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Leech Collectors

Entry 1734, on 2015-08-15 at 15:46:27 (Rating 3, Comments)

It's really unfortunate that we don't have any lamplighters any more, and I really miss those leech collectors, switchboard operators, ice cutters, and morse code operators. Obviously we have gone too far replacing these valuable occupations with new technology.

That's the sort of sentiment you don't hear much of because certain jobs once performed by humans are just pointless now and society overall is not really much worse off than before. Sure, I agree you could make a case saying the possible social interaction with a switchboard operator (for example) was nice but I don't think many people would really say that occupation is practical considering the volume of calls made today.

So if the demise of these occupations is generally accepted today why are people so worried about those which are under threat by current and emerging technology? Maybe it's because up to 47% (I'm a bit suspicious of such an exact number because I suspect it could just as easily be 30% or 70%) of current jobs are threatened in the near to medium future by technology, and the way our current society is structured simply cannot cope with the removal of so many jobs.

In a recent discussion one commentator said "That [the loss of about half of current jobs] is huge. I don't want to see that many people out of a job." But why not? Most people don't enjoy their work so why should we be worried that they don't have to do it any more?

Is it because if they don't work they won't get paid? I guess so, but why does it really have to be that way?

Is it because without a job people feel worthless? Maybe, but is that a natural state or is it an invention of our current industrial/capitalist society?

Is it because if people don't work the economy will suffer because it will be less productive and efficient? That might be true but only because of the way we define the word "efficient".

The point I am trying to make is that none of the justifications we currently have for people having to work make any sense if we go back to fundamentals. There is nothing natural or inevitable about our current economic system, it is just something we invented during the agricultural, and then the industrial revolution.

It will soon be time to un-invent it.

Automation will make many jobs obsolete but there is an even bigger revolution on the horizon which will just make all the social, political, and economic models we have ever known obsolete. That is the ability to create anything essentially for free.

This will become possible with 3D printing techniques which are just getting started now. Once we have this technology working efficiently change become inevitable because 3D printers will be capable of making new 3D printers, resources will be collected efficiently by self-replicating nano-bots, and energy will be effectively limitless because of fusion and other technologies.

At least this is the scenario presented by many futurists and estimated to happen within 50 years. I am not totally convinced by the argument - not necessarily because there is anything impossible or even unlikely in what they are saying - but more because history has clearly showed us that predictions of the future are notoriously difficult to make, even by experts.

But even though I don't necessarily accept the inevitability of the pure "post-scarcity economy" portrayed by many people, I do think that is the general direction we are heading in. We should get used to the fact that there won't be jobs for many people, and that capitalism will not be the best economic model in the future, and that current government systems don't work and should be replaced.

So we are heading to a future where most people won't need to work, where anything will be available for nothing, where conventional businesses will be unnecessary, and where we won't need politicians or political parties any more.

Many people see this as a disaster because they are still living in the past. And the people who gain the most advantage out of the current system don't want it to change, obviously. But the whole thing is inevitable and we should be starting to plan for the transition now.

So here are a few simple first steps I think we should be starting to implement now to make the transition easier...

First, reduce the working week to 30 hours. This will give people more leisure time and make work a less important part of their lives. And it might mean that some other people get employed to make up the extra 10 hours, although I doubt it. Will this make our economy less efficient? Well maybe, but we already can't compete with countries which operate on a virtual slave economy (like China) so what's the difference?

Second, encourage local production and bottom up economics wherever possible. For example, put solar power panels on people's homes so that they generate their own power instead of buying it from a big business. That's a good preparation for the real revolution of 3D printing, where we won't need to buy anything, when it finally arrives.

Third, introduce more direct democracy. As a transition keep our current representative democratic political system but gradually introduce more internet-based binding referenda on important decisions. Sure, people might make bad decisions but politicians already get things wrong on our behalf so this will just make the ownership of good and bad decisions more direct. Eventually we won't need politicians at all and who will be sad about the demise of that particular occupation?

We should start preparing now. One day the way we work today will seem as barbaric as what forcing children to work 80 hours a week in coal mines does now. And just about every occupation we have today will seem as pointless and obsolete as being a leech collector.

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Comment 1 (4411) by Anonymous on 2015-09-06 at 21:57:02:

People who see the benefits of productivity and hard work are "living in the past"? Isn't this just a bit too convenient?

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Comment 2 (4412) by OJB on 2015-09-07 at 09:14:07:

No, I have nothing against productivity (whatever that is) and hard work. I just think expecting everyone to have what we now call a "full time job" in the future is unrealistic. The jobs simply won't exist. I'm hoping people will be "productive" doing other things which we now might think of as hobbies: playing music, writing a book, etc. I know I have plenty of things like that I would do if I didn't have my usual work.

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