Re: Job Stability, long haul ahead

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From: Dave Long (
Date: Tue Mar 28 2000 - 01:02:41 PST

> After reading his paper, I think he misses the importance of the fact
> that machines are in the passing lane, and aren't gonna stop when they
> can shoe a horse.

In the passing lane? It's been over a century since John Henry was a
little baby, and machines haven't made much progress.

Forget shoeing horses; we can try a much simpler task: fix a flat.
Partial credit for being able to at least swap out for a spare.

> Technology not only replaces the workers but allows the removal of the
> innefficiency of the _role_ the worker played. The net is making
> historical footnotes out of middlemen.

All well and fine if the middlemen really were inefficient, but
taking away competent middlemen reduces quality and efficiency.

The feudal economy managed to do away with many of those undoubtedly
inefficient roman imperial middlemen; which system do we consider
more civilized?

Like using a supercomputer, a device which turns compute-bound
problems into i/o-bound ones, removing too many middlemen results
in the cost of goods being less than the externalized costs borne
by the customer (or producer?).

> off people. In the long run, of course (and not very long--a couple of
> gnerations) it was also better for the people.

A couple of generations is actually a bit longer than the Keynesian
long run. From that perspective, of course, the plague was good for
Europeans, in that it gave them a capital/population "imbalance" to
drive technological development.

I have heard that Indian textiles were discouraged in Mercantile
favor of British industry, but it comes back to the same point:
if the Raj did so, they were in a position to because of their
having a superior military-industrial complex. (at some point,
the British were so desperate that they resorted to opening an
opium trade in China in order to get silver with which to buy
Indian goods. The same military-industrial complex came into play
to settle a disagreement with the Chinese goverment over the
desirability of that trade.)
> Count it good that we're expensive enough that someone would want to automate
> us. Blacksmiths don't get paid well. In the long run, the capitalist devil
> finds work for idle hands, especially skilled ones.

Come to think of it, ownership and rentiering are much more easily
automated than blacksmithing. Given suitable financial networks and
a legal persona, a machine could buy and sell, and pay lawyers
or other agents whenever things got too interactive or otherwise
wetware sticky. Heck, all it really needs is the legal persona and
some decent trustees.

Maybe Beberg has a point: the machines'll wind up owning everything
and leave those of us with hands with all the jobs :-) (after all,
if Incitatus could have been a Senator...)


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