I’ve always credited ‘Beavis & Butt-head’ creator Mike Judge for bringing down MTV. The simple cartoon, originally a short segment on late-night Liquid Television, consisted mostly of two teenage boys watching rock videos, making commentary about them, and then rejecting them: “this sucks, change it.” For me, the show was armchair media criticism - a lesson in deconstructing television.
Forget inequality! Judging by the White House and the media, the real answer is sucking up to the wealthiest. Inequality is a burning topic among economists, especially since the release of Thomas Piketty’s recent book on the subject. Many are questioning whether this is a temporary period of runaway inequality, or whether we are on the verge of an irreversible collapse into extremes of wealth and poverty. (What would we call it? The Oligopolypse? Plutogeddon?)
I recently published an article in the Journal of Evolution and Technology on the topic of sex work and technological unemployment (available here, here and here). It began by asking whether sex work, specifically prostitution (as opposed to other forms of labour that could be classified as “sex work”, e.g. pornstar or erotic dancer), was vulnerable to technological unemployment. It looked at contrasting responses to that question, and also included some reflections on technological unemployment and the basic income guarantee.
The first time I encountered the claim that an anarchistic society would impede scientific progress I was too shocked — and later busy chortling — to sketch out a thorough response. It’s a surprising sentiment to me for a lot of reasons, not the least for the well known correspondence between scientific progress and social and material freedom in mass societies.
Republican Senator Rand Paul has been making a big play for millennials lately, most notably by taking his civil liberties pitch to colleges around the country. Paul has got the right idea when he says his party must “evolve, adapt or die” (although I think the first two are virtually the same thing). Katie Glueck of Politico wrote that “The Kentucky senator drew a largely friendly reception at the University of California-Berkeley as he skewered the intelligence community.”
What Koch calls “character assassination,” however, others would describe as a simple recounting of the facts. Koch and his brother David are known for injecting massive amounts of their (partially inherited) wealth into the political process, academia, and propaganda in order to promote their right-wing (and self-serving) point of view. But now that he’s brought it up: Is Charles Koch really un-American?
As vast swathes of consumers move online across India, huge volumes of new startups are flooding into the marketplace to service them. The space is growing rapidly and an ecosystem is emerging to help them succeed. Yet the issues these companies face include a disparate geographic area, a large range of languages and a general lack of credit card use. Maybe those who can conquer this fast expanding India really can take on the world?
In a media frenzy akin to the Komen scandal, Evangelical aid organization World Vision announced recently that it would allow legally married and monogamous queer Christians on its payroll. Conservative co-religionists, including Franklin Graham of Billy Graham Ministries, and Russell Moore of the Southern Baptist Convention took to the media denouncing the decision as a violation of biblical Christianity and all that is good.
If progressive and populist ideas resonate with most voters, some people have asked, why isn’t the Democratic Party doing better in the polls? Here’s one reason: Some of the party’s most prominent leaders are still pushing Wall Street’s unpopular and discredited economic platform. Recent speeches by former President Bill Clinton and House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer showed that Wall Street continues to hold considerable sway in their party, despite the fact that its austerity agenda has failed. Its “deficits over growth” ideology has wounded both Europe and the United States.
Who is more “luddite”: the individual or the state? In a recent TED talk, an individual – the robot body of National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden speaking in Vancouver – said he beat the state. He argued that, while the internet enabled states with unprecedented powers to spy, it has also provided individuals with the ability to singlehandedly “win” against the state by exposing such abuse to the public.
Caplan’s work fosters greater understanding of science, medicine and ethics. On March 24, 2014 the National Science Board (NSB) announced that renowned bioethicist and IEET Trustee Arthur Caplan, a global leader in medical ethics, is the 2014 recipient of its Public Service Award for an individual.
The best thing about Occupy Wall St. wasn’t what it argued politically or accomplished legislatively, but what it modeled for us: a new way of engaging with issues, resolving conflict, and reaching consensus. It was a style of engagement that seemed like it could only happen in person, between young people willing to sit in a cold park all night until they could come to an agreement over an issue.
In a time of emerging technologies, while artificial intelligence and adaptability of robots is getting better, a new problem may come up: will machines monopolize all active positions in our society? This fear is already topical and enabled resurgence and modernization of the Luddite thinking.(1)
This article represents my latest attempt to categorize the possible solutions to technological unemployment. It’s largely based on episode 14 of my Review the Future Podcast so for a more detailed treatment of this topic, you can listen here.
I want to point out something I see commonly missed. Carbon prices accelerate innovation that brings down the price of green energy. So do renewable energy portfolio standards, green energy subsidies, and a whole swath of other climate policies. They do this by increasing the scale of the industry, which drives more scale (a price reducer) and also brings more players, more investment (much of which goes to direct R&D) and more price competition between players (the single best driver of reduced prices there has ever been).
The Industrial Revolution is typically regarded as a story of capitalism, free enterprise, and progress in technology and living standards. This paper attempts to disentangle the threads of capitalism, free enterprise, and progress, in the context of the Industrial Revolution, with a focus on Britain and the United States. It aims to bring some historical perspectives into the current discourse.
