There are more workers than jobs and with the growing population that reality grows with no prospects for returning to the paid labor force and jobs matching. 

Robots do more work and will do more in the future; from computers to 3D production by computers, goods and services will be delivered without the hands of humans. The future work is in inventing, maintaining, and operating robots.

Capitalism is better than feudalism but it does not meet the needs of modern economic reality. 

So, what comes next in the evolution of work? 

Fully Automated Luxury Communism

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John, you wrote, "No one seems to want to discuss the downsides seriously."

I want and need a place where I can thrash out issues; I want to learn how others think. I like to influence others and be influenced by them. Many people on this site like debate; I think we are getting better at it. 

Someone else used a colon or semicolon properly!  Woo!

And yeah, while it often turns into something more akin to bickering than debate, it's still generally useful for hashing out ideas.  Even in Michael Pianko's occasional discussions about some aspect of politics or romantic relationships, in which it's like banging your head against a wall, at least we get practice in expressing ourselves to someone who's capable of learning, even if Michael never will.

As far as the topic goes, we have:

* public works projects

* more time off

* dirt pay for farmers unless they sell direct to localvore consumers at luxury prices

* no substitute for capital

Maybe I'm taking things too seriously, but that's not an optimistic outlook.

Others seem to think that Americans need to give up our hard won labor and environmental laws so we can compete on price with China etc.  That's even worse.

I've written before that more people need to expect to be self employed.  That reduces our dependence on global corporations for our own livelihoods.  

@John -

The game is so rigged, over regulated and over taxed now that it is very nearly impossible for new small business or self employed tradesmen to make a successful start in the US. 

I don't know about that.  I've been self employed in software for 12 years. At first money was tight but I had time with the kids.  At peak I had 4 employees, and that did take a lot of time, but the kids were in high school by then and didn't need me as much.  It turned out my idea was too small, so I'm freelancing again and thinking about the next idea.  And doing a little social media on the side.  Further, how many guys do you see driving around in shabby trucks with a hundred tools in back and a magnetic sign on the side?  Maybe they're not getting rich, but they can afford gas.

> 12 billion ... how feasible is it that most will independently come up with viable self employment?

I'm not trying to answer that question.  I'm trying to figure out how people here (NC, USA) can turn things around.  I've seen smart people languish because they couldn't get a job.  They get depressed instead, and never try to make anything happen themselves.  

If I squint just right, I can see small business as guerilla warfare against global corps.

BTW taxes - you only pay taxes when you make money :)  I have a lot more trouble with insurance.

At one time, our culture expected people to start businesses.  We were a nation of shopkeepers.  My grandfather Ladislaw took his apprenticeship in Prague, came here as a journeyman, and retired the proud owner of a shop in our town.  

Now we have consolidation, which brings efficiency of scale in consumer cost, but leaves people behind as capital (i.e. production) moves around the world.  The people left behind, raised to seek jobs and educated to follow directions, lose direction when the jobs go away.

If all the left-behinds started something themselves, and half failed, then the other half would be sitting pretty.  Being independent, even at subsistence level, is better than giving up.  It also gives you the power to build up.


  • people favored local businesses, where such exist, over global corporations,
  • high school students had to take a business course that explained the forms of business organization along with a little bookkeeping and marketing,
  • people took jobs only as a last resort or a training measure, with the expectation of learning a business and striking out on their own someday,
  • new "platforms" emerged that merged the local business with the global supply chain

We would have a new economic model in which people would be able to prosper even if no global corp. was granting jobs in their area.  Individuals would be in charge again.  And yes, with an ownership mindset, individuals might be more willing to move to get jobs, if that's what they need to do.  And young people might be more hopeful about their prospects even if there are no jobs in their community, because they would believe they could make their own damn jobs.

I see your downside and raise you the future.

Thank you for your thoughtful reply.  I see your points too.  But I don't see an alternative.  Global capital is flowing to China and staying there.  This story came out today:

NXP is huge in my industry.  They are selling their bread and butter to a Chinese investment group so they can concentrate on new designs.

