Zeynep Tufekci's scathing response to the establishment consensus that tech will create new jobs to replace the ones we've automated away makes a lot of good points.
It's especially good on the subject of whether we have a "shortage" of humans to care for other humans, pointing out that what people really mean when they say this is that they don't value that work highly enough to pay a sum that would attract and sustain workers who do it.
This is an oft-overlooked point in arguments about "skilled labor shortages." Market economics dictates that real labor shortages are attended by rising wages -- if workers are scarce, their value goes up -- but in skilled industries in developed countries where there is such a shortage, wages are stagnant. What business means by "there are not enough workers" is "there are not enough workers at the price we're willing to pay."
But where Tufekci's analysis falls short is in her willingness to think outside the market box. She implies that the solution to this all is some kind of market reform, but doesn't suggest that, perhaps, markets can't efficiently organize abundant things -- only scarce things. If we persist in the view that the dividends from robots' increased productivity should accrue to robot owners, we'll definitely come to a future where there aren't enough owners of robots to buy all the things that robots make.
Some economists I've spoken to tell me that they think this will lead to more redistributive policies -- like Piketty's solution in Capital in the 21st Century -- as a way of salvaging capitalism.
But as I said in my review of Piketty, there's a real scarcity of economists willing to think about the possibility that abundance makes markets obsolete altogether. Property rights may be a way of allocating resources when there aren't enough of them to go around, but when automation replaces labor altogether and there's lots of everything, do we still need it?
I don't know, but I think the unwillingness of economists and thinkers to even contemplate it tells us that we're arguing about what kind of railroad rules we should have once there are automobiles everywhere.
Failing the Third Machine Age: When Robots Come for Grandma [Zeynep Tufekci/Medium]
(Image: Tesla Robot Dance, Steve Jurvetson, CC-BY)
Last spring, Five Thirty-Eight’s Walt Hickey published analysis of the IMDB ratings of women-oriented entertainment (like Sex in the City), showing that the ratings for these shows were artificially depressed because men went out of their way to give them extremely low scores.
Books one and two of Lumberjanes introduced us to the characters and setting of the awesome, women-run, girl-positive comics: the girls of Roanoke cabin at Miss Quinzella Thiskwin Penniquiqul Thistle Crumpet’s Camp for Hardcore Lady Types are Lumberjanes, being trained in the badass arts. Book three — collecting comics from a kind of victory lap of the title after its amazing success — turned the series’ reins over to some of the best writers and illustrators in comics-dom for a series of vignettes. Now, with Out of Time, the fourth book, the original creative team are back at the helm, telling a long-form story that illuminates the Lumberjane backstory and introduces one of the best, scariest monsters of cryptozoologica.
The first two volumes of Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky’s Sex Criminals were a dirty romp: a pair of lovers who discover that they can stop time at the moment of orgasm start robbing banks to save a local library from demolition, and run into a posse of other time-stopping fuckers who are set against them. But in volume three, Three the Hard Way, the story transcends the sex and the jokes to take a hard, wet look at what humans do when we do sex.
Those of us who love music wish we could listen to it 24/7. But it’s impossible when we’re trying to converse with our friends, or when are swimming in the local pool.That is, until now. The KOAR Bone Conduction Bluetooth Headset, now 48% off, has changed the audio game.Made with lightweight titanium memory metal, this headset boasts patented bone conduction technology to transport sound […]
It’s one thing to enjoy dinner at home and a nice glass of Cabernet Sauvignon with your best friend, Netflix, but it’s another thing entirely to make that meal from scratch and get that wine delivered right to your doorstep.But what if we told you there’s a way to make this possible? To keep your social life, […]
Having to pack and drag your stuff through security can put quite the damper on your vacation plans. Thankfully, we’ve got your back with one way to make traveling more painless: the Jumper Overnighter Travel Bag.This compact bag is so lightweight that you can effortlessly carry it, and fit it into any overhead compartment. But just […]