Lion of the Blogosphere

The coming economic transcendence

True economic transcendence will happen when robots can do almost any human job plus manufacture other robots. At that point, the amount of things we can produce is only limited by the earth’s existing resources and not human labor.

We are not there yet, but there is clear evidence we are in the transition period between scarcity and economic transcendence.

From a 2009 NY Times article:

With paying jobs so hard to get in this weak market, a lot of college graduates would gladly settle for a nonpaying internship. But even then, they are competing with laid-off employees with far more experience.

So growing numbers of new graduates — or, more often, their parents — are paying thousands of dollars to services that help them land internships.

Call these unpaid internships that you pay for.

Then in 2013, David Brooks wrote, completely unironically:

Thanks to the labor of low-skill immigrants, the cost of food, homes and child care comes down, living standards rise and more women can afford to work outside the home.

The point of the above quote is that now, working is something people do if they can afford it, instead of the older viewpoint that working is something people do because they haven’t inherited enough money to live a life of leisure.

In 2014, an influential Atlantic article recommended that to make yourself happier you should “buy experiences, not things.” Apparently, things have become so commonplace and cheap, there is no longer any joy in buying more of them. At least not for the kind of elite person who reads the Atlantic.

Can you imagine any of these things being written a century ago? Not a chance.

Yet economics hasn’t changed at all during the last hundred years. “Economics is sometimes called the study of scarcity because economic activity would not exist if scarcity did not force people to make choices.” We need a whole new field of study to deal with the modern economy where there is only an illusion of scarcity because of cost disease and the dominance of positional goods.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

December 9, 2017 at EDT pm

Posted in Economics

73 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. Robot electricians? Robot Carpenters? Robot plumbers? Robot heavy welders?

    I think not.

    gothamette

    December 9, 2017 at EDT pm

    • The US is weird in that we are one of the few countries where nearly all houses are site-built, which gives realtor ladies more “options” to show off to the wives and artificially pumps up demand for immigrant manual labor to perform all the pseudocustom electrical/plumbing/framing.

      In most of the world, buying a house is a practical matter and homes are constructed in a modular fashion and then shipped to the site. Far cheaper and easier to automate. Modular homes already have a modest cost advantage, but that advantage will skyrocket in the near future.

      Fiddlesticks

      December 9, 2017 at EDT pm

      • In what countries they do this?

        Yakov

        December 9, 2017 at EDT pm

      • Most of the world my a**. I’ve traveled widely in the Caribbean and Latin America, and a prefab modular was rarely, if ever, seen. I’m sure it’s more common in Japan and parts of China, but I have good friends who live part time in Thailand and Vietnam, and prefab is also a rarity, at least for the bulk of the population.

        Dave

        December 9, 2017 at EDT pm

      • As Yakov, points out. In what countries is this modus operandi?

        xyagnostos

        December 9, 2017 at EDT pm

      • I’ve visited about 30 countries. I haven’t been to a single one where most homes weren’t site built.

        CamelCaseRob

        December 9, 2017 at EDT pm

      • @CamelCaseRob

        Which ones you liked the most?

        Yakov

        December 9, 2017 at EDT pm

      • I know in Poland and Austria there are companies that produce modular homes, primarily for export to Germany, but the Austrians also ship to the US. This is still a niche market but I could see it gaining acceptance as costs decrease.

        Peter Akuleyev

        December 10, 2017 at EDT am

      • Well, the United States used to build some of the best houses in the world.

        Look at any old neighborhood, and every home is lovely and built to last. In the New York City pre-war, meaning pre-World War 2, adds value and prestige to the unit.

        I stand with America on home building.

        gothamette

        December 10, 2017 at EDT am

      • Having lived in both a pre-war building and a new 21st century building, I prefer the new building.

        Lion of the Blogosphere

        December 10, 2017 at EDT am

      • But if you were a daddy whose kids were in prestigious pre-schools, inviting the parents over to a pre-war co-op has that extra je ne sais quoi, unless the modern building was super-expensive.
        You have to think of these things if you want to rise in class, my boy.

        gothamette

        December 10, 2017 at EDT am

      • This new construction thing is yet more evidence that lion is prole. The lion doth protest too much, methinks!

        Magnavox

        December 10, 2017 at EDT pm

      • Most of the construction I see around is bad. People are crooks. The industry is corrupt. Bastards! The best is to build your own, like they do in my Tajik’s village.

