2018/09/27: If automation truly relieves humans of repetitive and unpleasant work, we can expect a growth in "quality of life" occupations: wellness centers, adult education, travel, the arts, and so on. Some of these occupations are revenue-generating and can support themselves, but a lot of them—particularly education, health care, and the arts—require subsidization. Governments and companies may invest directly, as they do with primary and secondary education and with health care, or the investment may come through complex channels like donations to universities and arts centers. But however investment happens, the non-profit sector requires it. This is not addressed by the WEF.
Two factors make these issues particularly relevant to the future of work. First, the automated economy requires education and mental health services: education for the technical skills workers will need, and mental health to prepare them for delicate interactions with other people.
Can society reap the benefits of automation? It will require more than an appeal to management to do a modest amount of reskilling. Advocates must reach out and present automation as a vision that’s more appealing to the general public than hanging on to old jobs and ways of relating. Touting the technical benefits of automation will not be enough to overcome fears, nor will it produce the kind of automation that goes beyond replacing workers. A change of such historic social impact must be presented as a social movement—and a non-partisan one. When ordinary people demand a new relation to technology, education, and the workplace, they may be able to redeem from the cocktail of analytics, devices, and big data a life of meaning and productive contributions.
much of the informal economy consists of enterprises that create value and help under-served populations through innovative activities that the formal sector doesn't think of doing. But informal companies tend to be in geographic and economic areas that can't take advantage of the advanced analytics and robotics diffusing through the formal sector. If the formal sector becomes radically more efficient, it may put the informal sector out of business, and the urgency of reskilling will be even greater.
Can companies make the shift?
I've talked a lot about the barriers to reskilling, whose importance lay at the center of the WEF report. In their industry profiles section they note a great deal of worry about finding skilled personnel. But there's another looming problem: an enormous number of industries have trouble making the digital shift because they admit they don't understand the opportunities.
2018/09/10: is society incapable of tackling income inequality peacefully?
Walter Scheidel: No, but history shows that there are limits. There is a big difference between maintaining existing arrangements that successfully check inequality (Scandinavia is a good example) and significantly reducing it. The latter requires real change and that is always much harder to do: think of America or Britain, not to mention Brazil, China or India. The modern welfare state does a reasonably good job of compensating for inequality before taxes and transfers. However for more substantial levelling to occur, the established order needs to be shaken up: the greater the shock to the system, the easier it becomes to reduce privilege at the top.
Are we really living in an unfathomable period of wealth inequality, or was the relatively equal society that followed the second world war the real aberration?
Walter Scheidel: When we view history over the long run we can see that this experience was certainly a novelty. We now know that modernisation as such does not reliably reduce inequality. Many things had to come together to make this happen, such as very high income and estate taxes, strong labour unions, and intrusive regulations and controls. Since the 1980s, liberalisation and globalisation have allowed inequality to rise again. Even so, wealth concentration in Europe is nowhere near as high as it was a century ago. America, meanwhile, is getting there, which shows that it all depends on where you look.
measures that worked well in the past may have done so because they were taken in the unique context of massive violent shocks and threats: the world wars and communism. This requires us to be more creative in dealing with inequality. Above all we must think harder about feasibility. It is not enough for economists to come up with recipes to reduce inequality, we also need to figure out how to implement them in an environment that is politically polarised and economically globalised. Both factors limit our scope for intervention.
in practice there will always be losers, and even basic-income schemes can take us only so far. At the end of the day, someone owns the robots. As long as the capitalist world system is in place, it is hard to see how even huge productivity gains from greater automation would benefit society evenly instead of funnelling even more income and wealth to those who are in the best position to pocket these gains.
2017/04/24: Economists are very worried about the decline in labor’s share of U.S. national income. One reason they’re concerned is because when less of an economy’s wealth flows to workers, it exacerbates inequality and increases the risk of social instability. But another reason is that this trend throws a wrench in economists’ models. For decades, macroeconomic models assumed that labor and capital took home roughly constant portions of output -- labor got just a bit less than two-thirds of the pie, capital slightly more than one-third. Nowadays it’s more like 60-40.
