Re: Job Stability, long haul ahead

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From: Dave Long (
Date: Fri Mar 24 2000 - 20:21:12 PST

> They saw me one of the horseshoers.
> I trimmed the feet of a white horse Bonaparte swept the night stars with.

In Adam Beberg's essay, _The $1000 Baby_ [0], he posits that at some
point we will be able to replace any human with $1000 worth of
technology. I'm assuming massive deflation is not part of this

My challenge to that comes from Sandburg, as quoted by Higgins above.

Give me a lump of technology that will, unattended, do as good a job
as a farrier at keeping horses shod, and I'll gladly give you $1000.
You may even be able to talk me into $10,000.

Hanson may have hit the nail on the head (for want of a nail?):
From _Economic Growth Given Machine Intelligence_[1]
> When computers do most jobs, human labor is relatively
> unimportant, and whether human wages rise or fall depends on
> whether owners of capital place a strong special value on services
> that only humans can provide. If they do, human wages can rise
> with the economy again, but if not, then human wages fall faster
> than computer prices now do.

Heck, substitute "when machines do most jobs"; we have several
examples in our current economy of wetware beating out hardware,
despite mechanisms nominally being able to replace people. The
extremely cynical view of this is that industrialization has
succeeded merely in making worthless items truly cheap :-)

Beberg asks:
> Someone wanna explain to me how you're supposed to make money being a
> middleman [which the market considers damage] selling stuff below cost
> anyway?

You make money being a middleman by providing added value. It makes
no sense to look for a cheap plane ticket if the utility cost far
outweighs the dollar savings[2]. Again, the cynical view is that
technology is so often applied to the "best price" category because
alone it cannot compete very well in "best quality"[3].


[0] <>
[1] <>
[2] a point which some often seem to miss is that utility is that
    which we maximize; dollars are only a proxy for utility in
    the regime where we need them (think of domestic exchange as
    analagous to foreign exchange wrt to the value of excess reserves)
[3] note that wetware+technology should easily beat either alone for
    quality. However, just as I don't wish retailers to externalize
    their costs onto me as a consumer, I don't wish service providers
    to externalize the need for wetware by requiring me to apply it.

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