The Perfect Storm – 3 Things That WILL Change The World – But Are WE Ready?

The Perfect Storm.

No, not the movie. Rather something else entirely.

According to Wikipedia, the infallible source of information we all go to when we can’t be bothered to scroll down on a Google search return page, a perfect storm is:

a rare combination of circumstances [that] will aggravate a situation drastically

 

 

And the situation(s) I am going to rattle on about for longer than I probably should and longer than you could probably tolerate is the fate of mankind in the decades to come. Disclaimer: I am not a clairvoyant or claim to be any kind of academic or expert in any of the fields I mention, so I could be talking a sack full of BS and wasting your time here, not that you are busy or anything seeing as though you are here reading this. Anyway….

We have entered into an age where a number of genuinely disruptive forces are going to meet, or collide if you are of dramatic persuasion, for the first time in human history and the result of which is either going to be transcendently brilliant or apocolyptic and horrible.

So, here’s them forces listed in an order that is not particular in anyway:

  • Near universal automation in workplaces – mechanical & software.
  • Radical life extension and other positive health-care and well-being advances.
  • Artificial General Intelligence.

A few days ago I wrote about how we are entering into a new age of workplace automation and one that I think will result in the loss of possibly millions of jobs for humans. Long story short, just like jobs in the primary sector are pretty much none existent today thanks to advancements in tech and farming methods, jobs in the secondary and tertiary sector are going to be obliterated in the very near future with thanks to advancements in automation technologies, machine learning, and A.I –Sometimes referred to as cybernation. You can read it HERE!

As we edge closer to the birth of Artificial General Intelligence (AGI) good old-fashioned “dumb” tech is going to get smarter and then increasingly smarter and more capable, and as this happens the number of jobs it takes away from humans will increase and the number of jobs humans are capable of doing or are required to do will decrease. Then those remaining jobs will be taken by this cybernation process. When someone be that Google, Facebook, or any other tech firm or government creates AI then that is it. Game over. No more jobs for humans. By this I do not mean that every single person on the planet would be unemployed, I mean that a minuscule percentage of our race will have a job and the rest – hundreds of millions if not billions of us, would be unemployable.

Critics of such an argument say that although job losses in the primary, secondary, and some jobs in the third sector will inevitably be lost humans would still be employable because we will move into healthcare and general care giving services such as taking care of ill, elderly, and disabled people. This is undoubtedly a nice thought. These sections of our society are often neglected and of course it would be awesome to do something positive such as this.

The problem is though that there are not enough elderly, ill, and disabled people who need or want help around to give everyone displaced by cybernation a job. According to dlf.org.uk Nearly one in five people of working age (7 million, or 18.6%) in Great Britain have a disability And the thing is, only a small percentage of disabled people do need assistance either that being with health care or other personal issues.

Critics also point to the fact that we are living longer and this trend will continue so more people would be required to care for the elderly amongst us, so therefore more job opportunities. They often forget though that although we are living longer we are also living healthier into older age than we ever have been before. This is due to a number of factors but to summarise this primarily comes down to superior health care and improved living standards.

200 years ago life expectancy in the UK was just 40 years of age. Today life expectancy is 80. There have been all kinds of breakthroughs since 1800 when it comes to health care and medicine and one such breakthrough came in 1940 when the worlds first metallic hip transplant was carried out. Today hip replacements are the most common type of orthopaedic operation/surgery and the most common ailment, if that is the correct terminology, that hip replacement surgery treats is Osteoarthritis, which is a debilitating disease. Before hip replacements were possible those who would otherwise need one would suffer deteriorating health due to restricted movement and chronic pain.

We now have artificial pacemakers which really do keep millions of people worldwide alive. Before 1958 these types of devices were not portable. A user had to be plugged into a power supply (yip – the wall), and it had to be carried outside of the body. The first types of implantable devices were beginning to be used in the early 1960s. These used primitive batteries for power and because of this they had a very short lifespan, a few days to a week or two at most. It was not until after the invention of the Lithium battery when these types of pacemakers became genuinely practical, but even still they were still relatively bulky.

Today’s most commonly implanted artificial cardiac pacemakers are roughly the size of a matchbox and can be fitted within an hour. Patients can usually go home within a day of surgery and can get on with their lives with negligible disruption. However, a newer version of the technology is the size of a pill. It is installed inside the wall of the heart and it is essentially wireless. This new tech reduces the risk of infection and reduces recovery times as the procedure to install it does not require invasive surgery as per its predecessor.

