Difference Engine: Luddite legacy

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Re: Difference Engine: Luddite legacy

#41  Postby FACT-MAN-2 » Jun 07, 2013 7:54 pm

Loren Michael wrote:
FACT-MAN-2 wrote:
Loren Michael wrote:Ah, having read the rest of the article though, I think that there's going to be a gradual shift from knowledge workers of one sort to another. They'll move up the chain of know-how as machines start consuming the labor at the lower levels.

Things that machines can't do in the foreseeable future absent a singularity-type event are interpersonal jobs - waiters and chefs, yoga instructors and personal trainers, dance and piano teachers, etc - and creative jobs. I think that if unemployment is to generally stay below 10% in the distant future, it will largely be because of a migration to those areas.


Such jobs can't amount to more than five per cent of all jobs in a contemporary economy and most don't pay enough to support a family, which is why most locals won't do them, which leads you to think that in-migration will see they are filled.


What are you basing this 5% figure on, and what are you basing these assertions about payment on?

Oh I dunno, just a gut feel. But I have been around the block enough times to have a pretty good idea of such things.

If waiting tables or hair dressing were such hot jobs, why aren't they beng filled by citizens? You think young American actually apsire to these kinds of shit jobs?

Positions as a Chef in an up tempo, upscale restaurant often pay well, but nobody lands those jobs just by walking through the door. They've got to have a diploma or a certificate from a good 4 year Cullinary school and a number of years of experience.
Capitalism is obsolete, yet we keep dancing with its corpse.

When will large scale corporate capitalism and government metamorphose to embrace modern thinking and allow us to live sustainably?
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Re: Difference Engine: Luddite legacy

#42  Postby FACT-MAN-2 » Jun 07, 2013 8:00 pm

Loren Michael wrote:
FACT-MAN-2 wrote:More than 20,000 Americans die in hospitals each year from mistaken treatments.

More than 10,000 Americans die each year in accidental gun shootings.

And you think this is all just fine and dandy and that people's lives are made better each passing day by gains in productivity.

Sorry, I don't buy your Kool Aid.


I'm sorry, what does any of that have to do with my claim?

I talk about a trend, and you bring up two isolated data points.

Do you not understand what a trend is?

Dude, I knew what a trend was before you were born.
Capitalism is obsolete, yet we keep dancing with its corpse.

When will large scale corporate capitalism and government metamorphose to embrace modern thinking and allow us to live sustainably?
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Re: Difference Engine: Luddite legacy

#43  Postby igorfrankensteen » Jun 08, 2013 12:36 am

I as not referring to the TARP thing at all.

I was referring to the fact that when it was already clear that the end of the Real Estate bubble was coming, that the people then in charge decided to reduce taxes tremendously on the upper crust; AND to do nothing whatsoever to prevent those who were running the money markets to continue to reward themselves with huge bonuses, even as their acts precipitated the collapse; AND they further insisted that no end victims would get relief (no forgiveness for loans granted on data falsified by those granting the loans).

Those people are STILL clamoring for zero accountability of any kind for the top monied peoples. And they want to take advantage of the mess they created, by allowing foreclosures to continue and increase, in order to allow those with great wealth, boosted by further tax decreases, to buy up distressed properties for pennies on the dollar.

Naturally, I have a different opinion about how things ought to be done.
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Re: Difference Engine: Luddite legacy

#44  Postby Loren Michael » Jun 08, 2013 10:56 am

Jakov wrote:
Loren Michael wrote:
I'm a little uncertain of advertising's place in peoples' forming of desires. I think it's certainly influential in some respects, but I think it's generally oversold in its ability to drive individuals' behavior.

It's something I'm ignorant but curious about.


I'm also interested, the books I can think of only briefly allude to it. The ones I remember are Status Anxiety by Alain de Botton, Ways of Seeing by John Berger and No Logo by Naomi Klein.
I find it hard to believe it doesn't influence behaviour, why would companies spend so much money on it? There are famous stories of pharmaceutical companies who spend more on advertising and marketting than research and development.


