The Extra Dimension

The Extra Dimension features deep discussions on how technology intersects with society. Welcome to the heart of the technological convergence.


Episode #23The Fringe #437

In a post-scarcity society, nobody has to work if they don't want to. Ian R Buck and Brandon Johnson explore the forces that can help us reach that state, how such a society would have to be structured, what we would do with our time, and some of the challenges facing us on our way there.

Episode Summary

00:02:13 | Broad Overview
00:12:53 | Automation
  • Robots Will Steal Your Job, But That's OK: How to Survive the Economic Collapse and Be Happy
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    • The point of technological progress has been to enable us to get the same resources for less effort - or more resources for the same effort
    • Exponential growth makes it difficult to realize massive changes are coming, even when they are imminent
    • Once one machine has been "trained" to do something, all of them have been
  • Don’t Replace People. Augment Them. – What’s The Future? – Medium
    • The only way for people to compete with machines in the workforce is for people to be augmented
  • Machine learning enables computers to adapt to new tasks over time, is accelerated by the amount of data we collect about the activities of workers
  • I see three possible outcomes:
    • Automation pushes humans out of the workforce, but it’s okay because we put in place social structures to support those who are not in the workforce
    • Automation pushes humans out of the workforce, and those who own the automation accrue all the wealth from that system
    • Humans allow ourselves to be augmented to such an extent that we can compete with automation
00:26:45 | Workforce Upheaval
  • Robots Will Steal Your Job, But That's OK
    • Information technology eliminates far more jobs than it creates
    • Those forced out of their current profession do not have much hope of entering the workforce at the same pay level
    • The Middle Class shrinks
    • Greater shares of produced wealth goes to the already wealthy
    • Past automation has forced unskilled workers into retail or delivery fields, but those are now on the chopping block.
    • Of course not all jobs will be automated, the 45% of jobs that are easily automated will certainly be enough to radically alter society
    • As time goes on, we will automate more and more jobs. New fields will open, but those jobs will be more difficult and sophisticated than before, and will employ fewer people.
  • Humans Need Not Apply - YouTube
    • Mechanical muscles allow us to free up labor so those humans can specialize in other things, which overall improves our standards of living
    • Technology improves at a rate that biology can’t match
    • “Mechanical muscles” applies to brain power as well; thinking and creative jobs aren’t safe
  • The Rise of the Machines – Why Automation is Different this Time - YouTube
    • More wealth is going to industries with fewer workers
    • If automation displaces enough workers, who will be able to buy the stuff produced by automation?
  • The Vanishing Male Worker: How America Fell Behind - The New York Times
    • Easier to live without employment now
    • Barrier to entry for working has increased
  • The game industry's disposable workers - Polygon
  • Working in a gig economy : Career Outlook: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
    • Gig economy, aka work on demand
    • Difficult to do as sole income, so many people supplement a main job with gigs
00:53:59 | Rethink Society
  • Get off the hedonic treadmill
  • Stop trying to "keep up with the Joneses"
    • Even if our material goods are provided for, people will find ways like fame or social standing to differentiate themselves
  • Machine Money and People Money – What’s The Future? – Medium
    • May transition to a two-currency system: one for buying things made by machines, the other for buying things made by humans
    • Problem: if a machine can make something that seems like it was made by a human, how do you know you are paying for the real deal?
  • Current society has engrained in us the idea that we are defined by our job. We have to reject this idea in order to progress to a post-scarcity society.
  • Currently people say “if you’re good at something, don’t do it for free.” In a post-scarcity mindset, you would say “if you wouldn’t do this job for free, you shouldn’t do it at all.”
  • Unemployment is a huge detriment to mental health, unless unemployment is the norm
  • Transition period - make shorter workweeks the norm
  • How do people find purpose?
  • What will we do with our free time?
  • The Free-Time Paradox in America - The Atlantic
    • The rich are supposed to be able to afford more leisure time, but we’re seeing a very different outcome
    • 2015: 22% of men aged 21-30 without a college degree hadn’t worked in the last year
      • They spend a lot of time playing video games
      • They report higher satisfaction than the same age group back when employment was higher
    • Technological progress has been fastest in areas related to entertainment, communication, and information processing
    • Entertainment is now an inferior good (as one’s income goes up, they consume less of it)
    • The rich have reduced their leisure time more than any other demographic
      • “Building wealth to them is a creative process, and the closest thing they have to fun.” - Robert Frank
  • What is the point of education? How do we structure it?
  • No couch, one car: How these Minnesotans are living with less -
01:14:17 | Universal Basic Income



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