Old age kills 2 out of 3 of us. It is the number one cause of death worldwide. Some organisations have been set up to put an end to this and insist that old age should be regarded as a disease to be obliterated instead of something that is “natural” or “inevitable”. Google, or its parent company Alphabet, is one of them having founded Calico in 2013. And there is SENS Research Foundation who, according to their website, are researching the “application of regenerative medicine to age-related disease, with the intent of repairing underlying damage to the body’s tissues, cells, and molecules. Our goal is to help build the industry that will cure the diseases of aging.”

The founder of SENS, Aubrey de Grey, says that when these kinds of technologies arrive they would likely be available for everyone.

“At the moment, when people get sick, it’s incredibly expensive,” de Gray says. “Probably 90% of the medical budget of the industrialized world goes to the diseases and disabilities of old age one way or another. That’s trillions and trillions of dollars.

de Grey goes on to say that if people can stay healthy into their 80s and 90s and longer it means that they can keep contributing their time, wealth, and so on to the economy and society. And this would be attractive to governments even if they were averse to taxation. They WOULD be stupid not to spend multiple billions of dollars ensuring that everyone had access to life extension medicines and technology as the returns would likely rack up in the trillions.

But this, dear reader, is where it gets messy. Some people worry that as the population of older people living longer increases then the cost of looking after the elder generation is going to increase. Take the United Kingdom for example where when people reach a particular age (I think it’s currently 65 years of age give or take a year or two) they become eligible for a state pension. This is when people can retire if they want to or are financially secure enough to. Nonetheless more older people means more state pension claimants, right? Aubrey de Grey does not think so. He reasons that because people will be healthier in old age they could still work. For example, you might be aged 85 but have the physical and mental health of a 50-year-old. Essentially the age of entitlement increases to compensate, as it does now in-fact (for that and other reasons too).

But this is talk of the future. When is the future exactly? Well, Ray Kurzweil, the Director of Engineering at Google, thinks that the future is 2029. He is of the opinion that thanks to the exponential growth of medical technologies by 2029 or sometime around then we “will add one additional year every year to your life expectancy. By that I don’t mean life expectancy based on your birthdate, but rather your remaining life expectancy.”  This constant adding of one year every year would allow time for further breakthroughs that would further extend life and sooner rather than later we will develop medicines and technologies that will ensure that we do not die from old age and associated illnesses and diseases.

If these events do indeed pan out what is it that these legions of “immortal” older people going to do for employment? And what about their (adult) children behind them, and then their children too? Granted there will be people who will shun these advances and want to die of old age. This might be for religious reasons or out of distrust of the technology or even fear, and they would need some kind of support as some older people do today as they age and suffer the negative ramifications of old age. But, again, the number of such people is going to be small. And there will already be people trained to be employed in these positions. It is likely the number of jobs in this sector plummets in response.

But, the aforementioned critics might argue in response, if people are living longer and healthier then a whole host of opportunities are going to be presented and thus more jobs will be created to cater for them. This does seem like a reasonable argument, only… WHAT JOBS? They are not going to be working in the farming and mining industries because those jobs do not even exist today because of automation. They are not going to get jobs in manufacturing and associated industries because these jobs are being automated away and this trend will NOT stop. They might get jobs in the service industry but, again, these jobs are becoming evermore susceptible to automation and as it stands, in the UK at least, the majority of people in employment today are already working in the service industries. There are not a lot of growth or expansion opportunities here, restaurants and fast food outlets already exist. There is not a particular need for any more supermarkets and other retail outlets. In fact it is possible that in the near future these two in particular could disappear from the high street entirely and relocated, or repurposed, in distribution warehouses and facilities with consumers simply ordering their products online. And these facilities do and will continue to automate picking and packing jobs. And delivery of said goods would be automated too such as autonomous road vehicles and through the air via drone technology.

And here is a sobering thought. Even if some of these jobs were not automated away, lets say in fast food restaurants, how fucking depressing would it be to be 18 or 20 years old with the knowledge that you are going to live forever, and realising that you are doomed to spend all of eternity, more or less, serving burgers and chicken nuggets? Shudder.

Ah! But, say the critics, even if no new (or an insignificant number of) jobs are created in the traditional sectors – jobs in emerging sectors will explode. The quaternary sector of the economy for example. These are jobs are in IT, information generation and sharing, research and development, education, financial planning, and design to name a few.

Yeah, it could happen but this is in a future where a relatively small number of people developed radical life extension technologies. It’s a future in which tens or hundreds of millions of people, pushing billions, are without employment thanks to cybernation. Some people could acquire the necessary education and skill set to work in these areas but again, there simply will not be enough jobs to go around. And of course when AGI (Artificial General Intelligence)arrives it will take these jobs in IT, information generation and sharing, research and development, education, financial planning, and design and so on within a very short period of time. Once more I am not suggesting that no people would be employed in these industries just that few people would be required to in the same way that today only 1% of the UK’S working population are employed in agriculture.

