Monday, August 26, 2013

The Future is Bleak


“In 30 years...There will be only four work days a week of seven hours per day. The year will be comprised of 39 work weeks and 13 weeks of vacation. With weekends and holidays this makes 147 work days a year and 218 free days a year. All this within a single generation." Jean-Jacques Servan-Schreiber, The American Challenge,  1967

Today’s technologies are going to remove people from economic activity completely. Scanners have reduced the demand for supermarket cashiers. Retail now employs fewer people than it did in 1999. And those people work significantly fewer hours, too. The squeeze in retail work intensifies competition for low-skill jobs, pushing down wages at the bottom and pushing some people out of the labor force entirely. 5.7 million Americans are truck drivers. Over the next few decades, the driving will slowly be taken on by the machines themselves. Autonomous trucks. It's already happening in Australia, where Caterpillar will have 45 self-directed, 240-ton mining trucks at an iron-ore mine.

Fewer Americans are working than at any time in the past three decades. The New York Times quotes a factory owner: “Because it is automated, we won’t have to add a lot of employees with the upturn in the construction industry.”

Foxconn plans to replace its Chinese workers with as many as a million new robots

If technology reduces demand for labor by a quarter, that should translate into everyone working 25 percent less. Truth is if technology cuts the demand for labor by 25%, then laborers will earn 25% less, or 25% of them will become unemployed, while all the benefits go to those who own or control that technology.

The ultimate purpose of technology should be to destroy all jobs and develop a post-scarcity economy where goods and services are free. Instead of a post-scarcity world of no employment the endgame of all this is profits for the wealthy. What precisely is the purpose of technological innovation? Why do we want to make things faster, smarter, better,? To generate wealth, and ultimately, eliminate scarcity. The endgame should be some kind of post-scarcity society. Will people have jobs in a post-scarcity society? No. That’s what post-scarcity means. They’ll have things to do, responsibilities, ambitions, callings, etc., but not jobs as we understand them. So if the endgame is a world without jobs,

Economics rests on the assumption of natural or artificially enforced scarcity, far less than enough to supply everyone. The study of economics tells you how each variation of the price system makes an ideology of how to divide up that scarcity. Without scarcity, some of them candidly admit, there would be no need for economics.

 The 1% of the population that controls most of the wealth so what we call “the market” reflects what they think is useful or important, not anybody else.  Clean, green energy has become a euphemism for “energy too expensive to afford.” Simply watch where the rich place their money.Warren Buffett massively made a $44 billion investment in BNSF Railway — making it the largest non-financial company in the Berkshire Hathaway portfolio. 40 percent of railroad freight involves the transport of coal. This should highlight any doubts people may harbour that energy production and consumption will radically shift.

The distant and decadent elite reap all the wealth and benefits while four out of 5 U.S. adults struggle with joblessness, near poverty or reliance on welfare for at least parts of their lives with the gap between the rich and poor widening more and more. The median household income fell 6.1% — or $3,400 — below its level in December 2007, when the economic slump began yet the income of the top 10% rose 3%.  Workers feel their employers have little prospect of ever making a decent livable wage, as businesses focus on keeping wages low to be competitive and maximizing profits to benefit shareholders. The richest have benefited mightily from record profits and the stock market’s repeated highs. Those who see capitalist ethos of Entrepeneurship as a solution should note that in Britain a net 360,000 self-employed jobs have been created in the first four years of recovery. The self-employed work longer but their median hourly earnings are less than half those of employees to be added to the fact that most entrepeneurs fail, anyway, if start-up bankruptcy statistics are to be believed.

In the US since 1973 Median incomes rose by only 10 percent. Mean incomes rose by 29 percent, which works out to a glacial pace of only about 0.7 percent per year. Non-wage benefits, mostly health care, increased by about $2,600 per worker, for an additional 0.2 percent per year since 1973. So if the U.S. government has underestimated inflation by only 0.9 percentage points per year, then mean wages and benefits have been completely stagnant. Meanwhile corporate profits increased from 9 percent to 12 percent of GDP.

 The world will increasingly divide into a dwindling minority of the very rich — finance and industrial barons, and those who inherited their wealth — living in mansions in a handful of idyllic cities dripping with wealth, or spending their time at their seasonal homes on nearby beaches, lakes, and mountains while the ret of us,  the majority barely get by, doing occasional contract casual work for a little money, too poor to even visit the places where the rich live, work, and play. In the coming decades we can expect a self-perpetuating privileged elite to accrue more and more of the wealth generated by software and robots, telling themselves that they’re self-made wealth creators and all us lazy jobless “takers” live off the fruits of their labor.
The rich think of poor people as different from them, less than them, which often leads not only to a lack of empathy but to outright blame.

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