I don't think anyone worth mentioning takes the position that advertising doesn't influence behavior; my position is skepticism of the extent that it purportedly influences behavior.
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Re: Difference Engine: Luddite legacy

#45  Postby Loren Michael » Jun 08, 2013 10:57 am

FACT-MAN-2 wrote:
Loren Michael wrote:
FACT-MAN-2 wrote:More than 20,000 Americans die in hospitals each year from mistaken treatments.

More than 10,000 Americans die each year in accidental gun shootings.

And you think this is all just fine and dandy and that people's lives are made better each passing day by gains in productivity.

Sorry, I don't buy your Kool Aid.


I'm sorry, what does any of that have to do with my claim?

I talk about a trend, and you bring up two isolated data points.

Do you not understand what a trend is?


Dude, I knew what a trend was before you were born.


Given your contributions to this quote tree, I don't believe that to be true.
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Re: Difference Engine: Luddite legacy

#46  Postby Cito di Pense » Jun 08, 2013 11:15 am

FACT-MAN-2 wrote:
Sorry, I don't buy your Kool Aid.


Well, your Kool-Aid is not exactly "every man a king", unless you believe it can be accomplished by punishing the wicked. Economics at that scale is not shown to be a zero-sum game unless god is in charge.

FACT-MAN-2 wrote:
The days when everyone worked for a living are probably coming to an end. We'll let the machines do the work and spend our time tending them and inventing new ones and otherwise enjoing life as truly free people, free of debt and free of toil, free to create and free to invent and free to explore and to do research.

I can't for the life of me figure out what's wrong with that kind of future.


Ah, Utopia. A new twist in an old tie.
Хлопнут без некролога. -- Серге́й Па́влович Королёв

Translation by Elbert Hubbard: Do not take life too seriously. You're not going to get out of it alive.
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Re: Difference Engine: Luddite legacy

#47  Postby Jakov » Jun 08, 2013 11:51 am

Is that any different from the capitalists dreams of utopia? Allow capital to do whatever it wants and everything will be just fine.
Anyway Iain M. Banks has been writing about post-scarcity societies for ages, it should only be new and surprising to the ignorant.

The problem is that as automation lowers the demand for labour, wages will fall so the incentive to further automate is reduced. If left solely to the market we might only achieve automation quite slowly. But if we form unions and constantly do industrial action we will artificially raise the price of our labour, the incentive to automate will grow and we'll be closer to a technological utopia.

So for example, up to about the 1970s dock workers were very militant and did not allow the market to keep them down. In response containerization heavily increased, where a standard was set for shipping containers sizes, so cranes, ships, trains and lorries could be built with all those in mind everywhere around the world. This probably wouldn't have happened so quickly had dockers been docile and non-militant.
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Re: Difference Engine: Luddite legacy

#48  Postby Jakov » Jun 08, 2013 11:52 am

Chrisw wrote:
Jakov wrote:This entire topic is sadly lacking in accounting. I would be far more convinced if there was more maths about. Maybe I should study some econometrics on my own...


Here's the extract of the chapter, it's pretty clear to me that the writer's argument for textiles not producing technological unemployment is the "elasticity of demand of overcoats", which I can't see as being anything else than a euphemism for increased waste.

I don't see how it needs to have anything to do with waste. It may be that people who couldn't afford overcoats can now afford them. Or they will be able to afford better ones. And if overcoats get cheaper many people will spend the money saved on other things that they couldn't afford previously.


I wonder what they did before overcoats were cheap, maybe they toiled the land naked?
Yeah right. People still had clothes, but they took much better care of them because they were very expensive. If they ripped they would mend them, once clothes became cheap torn clothing would be thrown in the bin.


