. Minority groups, having neither the
skill or access to traditional routes to success, have had to resort to drug dealing
and theft in order to survive. For them is this progress? If the economy is doing so
well, why is the average wage adjusted for inflation not gone up any significant

> I see no sign that automation has been causing or is likely to cause a
> significant number of people to need to work harder to maintain a stable
> standard of living. As to how hard people will need to work in order to
> upload, I don't know.

Why are there more and more 2-parent working families? Why has the average work week
been increasing? Why did the average wage in the US steadily decrease from 1971 to
1996? Everyone I know says they are working harder than ever before just to make ends
meet. Why would they be saying that? I'm not sure I have an answer to that, which
was why I was hoping the more economically adept on this list could provide some