Saturday, August 31, 2013

Reconciling Robots and Technology vs Jobs

Robots and technology have allowed us to hugely increase productivity in this country since our founding. Humans digging ditches with pickaxes and shovels have given way- for the most part, with really cool ditch diggers and mechanized shovels... you have seen these cool tools in every corner of America.

Now nobody misses not getting to dig ditches. It is hard on human backs, feet... all I can say is... ouch! We are all better off.

Throughout the 20th and 21st century technology has built on itself to develop ever more labor saving devices. Labor saving devices make us much richer as a country- we can produce so many more goods and services- but conversely labor saving devices save labor which puts people out of work.

This tradeoff was epitomized in a conversation between Walter Reuther the leader of the UAW in the 70's going through a Ford plant with a company manager. The manager teased Mr. Reuther about how was he going to collect union dues from all these robots... Mr. Reuther replied, " aren't you worried about how you are going to sell cars to these machines?

Great question and one I am willing to wrestle with.

How do we reconcile the huge increase in wealth in this country due to the ability of robots to do perfect work, 24 hours a day, never sick, never cranky, and the huge number of people put out of work.

Now robots cannot be blamed for the most recent financial disaster that shook the economy to its foundations in 2008, but it has very much to do with long term issues with people out of work and a huge portion of America not fully engaged in producing value and not doing the amount of consumption they would do if they were gainfully employed.

And we are seeing just the beginning of robots taking jobs from humans. Google is creating self driving cars. This means that soon there will be driver free delivery services where a person's app tells them their products are arriving at the front door and they go out to pick up what they are expecting. Now I look forward to this, but how many million delivery drivers are going to be looking for new work?

There is a big battle between minimum wage fast food workers in this country and the big chains. It should not shock you that McDs and other right now are picking up the pace on automated burger flipping. special sauce dispensing, and wrapping and... well you are going to see even fewer people in the local fast food outlet in the future.

Here is an interesting data point. I  got this from the Associated Press special report that I read in the Fresno Bee

Consider the great business successes of the Internet age: Apple employs 80,000 people worldwide; Google, 54,000; Facebook, 4,300. Combined, those three superstar companies employ less than a quarter of the 600,000 people General Motors had in the 1970s. And today, GM employs just 202,000 people, while making more cars than ever.

So we have this huge leakage of employed people from the economy. What are we going to do? Well, Americans like me and you are going to have to reconcile ourselves to a battle for the hearts and minds of people that the way things are going now is not working- and we need new thinking. We have the tools to deal with these issues. The problem exists in our mind and our fascination with the status quo and with the thinking that got us to this point.

Are we going to raise taxes on the companies that use robots? Taxes are overrated as a solution to better distribute wealth. We have other solutions to discuss and taxes are in the mix but not the main driver.

We have to create space for people to excel and develop their talents. We have to create opportunity. How do we do it? We spend the money of the Federal government. It is essential right now that you understand deficit spending. Our present attitudes about deficit spending are dangerous and debilitating- especially in light of the challenges before us. LINK

We need to support creativity and talent. We need to invest in infrastructure and deal with the great constraints we face- climate change, carbon free energy and a sustainable world.  We need to provide youth with opportunity to go to school, and opportunities to reinvent the world and how it works. We need a lot of investment. And we need to do some serious thinking. We can consider a long list of smart investments here. We have issues to deal with as serious as any national security issue we face. LINK

I leave you with a thought to consider. We have all seen the old Popular Science magazines talking about how computers are going to put us all on easy street... Well, easy street means not having a regular job. How do you get to easy street from here using technology? You go through a rocky stretch where some of the biggest problems are the inflexible minds of the people in charge to anticipate a new world and start working on the solutions to making it work for people.

Feel free to add your 2 cents below.



Tuesday, August 27, 2013

We Must Do Better than the Status Quo for America's Youth

You need to watch this video. It is great beyond the point of this blog post. Enterprising Lad Living Life wth No Arms

Richie Parker is truly exceptional, but I think- and I might be all wet here- and I certainly do not want to denigrate Richie in any way- but I see two critical factors aiding his remarkable abilities.

1. This was the situation he was born into... arms were never in his tool kit.
2. He had supportive parents all along the way.

Richie never knew arms. His entire life has been a challenge to overcome no arms. He learned courage and creative problem solving every day he was growing up. His parents supported him everyday. They taught him self reliance. My description here pales at the real story, which I do not know. I can just judge from the results. Richie did not do this on his own, but he certainly played a key role, with a great attitude always. I hope you did not skip the video- Richie really is extraordinary.

Now, imagine if by some bizarre accident or misdeed, you were without arms right now for the rest of your life. I am going to look at this through my own eyes. I am no longer young, and I am not particularly flexible. I've got big  feet, with long toes- BUT I either don't have the patience to start making them learn, or I have lost the flexibility to do it.

We have a world full of challenges today, and one of them is the power of the status quo.  If you have been around a number of years, you have a mind set on how things should be going- you have a daily ritual that fills your day,you have responsibilities  you face, and habits you cater to.  Most of us rather live in a box with a set of attitudes that flavor how we see things.  We are more like Stu when something serious arises. We need to be more like Richie. We need to be more like the youth of America.