There are four main theories, each of which falls apart under scrutiny.
2018/01/22: There is a long-term battle being fought between proponents of food democracy and food control. An Uberisation of the food system is occurring, in which the controllers of the software capture the majority of the value.
The food system is dependent on self-exploitation by its workers. It’s not a good system.
Something like 75% of the value in the food sector is captured beyond the farm gate.
Government benefits for the low waged working in the food processing and retail sector are an implicit subsidy to the process/retail industry.
We need shorter food chains.
France does a better job than the UK of controlling land concentration and retaining small-scale agriculture. But is it at the expense of accepting a patriarchal gerontocracy?
When faced with a 50-50 choice between investing in labour or investing in machinery, farm managers usually opt for machinery.
Machinery is generally high cost and large scale (= labour saving). The result is that the farm landscape is fitted to the machinery, rather than fitting the machinery to the farm landscape.
Much of the time, machinery sits in the shed. It can do the job it’s designed to do much more quickly and cheaply than human labourers. But without human labourers, much additional environmental work that could be done on the farm – hedging, ditching, woodland management etc. – doesn’t get done.
Nobody wants to work on farms any more.
Lots of people want to work on farms, but the opportunities are limited.
Working on farms is now a lonely occupation – and more dangerous, because of the human lack.
We need to grow more vegetables in the UK.
The UK government’s recent agricultural policy emphasised the need to ‘Grow more, sell more and export more’. Actually we should be trying to grow better, sell better and eat better.
New entrants to farming somehow need access to land. Or do they?
Dispersed grazing provides opportunities for new entrants.
Secure agricultural tenancy rights would take the heat out of the battle to secure access to land.
But there would be a hot battle to gain secure agricultural tenancy rights.
People talk about the future of work and how they feel about it
A WAVE of automation anxiety has hit the West. Just try typing "Will machines " into Google. An algorithm offers to complete the sentence with differing degrees of disquiet: "...take my job?"; "...take all jobs?"; "...replace humans?"; "...take over the world?" Job-grabbing robots are no longer science fiction.
A Free Paper for Free People
Do mere human beings stand a chance against software that claims to reveal what a real-life face-to-face chat can't?
Europe's first national experiment in giving citizens free cash has attracted huge media attention. But one year in, what does this project really hope to prove?
UK citizens should receive free housing, food, transport and internet access to counter a "rise of the robots" that threatens to eradicate millions of jobs, new research has suggested.
If humanity expects to feed its booming population off a static amount of farmland, it's going to need help.
I have a theory that much recent tech development and innovation over the last decade or so has had an unspoken overarching agenda-it has
Economists believe in full employment. Americans think that work builds character. But what if jobs aren't working anymore?
The idea of a basic income has gained much popularity recently and not just among leftists but also with right-wing pro-capital proponents. Basic income boils down to making a monthly payment by a government to every citizen of an amount that meets 'basic necessities' whether that person is unemployed or not or whatever the circumstance.
Parlare di "coding" come se la cultura del digitale si riducesse alla manualità dello scrivere codice è propria di chi vuole produrre pigiatasti a cottimo, lavoratori a bassa specializzazione e basso costo, intercambiabili.
Con l'automazione che avanza, il rischio di aumento delle tensioni sociali è molto alto. Come fare per ridurre al minimo queste tensioni? Come dobbiamo attrezzarci per trarre dalla rivoluzione digitale in atto il massimo beneficio riducendo al minimo i rischi? L'unica possibilità è anticipare, accelerare più di loro, costruire il futuro, ma per farlo occorre passare dalla retorica della magnificazione del digitale alla concretezza delle politiche per aiutare il nostro Paese al salto culturale
To benefit from the automation revolution we need a universal basic income, the slashing of working hours and a redefinition of ourselves without work
Plutocratic arrogance at its most insidious.
In the future, your self-driving car might decide to kill you - and you might be OK with it. As David Weinberger points out, the philosophical snarls of autonomous vehicles aren't easy to reconcile.