        Yakov

        December 10, 2017 at EDT pm

    • there are already robot libertarians.

      "you have seen the skill of a true ninja."

      December 9, 2017 at EDT pm

      • @Yakov – Germany and Japanese are nice. I won’t go back to Germany because I don’t want to see how it has been spoiled by bringing in non-civilized people.

        CamelCaseRob

        December 10, 2017 at EDT am

  2. Will this make going though airport security faster?

    S Marta Ss

    December 9, 2017 at EDT pm

    • Yes, but then some robot terrorist will try something, and the robots at Homeland Security will come up with yet another hoop for schmucks like us to jump through.

      njguy73

      December 9, 2017 at EDT pm

  3. I do not understand these posts. Why this obsession about robots? You are talking about the distant future. Probably several hundred years.

    xyagnostos

    December 9, 2017 at EDT pm

    • It’s fun to think about how the future might be, and one’s present distress is more interesting if one sees it as fitting into a trend that extends into a weird future.

      I don’t understand posts about bitcoin (there are presently bitcoin posts at Jim’s blog and at ColonyofCommodus) or about any complicated economic issues. My mind just shuts down; I feel a little nauseated when I see those discussions. I think that this may be because I don’t see any way to visually imagine the things that are being discussed.

      Obviously I shouldn’t be allowed to vote. But this is also true of everyone else who’d be unable to understand posts about bitcoin — 97.5% of American voters?

      Garr

      December 9, 2017 at EDT pm

      • You must understand that in the modern context, *you* are a public “currency” with little to no influence upon your “current” status. *You* are “open-sourced” like a rechargeable battery. Your energy is hacked, stolen, diverted, siphoned, taxed, reversed and just plain unused in the global exchange paradigm. To think of one’s self as “labor” is to possess an indebted mindset.

        thordaddy

        December 9, 2017 at EDT pm

      • You should check out But What If We’re Wrong by Chuck Klosterman.

        Daniel Wohl

        December 10, 2017 at EDT am

    • No. Next two decades.

      Clay

      December 9, 2017 at EDT pm

    • “I do not understand these posts. Why this obsession about robots? You are talking about the distant future. Probably several hundred years”

      It’s difficult to say how long it will take because information technology is improving at a roughly exponential rate. Therefore when the transition happens, it will seem to come from out of nowhere.

      fortaleza84

      December 9, 2017 at EDT pm

  4. Outstanding post. Interesting times.

    Two in the Bush

    December 9, 2017 at EDT pm

  5. People paying for unpaid internships means there is less scarcity?

    Magnavox

    December 9, 2017 at EDT pm

    • paradoxically yes.

      a scarcity of jobs indicates a surplus of human labor which itself indicates post scarcity.

      that is, when all the bs is stripped out of the US economy and that of other developed countries, only about 10% of the population produces everything required to maintain first world living standards.

      the hours of human labor required to maintain a given level of production and consumption is falling all the time. and there is such a thing as enough. the human animal is not always happier the more it consumes. there is a limit. there is a point after which consumption becomes a burden. and the extra effort it may require is too much to ask.

      "you have seen the skill of a true ninja."

      December 9, 2017 at EDT pm

      • But if the surplus of labor causes people to pay for jobs than that surplus created another kind of scarcity. And people used to pay to get their kids apprenticeships through the turn of the 20th century, so it’s hardly new.

        I agree with what you’re saying but the observation goes back to at least the 1950s, with Galbraith’s ‘The Affluent Society’. Read that book Lion!

        Magnavox

        December 9, 2017 at EDT pm

      • I dunno. I only worked in two fields: IT and HVAC. In both fields it was very hard to get my first job. I was offering to work for free to just get my foot in and couldn’t get anything. But once in, with the help of my Jews, there was no problem. So I think there maybe a confusion here. A lot of people want jobs that they aren’t qualified to do. In my first year in IT I had 5 raises and 2 bonuses. In my first year in HVAC I made $500 on a side job that took me a day and it was more then I was earning in a week at that time. So I dunno. You gotta get in, but once in, it’s pretty good. There is a scarcity of good workers, that’s what there is. Always will be.

        Magna, brilliant idea to pay for apprenticeship! If I ever change profession again and have problems finding employment, I’m gonna do that! Should’ve thought about it before! That really sets you apart from the crowd!