Chrisw wrote:
Jakov wrote:
But as overcoats are now cheaper, more people will buy them. This means that, though it takes fewer people to make the same number of overcoats as before, more overcoats are now being made than before. If the demand for overcoats is what economists call “elastic”—that is, if a fall in the price of overcoats causes a larger total amount of money to be spent on overcoats than previously— then more people may be employed even in making overcoats than before the new labor-saving machine was introduced. We have already seen how this actually happened historically with stockings and other textiles.

But the new employment does not depend on the elasticity of demand for the particular product involved. Suppose that, though the price of overcoats was almost cut in half—from a former price, say, of $150 to a new price of $100—not a single additional coat was sold. The result would be that while consumers were as well provided with new overcoats as before, each buyer would now have $50 left over that he would not have had left over before. He will therefore spend this $50 for something else, and so provide increased employment in other lines.

http://steshaw.org/economics-in-one-les ... p07p2.html

Then there's the maths-light reasoning of "The extra $50 spent will provide enough demand to make up for the jobs lost to technology". It may be true, it may not, but we can't tell unless we do the accounting.
How do you even figure out if that extra $50 produces enough demand? I don't even know where to start.

A better question might be, why wouldn't the saved $50 (achieved by reducing labour costs) create the same amount of labour if spent on different products? What do you have to assume for this not to happen?


That's actually the same question but rephrased in a way to make the burden of proof fall onto me.
A $50 good or service doesn't always require the same amount of labour. If we spend it at a restaurant most of it will go to labour costs because restaurant work is very labour intensive. But if we spend it buying oil, most of the costs will go to the actual cost of oil, labour costs being a smaller proporton.
And in a world where everything is being automated, labour costs will be a smaller and smaller proporton of anything you might buy.
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Re: Difference Engine: Luddite legacy

#49  Postby Loren Michael » Jun 08, 2013 12:08 pm

Jakov wrote:The problem is that as automation lowers the demand for labour, wages will fall so the incentive to further automate is reduced. If left solely to the market we might only achieve automation quite slowly. But if we form unions and constantly do industrial action we will artificially raise the price of our labour, the incentive to automate will grow and we'll be closer to a technological utopia.

So for example, up to about the 1970s dock workers were very militant and did not allow the market to keep them down. In response containerization heavily increased, where a standard was set for shipping containers sizes, so cranes, ships, trains and lorries could be built with all those in mind everywhere around the world. This probably wouldn't have happened so quickly had dockers been docile and non-militant.


I'm familiar with containerization, but could you flesh out the relevance of labor to that? It sounds interesting.
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Re: Difference Engine: Luddite legacy

#50  Postby Chrisw » Jun 08, 2013 3:34 pm

Jakov wrote:
Chrisw wrote:I don't see how it [elasticity of demand] needs to have anything to do with waste. It may be that people who couldn't afford overcoats can now afford them. Or they will be able to afford better ones. And if overcoats get cheaper many people will spend the money saved on other things that they couldn't afford previously.

I wonder what they did before overcoats were cheap, maybe they toiled the land naked?

Depending on the climate or how poor you are you might manage without an overcoat. I have three, different weights and sizes depending on the weather. If they were more expensive or I had less money I might make do with two or just one. Back when I was a student I only owned one coat. It wasn't really warm enough for the middle of winter and it was too warm for spring and autumn but I made do, because I had other things to spend my limited money on that were more important to me. But clearly, if the price of coats fell, there was some price level at which I would have bought another one.

But it's not about overcoats. The writer just picked that at random to illustrate a more general point - products will sell more if they are cheaper. For example, you will have noticed that rich people own much more stuff than poor people. Give poorer people more money and they will buy more stuff. Or (equivalently) make suff cheaper they will buy more of it (you have effectively made them richer). This can mean buying more of the same thing or buying things that thay couldn't previously afford at all. Is that "waste"? Only when you get the the level that you have pretty much everything you want and you are spending money just for the hell of it, but how many of us are in that fortunate position?

I'm not saying there is no wasteful spending but it is a misunderstanding of the concept of elasticity of demand to assume that it is driven entirely or even mainly by wasteful expenditure.

