Re: A Challenge To All Extropians

ChuckKuecker (
Mon, 18 May 1998 08:23:20 -0500

At 02:22 PM 5/17/98 -0700, you wrote:
>Apology accepted.
>I don't mean to jump on your case specifically. Its just that this thread
>generated a lot of 'reactionary' and knee-jerk reactions of people who
>bother reading what I wrote, and then presuming that I am so kind of dogged
>socialist proposing a centralized governmental body to re-distribute the
>This is simply not the case.

I am guilty of an occasional knee-jerk, and would like to discipline myself
away form jumping to conclusions. I did not, however, get the feeling that
you were proposing central control. I can't see the present forms of
government surviving unchanged once everyone can build a nanocomputer on
their desktop. Once the present system of wages dies off, how will they
justify their continued existance? Without being able to steal from
worker's wages, how will they fuel themselves?

This is probably too rosy an outlook. There is nothing quite as cunning as
a cornered bureaucrat..

>The problem I'm trying to reconcile is the elegance of the free market
>with increasing automation. Obviously, once we reach the assembler
>this whole issue becomes moot. Money and work become meaningless in a
world where
>you can replicate anything you need. My concern is for the *transition*
>up to it. I see those years as ones where large segments of the economy
>increasingly automated. Jobs safe from automation until nanotech would
>include - doctors, engineers, scientists, artists, programmers, consultants,
>advisors, lawyers, etc.

That is also my problem. Once everything settles out, life on Earth may
approach some sort of leisure paradise. The transition is genuinely scary.
So far, we have pretty much dodged the bullet in industries like steel and
automobiles - there have been thousands of workers let go; in most cases
they were able to find other work.

>The question is can blue collar/joe-sixpack adapt to the changing
workforce by
>becoming a knowledge worker? I have my doubts. Also, I believe much of the
>service sector will become automated. One secretary does today what it took
>dozens only 30 years ago. This trend in office automation is continuing.

Also in engineering! When I started in the industry in 1979, even
supertechs had access to file clerks and secretaries who typed up reports,
etc. By the time I finished school, the engineer was expected to do his own
filing and typing, and in some cases, purchasing for production. One
company I worked at also had the engineering staff taking service calls and
closing sales. (All this while being expected to turn out product faster..)

>However, some interesting counter-proposals from others on the list included
>pointing out that the service sector will continue because of a high
demand for
>'human touch'. Although each company will need less people to do the same
>there will be more companies doing it. Dan Fabulich pointed out that with
>increasing automation comes increased production at lower costs. So although
>wages will decrease, the price of goods will decrease even more rapidly,
>raising the living standard for everybody.
>Paul Hughes

I, too, believe that there will always be a place for services and retail,
at least until everyone downloads into cyberspace..If we can play the cards
out right, perhaps we can avoid the huge disruptions and chao some have

Chuck Kuecker