Re: One humanity, all in the same boat

From: Samantha Atkins (
Date: Fri Jan 04 2002 - 02:33:16 MST

Lee Daniel Crocker wrote:
> > ... 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?

> The most likely effect of continued automation is to move
> the labor force into personal services and entertainment.

Isn't it a bit over-optimistic to believe that, say, everyone
below an IQ (assume for the moment that is meaningful please) of
120 will have the skills and personality to work as an
entertainer or find a personal service job when the level of
techology becomes great enough that there aren't a lot of other
jobs for them? I think we are headed to a world perhaps not
that extreme but extreme enough that there is no reasonable
prospect of their being a job for all adult citizens that is not

> 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

Isn't that only a supposition and isn't an analogy with a very
different time fundamentally dangerous and likely to lead us
into erroneous conclusions?

> 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

Hmmm. How will it increase income except for those few who have
highly in-demand skills? Are you sure there are enough of them
with enough income and desires fulfillable by the others?
Offhand I see no reason to believe a priori that this will be
the case. Suppose it is not the case for just a second for the
sake of argument. What would you propose then?

> 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.

Why would I hire a secretary when my futuristic ubiquitous
computing environment does a much better job? Why a caterer or
gardener if the garden really is largely automated and takes
care of itself and planing menus and having everything arrive
perfectly on time is largely automatable as well? While I am
sure that some of what you propose is true I find it unlikely
that it is true enough not to leave many people without jobs as
we now think of them that just naturally grew out of market

> 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.

But what will they choose to spend it on? Again, there is a bit
of supposition here that claims there is no problem. But there
is no proof and it leaves the question still of what you would
want to happen if your suppositions prove incorrect.
> 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.

This still assumes old line economics and that the bank will see
ventures as profitable that all of these people will think of
and have the skills to execute. There is insufficient
validation of this premise.
> > ... 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,

A bit down the road food, shelter, clothing, information will
pretty literally "grow on trees". What then? Do we head in the
direction of some tropical paradise societies?

> 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.

But that system is best in a context and that context is likely
to change very drastically.
> When we make ourselves into self-sustaining solar-powered
> robots, then that might change. But in the meantime, we have
> a damned good system.

I don't think it is that damned good even now. There is much
too much waste of resources, time, intelligence and people
today. I don't see why it will get a lot better through
technology alone if we also aren't open to changing our models
to match new circumstances.

Thanks for tackling this one.

- samantha

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