Thirty-five years ago Belize gained full independence. One of it’s first acts as a newly sovereign nation was to pack up all of the machinery that reduced the need for man power in the cane farming industry and send it all back to Britain… with a big “No Thank You” card attached.
Why? So that they could put more people to work.
We’ve seen the same throughout Latin America. Public works employees using push brooms and machetes instead of blowers and weed whackers. Not because the machinery isn’t available or costs too much… but because the use of machinery employs too few people.
Sometimes you need to see an idea in action before you can realize how bad it is.
Technology is marching us towards a society without employees. And we’re holding on with white knuckles to the belief in the holy economic trinity of work and pay and character. Trust me… idle hands are no longer the devil’s workshop. He’s kept up with the technology.
It’s coming to a city near you too. Not only are American employers doing everything they can to trim the ranks of those considered traditionally employed. But in the next thirty years technology will render obsolete tens of millions of American truck drivers, cab drivers, assembly line workers, and people in the service industry. It won’t end there. When the driverless cars and trucks take over… the majority of the auto industry will disappear. With the auto industry goes the insurance industry… and so on.
And here’s another prediction… within a decade our university system will also be obsolete. Our family has explored deeply into on line education and it’s missing just one thing. A platform that presents a proper course trajectory… not just isolated lessons. When that’s developed (and there’s many currently working on it) that will be the end. The universities may have the professors… but the university system of education hasn’t changed in a hundred years. Meanwhile there are today hundreds of thousands… if not millions of intelligent, creative minds building diverse and innovative alternatives as we speak. It’s not even a fair fight.
Can you imagine the unemplyment lines choked with the highly educated who did everything they were supposed to? You won’t have to… it’s coming.
I can hear some of you now: “Well then… it’s time for those fuckers to boot strap and retool themselves and”… insert your favorite free market platitude here. “If they’d taken the time to read “Who Moved My Cheese” (by far the dumbest book to EVER cost a tree it’s life) they woulda seen this a comin’.”
You’re not listening. What I’m saying is if we continue to pursue the the efficiencies that technology offers… there simply will no longer be enough employment.
Which was the goal of technology in the first place: to reduce the drudgery of life.
Robert Theobald (I wrote about him here) predicted this scenario nearly fifty years ago. At the time he was considered an “avant garde” economist. But so many of his predictions have come to pass that he’s now… posthumously unfortunately… considered a visionary.
His idea was that it was the employees who should be paid for the work being done on their behalf by machines… not the shareholder. (BTW maximizing shareholder revenue is yet another HORRIBLE idea brought to us by Wall Street. Even Forbes has it listed as a top ten BAD idea of the 20th century. It’s like linking the pay of professional sports coaches to how effectively they cover the spread.)
If you think putting employees before shareholders (i.e. paying people for not working) sounds like an evil socialist plot, here’s some more information.
The National Science foundation is a government agency that invests tax payer dollars (7.5 billion of em annually) into technology research. Googles search algorithm was developed with a grant from the National Science Foundation. The same is true of Apple’s touch flow technology.
The National Institute of Health does the same with pharmaceuticals. There are today hundreds of successful drugs on the market… including an entire class of SSRI anti-depressants, that were created via grants from the NIH.
All of which means that the largest venture capital group in America isn’t Seqouia Capital. It’s the United States taxpayer. We taxpayers are also in the highest risk category. So risky that true venture capital companies wouldn’t touch this shit. Because… you see, our investment in these technologies is pre-proof of… concept… viability… anything.
A cornerstone of American capitalism is investment. If you invest in a profitable idea you get a share of the profits. The higher your risk the greater your share.
It’s probably because I’ve been out of the country for a while… but I’ve yet to see my share of the profits from my investment in Google, or Apple, or Pfizer, or Gilead Sciences yet. Although I’m sure the check’s in the mail. Gotten yours yet?
And it’s going on all around us. We as American citizens are stake holders in an incredibly rich land. But our riches… our, lumber, oil, minerals, hydroelectric power, even air space are sold from under and around us… (the only virgin coastline left in America is owned by lumber companies for fucks sake), and we never see a penny of the proceeds.
So… which sounds more like an socialist plot to you now? Paying someone for the work being done on their behalf by technology that they’ve invested in. Or forcing someone to participate in high risk investments where the investors absorb the losses… and the companies that make it get to keep the profits.
Of course, neither is in fact socialism (the government ownership of business). One is just more American than the other.
Speaking of America… a great many of the Latin American people that we’ve met in our travels love the United States. They’re confused by it. But love it nonetheless.
I’m commonly greeted by thumbs ups, handshakes, and even the occasional hug. At first I thought they were mistaking me for a member of their national basketball team (I’m like six inches taller than the average height here). But no… here too middle aged dudes who can’t jump aren’t worth a shit. They correctly assumed I’m American.
Every day in these countries I run into someone teaching themselves English. They use English subtitles on Netflix. Listen to American musical artists and read tourist pamphlets. I think it’s because it makes them feel closer to opportunity.
The other day while grocery shopping we saw “imported” cuts of beef flying out of the meat department. The names of the cuts… porterhouse, tri-tip, and T-bone… meant nothing to all purchasing. I asked. All they knew is that the package said American beef. Four hundred and fifty cordobas per pound ($14 US) is A LOT of money here.
A couple of rows over I ran into a guy buying a bottle of whiskey. The label of which was in English. “Something Special”. He pegged me as an American and held the bottle up so I could see. “Es bueno?” he asked. I’d never heard of it… doubted it was American… and assumed it to be swill. But… his face was so expectantly happy. I didn’t want to see him sad, and I know that often when you what something to be good you’ll make it that way. So I answered in the affirmative, “Si.” I said. Deepening my voice for emphasis… as is the custom here.
He flashed me a thumbs up and suggested we should try it together in the parking lot. This happens a lot too. Hey… it was a Sunday afternoon after all. Unfortunately, I was otherwise engaged.
By the way, I later checked on “Something Special”. Turns out it was a very popular Seagrams product from the seventies, that’s now quite popular outside the States. Supposedly it’s pretty good. I’m glad I didn’t rain on his parade.