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Half of the "luxuries" in your life are necessary cultural items. What's more, they are cultural items which will soon be taken out of the capitalist economy.

The trend to publish exclusively on the internet is only going to increase until some day soon there will no longer exist any publishing 'industry'. When that day comes, we will all be richer for it, even as this industry's contribution to the GDP disappears.

This diary raises some good points about consumerism and elitism, but there is no context to them. It raises points in a vacuum of possibilities. Even the evolution of the present system is not understood well enough to discuss any of the points intelligently.

To remedy this lack of comprehension, reading Michael Goldhaber's numerous essays on The Attention Economy provides the beginnings of a solution. Which must be understood in the context of the increasing automation of everything. An increasing automation which must be viewed as both irreversible and morally good.

Without understanding present and future reality, there can be no meaningful discussion.

by richardk (richard kulisz gmail) on Mon Feb 5th, 2007 at 04:07:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'd have to agree that, when considering even mid-term futures, increasing automation of everything absolutely must be discussed.

After all, the only reason there is a huge pool of unemployed, unskilled laborers in the developed countries to begin with is automation - those people all used to be gainfully employed pulling weeds and threading spindles and whatnot.

It's sort of hard to imagine what the structure of the economy would be when there are no non-managerial jobs in the entire manufacturing and agricultural sector.  

by Zwackus on Tue Feb 6th, 2007 at 07:27:05 PM EST
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Actually it's fairly easy if you've bothered to read some post-scarcity science-fiction. Not much of it around unfortunately but Elf Sternberg does an excellent job of it.

One of your misconceptions though is that managerial jobs will not be automated. Marshall Brain wrote the story Manna on the supposition that managerial jobs would be the first to be automated.

There is no technical barrier to the automation of the entire economy. Resource extraction has already been extensively automated. So has agriculture (which employs a vanishingly small fraction of people) and most of manufacturing. So has large infrastructure construction and maintenance. So has maritime shipping and rail transport. And either USPS or Fedex recently automated their entire tracking / routing chain, leaving only physical packing and delivery.

Professional services such as legal aid, medical diagnoses and medical laboratory work are also being automated. So are clerks (ATMs, self-checkout, internet) as well as real estate agents (craigslist). Even art is being automated (Brian Eno, Spore's Will Wright, many others).

Managerial services are overripe to be automated (a computer can hardly do worse than the negative contribution managers usually provide) or at least autonomized (Semco provides an excellent model of this).

The next sector to die of automation will almost certainly be either small scale construction (eg, housing) or publishing (books, movies, newscasts, journals, everything). The last to be automated will surely be design, process engineering, and research & development.

The material goods economy is slowly but inevitably moving towards a communist model. Countries open towards communism will survive the transition while countries ideologically opposed to it will perish.

The next stage of evolution of the economy is towards attention-scarcity (again I point to Michael Goldberg's The Attention Economy). Beyond this there will only remain purpose-scarcity.

by richardk (richard kulisz gmail) on Tue Feb 6th, 2007 at 11:36:40 PM EST
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I've read some of that stuff.  What I meant when I said "hard to imagine" wasn't "I simply cannot conceive of how anything would work," but rather "I have trouble imagining the whole system not collapsing in an Apocolyptic fireball before making some sort of meaningful transition."

As far as management jobs being automated, you are entirely right - presuming that we finally figure out how to make good AI.  We'll probably do it, but who knows, maybe it will turn out to be simply impossible.  I don't know, and nobody will know for sure unless it actually happens.  

I do wonder, though, if management jobs would ever be fully automated, even if possible, simply because there are people out there who like having and exercising power.  Certainly they would be, if possible, were there competitive pressures in place or whatnot, but in the sort of "transition to communism" situation you describe, those pressures would sort of be non-existent.

by Zwackus on Wed Feb 7th, 2007 at 08:24:56 PM EST
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