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Technological unemployment (aka: automation taking away your job) is a really hot topic right now. Like, to the point that putting links here is almost pointless. So I'll let people simply put them in the discussion.

 

Anyway, from what I can gather all the writers frantically spilling ink on this topic* tend to forsee one of a few possible scenarios:

  1. Nobody makes any significant changes to the current liberal, globalist, capitalist model. Result: we all fall into a decreasing spiral as jobs get removed from the economy, demand slows and jobs are further cut/automated to compensate. This usually ends with us becoming serfs or homeless vagrants outside of the mansions of the 1%. 
  2. Nobody makes any significant changes to the current liberal, globalist, capitalist model. Result: we all enter a golden age where people upskill to perform the jobs that can't be automated (creative-type stuff, mostly) and we get to eat cheap food and stare at cheap LCD displays while being freed from office drudge work.
  3. Nobody makes any significant changes to the current liberal, globalist, capitalist model. Result: 99% of the population lives in robo-assembled tenement flats and lives off of the dole in between popping out anchor babies. How the 1% can afford to pay for all the rest of us without having a market to sell to is left as an exercise to the reader.
  4. Nobody makes any significant changes to the current liberal, globalist, capitalist model. Result: we all enter the services/hobby/gift economy, where luxury goods and services are the only thing that hold value and we all take turns making artisanal cheese to sell to each other at fancy restaurants. This also gets combined with 1. to produce scenarios where the peons all sit outside of the mansions of the ultra-wealthy trying to sell them artisanal cheese. 

 

Now I don't know about you, but I can see a bit of a problem with all these predictions. For starters, they all seem to be running from the same playbook, where all of the newly-unemployed majorities don't suddenly say 'fuck it' and do away with the current liberal, global, capitalist model in favour of something else (I'm rooting for the return of communism, for sweet iconography if nothing else). Secondly, there seems to be very little thought given to second and third-order effects.

 

I'm sure folk here will have some cogent thoughts on this matter.

 

 

 

* I find it absolutely hilarious that the one thing that unites this lot is shock (shock!) at the idea that machines might come for their jobs now that we're done automating agriculture, manufacture and (in part) the service industry. That they've all, by pure coincidence, tuned in to luddite thought now that it's their bread on the line seems to go completely over the writers' collective heads. 

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My first thought is that economies, like ecologies, are controlled by rate limiting factors and bottlenecks. Find the bottleneck and you find where wealth will be concentrated.

 

So what is the bottleneck of the future economy?

 

edit: this article lays the issue out reasonably well (including some graffs) and then sort of muffs the conclusion. The comments also give a good insight into what average Joe commenter thinks about the issue: carping about working hours, calls for a return of communism, blasting the dissolute youth for using the ithings instead of getting out into the sun, misunderstanding the entire concept of IQ and so on.

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Humans should be reserved for the essential complexity of tasks, and from there if we feel that arbitrarily conjuring up work and having people do it to earn their sustenance we should probably be dead out honest about it rather than artificially retarding economic growth just to have makework and make a halfhazard mess of things. Especially for the lower end of things, I'd like to see a living wage be guaranteed if there's a job and scaling hours rather than pay to get people. The nastier it is the more hours you get to yourself.

 

Skilled trades that actually rely on some talent (such as engineering, where adding another person to the loop turbosucks) should be paid well enough to attract sufficient people and pay exponentially more the more hours you put in to compensate for lost time and encourage people to put in that time.

 

Trades that require a certain mindset as well as skillset, such as doctors should also likely get paid well to encourage the people who can do it to do it, and great pains should be taken to make the job less taxing.

 

Rent seeking can go take a hike, but that's more personal preference because I'm a big ol' pinko (and because for the love of god, concentrating that wealth isn't healthy for demand). I have a feeling that cutting labor out of the profits of the majority of manufacturing is going to be seriously unhealthy and without some sort of rationalization it could get really ugly, and I'd prefer it happen explicitly and soon.

 

I think 2 through 4 are pretty overlapping, while 1 and bloody revolution are overlapping pretty sharply.

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Humans should be reserved for the essential complexity of tasks, and from there if we feel that arbitrarily conjuring up work and having people do it to earn their sustenance we should probably be dead out honest about it rather than artificially retarding economic growth just to have makework and make a halfhazard mess of things. Especially for the lower end of things, I'd like to see a living wage be guaranteed if there's a job and scaling hours rather than pay to get people. The nastier it is the more hours you get to yourself.

 

Skilled trades that actually rely on some talent (such as engineering, where adding another person to the loop turbosucks) should be paid well enough to attract sufficient people and pay exponentially more the more hours you put in to compensate for lost time and encourage people to put in that time.

 

Trades that require a certain mindset as well as skillset, such as doctors should also likely get paid well to encourage the people who can do it to do it, and great pains should be taken to make the job less taxing.

 

Rent seeking can go take a hike, but that's more personal preference because I'm a big ol' pinko (and because for the love of god, concentrating that wealth isn't healthy for demand). I have a feeling that cutting labor out of the profits of the majority of manufacturing is going to be seriously unhealthy and without some sort of rationalization it could get really ugly, and I'd prefer it happen explicitly and soon.