People still had clothes, but they took much better care of them because they were very expensive. If they ripped they would mend them, once clothes became cheap torn clothing would be thrown in the bin.

That may be true but it's not very general. I don't scrap my car if I get a dent in it, I don't throw out my computer if it gets a virus. And this idea isn't applicable to consumables or services of any sort.

Besides, clothes used to be designed to be durable and repairable. This in turn made them more expensive, which limited the amount you could own and constrained the styles, materials and colours. People don't just own clothes for warmth, they care about how they look and being fashionable. Compared to fifty years ago people own more cheaper clothes in many different styles and colours and they don't wear them as much before throwing them away. That is a change but I wouldn't simply characterise it as "waste", except maybe from an ecological perspective. From an economic point of view the clothing industry is satisfying demands of it's consumers. You can still buy expensive, durable clothes if you want to, they just aren't as popular.

Jakov wrote:
Chrisw wrote:A better question might be, why wouldn't the saved $50 (achieved by reducing labour costs) create the same amount of labour if spent on different products? What do you have to assume for this not to happen?
That's actually the same question but rephrased in a way to make the burden of proof fall onto me.

I'm not asking anyone to prove anything, just trying to understand your objection here.

A $50 good or service doesn't always require the same amount of labour. If we spend it at a restaurant most of it will go to labour costs because restaurant work is very labour intensive. But if we spend it buying oil, most of the costs will go to the actual cost of oil, labour costs being a smaller proporton.

But there is nothing special about this $50, it's just one instance of the money that consumers save by purchasing goods that have been made cheaper due to automation. So wouldn't we have to assume that this money is spent by those consumers in the same way that they spend the rest of their money? We have no reason to assume that it will tend to be spent on goods or services whose production is less labour-intensive than normal, have we?
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Re: Difference Engine: Luddite legacy

#51  Postby igorfrankensteen » Jun 08, 2013 3:38 pm

Actually, though I have zero proof, I don't think there was any relation between dock workers and containerization at all. Containerization was caused by the realization that many goods were being shipped from one location entirely to one other location. That made it make sense to create a single container that could be fitted to all the transportation devices, without having to unpack and repack goods.

The only relation that dockworkers might have had on the situation, is to provide an expense incentive for the companies shipping things to want to reduce how many of them they had to employ.

Once the containers were designed, based upon how they were to be moved to the docks (i.e. railroad and trucks), then the container ships were designed to accept them, and fit them in neatly and efficiently. Everything was helped to adjust to each other faster by the advance of communications technology, and the relative worldwide peace that followed the end of WW2.

As soon as the first container ship crossed the Pacific and moved it's containers directly to trucks and trains, and on to the vendors, the time to market, and cost of shipping to market was cut by more than half. As always, that made it impossible to compete by the old methods, and the entire world rapidly converted.

If anything, the militancy of the dockworkers would logically have served to increase the move to containers, in order to reduce the need to deal with them.

The real importance of all labor militancy, is to try to balance the forces of callous greed with recognition of the real human and societal costs of the progress we all do want.
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Re: Difference Engine: Luddite legacy

#52  Postby Jakov » Jun 08, 2013 10:59 pm

Loren Michael wrote:
Jakov wrote:The problem is that as automation lowers the demand for labour, wages will fall so the incentive to further automate is reduced. If left solely to the market we might only achieve automation quite slowly. But if we form unions and constantly do industrial action we will artificially raise the price of our labour, the incentive to automate will grow and we'll be closer to a technological utopia.

So for example, up to about the 1970s dock workers were very militant and did not allow the market to keep them down. In response containerization heavily increased, where a standard was set for shipping containers sizes, so cranes, ships, trains and lorries could be built with all those in mind everywhere around the world. This probably wouldn't have happened so quickly had dockers been docile and non-militant.


I'm familiar with containerization, but could you flesh out the relevance of labor to that? It sounds interesting.