 

Number employed in sectors over time
What would this graph look like in 2029?

 

What is left I suppose is stuff that most of us do for recreation like art, crafts, music, writing, sports, playing video games, and the like. The thing is, these are not really jobs. I mean, I write this blog and no one pays me to do it. I am not employed. As you have no doubt gathered from my writing style and ability, or lack of it, I am not any kind of journalist or literary type. Indeed If I was in any kind of employment I probably would not be writing at all which is ironic. That being said I do enjoy writing, or typing whatever pops into my head and then going off on a tangent such as the one you are about to experience in a paragraph or two from this one.

And there are millions of people just like me blogging away or creating videos for YouTube, Vimeo, and creating free and open source apps for Android and other operating systems. There are people playing organised sports on weekends, and people writing lyrics or mucking about on drum kits, and streaming themselves playing Street Fighter V just because they like doing it, and do not expect anything in return for doing so. These are the only areas left that can be exploited and corrupted and turned into jobs.

Once upon a time children used to dream of being astronauts, firemen, doctors, or doing whatever it was that their parents were employed to do, when they got older. Nowadays they dream of being on The X-Factor or Britain’s Got Talent, or some other kind of reality TV show, even if they have no discernible talent. I find this fascinating. I think it stems from the early 2000s when my generation (children at the time) were really the first to embrace the internet and were perhaps the first generation to take note of the seemingly exponential increase in use of and capability of machines. We probably realised that aspiring to work in a supermarket just like our parents were doing at the time was really rather depressing, and perhaps reasoned that those jobs might not even be a job by the time we left school. We were the first generation to realise that becoming an astronaut when we left school was simply not realistic. I mean, no one had been to the moon since the 1970s which was some 30 year earlier. Coincidently the start of the new millennium was when reality TV began to take off too.

Reality TV back in the day was generally cheap to produce and edit together because of the “advanced” capability of computers and other production equipment. And it is even more so less expensive to produce it now. Fast-forward to 2017 and almost every child, or teenager, in the UK has a smartphone that is capable of being a full HD video capture and editing suite. Then there are other apps too such as Garage Band with which you can create and produce your own music. Facebook are not idiots so of-course they included video capture tech into their own app which allows you to stream yourself being all kinds of stupid to the internet.

There are cameras and other tools which are marketed to specific demographics. If you are in your mid to late 20s and own a snowboard then you probably have a GoPro camera. If you have a PlayStation or Xbox branded video game console/entertainment system you probably do subscribe to Twitch. And if you have a PC you probably have a YouTube channel, a WordPress site or use another blogging platform and so on. Have we been conditioned, and are conditioning our children, for a world without jobs?

You might argue that these new life goals are indeed jobs as there are many people who make a very good living out of doing them. PewDiePie gets paid to produce YouTube videos and to stream/review games. Justin Bieber gets paid to write music and sing. Well, yes. These are the exceptions. As of time of writing PewDiePie has 54,348,873 subscribers to his YouTube channel. He has more people following his channel than there are people living in England (53.01 million as of 2011). As a result, what he is paid by YouTube or advertisers is not the same as what you or I would be paid if we to upload a video. Not everyone is going to be able to attract 50 million subscribers no matter how interesting or talented they may be. The reality for YouTubers is that income generated from their endeavours fluctuates massively from absolute zero to millions of £s, and even still this income is not guaranteed from month to month.

Justin Bieber who has 27,930,024 subscribers on YouTube became popular precisely because of YouTube. He went from busking one day to super-stardom the next and this probably would not have happened if it were not for YouTube and the millions upon millions of teenagers and younger children using YouTube. Moreover, he no longer produces videos exclusively for YouTube. YouTube, to him and his team, is just another advertising platform. In fact his official YouTube channel is operated and controlled by Vevo – which is another video hosting website/service which was founded by Universal Music Group (UMG) and Sony Music Entertainment (SME) in response to YouTube’s dominance. Regardless, because of Biebers’s success today’s children think you can upload a video of oneself singing on Monday and by Tuesday expect to have sold 66 million records in Europe, when in reality 99% of such videos (a figure of speech rather than an actual statistic) go unnoticed or mocked when they are.

Everywhere you look online for help and advice on setting up a blog or video blog or YouTube channel and so on, there seems to be a mountain of information that, supposedly, if followed will help you get lots of subscribers and returning visitors – and therefore money via advertisements. The thing is, these resources always seem to offer the same advice. “Find your passion and from that a niche to exploit” and produce content for it, constantly. So for example if you quite like horses they say that instead of writing about why you like horses and where you have been with a horse recently you are supposed to review saddles or horse grooming equipment and stuff. Which is all well and good but the number of horse owners in, say, the UK is abysmally small. And in an economy where everyone is forced to do this kind of thing for a living once more a “content creator’s” content gets buried either under high quality stuff or mountains of crap.