On the whole, we like The Second Machine Age book. We think it tells a plausible story and for the most part we agree with its perspective. However, we have criticisms of one of the book’s later chapters, the one entitled “Long-Term Recommendations.” Thus the primary goal of this article is to articulate those criticisms. But first, for the sake of background, we will summarize some of the book’s main arguments.
President Obama signed an executive order on Wednesday, January 28 of 2014 raising the minimum wage for some federally contracted workers to $10.10. This move illustrates the fact that we need a higher minimum wage for all workers. It also promotes the bill by Sen. Tom Harkin and Rep. George Miller that would raise the minimum wage to $10.10 by 2015.
Abstract: Is sex work (specifically, prostitution) vulnerable to technological unemployment? Several authors have argued that it is. They claim that the advent of sophisticated sexual robots will lead to the displacement of human prostitutes, just as, say, the advent of sophisticated manufacturing robots have displaced many traditional forms of factory labour. But are they right? In this article, I critically assess the argument that has been made in favour of this displacement hypothesis. Although I grant the argument a degree of credibility, I argue that the opposing hypothesis—that prostitution will be resilient to technological unemployment—is also worth considering. Indeed, I argue that increasing levels of technological unemployment in other fields may well drive more people into the sex work industry. Furthermore, I argue that no matter which hypothesis you prefer—displacement or resilience—you can make a good argument for the necessity of a basic income guarantee, either as an obvious way to correct for the precarity of sex work, or as a way to disincentivise those who may be drawn to prostitution.
The aim of this article is to explore the possible futures generated by the development of artificial intelligence. Our focus will be on the social consequences of automation and robotisation, with special attention being paid to the problem of unemployment. In spite of the fact that this investigation is mainly speculative in character, we will try to develop our analysis in a methodologically sound way. To start, we will make clear that the relation between technology and structural unemployment is still controversial. Therefore, the hypothetical character of this relation must be fully recognized. Secondly, as proper scenario analysis requires, we will not limit ourselves to predict a unique future, but we will extrapolate from present data at least four different possible developments: 1) unplanned end of work scenario; 2) planned end of robots scenario; 3) unplanned end of robots scenario, and 4) planned end of work scenario. Finally, we will relate the possible developments not just to observed trends but also to social and industrial policies presently at work in our society which may change the course of these trends.
Abstract: Robotics and artificial intelligence are beginning to fundamentally change the relative profitability and productivity of investments in capital versus human labor, creating technological unemployment at all levels of the workforce, from the North to the developing world. As robotics and expert systems become cheaper and more capable the percentage of the population that can find employment will also fall, stressing economies already trying to curtail “entitlements” and adopt austerity.
Miniaturization, robotics, and the hastening automation economy are coming together in interesting new ways. Personal drone delivery services could be a fast-arriving concept. Amazon announced PrimeAir in November 2013, to possibly be ready for launch in 2015 pending US FAA regulations of personal drone airspace.
Abstract: The aim of this investigation is to determine if there is a relation between automation and unemployment within the Italian socio-economic system. Italy is Europe’s second nation and the fourth in the world in terms of robot density, and among the G7 it is the nation with the highest rate of youth unemployment. Establishing the ultimate causes of unemployment is a very difficult task, and the notion itself of ‘technological unemployment’ is controversial. Mainstream economics tends to relate the high rate of unemployment that characterises Italian society with the low flexibility of the labour market and the high cost of manpower. Little attention is paid to the impact of artificial intelligence on the level of employment. With reference to statistical data, we will try to show that automation can be seen at least as a contributory cause of unemployment. In addition, we will argue that both Luddism and anti-Luddism are two faces of the same coin. In both cases attention is focused on technology itself (the means of production) instead of on the system (the mode of production). Banning robots or denying the problems of robotisation are not effective solutions. A better approach would consist in combining growing automation with a more rational redistribution of income.
Abstract: The paper rehearses arguments for and against the prediction of massive technological unemployment. The main argument in favor is that robots are entering a large number of industries, making more expensive human labor redundant. The main argument against the prediction is that for two hundred years we have seen a massive increase in productivity with no long term structural unemployment caused by automation. The paper attempts to move past this argumentative impasse by asking what humans contribute to the supply side of the economy. Historically, humans have contributed muscle and brains to production but we are now being outcompeted by machinery, in both areas, in many jobs. It is argued that this supports the conjecture that massive unemployment is a likely result. It is also argued that a basic income guarantee is a minimal remedial measure to mitigate the worst effects of technological unemployment.
Abstract: The question is a simple one: if in the future robots take most people’s jobs, how will human beings eat? The answer that has been more or less obvious to most of those who have taken the prospect seriously has been that society’s wealth would need to be re-distributed to support everyone as a citizen’s right. That is the proposition we used to frame this special issue of the journal, and the contributors have explored new and important dimensions of the equation.
I hope there will someday be an “International Social Contract” (ISC), based on Enlightenment principles, that allows people who enter into it to live in host countries around the world in a way that is respectful and beneficial to all parties. The goal would be to create explicit agreements that allow members of an ISC to move freely between “International Zones” (IZs) without inflaming right-wing groups or encouraging the abuse of local citizens or indigenous cultures.