So the thesis goes like this. The essence of containerization is simply that containers are made of steel and they all adhere to a standard that is the same across the world. It makes it far less labour intensive to handle.
Now steel has been understood since the industrial and chemical revolutions (and anyway you could make containers out of wood if you wanted) and knowledge of how to measure linear dimensions is prehistoric. Given that, why did containerization only start in the second half of the 20th century? The standards used today date early 1970s.

The answer I think is because that time was when labour started becoming far more expensive. The 20th century saw many worker's rebellions against capitalism, Russia and Spain are the famous ones but it was happening everywhere. Also there were two major wars, which usually increase people's class consciousness.
Dock workers are a very militant part of the working class, like miners and construction workers. They are easily replacable, poorly paid, are obviously alienated from their work and use physical labour which leaves the mind free to think about Marx or listen to that charismatic organiser. They are also quite social workplaces which greatly increases solidarity between workers. They are also strategically important, a prolonged dock strike can cripple an entire economy. You can search on libcom.org or somewhere the hundreds of examples of docker industrial action.

In my view this docker militancy encouraged automation which in the long run will free us all from arduous alienating coerced work. On the other hand, the individual dockers have lost their well-paid unionised jobs. In the UK, the main ports were Liverpool and the East End of London which were devestated by containerization (although the East End got quite a lot of regeneration)
I am aware that Oakland CA, New York and Hong Kong also had/have militant dockers movements.

Before I get too carried away, I know other factors influenced containerization, like the fact that international trade was growing. But it's pretty clear to me that if capital could pay dockers poverty wages like it does for third-world textile workers then there would be less incentive for it to standardize containers.



Conclusive proof of the link between militant dock workers and containerization could perhaps be found in some kind of internal memo or paper of a shipping company. I've seen similar papers that are usually very interesting for understand why those in power do what they do, I've read examples in education and government.

You can get inconclusive proof by finding figures of docker's wages relative to the profits of the shipping company.


igorfrankensteen wrote:
If anything, the militancy of the dockworkers would logically have served to increase the move to containers, in order to reduce the need to deal with them.


That is my position, we agree on this.

igorfrankensteen wrote:
The real importance of all labor militancy, is to try to balance the forces of callous greed with recognition of the real human and societal costs of the progress we all do want.


The important of labour militancy depends on your point of view, and how you see capitalism.
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Re: Difference Engine: Luddite legacy

#53  Postby Jakov » Jun 08, 2013 11:11 pm

Chrisw wrote:
Jakov wrote:
I wonder what they did before overcoats were cheap, maybe they toiled the land naked?

Depending on the climate or how poor you are you might manage without an overcoat. I have three, different weights and sizes depending on the weather. If they were more expensive or I had less money I might make do with two or just one. Back when I was a student I only owned one coat. It wasn't really warm enough for the middle of winter and it was too warm for spring and autumn but I made do, because I had other things to spend my limited money on that were more important to me. But clearly, if the price of coats fell, there was some price level at which I would have bought another one.

But it's not about overcoats. The writer just picked that at random to illustrate a more general point - products will sell more if they are cheaper. For example, you will have noticed that rich people own much more stuff than poor people. Give poorer people more money and they will buy more stuff. Or (equivalently) make suff cheaper they will buy more of it (you have effectively made them richer). This can mean buying more of the same thing or buying things that thay couldn't previously afford at all. Is that "waste"? Only when you get the the level that you have pretty much everything you want and you are spending money just for the hell of it, but how many of us are in that fortunate position?

I'm not saying there is no wasteful spending but it is a misunderstanding of the concept of elasticity of demand to assume that it is driven entirely or even mainly by wasteful expenditure.


I know there is more to demand elasticity than just waste, but the argument that technological unemployment in textiles being a myth is based upon people constantly buying new clothes. There will be diminishing returns for the "buying an extra coat", people won't want 100 coats in their wardrobe and soon waste must become a big reason for job creation.