Mainstream interests already have been exploited to death and as a result of this YouTubers, bloggers, and the like, have to keep adapting – because their income depends upon it, moving into areas in which if they were being honest they would say that they really do not have any real interest in but recognise it as something to exploit in exchange for income.

Further, these advice giving websites and resources insist that an online content creator must create a “brand”, the brand being them. So we have people setting up all kinds of stuff, video blogs etc.. where they talk about nothing of any real importance. Generally their love life or lack of it. Or cats. But I suspect more often than not these scenarios and events are grossly exaggerated or entirely fictitious, created for the purposes of creating and maintaining a brand. Think of content along the lines of scripted reality TV shows (an oxymoron) like Geordie Shore, The Only Way is Essex, and even Big Brother. And you would notice even after a brief stint of viewing popular YouTuber’s channels that they go out of their way to super size, or exaggerate, specific personality traits and/or physical appearance and mannerisms. Some content creators don’t particularity do anything other than express what some perceive to be controversial views and opinions. I am not saying that they have no right to do this but it’s all they seem to do but because their existence depends upon it they have to keep upping the ante and pushing boundaries of decent and civilised behaviour. Saying something particularly abhorrent might get you mentioned in the traditional print media, and therefore generate increased traffic to your channel/website/profile etc…

The aforementioned advice about finding your passion it seems only goes so far. They, or we, essentially become salesmen and marketeers.

So we have situations where young people are creating stuff to put online, because they want to and think that it’ll generate them an income, and then find themselves disappointed and dejected when they realise that 1)No one in the way of meaningful numbers is watching or reading the stuff they produce, and B) they have not sold any stuff or made any money through advertisements and affiliate programmes.

As a result this new type of work, work which has never before existed, is kind of like zero hour contract work in traditional jobs but in reverse. The ones doing the work here are not guaranteed a wage. They can work for as many hours as they like in fact but wages? No! You are supposed to be grateful that you have been given an opportunity to do something you are supposed to be passionate about.

These are not jobs. And frankly this is not something that a shitload of displaced workers are going to be able to make a living from when, in the near future, cybernation, AI, and extended life extension medicines and stuff takes hold.

So, in summary:

New technology is likely going to displace legions of workers in the near future.

If this new technology does not facilitate this, in sufficiently high enough numbers to cause concern, then the creation of Artificial General Intelligence will.

Humans are no longer going to die from the effects of old age (if they do not want to). This means more people living longer needing to have a job for far longer than older people need, or want, them today.

Asking hundreds of millions of people to create stuff and post it to the internet is not a realistic way to ensure they have an income. Because it is not today.

What then? What NOW?

Join the discussion @ /r/BasicIncome/r/Futurology, & The Zeitgeist Movement.

 

 

 

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Money For Nothing: And Why You Would Do Something With It!

Man from "olden days" talking all modern like.

Imagine that you had just purchased a lottery style scratch-card. You scratch away and slowly you reveal 3 matching symbols which means, according to the small print on the back of the card, you are a winner. Congratulations. Your prize: £1,000 per month for life, no strings attached.

Take a moment to reflect on this. What would this guaranteed £1,000 each and every month mean to you, your family, your life? What would you do with it? I bet you have all kinds of ideas running through your head.

If you are employed would you retire early? Perhaps. But consider this, although £1,000 seems a lot it probably will not be enough to allow you to live the lifestyle you want. Sure, it’ll go some way to help you pay your rent or mortgage as well as your utility and grocery bills but after those have been taken care of there likely won’t be a lot left over. You’ll get by but this probably isn’t enough.

So perhaps you decide not to retire from employment after-all. You go to work as you always had but now you get your £1,000 winnings as well as your usual monthly wage. You decide to use your winnings to take care of the bills and your wage, well, that is pocket-money now. You can do whatever you want with it. You could put some of it into a savings account or pension fund. You could save up to pay for some home improvements or a new car or holiday. Whatever it is you want it is now easier for you to get. Brilliant!

But what if you do not particularly care for the job you have. Perhaps your boss is a git. You feel you are underpaid. You think that the job you have is useless in that it really does not do anything or add anything positive to the world, your community, or society. The reason does not matter as such, just that you would prefer not to do the job. The good news is that your £1,000 guarantee means that you can quit your job and find something that you want to do without having to worry about the bills being paid. You could do that or reduce the number of hours you work!

