Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The End of Jobs

(continuing my series on economics)

Finally getting around to another news article which triggered this whole thing...

He has many insightful points.  It reminds me of thoughts I had when I first read about nanotechnology (Drexler's "Engines of Creation") - that there could come a time of "vacation for everyone".  This is the world of Star Trek (particularly Next Generation) - fantasy twenty or thirty years ago, now suddenly upon us.
"And so the president goes on television telling us that the big issue of our time is jobs, jobs, jobs -- as if the reason to build high-speed rails and fix bridges is to put people back to work. But it seems to me there's something backwards in that logic. I find myself wondering if we may be accepting a premise that deserves to be questioned... Our problem is not that we don't have enough stuff -- it's that we don't have enough ways for people to work and prove that they deserve this stuff." (emphasis added)
This captures the problem succinctly.

Economics is the science of managing scarcity.  As an engineer, I like to think the purpose of engineering is to make more stuff more efficiently, and to make jobs obsolete (even our own).

This is the goal, but we operate under the assumption that it can never be attained (like an asymptote).  Further, we expected much greater heights (a space faring civilization).  Now it seems we have peaked sooner.

The problem is twofold:
1) (As seen by Drexler) The frightening conclusion is that the wealthy can simply eliminate the underclasses (who are no longer needed to sustain them).  Or similarly, the underclasses eliminate the wealthy (and probably start in on each other).  If you only need a handful of people to run the economy, eliminate the rest.  (This is why even atheists should be against abortion, on principle).

2) We have no path from here to there.  We have 1% of the people with most of the wealth.  We still have some jobs that have to get done that people don't want to do.  We have little or no (or mostly negative) science, experience, and skill in distributing things needed and requiring things get done apart from the system of jobs and money.

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