Monday, September 05, 2016

Labor Day, 2016

Work---fewer can get it, more say they want it, and those who have it dream of leaving it. In the midst of those contradictions, we just may be in one of those historical inflection points where automation, robots, and artificial intelligence finally destroy more jobs than they create [bold added]:
We are just seeing the tip of the iceberg. No office job is safe,” says Sebastian Thrun, an AI professor at Stanford known for his work on self-driving cars. Automation is now “blind to the colour of your collar”, declares Jerry Kaplan, another Stanford academic and author of “Humans Need Not Apply”, a book that predicts upheaval in the labour market. Gloomiest of all is Martin Ford, a software entrepreneur and the bestselling author of “Rise of the Robots”. He warns of the threat of a “jobless future”, pointing out that most jobs can be broken down into a series of routine tasks, more and more of which can be done by machines.
The good news---and I speak from personal experience---is that it's easy to subsist on $1,000 per month, excluding housing and medical care. Of course, the latter are big exclusions ("other than that, how did you like the play, Mrs. Lincoln?"), but if, say, one can live with relatives and get on the Medicaid or Medicare rolls, housing and medical care are more or less taken care of.

The trade-offs if one can't or doesn't work are: one must give up aspirations for social status (country clubs, fancy clothes, cars and vacations) and one must try to avoid a major medical event through lifestyle changes.

There has never been a better time to cultivate the life of the mind or a better time to be entertained, with the world's expertise and free or low-cost entertainment at one's fingertips. I'd rather live today with no work and no money than be the richest man in the world 100 years ago.

Happy Labor Day!

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