The same goes if you happen to be unemployed too. You do not have to worry about the bills being paid and you have the power to say “NO!” to terrible jobs with poor benefits and working conditions, or low paying jobs, and so on. You no longer would have to claim welfare so you would no longer have to constantly prove that you are worthy or indeed entitled to eat and have somewhere warm to sleep at night via means testing and conditionality requirements.

Regardless of your current economic or employment status you could decide to live a simpler life if you were that way inclined. Ultimately it is your choice!

Now, what if the universe broke and everyone on the planet, or at least the people in your country, “won” this guaranteed £1,000 per month for life too? They would all have those same choice and freedoms that you have. What do you think these people would do with their winnings?

But here’s the thing, or the point of this blog.

There are advocates of something called Universal Basic Income, also known as Basic Income and Unconditional Basic Income, which is essentially a monthly payment to everyone regardless of employment status or financial situation. Recipients would be free to do whatever they want with their Basic Income. There would be no terms and conditions or means test but the general idea of Basic Income is that it would or could be used to ensure that basic needs could be met.

One of the most common objections to Basic Income is that some believe that everyone, for whatever the reason, would suddenly stop working and do so for all time. I find this argument funny because if one raising such an objection is asked “Would you stop working?” more often than not (at least in my experience) they tend to say “NO!” Their reasons? All of the above.

Basic Income & Why We Must Not Wait Until The Jobs Are Gone.

The Invention of the Stick

 

Technological unemployment. The result of machines and other types of technology replacing humans in the workplace. This has been happening since our ancestors invented the stick a couple of hundred thousand years ago. Probably. And this process will continue until machines are better than us at everything, which is an inevitability unless we get hit by a monster asteroid or Donald Trump presses the red button on his desk, thinking it to be linked to the Bat-Signal , unknowingly unleashing a couple thousand or so Nukes on random (read as predetermined) sites worldwide as the fake news media close in on his safe space.

Although history tells us that humans have been displaced because of the invention of technology in and for the workplace it has also created more jobs for humans to do too so no one was has been particularly bothered by the disruption – because it was more or less insignificant. For example a few hundred thousand years or so ago it may have taken three humans to get to some fruit at the top of a tree but when we invented the stick we found that the same task now only required one human to get to the fruit, the stick wafter (that was probably his official job title). The other two guys could get their own stick and work at their own tree if they wanted to or they could go and do something else such as testing mushrooms, or become a customer service rep’ in a call center somewhere in northern England, where the friendly, but equally as terrifying, people live. In more recent times though this could have been the stagecoach driver who, after the invention of the steam-powered locomotive/train, became a train driver – or simply the guy who puts the passenger luggage onto the train.

 

The Invention of the Techno-Stick

 

Some people today argue that going forward it will be different. They argue that technology will take more jobs away from humans than it would create or do so at a rate in which new jobs can not be created to compensate. Take jobs that involve driving, think taxi’s, buses, etc… This is a very good example as autonomous vehicles really are coming, in fact they are here today albeit in a limited capacity. What will happen to the millions of people worldwide who drive for a living when autonomous vehicles are ready to go mainstream?

Well, they could get jobs building these new self driving modes of transport, right? Some could, there is absolutely no doubt about that. The problem is that facilities that can build them already exist or do not require a lot in the way of work to convert them, and even still they are already staffed by humans and machines and the trend is that manufacturing facilities are increasingly automating production. What is there to celebrate when Business X announces plans to hire, say, 2000 people to build a new automated plant, or a couple hundred, to refit an existing “dumb” plant, when those jobs will disappear once construction is completed, and when they announce plans to get rid of 10, 20, or 30% of its existing staff because they are no longer needed – thanks to their newly installed autonomous machines and software? Even if the percentage is not as high as that a loss is still a loss and over the entire industry – the numbers could add up catastrophically.

According to a study by researchers at Oxford University and Deloitte, roughly 35% of jobs in the UK could be lost to automation in the next 20 years. See if your job is susceptible to automation HERE!

 

Some might argue that the humans displaced by machines here, be that drivers or production operatives, or anyone else displaced by tech, can do something else such as learn how to code. They should be up-skilled or re-skilled for the new world of work! They could build the software that is necessary for these automated systems to become a reality. This argument, I think, does not stand up to scrutiny. We are talking about millions of displaced workers here! Does the economy really need millions of new programmers? It could probably do with some more, and they are already on their way, but millions more of them? No! I’ll put it another way. Do we need millions of new farmers? Or how’s about 3 million more insurance salesmen? These days if you want a quote on car insurance you’d usually go online to get one or a bunch of them through some sort of price comparison website which does the job of a shitload of insurance salespeople.