Chrisw wrote:
People still had clothes, but they took much better care of them because they were very expensive. If they ripped they would mend them, once clothes became cheap torn clothing would be thrown in the bin.

That may be true but it's not very general. I don't scrap my car if I get a dent in it, I don't throw out my computer if it gets a virus. And this idea isn't applicable to consumables or services of any sort.


Yeah I mentioned this before, that's because cars and computers are expensive. If you could buy a car for $5 and a computer for $0.5 you'd treat them with far less respect. Not just you, anyone living in this society and culture.
Maybe with understanding we can waste less and so have to work less.

Chrisw wrote:
Besides, clothes used to be designed to be durable and repairable. This in turn made them more expensive, which limited the amount you could own and constrained the styles, materials and colours. People don't just own clothes for warmth, they care about how they look and being fashionable. Compared to fifty years ago people own more cheaper clothes in many different styles and colours and they don't wear them as much before throwing them away. That is a change but I wouldn't simply characterise it as "waste", except maybe from an ecological perspective. From an economic point of view the clothing industry is satisfying demands of it's consumers. You can still buy expensive, durable clothes if you want to, they just aren't as popular.


People caring about looks and being fashionable is a part of our society and culture, it's not fundamental to the economic reality.
I'm sure the fashion industry has deliberatly stoked up people's anxiety and fashion consciousness in order to sell more clothes. If you read up in the thread you'll see I already talked about advertising as a mechanism for increasing demand and reducing technological unemployment.

Chrisw wrote:
A $50 good or service doesn't always require the same amount of labour. If we spend it at a restaurant most of it will go to labour costs because restaurant work is very labour intensive. But if we spend it buying oil, most of the costs will go to the actual cost of oil, labour costs being a smaller proporton.

But there is nothing special about this $50, it's just one instance of the money that consumers save by purchasing goods that have been made cheaper due to automation. So wouldn't we have to assume that this money is spent by those consumers in the same way that they spend the rest of their money? We have no reason to assume that it will tend to be spent on goods or services whose production is less labour-intensive than normal, have we?


Because if everything in society is being automated, labour-intensive places to spend your money will become harder and harder to find.


I'd like to say I really figured out a lot more because of this thread and debate. It's really a great example of understanding arising from disagreement.
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Re: Difference Engine: Luddite legacy

#54  Postby Jakov » Jun 08, 2013 11:23 pm

This is a nice video about containization. Obviously many of us already understand it, but it's pretty beautiful to watch those cranes, ships, trains and lorries going about their business.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KGfjJm_R6lM[/youtube]


Also one of the speakers brings up the so-called luddite fallacy. :smug:
"It was actually great in terms of employing a lot of people, but worldwide commerce really just didn't even happen."
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Re: Difference Engine: Luddite legacy

#55  Postby FACT-MAN-2 » Jun 09, 2013 5:40 am

Jakov wrote:This is a nice video about containization. Obviously many of us already understand it, but it's pretty beautiful to watch those cranes, ships, trains and lorries going about their business.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KGfjJm_R6lM[/youtube]


Also one of the speakers brings up the so-called luddite fallacy. :smug:
"It was actually great in terms of employing a lot of people, but worldwide commerce really just didn't even happen."

The Port of Long Beach/LA in California where I grew up has become the largest container port in the US. Despite automation of the unloading process employment was sustained when the Longshoreman's union insisted on maintaining its archaic labor intensive cargo inspection protocol, which caused traditional stevedoring to morph into clerking and paper shuffling work. Most longshoremen today wear ties and casual business attitire and never get their hands dirty.

Employment boomed when the port's capacitry was hugely expanded to handle the influx of goods from China, Taiwan, and South Korea. The chronic congestion at the Port is beginning to cause ripple effects throughout the American economy and is disrupting Just In Time inventory practices at many companies. The snag is in the outdated truck and rail infrastructure that moves cargo from the wharfs to plants, warehouses, or transhipment points in the city. The talk now is to dig a 100 foot wide trench from the harbor to LA (a distance of some 35 miles) that would accommodate six high speed rail lines and six or eight truck lanes.