So issues like robust economic growth, sustainable energy sources,  and climate change, and pollution damaging the biosphere diversity, drug wars, and social justice- among many others- require attention, and free thought unfreighted by experience. Change requires action and energy and passion. These are the strengths off youth. Young eyes to see the world as it is, and to imagine how things can be done differently.

It is essential then that we give young people the support they need to pursue education and their dreams. This is the legacy- the care and attention- the nurturing process that we are leaving them, not the bogus threat of a dunning notice for the nation's debt.  We really have to get over our false notions of the nation's wealth and what we can afford to do.  LINK

Success in today's world requires more education and learning than ever. There is more knowledge to synthesize than ever, yet support for public schools and colleges and universities have been neglected all across America throughout the last decades, and more of the cost is being shifted to the student through hikes in tuition. This is wrong headed, short sighted, and damaging to the interests of America.

We are better off when we are enhancing the toolbox available to young people. We need strong economic growth and new opportunity for youth. The world has changed, and we have to find new ways to success. Lets get out of the way, and support youth. They are our only hope for fixing stuff that we have screwed up in the world.

The world we are participating in right now- is not sustainable. We need to change direction. Our youth will be providing the path forward, when the rest of us- no matter how big our personal fortune- will be depending on others- for personal care.  Oh, and there is only one alternative to getting old and more dependent.

We are not doing favors for youth- nurturing them, supporting them with easy access to education, and paths to opportunity. It is in our own best interests, and the long term interests of the United States, and in the interest of every person in America that is getting older every day.

Feel free to add your 2 cents below.


Thursday, August 22, 2013

Do You Think You Know How the Economy Works

It is essential that American understand how the American Economy works. There are so many myths and falsehoods around money and government spending that hurt you, that hurt your family, and that limit the future of America.

[caption id="attachment_127" align="alignright" width="300"]Ok, this is totally inappropriate but I thought it was funny. . Swiped from Ok, this is totally inappropriate but I thought it was funny. . Swiped from[/caption]

Some individual that goes by the initials hbl has created an interactive website to explain how the economy works. You will be well served to check it out.

How the economy works - a visual tutorial 

A caveat for you. do the audio option- the story is simple and the narrator concise. The text is so small it was unreadable for me and the mechanisms for increasing the font size works- well, they do not work.

But enabling the audio works well.

Check it out. It is simple and understandable and you will quickly see why I recommended it. Pass it on too. Watch this simple explanation of how the economy works, and you will quickly begin to detect the many myths spouting from talking heads. It will make you wonder.

There are many motivations for these falsehoods- there are perverse reasons, there are deeply felt attitudes- there is just plain ignorance. We will talk about these separately here, but first you need to check out the interactive website. that is the first step. How the economy works - a visual tutorial

Any questions, any comments, feel free to add them below.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Money is a Means of Exchange

We must understand what money is. There are a lot of myths and misconceptions about money that  limit opportunity for  each of us and keep hard working Americans poor.

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Once upon a time all economic activity between people was by barter. You maybe had chickens and someone came by with great cooking pots and you wanted to trade chickens for a cooking pot. Well, maybe the cooking pot entrepreneur did not want chickens- this made trading value for value, difficult.

Along came some government entity who created a money system. Their ulterior motive was to cream off some to pay for government bureaucrats and a military.. but lets just stick with the theme of money here.

Money is an easy means by which to exchange value. If you had chickens- you could accept this money in exchange and when the pot maker came by, you could pay him money and get your pot.

Money therefore made trade much easier. You just had to carry this money around and protect it from thieves. Today, dollars are created by spreadsheets. Dollar are represented by credit cards and PayPal accounts… all kinds of ways… but money still serves only one purpose- as a means of exchanging value for value. .

Any other critical points about money to understand here? yes.

We need to understand fixed exchange rates, like a gold standards as compared to a  fiat money like the American Dollar today. This is the source of intense confusion and manipulation in the economy and in the political sphere. It is super important to understand  the implications.    We discuss the gold standard here.

When we understand that we are under fiat money rather than a gold standard, and when we understand that this is a good thing for the 98% then we can see that Money is not a commodity. We can not run out of money. That is discussed when we talk about the implications of  living with a fiat currency.

I can sense screaming out there that it is irresponsible to say government has no bounds on its spending. Yes, it has those bounds placed on it by the people’s elected officials and the people they put in charge of government functions. We are talking common sense here. We can walk out into traffic, but our own common sense stops us. Same with government spending. There are no limits on what we can do with money, except what we determine makes common sense for America.

The wikipedia has interesting information on money. Check it out.  It is essential for you and I to understand the concept of money- what it is and what it is used for.  The term and concept get abused by people with ulterior motives that like to create misconceptions across America. We will do battle with the myth makers later, but that future debate depends on a clear understanding of the concept of money.

If you have a question, please raise it. If you want to help clarify a point here or reference other information please add a comment below.

And, again, feel free to add to the debate here. We will be happy to share real questions and concerns. We, however, will not tolerate polemics, or illogic or personal attacks. Come armed with facts, logic and opinion and you are welcome.