If, and by if I mean when, this mass layoff of people happens no politician in their right mind would suggest that these people should be taught how to grow potatoes. Because it would be a stupid thing to say. But yet saying that masses of people displaced by tech should learn how to code (somehow!) seems to be, for them at least, an acceptable solution. This I think is most likely because they have no idea of A) what programming actually is, and B) they generally have little or no understanding of the current state, and possible future, of technology. And generally speaking this is true of the everyday average citizen. Politicians, believe it or not, tend to listen to the electorate. Are they just saying stuff the general population wants to hear?

Regardless, we live in a world where in 2012 Facebook acquired Instagram, which at the time had a staff list numbering, give or take a person or two, 13 people, for $1bn. And, with no disrespect to drivers or anyone else intended here, learning to code from scratch is frickin’ hard. It really is so much more than learning a “language”. Do a quick search on a job board of your choice for a programming type vacancy and you will see that these jobs require applicants to have degrees in all sorts. Computer Science, qualifications in Maths, and so on. And to top it all off even if you had the required qualifications they would not even consider your application seriously if you did not have at least two years, usually four years, worth of experience working on or with the platforms or the programming languages (there are more than one) they use. I mean, that’s at least five years of education and probably unpaid work experience before you can even apply for an actual job. How and where do these people get these skills? How do they survive in the meantime? I live in England by the way and our current government’s slogan appears to be “Austerity, everywhere!”. [Insert Buzz Lightyear meme here.] One also needs to consider that these newly trained displaced workers are going to be competing for these new jobs with experienced people who are already in the industry as well as new generations of people who are leaving the education system with the necessary skill set and knowledge.

What I was trying to get at with the above paragraphs was that a long time ago it was pretty easy to figure out what someone could do as a job if a machine or new tech took their job. This was because the rate of technological change or advancement was slow. Technology was primitive so it didn’t take a lot of effort to train someone to use it so you could move a worker from Job A to B relatively easily. Today technology is advancing at an exponential rate. Not that humans posses the power of clairvoyance but it is difficult for us to envisage what the world would look 200 years from now, but trends do show increasing automation with no signs at all to suggest this is going to stop.

Saying “No need to worry! The stagecoach driver from the year 1817 done OK when he lost his job to a machine so you will be OK too” to the taxi driver offers no practical solution to his problem. The problem being: obsolescence.

The Invention of the Intelligent Techno-Stick

Some futurists envisage a future where Artificial Intelligence works with us, not instead of us like what happens in some kind of buddy cop movie. It would take care of individual repetitive tasks in the workplace freeing us fleshy types to do the more “meaningful” work that apparently needs to be done. Murtaugh is the AI doing all the methodical and boring police procedural detective paperwork and Riggs, I suppose, is the human in this relationship getting the real shit done, speeding down highways on the roof of a muscle car taking shots at the bad guy, weaving in and out of traffic while explosions and stuff happen in the background. I don’t know. It is an analogy.

When they use this argument the example used is often in office related environments (probably because they know that those employed in the manufacturing sector are screwed or because they don’t live in that world and it therefore does not matter to them). The types of jobs they are talking of are in the realms of management, research, analytics, and jobs of this nature. They do not go on to explain what meaningful work us human types would be freed up to do in this office environment, or in a manufacturing facility, and furthermore they never seem to acknowledge that this AI doing individual tasks so we don’t have to is going to lay off a shit load of people. IT’S HAPPENING NOW WITH MACHINES… IN MANUFACTURING FACILITIES and to some extent in the office too. Why would it be any different in an office of the near and far future?

In all seriousness an employer would not employ more than one person if he did not have to. Despite what you may have been lead to believe businesses do not hire people because they are bastions of social and economic justice. If a company employed, for example, three people to work in Human Resources BEFORE the implementation of AI , because there was three or four persons worth of work to be done – why would they employ three humans AND three AI systems AFTER if an AI can do at the least half of the work a human can do? Surely the company would get rid of one or perhaps two of the humans here, let the AI do its thing, and give the remaining work to the remaining human employee? If so the question then becomes; how much work would there be left to do?

Does this remaining employee get a pay rise due to the savings made by employing AI? Or does the employer cut his hours and therefore his wages as a result of there being less work to do?

But of course this is talk of narrow Artificial Intelligence, that is AI designed for a particular purpose or task. For example: self driving cars are narrow AI’s. They are designed to drive, not to make cheeseburgers. An AI designed to make cheeseburger couldn’t drive a car. Soon, techno-utopianists argue, strong AI (also known as Artificial General Intelligence) will arrive and this will change everything. This type of AI will be able to perform any intellectual task that a human can do. (Don’t worry – this wont mean people loose jobs… apparently) More specifically they talk of an AI with human level intelligence. They are not exactly sure how this AI would behave but they insist it would result in the creation of many new jobs in industries that do not even exist yet. It would invest in the stock market in ways that do not make sense to us but these actions would create lots of wealth and lots of jobs. It’ll probably could invent stuff too. So more jobs. Yay!