That was kind of all set to go when the recession hit and took the steam right out of it. Now, no one knows when it might be done.

I did longshoring work as a teen, working out of the labor union hall, which the Longshoremen's union relied upon to fill in when things got busy. I worked banana boats, newsprint boats, grain boats and other boats laden with everything under the sun. It was hard tough work but it paid really well so we took all we could get of it. Lots of guys I grew up with made careers in longshoring.
Capitalism is obsolete, yet we keep dancing with its corpse.

When will large scale corporate capitalism and government metamorphose to embrace modern thinking and allow us to live sustainably?
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Re: Difference Engine: Luddite legacy

#56  Postby Jakov » Jun 09, 2013 12:04 pm

There's quite a nice article here about all that http://libcom.org/library/effects-autom ... ngshoremen

One of the first things to strike an outsider about San Francisco is the respect and esteem in which longshoremen are held by the rest of the community. They are good credit risks: they are homeowners (yes, some have swimming pools); they are pillars of society; Negro members are deacons and elders of their churches and are regarded in their neighborhoods as doctors used to be by the newly fledged Jewish communities. I cannot think of another part of the country in which, thanks in large part to their union, laborers are so well regarded and are in turn so proud of their work and their affiliation.(Harvey Swados’ essay “West Coast Waterfront: End of an Era” (1961) in A Radical’s America)
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Re: Difference Engine: Luddite legacy

#57  Postby FACT-MAN-2 » Jun 09, 2013 10:24 pm

Jakov wrote:There's quite a nice article here about all that http://libcom.org/library/effects-autom ... ngshoremen

One of the first things to strike an outsider about San Francisco is the respect and esteem in which longshoremen are held by the rest of the community. They are good credit risks: they are homeowners (yes, some have swimming pools); they are pillars of society; Negro members are deacons and elders of their churches and are regarded in their neighborhoods as doctors used to be by the newly fledged Jewish communities. I cannot think of another part of the country in which, thanks in large part to their union, laborers are so well regarded and are in turn so proud of their work and their affiliation.(Harvey Swados’ essay “West Coast Waterfront: End of an Era” (1961) in A Radical’s America)

San Francisco was always the center of longshoring union activism in America. I'm sure it has changed now what with the comiing of "containerism" and probably doesn't employ nearly as many as it did in earlier times. But like Los Angeles longshoremen who no longer wrestle cargo into cargo nets at the bttom of a hold so it can be lifted out and set on the dock, longshoremen in SF have also become clerks who walk around with clipboards and digitial readers as they check manifests against what's actually in a container. But here's the thing, their unions were so strong and so tough they managed to keep the pay for these clerking functions the same as it had always been for actual stevedoring, so they all make upwards of $100K a year. But you can't get in these unions if your father's not a member and sponsors you in. They are very closed shops.

Ten years ago some businessmen got the bright idea of building a superport on the West Coat of Mexico (near Playa Azul) and run a 16 lane super highway from there to huge distribution points in the central region of the US. This was a union busting proposition and it raised a hue and cry for lots of different reasons, not the least of which was Mexican trucks operating on US highways with exemptions from US Transportation Department safety regulations. The costs were also enormous and the conglomerate the proposed the idea wanted the government to pick up most of the tab.

The idea languished in Congress for a few years then died a quiet death. Meanwhile, LA exploded as a container port, and San Francisco morphed in that direction too.

When I visit Long Beach/Los Angeles Harbor today it's completely unrecognizeable from the way I knew it as a kid in the 1940's, hardly a trace of what I knew remains. It has been utterly transmogrified. The Navy Base on Terminal Island is gone and it was a beehive of activity during the war, as one might imagine. The nicest part of it today is the area where the RMS Queen Mary is permanenty docked and Cabrillo Beach, way on the other side of the harbor. It's weird to see things so changed they're just unrecognizeable. You can drive up high on Palos Verdes and get views that encompass the entire harbor, it's quite a sight.
Capitalism is obsolete, yet we keep dancing with its corpse.

