Lion of the Blogosphere

Scott Adams writes about post-scarcity economics

Is he reading my blog? Or just naturally as smart as I am?

Plus, he has a very interesting idea for how robots could build low-cost housing for humans.

Link to his blog post.

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On the other hand, it may be pointed out that I have been reading Scott Adams’ books and Dilbert comics since before I started blogging, so maybe the influence runs in the other direction.

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The first time I ever saw a Dilbert cartoon was in the 1990s (possibly 1996?) when I was strolling through the Scottsdale Fashion Square mall and saw the Dilbert cartoon collection book Still Pumped from Using the Mouse prominently displayed at a bookstore, and after looking through the first few pages I thought it was so hilarious and so exactly like the cubicle job I recently had at a software company in New York City (before I moved back to the Phoenix area), and I knew that I had to buy the book and read the rest of it.

This discovery wouldn’t have happened in the current era because malls no longer have bookstores in them.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

April 16, 2016 at 10:13 am

Posted in Economics, Robots

18 Responses

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  1. This robot revolution will never happen. Robots require energy, we don’t have enough. They are expensive to build and require a large amount of skilled HUMAN labor to maintain.

    Get off this robot thing already. Yes, a lot more jobs will be mechanized, so what? Mechanization has been going on over 150 years.

    As for post scarcity, considering we can’t even provide a lower class, first world lifestyle for the overwhelming majority of the world’s population, I’d say we a long ways a way from getting there.

    Otis the Sweaty

    April 16, 2016 at 10:20 am

    • “Robots require energy, we don’t have enough”

      No. Energy isn’t that expensive and I don’t think that robots will require that much, at least relative to things like cars.

      “They are expensive to build and require a large amount of skilled HUMAN labor to maintain.”

      Well, let’s just do an order-of-magnitude calculation. Let’s say that the minimum wage is $8 / hour. That works out to be 15k per year. Let’s say your robot does the job of a particular person perfectly, and let’s say the robot lasts for 5 years. This gives a cost savings of 75k – per person! Note that another factor is that there are lots of other expenses associated with human employees that I’m not including here, such as work time (a robot can work 24/7), shrinkage, and benefits.

      Companies like Amazon are investing heavily in robots for their warehouses and fulfillment centers. My guess is that retail and fast food are also actively looking into automation.

      “Get off this robot thing already. Yes, a lot more jobs will be mechanized, so what? Mechanization has been going on over 150 years.”

      I think what’s limiting the utility of robots now is that they aren’t so intelligent – so they’re mostly used in situations where the task is very specific and repetitive.

      If you haven’t noticed, Machine Learning has been advancing very quickly. We already have object detectors and recognizers that are quite good, and probably good enough for a robot to do thoughtful navigation.

      I think that it’s reasonable to expect in 10-20 years that we could have a robot that’s smart enough to learn to do household tasks like putting away dishes, doing laundry, mowing, cleaning, organizing, etc.

      Alex2

      April 16, 2016 at 1:02 pm

      • “I think that it’s reasonable to expect in 10-20 years that we could have a robot that’s smart enough to learn to do household tasks like putting away dishes, doing laundry, mowing, cleaning, organizing, etc.”

        Those of us who can’t afford household servants can’t wait!

        Lion of the Blogosphere

        April 16, 2016 at 4:36 pm

      • I doubt robots will work out. The problem is that we live in a society that rewards “lottery millionairism” fueled by cheap credit. The result is poor product and business concepts that lack good systems analysis.

        I give two examples: that dog-robot made by Boston Dynamics and the hamburger maker made by Momentum Machines.

        Boston Dynamics presented their robot to the Marine Corp. The idea was to use it to carry equipment for soldiers in the field. The Marine Corp rejected it. Why? It was too noisy.

        Momentum Machines makes a neat burger maker, but it’s unclear how exactly the machine is cleaned. E. Coli will kill that tech pretty quickly.

        I’m sure there are other examples.

        map

        April 18, 2016 at 1:43 am

    • We have a virtually unlimited supply of energy. We could have liquid fluoride thorium reactors online in a few years if we had the political will to do so.

      And, obviously, sufficiently advanced robots could repair themselves.