At some point, the USA is going to lose much or all of its international business, and global-corp jobs.  If that really happens, there will be no money for social programs or public works projects.  Capitalism will still work but all the global capital will be elsewhere.

What are we going to do then if not bootstrap?  

What about the so-called "sharing economy," subject of DRShow's second hour today?

Uber may be a transformative technology, or a scab uninsured cab company.  I hear they are delivering packages for Amazon now, and have read that they are investing in autonomous driving technology.  

Uber aside, the Internet from Craigslist to Atheist Nexus brings people together like never before.  Will we use it to sell Amway to each other, or to build new ways to become truly independent economically?

A long time ago I opined that the age of unskilled labor was coming to an end.  That hasn't quite happened, though a great number of "grunt-work" jobs and some highly skilled jobs (welding comes to mind) have been supplanted by automation.  The kind of work which may be automation-proof are those which lean on creativity and innovation, on organizational skills which are not easily penetrable by a microprocessor, and service, both customer and technical, where human contact and in-person analysis is essential for the resolution of a situation.

There can be no argument but that computer processing, automated production techniques and the advent of Artificial Intelligence has the capacity to obviate a great number of those tasks currently done by humans ... and humans would do well to anticipate the coming of that day.

the age of unskilled labor was coming to an end

Absolutely, unless we take a page out of Dune and outlaw machines that think.

humans would do well to anticipate the coming of that day.

Do you have anything in mind?  Do you see us all returning to subsistence farming, throwing out labor laws so we can undercut the robots, or what?

AI and automation will free humanity from the mundane so some of us can weave new layers of creativity atop the stuff that the computers do.  I think I'll be ok, and only have to make it another couple decades anyway.

But what about the unskilled and uneducated, or even the average-skilled and average-educated?  

This came up on an entrepeneurship site that is not too superficial:

Future of Work: Utopia or Dystopia?

The author refers to this article in the Economist:

Basically flawed
Proponents of a basic income underestimate how disruptive it would be

I'll try to read both in detail tonight, but they looked at first glance like reasonable perspectives on this subject.

I like this analysis, Larry. I remember in 1974 at the World Fair there were incredible displays of what the future life would be. There were movies of cars flying between giant multi-storied buildings, fast rail from city to city or rural to city. The farm would be robotized, further reducing the numbers of jobs in agriculture. The videos showed changes in health care delivery to a whole new way of diagnosing and treating illness. Family life would be richer, children smarter, and chores easier. I wondered, then, how would the distribution of wealth, work, and leisure occur? 

This article confirms what I feared. Thanks, Larry for this site. 

Debate:  "there is a very high probability that large degrees of automation WILL eventually come about. Huge displacement of workers WILL take place due to such automation. Given that, eventuality, are we facing Utopia or Dystopia?

"Utopia: Universal Basic Income is extraordinarily expensive. If 1% of a 10 billion world population “works” and “earns”, then 99% has to be put on welfare. At $10k a year, that is close to a thousand trillion dollar budget. How on earth will society become rich enough to afford that? I don’t see it.

"Dystopia: this notion of infinite leisure is a flawed vision of utopia. Human beings are in a much healthier mental state when they work. Waking up in the morning is easier when a structured day is planned ahead, and not left to your own imagination on an ongoing basis. Few people are creative enough not to default to doing nothing, watching television, and becoming zombies. Zombies without meaning and purpose tend not be in great mental health either. Depression is common among people who are bored. Identity tends to be more robust around work and striving for something, than anything else."

"So the Utopia based on Universal Basic Income is not financially viable. And even if it were, it would turn our species into vegetables. Not my idea of utopia.

"The more likely dystopian scenario is one of rampant inequality, social unrest, and possibly a Darwinian conclusion."

This is what I'm talking about, from an admittedly biased source:

Nationwide, more than half of Americans either own or work for a small company. Each year, small businesses create roughly two out of every three new jobs.

It was a mistake on my part to start arguing for universal self employment.  Some people win in business and employ others.  My best customers are all companies with <100 people.  Maybe what I should be saying is that we need more of this.




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