 

I think 2 through 4 are pretty overlapping, while 1 and bloody revolution are overlapping pretty sharply.

 

Doesn't this ignore the value of an obligated labor force in keeping people out of trouble? Also, doesn't it ignore the need to cultivate skilled workers? Wouldn't the nastiest jobs all be filled with a bunch of part-timers liable to half-ass the job, since they are obviated from working enough to gain skill?

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Doesn't this ignore the value of an obligated labor force in keeping people out of trouble? Also, doesn't it ignore the need to cultivate skilled workers? Wouldn't the nastiest jobs all be filled with a bunch of part-timers liable to half-ass the job, since they are obviated from working enough to gain skill?

 

If makework is what it takes, then explicit makework should be a thing that everybody agrees to.

 

And yes, it's totally broad strokes. As a stick, if you don't cut it in your current job, going from what you want to be doing to what society needs you to be doing should be adequate persuasion. And yes, not sure about the nastiest jobs. Maybe increasing pay rather than falling below some certain minimum proportion of the maximum. So if the maximum is 8 hours 5 days, the minimum is 4 hours 4 days or something.

 

It's a real rough draft idea though.

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I'm coming up for air between exams, but just thought I'd add another future trend that I'm seeing unfold right now: more and more of my colleagues are going straight to IVF rather than trying for kids.

 

Here's the background: South Africa has a very interventionist approach to pregnancy anyway (second-highest elective caesarian rate in the world, for instance) and pretty much all the folk in higher income brackets are waiting till their late 30s to have kids (my wife and I being massive exceptions). So it's perfectly rational, if you have a 50+% chance of having to go through IVF, to simply skip straight to it rather than struggling for a few years to convenience.

 

Anyway, here's the upshot: a significant number (possibly a majority) of people in the top-1% income bracket are now having multiples (a side effect of IVF) and effectively reversing the historical trend of income leading to fewer kids. As a result, I can hazard a guess that that trend itself (which has formed the basis of so much hand-wringing by people who seem to equate 'has money' to 'carries genes for superior human') is merely a historical anomaly; an artefact caused by medical technology not keeping up with socioeconomic changes.

 

So we might be back to the historical norm of the aristos outbreeding the lower classes and effectively populating the middle classes with their less-favoured offspring.

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I guess I should breed upwards then because my family shits out twins and sometimes triplets like no tomorrow.

 

You can see however that the idea of technological unemployment is creeping into the minds of even economists and politics when the UBI/GMI is gaining traction. I guess the calculus is that letting the population and economy contract by doing nothing is simply far worse and heading off Full Communism™ with a basic social service state is the better trade off. I'm sure if they felt comfortable doing so, they'd just let everything play out.

 

This does mean that work period would idolized, a status symbol that puts you above everyone else because clearly, you are more valuable since your work cannot be replaced by a machine. I know Cyberpunk loves to paint machines as the oppressed slaves, but maybe it's possible that machines will be a class above the base consumer.

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This does mean that work period would idolized, a status symbol that puts you above everyone else because clearly, you are more valuable since your work cannot be replaced by a machine. I know Cyberpunk loves to paint machines as the oppressed slaves, but maybe it's possible that machines will be a class above the base consumer.

 

On the other hand, wageslave is a term I've seen before in the genre.

 

Machines are valuable because they do work. Hopefully sometime before that value totally eclipses the similar value for any given human the feeling that humans have value because intelligent beings should be treated well sets in.

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The rich sitting in automated fortresses while the world burns is more likely than us embracing each other in peace, love and understanding. The problem is that once machines can replace humans for work, the only reason to keep the proles around is because the immediate negative consequences are too severe. There are, however, no positive consequences to keeping 7 billion people alive with many who only contribute to society by consuming goods and are otherwise useless.

 

The powerful see machines as a way to solve the "poor problem"

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Reduced reproductive rates are a result of a developed, post industrial nation. Not tying success to childbirth/rearing but rather to personal accomplishment that men and women can engage in refocuses peoples priorities. As a general rule, people just have more to do and accomplish in such a society.

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Reduced reproductive rates are a result of a developed, post industrial nation. Not tying success to childbirth/rearing but rather to personal accomplishment that men and women can engage in refocuses peoples priorities. As a general rule, people just have more to do and accomplish in such a society.

 

If I remember right there's quite a strong correlation as well between lowered infant mortality and lowered fertility rates, and that's a major driver of the decline in poorer parts of the world. It's not quite like the major industrialized nations of which only the US is breeding above replacement rate, but it's definitely happening and is enough to bring the overall world below replacement rates.

 

The real problem is that we've still got demography where young people considerably outnumber the old, so young people breeding (below replacement rates) are still having kids faster than people die. The other problem is the reliance of our society on that demography and its many myriad knock-on effects. Come to think of it, that will probably keep unemployment nice and low for quite a while by masking it with a relatively smaller workforce compared to the population.

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