When will large scale corporate capitalism and government metamorphose to embrace modern thinking and allow us to live sustainably?
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Re: Difference Engine: Luddite legacy

#58  Postby FACT-MAN-2 » Jun 14, 2013 10:14 pm

Some interesting commentary from Paul Krugman on this topic:


Sympathy for the Luddites
By PAUL KRUGMAN
Published: June 13, 2013
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/14/opini ... .html?_r=0

In 1786, the cloth workers of Leeds, a wool-industry center in northern England, issued a protest against the growing use of “scribbling” machines, which were taking over a task formerly performed by skilled labor. “How are those men, thus thrown out of employ to provide for their families?” asked the petitioners. “And what are they to put their children apprentice to?”

Those weren’t foolish questions. Mechanization eventually — that is, after a couple of generations — led to a broad rise in British living standards. But it’s far from clear whether typical workers reaped any benefits during the early stages of the Industrial Revolution; many workers were clearly hurt. And often the workers hurt most were those who had, with effort, acquired valuable skills — only to find those skills suddenly devalued.

So are we living in another such era? And, if we are, what are we going to do about it?

Until recently, the conventional wisdom about the effects of technology on workers was, in a way, comforting. Clearly, many workers weren’t sharing fully — or, in many cases, at all — in the benefits of rising productivity; instead, the bulk of the gains were going to a minority of the work force. But this, the story went, was because modern technology was raising the demand for highly educated workers while reducing the demand for less educated workers. And the solution was more education.

Now, there were always problems with this story. Notably, while it could account for a rising gap in wages between those with college degrees and those without, it couldn’t explain why a small group — the famous “one percent” — was experiencing much bigger gains than highly educated workers in general. Still, there may have been something to this story a decade ago.

Today, however, a much darker picture of the effects of technology on labor is emerging. In this picture, highly educated workers are as likely as less educated workers to find themselves displaced and devalued, and pushing for more education may create as many problems as it solves.

Continues ...

Part of the problem is that whole classes of workers can find their skills devalued and themselves out of a job after the age of 50, an age when its impractical to consider being retrained or re-educated to gain a new set of skills that are in demand. So what happens to these folks?
Capitalism is obsolete, yet we keep dancing with its corpse.

When will large scale corporate capitalism and government metamorphose to embrace modern thinking and allow us to live sustainably?
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Re: Difference Engine: Luddite legacy

#59  Postby Jakov » Jun 18, 2013 9:22 pm

So Krugman suggests a minimum income funded by taxiation on the robot-owners. It's that guarenteed citizen's income idea I linked to a few pages back. Obviously I can't claim Krugman reads this forum, he probably just plucked it from the intellectual aether just like I did.

I wonder, how will we convince the robot-owners to hand over the money to pay for a minimum income? It will be far more profitable for them to keep everyone in a state of near-poverty constantly trying to entrepanure some new gadget or trinket to sell to the robot owners. Krugman asks what the conservatives will propose instead, this is what they will say.

Our representative democracies can be easily corrupted with money, which is what the robot-owners will have lots of. The best way I think to get a minimum income is to threaten them with revolution. Learn the anarchist techniques of fighting for ourselves. When their cities are burning and their countries ungovernable then they might cough up enough cash to fund a minimum income.

now reading the paper on disruptive technologies that Krugman linked to
http://www.mckinsey.com/insights/busine ... chnologies
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Re: Difference Engine: Luddite legacy

#60  Postby Jakov » Jun 18, 2013 9:37 pm

I went to a hackerspace a few days ago and saw their 3D printers. They are very cool, and relevant to the whole automation-undermining-capitalism themes in this thread.
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