The problem is that if this does indeed happen these jobs are going to be for machines to do and arguably a very small number of people who do have the necessary skills and competencies.

If the jobs are in manufacturing, machines are going to make the product. If these jobs are in software then AI’s are going to be making the software. Why would you hire an army of computer scientists/coders to write the next “Facebook” style platform when you could get an AI to do it. It’ll cost you £0, more or less, and it would be better at doing the job in comparison. Granted, you would likely want a human to oversee the project but he’s already one of the few people on your payroll so….

Google’s AI is Learning to Make Other AI

Despite the rise of consumerism and the population explosion over the last 40 or 50 years jobs in manufacturing haven’t necessarily increased significantly, even if taking into consideration developing nations – similarly you could probably count the number of new types of jobs created in the last 50 years on one hand. We are producing more stuff for more people using fewer and fewer people.

 

A Recent History Of Jobs

By Me, Aged 31.

Once upon a time human workers were displaced due to the off shoring of jobs. Jobs were lost in Country A but then the same number of jobs, perhaps a few more due to relaxed or lacking employment and environmental law/policy, were created in Country B. Some people won, some people lost. But then a new wave of automation came along, both in Country A and Country B, and all of the other countries, and then people were made redundant worldwide. Everyone lost. Riots ensued.

The End.”

The Return of The Stick

The newly elected President of the USA, Donald Trump, campaigned on a platform that promised to bring manufacturing jobs back from Country B, X, and J, but it simply is not going to happen. He probably will put in place policies that will bring manufacturers back to the country – but jobs… for flesh and blood people? No! Or at least not enough to have any significant impact or meaning.

Production Soared After This Factory Replaced 90% of Its Employees With Robots

Former McDonald’s USA CEO: $35K Robots Cheaper Than Hiring at $15 Per Hour

Given the two articles, linked above, if Trump does bring manufacturing jobs back to the USA – they are going to be poorly paid, and probably unnecessary. Again, would a politician today seriously promise to bring farming jobs back just for the sake of “jobs”. I mean, where do you draw the line. Would such a politician lobby for emails to be outlawed in an effort to create more jobs in the physical postal industry? Pretty stupid right, but why not? What is the point in creating labor-saving technologies if we aren’t going to use them? Would you seriously consider voting for such an idiot?

Japanese firm to open world’s first robot-run farm

Back to the subject of AI. Why would we even ask an AI to create more jobs for humans anyway? Surely we should be asking it for help with ways in which to automate away any and all jobs that humans are still doing? But of course we can not predict the actions of an AI such as this.

What if after going over the data it had gathered on our history, planet, and our way of life, it suggested that we abolish money completely? It provided sufficient and coherent reasoning and provided a realistic roadmap that, if followed, would allow us to provide a quality of life for all humans on earth comparable to that of the multi-millionaires of today? Would the bankers quit? Would we “switch off” the stock markets? Or would those who would lose everything they have (bankers, stockbrokers, business owners, landowners etc) do everything that they can to oppose the AI, the very thing they made investments into in the hope that it would one day make them even more wealthier?

Perhaps the human elite would, in an effort to preserve their own power, tell the masses that this AI wanted to enslave man? Who knows. We have wealthy people and politicians today blaming the perceived poor state of their country on immigrants, the poor, unemployed people, as well as disabled people – and this kind of rhetoric has been repeated so often that people actually believe it. While in reality they have been the victims of poor economic and social policy for decades. The politicians who do go out of their way to refute this nonsense are branded “out of touch” with “normal people”. One such politician in the UK was recently branded as such because he failed to identify two apparently beloved TV personalities, as if this was something that really mattered.

You can not trust this man to offer you a better future. He does not watch primetime TV for Christ’s sake!

Technological unemployment has been a thing since the invention of invention regardless of political systems and economic policy, and it seems to me to be remarkably naive to suggest that one day it will stop because “the technology we create to do jobs for us will eventually create all the jobs we will ever need!”. Say that out-loud and realise the absurdity of it.

Great. Now What?

 

“Experts” are undecided as to when strong AI will be created or if at all. Some say it’ll happen sometime around 2040 – a prediction based on the current exponential growth of technology.

