Re: One humanity, all in the same boat

From: Lee Daniel Crocker (
Date: Thu Jan 03 2002 - 11:09:32 MST

> ... As I have asked many times here and
> haven't really been answered, what happens when there is no
> market due to automation and continually more sophisticated
> technology, for anyone with less than a certain amount of
> general intelligence and a fair amount of training?

I find it hard to believe that it's never been answered, but
perhaps it's never been answered to your satisfaction. On the
optimistic assumtion that the latter is possible, I'll try:

The most likely effect of continued automation is to move
the labor force into personal services and entertainment.
Just as the automation of agriculture totally changed the
American labor market from one where the majority of workers
were agricultural to one where only a small minority now are,
continued automation of manufacturing will change the face
of labor from manufacturing to services. Whatever humans
can do usefully--make judgments, entertain other humans,
research and create--the market will expand demand for those
things, because the decreasing cost of manufactured goods,
at the same time it puts builders out of work, will also
increase the income available to the purchasers of those
manufactured goods to buy other things, like services and
artworks. Human judgment will become valuable: for example,
the simple act of filtering and evaluating imformation will
become a valuable service. More people will have personal
caterers and gardeners and secretaries.

It's really quite simple: whenever a job is eliminated
because a machine can do it better, all of the people who
formerly paid for what that worker produced will now pay
less for what the machine produces, and will therefore
have more income to spend on other things. And they /will/
find ways to spend it, and it /will/ end up employing
about the same amount of people.

It doesn't even have to be as direct as that: when the
person who no longer buys the expensive hand-made good
buys the cheaper machine-made good and just stashes the
extra money in a bank account, the bank is enabled to
lend more for new business ventures to hire more people.

> ... It is also not clear to me that having a "job" is the
> best and only reasonable way that citizens may be productive or
> that they have access to a reasonable level of comfort and
> freedom to pursue their happiness. The "job" paradigm may be
> increasingly obsolete as may be some old economic models based
> in more scarcity and less high technology.

Certainly the things people do as their "job" will change over
time and may become things we wouldn't recognize as "jobs" today.
But the basic facts can't change much: human beings are not born
self-sufficient. We have to acquire food, water, etc., from our
environment in order to sustain life. As long as that is the case,
we'll have to have a system to create those things and allocate
them. Currently, the best system we have is for some subset of
the people who are best suited to the task actually create those
things, and some of us offer our services to those people in
exchange for the things, and the rest of us offer whatever
services we can perform to whoever wants them to further
distribute those things.

When we make ourselves into self-sustaining solar-powered
robots, then that might change. But in the meantime, we have
a damned good system.

Lee Daniel Crocker <> <>
"All inventions or works of authorship original to me, herein and past,
are placed irrevocably in the public domain, and may be used or modified
for any purpose, without permission, attribution, or notification."--LDC

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.5 : Fri Nov 01 2002 - 13:37:32 MST