        Yakov

        December 10, 2017 at EDT am

      • Yakov: I thought you went to APEX. Don’t they provide job placement assistance?

        Lewis Medlock

        December 10, 2017 at EDT pm

      • ‘Yakov: I thought you went to APEX. Don’t they provide job placement assistance?’

        Don’t make me laugh now. APEX provides no education and, in my and in the case if most graduates, no assistance. APEX should be shut down, it’s not a school – it’s a racket.

        Yakov

        December 10, 2017 at EDT pm

    • People paying for unpaid internships means there is less scarcity?

      How about the genius of that dirtbag Howard Stern.

      He makes something like $80+ million a year “interviewing” celebrities and lowlifes who come on his show for free, then has an endless supply of unpaid “interns’ working for him and then gets chumps to pay! every month to basically listen to a radio show that used to be free for nearly 100 years.

      Amazing.

      Rifleman

      December 10, 2017 at EDT am

      • Howard Stern is a genius. His show isn’t any good now but I highly suggest finding videos of him in his prime on youtube. But in addition to exploiting his interns he really exploits the so called wack pack and to a lesser extent exploits his employees who are paid terribly.

        I think internships should be illegal and there should be a minimum wage tied to an areas cost of living.

        Magnavox

        December 10, 2017 at EDT am

      • ‘I think internships should be illegal and there should be a minimum wage tied to an areas cost of living.’

        Hey Magna, you were just talking about PAYING for it. I thought that was a swell idea? What happened? Why should a potentially useless individual not pay for a chance to prove himself and get some real experience? You don’t need any of these minimal wages, just stop the immigration and the wages will sort themselves out.

        Yakov

        December 10, 2017 at EDT pm

  6. Neal Stephenson’s The Diamond Age imagined a post-scarcity world where nanotechnology produced all kinds of stuff on demand and it was pretty much free for most people. But there were still classes, criminals, etc. Worth a read, along with Kim Stanley Robinson’s Red Mars trilogy, 2312, or Aurora for ideas about this sort of economics.

    David Pinsen

    December 9, 2017 at EDT pm

    • A freebie world just brings out the bastards of most people. Not a good idea!

      JS

      December 9, 2017 at EDT pm

  7. So what to do?

    Yakov

    December 9, 2017 at EDT pm

    • Don’t invest your identity too heavily in your job and try to find meaning in your life outside of work.

      Since you are a tradesman and a serious Jew, I imagine this won’t be too difficult for you.

      fortaleza84

      December 9, 2017 at EDT pm

    • “Pay” individuals to self-annihilate at an accelerated rate.

      So how does one use up a battery faster?

      “Liberalism” everywhere can do the trick.

      thordaddy

      December 9, 2017 at EDT pm

      • The American power structure has effectively eliminated 99% of its dissenters with the concept of “pay” and the pursuit of rampant consumerism (or radical autonomy) that money can buy.

        JS

        December 10, 2017 at EDT am

    • Pray for a meteor strike!

      gothamette

      December 9, 2017 at EDT pm

  8. Lion, I hope you know these kinds of economics are not real. The problem is the unending labor stream coming into the country. Germany still has plenty of factories, why can’t America? Because the elite are trying to destroy wages, this is so pathological that no other country does this, because they are afraid of a revolt! What is the point of a Federal Government that does not protect the borders?

    NotWesley

    December 9, 2017 at EDT pm

  9. Rank in order of loathsomeness: Brett Stephens, David Brooks, JPod

    Otis the Sweaty

    December 9, 2017 at EDT pm

    • David Brooks, to me, is the absolute worst of the worst.

      Two in the Bush

      December 10, 2017 at EDT am

    • JPod has that unfortunate Weinstein-like genetics.

      There are so many tied for first.

      Paul Krugman, Nicholas Kristof, Dana Milbank, Jennifer Rubin, Joy Behar.

      It’s like the media is a safe space for the creepiest most loathsome people.

      Not just the sex perverts, just weird people.

      I grew up with TV when people were expected to have totally different personalities and mannerisms.

      Rifleman

      December 10, 2017 at EDT am

      • Don’t forget the loathsome Katty Kay, a regular on Morning Joe. She’s extremely arrogant and condescending. Reminds me of Maddow and Olbermann, two other douche bags I can’t stand.

