Sunday, March 22, 2009

Confessions of a Neo Luddite

I am philosophically primarily sympathetic to the Libertarian and Capitalist economic positions. However, if technology continues to improve to the degree fewer humans are needed for jobs, what will those people do? The standard answer is that something else will always be developed that will provide more and better jobs.

Such an answer has become almost axiomatic. But what if there is nothing else? What if we simply will need fewer people to work? Do we let those people die? Will such people accept their potential starvation in a land of plenty?


  1. I used to know a guy who was a frizbitarian.

    He believes that when he dies his soul will go up on the roof.


  2. lol - Sounds like something George Carlin would have said.

  3. Being a libertarian isn't about economics, its about freedom. These things will work themselves out in a free market (free market isn't limited to the economic system) through spontaneous order. If you haven't already, read Hayek's Counter Revolution of Science. You can't plan these things ahead, you can only speculate about what could happen given certain circumstances. The obvious question is, who'd consume the productivity of the robots?

  4. I remember a book I read as a kid. The title was simply:

    "Working 2 hours a day"

    Something like that. It was a future with 10-hour workweeks. I mean for now, we just pretend there is work, both in private and public sectors.

    That mean, we invent all sort of jobs that have no function everywhere. That what they mean with job-creation. It's easier to point the finger at the government, but it's true in the private sector too. Like I worked at a successful company once, engineering firm. There was a lot more people who worked in offices there that were doing nothing related to engineering. There was a boss to every 10-15 engineers or so. HR had like a dozen persons (for 600 employees total), the marketing department was huge and you seriously couldn't tell what all these people were doing in so many offices.

    But it worked like that, often they didn't need that many, but the company would hire more as their profit rose. It was uneven, as they were selling "big stuff" like satellites to foreign governments for tens of millions sometimes. So when they had a big contract, they hired tons of workers from around the world (can't always find all the qualified engineers nearby), with more office space filling up. Of course, you always need technicians, those who will assemble satellites and test them.

    It's what's on top of this, you have the engineers and the technicians who do the work to produce the good manufactured. You may think, if their business is making satellites, together they must represent the majority of the people working at that company. But you'd be wrong, a lot of what the technicians do have to do with monitoring computers. Like you place the satellites in extreme conditions that may occur in space. Especially extreme cold and extreme heat...and you check your monitor to insure nothing go wrong. The night-shift techs even sleep on the job since it will make a noise if something is wrong.

    The majority of people there were just doing clerical work. It's fine if it's needed, I just couldn't conceive how that workload had to be spread over so many people. Possibly, they spent a lot of time sending emails to each others. That's a big part of "work" today, I know folks in offices who get to their inbox in the morning and have to go through hundreds of emails of all sorts... and they have to read most of them. That's very inefficient work and mostly redundant, but you see it everywhere.