But before this AI arrives, or not at all, it is probable that technology is going to cause massive disruption socially. Some of that positive. Quite a lot negative. Really negative. Pitchforks and angry mob kind of negative. And this is because no one is taking the threat seriously. The people we elect to represent us, with all due respect, were born before the internet and mobile phones existed with some even before colour TV. They were born in an age in which the technology that exists today was the stuff of science fiction – Star Trek and in Jules Verne books. They grew up with technology slowly emerging around them and although they recognise new technology they think that today the change is occurring at the same pace as it was in their youth. They’re the types of people who type “Google” into a web browser address bar and then “Facebook.com” into the resulting Google search bar. They just don’t get it. Donald Trump platformed on a promise, implied or otherwise, of bringing manufacturing jobs back to the USA. Either he knows that he can’t possibly deliver and said it anyway to gain the support of a massive sections of the electorate, or he really is oblivious and he genuinely believes that he can. Both scenarios are worrying.

We are seeing a rise in the number of people employed in part-time, zero-hours type jobs – and the Gig economy (whatever the fuck that is) – and we are constantly being told that this isn’t a bad thing. It is what people want, apparently. Flexible working! Of course people would prefer not to work for longer than they have to, and this is one of the reasons for the invention of automation technologies, but the problem here is that these jobs often do not pay enough to live on. Zero hours contracts in the UK are usually minimum wage paying jobs and you are not always guaranteed work and sometimes one under contract is prohibited from engaging in other employment. Part time jobs are usually minimum waged but the hours are fixed. Jobs in the Gig economy, well, you get paid for whatever work you can find and you had better be grateful for the opportunity! These jobs are kind of like dutch auctions where you bid to do the job at a cheaper price than anyone else. If you offer to do the job for £800 but someone else offers to do the job for £600 then you lose. It is a race to the bottom And it gets worse. A study found that those working in these sorts of economies find themselves in ever-increasing debt. And rather than blaming the system that actually encourages this, proponents say that it is the fault of the worker for not budgeting properly. Fancy that! You are being paid poverty wages and it is your fault for not putting aside some of your meager “earnings”. How can you possibly budget effectively if you do not know what, or even if, you are going to be paid next month?

So we have this weird paradox where we value work greatly but keep inventing technology to do that work. Then the amount of available work for humans shrinks – and is to be shared out among growing numbers of people, then we only employ people to do that work after some Hunger Games type of elimination process. The lucky winner gets the job and the poverty wages to go with it. And a lifetime of debt too.

The narrative appears as thus;

FIGHT AMONG YOURSELVES FOR WHATEVER JOBS YOU CAN FIND AND WHILE YOU ARE DOING THAT WE WILL CREATE MORE JOBS BY CREATING MORE MACHINES TO DO THE JOBS THAT YOU USED TO DO AND THE JOBS THAT IT CREATED FOR YOU TO DO. TRUST US. AND IF ALL ELSE FAILS WE WILL ROLL BACK ON SEVERAL THOUSAND YEARS OF TECHNOLOGICAL PROGRESS. THIS DOES NOT SEEM AS STUPID AS IT SOUNDS. GO AND WATCH SOME TV. LOOK OVER THERE! IMMIGRANTS!

 

Sooner or later larger numbers of people are going to notice this ridiculousness and to some extent we have seen the start of this awareness during the Occupy movement of the late 2000’s when people the world over began to organise and collectively campaigned for social and economic justice. The next waves of protests could be on a scale of which today we’d expect to see in the final third of a Mad Max film.

Take the UK for example where as of March 2015 there were 297,600 taxi/private hire driver licence holders in England. When driverless vehicles arrive all of them, give or take a few thousand, would become redundant. And of course these drivers might have families to support. And their respective local economies rely on these families… and so on. And this would not be restricted to the UK it would be world-wide. The USA has 2.8 million truck drivers alone. Meanwhile, as far as taxis go, you are supposed to feel better about it because the cost of a ride from A to B is going to be a hell of a lot cheaper. But what good is a cheap taxi ride if you can not afford one?

Voting in the likes of Trump is not going to work any more. He’s not going to solve these kinds of problems. There are likely few politicians out there who can, and this is precisely because they are politicians. If you have a pain in your chest you would go to a doctor and not your local Starbucks for help but for some reason we keep going to Starbucks. Maybe it’s for the caffeine hit, after all it is a psychoactive drug.

And when you are pumped full of drugs and a shouty man keeps shouting that immigrants are the reason your life is shit, and the only one calling him out on it is a man who was previously discredited because he does not watch a lot of television, the shouty man is going to win. Always. Because you watch prime time television. It it something you find some sort of comfort in. You sit down to watch and your brain shuts off. You don’t have to worry about important things when you are watching the TV, you see.

And after everyone realises that they are obsolete, despite the promises of the shouty man, and the fires raging in the shopping precincts, the high streets, the affluent neighborhoods, and nations capitals burn themselves out we’ll be left wondering exactly how does one grow potatoes, and realising that the idea of Basic Income was a pretty good one.