        Lewis Medlock

        December 10, 2017 at EDT pm

    • Jpod. By a country mile.

      Bret Stephens really doesn’t bother me. I know that he triggers Steve Sailer big time, but he doesn’t bother me. Ditto David Brooks. Both of these guys are so predictable, that getting annoyed at what they write just strikes me as futile.

      Jpod on the other hand is just really annoying. He never stops pointing to himself and saying look at me I’m so smart look at me he reminds me of the boys in high school who bragged about their SAT scores.

      His movie reviews are adolescent shite.

      gothamette

      December 10, 2017 at EDT am

  10. Lion, the Muslims just firebombed a Synagogue in Sweden. No word on injuries. More than 20 Muslims perpetrated the attack

    Horrified

    December 9, 2017 at EDT pm

  11. In the UK, this author writes and thinks about nothing else other than the likelihood of impending “technological unemployment”, and the dangers to society that poses.

    https://twitter.com/cccalum?ref_src=twsrc%5Egoogle%7Ctwcamp%5Eserp%7Ctwgr%5Eauthor

    He has set up a group of technologists, academics, media people etc to promote public interest in the issue of dealing with mass unemployment in the not too distant future. I am a member of the group. My view is that there will always be paid work for most people, because the rich will wish to employ humans to do menial tasks as a means of demonstrating their elite status. (For example, guards in gated communities!) But income and wealth inequality will soar, and the elite will become even more powerful in politics, etc. Will these societies be a stable way to live? Who knows? I would guess politically correct views will dominate even more than they do now.

    The lioncub

    December 10, 2017 at EDT am

    • “Will these societies be a stable way to live?”

      No, they will not. If the masses are unemployed and poor they will revolt, The elite will be executed – look how the elite were treated during the French revolution.

      xyagnostos

      December 10, 2017 at EDT am

      • With high tech robotic surveillance plus high-tech entertainment (infinite TV, video games, social media posting), no one will want to revolt, and the few who do will be quickly jailed.

        Lion of the Blogosphere

        December 10, 2017 at EDT am

    • Elites in America are powerful the same way the meth or heroin dealer has control over the drug addict with his habit, without any legal consequences.

      JS

      December 10, 2017 at EDT am

  12. There are any number of things that could prevent economic Nirvana or the Singularity, nuclear war for one. The US is conducting a world war against Islam, which we are losing, and we are pursuing extremely aggressive policies against Russia, China, Iran and North Korea, policies that have brought us to the edge of war with all four countries.

    So, hope for Nirvana, but buy those iodine pill, and move to the country.

    bob sykes

    December 10, 2017 at EDT am

  13. Everything his about distinction. UK supreme judges don’t wear wigs, because courts of appeal judges do. And they do, because And those do, because lower judges do only on formal occasion. For each category of people, everything is distinguishing itself from the people just under them. Rich people were fat. Poor skinny. Now it’s the reverse. But it could come back were it was. Mustache and beard were white trash. Now it’s hype. Tennis and Suv became Gold and Yacht. At some point, elite were very intellectual. At another one, it was considered vulgar to engage in any intellectually demanding conversation (only small talk allowed). Nothing the group practice has any inherent meaning nor historical direction except distinction.

    Bruno

    December 10, 2017 at EDT am

    • A lot of truth there but vulgarity, obscenity and sharing overly personal stories and feelings will always be “non-elite”.

      That’s why Trump puts off a low class style despite his money.

      Elite will always be related to restraint, aloofness and distance from “the masses”.

      Evil robot overlords will be the ultimate elite.

      Rifleman

      December 10, 2017 at EDT am

  14. Using David Brooks as a credible source? You’re better than that. That entire column, including the quote you pulled from it, is mockable. By the way he’s on Meet The Press this morning helping trash Roy Moore. In fact the entire episode seems to be an in kind contribution to Doug Jones.

    Mike Street Station

    December 10, 2017 at EDT am

    • The point is NOT that anything Brooks wrote I agree with, but that he UNIRONICALLY wrote what he wrote. It was so obvious to him that women can’t afford to work without the help of immigrant nannies the he just typed it out without thinking about it.

      Lion of the Blogosphere

      December 10, 2017 at EDT am

      • I’ve made that exact point before about Brooks. For him, day care means nannies, not an actual day care, where employees have to be legal.