      RBrandywine

      April 16, 2016 at 4:30 pm

      • The idea that we will have robots that would be capable of self maintenance is fantasy land. Everything so far that has been automated has required massive amounts of human maintenance. Robots will never be able to maintain themselves.

        Otis the Sweaty

        April 16, 2016 at 5:07 pm

    • Correct, a nation of proles and NAMs don’t deserve robots, at least, not anytime soon!

      JS

      April 16, 2016 at 6:14 pm

  2. Not to burst your bubble, but I highly doubt he reads your site.

    Peter

    ironrailsironweights

    April 16, 2016 at 10:23 am

    • Jeez, what a grump.

      ScarletNumber

      April 17, 2016 at 11:17 pm

  3. I can’t remember when I first saw Dilbert. I think I used to read the comic in the newspaper every day. Seems like I’ve always known about Dilbert. Always been a favorite, along with The Far Side.

    Rosenmops

    April 16, 2016 at 10:40 am

  4. “This discovery wouldn’t have happened in the current era because malls no longer have bookstores in them.”

    This is a huge and mostly unacknowledged cost of media shifting solely to the internet: We rarely stumble upon things we weren’t looking for anyway and find something cool we never knew existed. Hundreds of times I have discovered books and CDs while browsing through the shelves of ye olde bookstores and record stores like Borders (RIP) and Tower (RIP). And there’s little sense of community around online media acquisition, no friendly inventory manager who knows your tastes and makes perceptive recommendations for you.

    hard9bf

    April 16, 2016 at 11:24 am

    • I get what you’re saying, but I’ve come across lots of good stuff I wasn’t looking for through the internet. Admittedly I’m thinking of books, movies and music, not comics which are less googleable, but on the whole I think the internet has greatly enhanced discovery. Yes the totally random, out of nothing find has been harmed a lot, but then again it wasn’t entirely random if you found a good new book while browsing at a bookstore. The internet correlates information and makes sampling it magnitudes easier. For example it was while googling articles for another band that I came across a passing mention of Fairport Convention, then it only took a trip to YouTube to hear some of their recordings, and after that I was sold. I now consider them one of the best bands of the late ’60s era, yet I probably would have never heard of them without the internet, and even if I did it would have been much harder to follow up and listen to a couple songs to decide whether I’d like them.

      (If anyone wants to sample Fairport Convention, try songs like “Fotheringay”, “Who Knows Where the Times Goes”, “Genesis Hall”, “Meet on the Ledge” or “Sloth”, with albums like “Unhalfbricking” and “What We Did on Our Holidays” being the best introductions.)

      Richard

      April 16, 2016 at 12:43 pm

      • I’ve experienced this effect with a catalog. Normally, I would look for what I need on a company website.

        Then, I decided to download their catalog.

        The catalog was very interesting. Thumbing through it page by page is a different perspective.

        map

        April 18, 2016 at 1:37 am

  5. same thing I am working on.

    pakeconlogic

    April 16, 2016 at 11:42 am

  6. Lion, I have a serious question for you. In other contexts, you’ve seemed to subscribe to the conservative principle “when you subsidize something, you get more of it.” For example, you’ve criticized certain governmental actions as “dysgenic,” and lamented how our society encourages unwed motherhood. So what’s with all this advocacy of robots doing all the work, a guaranteed minimum income, socialized medicine, cheap housing for everyone, etc.? Don’t you think that all this would effectively “subsidize” the proliferation of low-intelligence/low-class people, resulting in an increase in the poor/low-IQ/NAM/”prole” element in society you seem to regard as a problem? And if not, why not?

    Hermes

    April 16, 2016 at 3:07 pm

    • The question doesn’t compute.

      Lion of the Blogosphere

      April 16, 2016 at 4:43 pm

      • Giving people lots of free crap and letting them lead lives of leisure doing whatever they want is going to cause a proliferation of low-IQ/low-impulse-control/low-future-time-orientation people and their associated behaviors.

        Hermes

        April 16, 2016 at 5:36 pm

  7. I worked for a software company too in that era, and always loved Dilbert. It’s pretty dark humor when you’re still stuck in the middle of your working life and have to keep going.

    Mrs Stitch

    April 16, 2016 at 3:39 pm


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