bitsypon said: Re the "lowering the minimum wage to reduce unemployment" thing from a while back, the problem is that unemployment has consistently been painted as a Bad Thing™, and thus reducing it at any cost must be good, right? Whereas it seems more likely to me, given precedent, that unemployment must trend toward 0 as we automate more and more things, therefore the more pressing issue is how we're going to handle financial support and such in a low-employment world. And I don't have any answers to that.
i assume you mean employment must trend towards 0
but yes, this is going to be a problem in the next few decades
well, no, frankly i’ve seen it argued as being a problem now; i recall an article a couple years back saying the jobs lost in the recession aren’t really coming back even though the economy is otherwise doing okay now. and iirc there’s research right now into basically automating fast food
i mean, consider: http://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/ocwage.pdf
among the 10 most common jobs in the US are retail clerk (4.5m), cashiers (3.3m), fast food (3.0m), waiting (2.4m), CS reps (2.4m), stock work (2.3m), and secretarial work (2.2m).
that’s 19 million people doing jobs that are either moving objects around or acting as sort of a proxy between humans and other humans. those are tasks we’re already not too shabby at automating — and we’re getting better all the time. how much of your shopping do you now do via amazon? when was the last time you dialed your operator to get someone’s number?
there are 144 million workers in the US. those people are 13% of the workforce. one in eight employed americans.
there have been revolutions in the past, of course. agricultural, industrial, various smaller ones in between. but those always produced new different work to be done, saved us from working 24/7, and let us explore other pursuits.
this seems a unique case to me. we’re already fairly comfortable (as a society as a whole). we’re no longer primarily working just to make food and clothes for ourselves. there are entire industries built around selling the middle class a multi-hundred-dollar cell phone that’s slightly better than the one everyone bought last year. and we continue to aggressively optimize.
so we are barrelling towards the very awkward point where we just have more people than we have work that needs doing.
i see a handful of options, which will probably all happen in some form. (but only after many years of high unemployment, because having the government serve its population would be socialism!!)
- basic income, where everyone just gets a regular paycheck from the government, zero strings attached. enough to keep everyone above the poverty line. if you can’t find work or just don’t want to work, cool. if you want more money, you can go earn more. it’s been tried before on small scales and seems to have worked out.
- far, far more government investment into R&D. the classical way for the government to make jobs is to just go build stuff, because building stuff requires having people build it. upgrade our networking infrastructure, give us cross-country transportation that’s not from the 19th century, send stuff into space again, destroy the credit card industry and give us easy instant money transfers.
- heavier appreciation of creative pursuits. above i said we would run out of “work that needs doing”, i.e., work that is immediately profitable. we may be set on food and clothing, but there’s always room for more art. the entertainment sector is skewed to all fuck right now: movie stars and pop bands and football players are all part of a huge established well-oiled machine that gives them millions of dollars, whereas people working on their own often have to practically beg for money. open source software has a similar problem. we’d need a significant cultural shift (and financial shift, see #2) to put more value on indie efforts, but if we can manage it, we could build an economy where people can support themselves without a huge struggle just by making stuff.
I think these are all good solutions… an important shift in thinking needs to be that if more jobs become automated, then robots are working for people and not just instead of people. Better technology inevitably grows the entire pie, so there should be a way for everyone to get a piece of that with basic income or something.
Investing in R&D is an especially good point; besides the ones you mentioned, there are a host of problems that need to be solved for humanity. Many of these are in medicine (regenerative medicine most of all), creating even better technology, space exploration and colonization, etc. So there should be far more educated people working on such problems with the funds to do so. And this certainly doesn’t need to be implemented only by the government when a number of companies, non-profits, and universities are making serious progress already and others could start jumping in and contributing as well.
It’s fun to envision a future with basically 100% employment where available positions are either student, researcher, or artist… or a combination of these, with all of them allowed more comfort and recreation than most people today. That could be where we are headed if we respond to changes in technology, mainly automation, the correct way.