        Mike Street Station

        December 10, 2017 at EDT am

    • I doubt very many voters in Alabama watch MTP.

      Sgt. Joe Friday

      December 10, 2017 at EDT am

  15. The interstellar long-lived hyper-IQ Green leisure society(ies) is what the Libertarians intend to bring about (as an option for all who so desire) which platform they call S.M.I.L.E. and drives everything else they do. We’ve made vast jumps in that direction not only because of the deregulation and spread of democracy they’ve been catalyzing but actual inventions they’ve brought about with folks like Steve Jobs.

    RE: “Economics is sometimes called the study of scarcity because economic activity would not exist if scarcity did not force people to make choices.” Right-o. Austrian economics views the subject as about the study of prioritizing and sequences, not scarcity.

    Bob

    December 10, 2017 at EDT am

  16. Given Lion’s like of Star Trek, this video is apt:

    However, might the future end up looking like this:

    Did Wliford do anything wrong though? If he was in the dock, would we accept the following as a defense?

    “Curtis, dear boy. The fact is that we are all stuck in side this blasted train. We are prisoners in this hunk of metal. Medium rare? And this train is a closed ecosystem. We must always strive for balance. Air, water, food supply, population. It must all be kept in balance. For optimum balance, however there’ll have been time when more…radical solutions were required. When the population needed to be reduced, rather…drastically. We don’t have time for true natural selection. We would all be hideously over crowded and starved waiting for that. The next best solution…is to have individual units kill off other individual units. From time to time, we’ve had to stir the pot, so to speak. The Revolt of Seven, The McGregor Riots…The Great Curtis Revolution. A blockbuster production with a devilishly unpredictable plot. Who could predicted your counterattack with the torch at Yaketerina tunnel? Pure genius. That wasn’t what Gilliam and I had in our plan. What? Don’t tell me you didn’t know, Gilliam and I……. The front and the tail suppose to work together.
    Wilford’s speech. Snowpiercer.

    Imperial Energy

    December 10, 2017 at EDT pm

  17. Lion writes about this stuff because it’s his form of utopian fantasizing. The reality of the current US is so dismal that everyone needs an escape.

    Otis if you are reading, what did you think of Trump making nice at the Civil Rights Museum while all the civil rights “icons” boycotted him, and openly showed their hate for him?

    gothamette

    December 10, 2017 at EDT pm

    • I thought I was the only one here vouching for an exodus of the American sinkhole.

      JS

      December 10, 2017 at EDT pm

      • I didn’t say I was in favor of an exodus. Where would I go?

        gothamette

        December 10, 2017 at EDT pm

      • Anywhere outside of the Anglosphere?

        JS

        December 10, 2017 at EDT pm

      • I say start enacting the plan posthaste. Step 1: Exodus from LotB blog.

        Panther of the Blogocube

        December 11, 2017 at EDT am

  18. “when robots can do almost any human job plus manufacture other robots” is when we’ll decide AI is so dangerous we have to revert to old technologies and production methods. All progress is not forward.

    J1

    December 10, 2017 at EDT pm

  19. What happens to human capability when robots do EVERYTHING as some stipulate? What happens when robots, for X reason, stop doing the job they are made for? And premise number two is: humans have lost the capability to build, repair and think because robots have done that for centuries (we have lost the know–how and knowledge about things)?

    Will we not be thrown 2000 years back? Will we not be vulnerabel for disasters?

    Is it not better if humans – in the end – supervise and know the drill?

    xyagnostos

    December 10, 2017 at EDT pm

    • Hopefully there will always be humans like Wesley Crusher who seek self-actualization in understanding technology and science.

      Lion of the Blogosphere

      December 10, 2017 at EDT pm

      • I once heard a few young women commenting on the actor who plays Welsey Crusher in Forbidden Planet store, as they were perusing a few sci-fi magazines. Apparently, Wil Wheaton isn’t an alpha hearthrob.

        JS

        December 10, 2017 at EDT pm

      • He really got screwed, famous for his acting role in TNG, but still not liked by women.

        Lion of the Blogosphere

        December 10, 2017 at EDT pm

  20. If this economic transcendence were actually true, then we would not have any immigration because we would not need it.

    map

    December 11, 2017 at EDT pm


Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: