by Tyler Cowen
on August 14, 2014 at 11:50 am
2. Tavi Gevinson update.
3. Old interview with Susan Sontag.
4. “Humans Need Not Apply” (video on mechanization). And how good will Siri-like entities get?
5. Rescuing orphaned baby elephants.
6. George W. Hilton, UCLA economist and transportation historian, has passed away.
7. Japan markets in everything, slightly risque.
1. 2003 had Myspace, Bittorrent, Nokia Symbian, LiveJournal, and was just a few months away from the creation of flickr – seems like stagnation in 2014, actually.
Or if one finds LiveJournal an inadequate substitute for Twitter, RSS orginates in the days before Y2k.
Nobody claimed that it was a time of stagnation; rather, culturally-important digital institutions weren’t around yet. The late 1700s weren’t a time of stagnation either, but most people were still very poor because the impact of its inventions had yet to be felt.
#4: Except horses did not build the robots (cars) humans did. Robots did not teach robots how to solve problems, humans did. The trick is not solving the problem, it’s coming up with new problems to solve. Robots won’t be able to do that.
In other words, Robots can be made to discover the answer (42) but cannot be made to discover the question. Only 1 man can do that, and he just wants a cup of tea.
4. That was a good little documentary that some politicians here in Australia may benefit from watching. Our Coal-ition government here has decided that for the first time since the Great Depression a large portion of the unemployed will receive no government support next year and so will be allowed to starve to death if they have no friends or family to support them and are too proud to pick through garbage for food or accept charity. While I realise that many readers here may be playing the world’s smallest violin for us now as this is a reality that many in the English speaking world already face, the timing is particularly disturbing. Firstly, Australia decided not to have a recession after the Global Financial Crisis and has had the strongest economy in the developed world. Australia has never been richer and more capable of providing support for the unemployed. And secondly, finding employment is not going to get any easier for the reasons given in the video. It’s almost as if our leaders have looked at current trends and decided to do the opposite of what is required to deal with changing face of employment. In Australia we have robot trucks working in our mines, they are automating the trains that carry the ore, and they are building robotic truck washers to wash the robot trucks. And this is just the beginning.
In 2003, Median Household Income was $54,079. Now its $51,017 and we have Facebook. The modern definition of progress.
As for #7, it’s from the Daily Mail. The Daily Mail is hilarious but should not be taken seriously.
And has the composition of the median household changed in that time?
“And has the composition of the median household changed in that time?”
Yes, but not nearly enough to account for the fall in income. According to “Table H-11AR. Size of Household, All Races, by Median and Mean Income: 1975 to 2012” average household size fell from 2.57 in 2003 to 2.54 in 2012. At this point the median household is 10% poorer than they were in 2000. Given that per-capita GDP has actually risen over the period in question, this is a remarkable result.
The bottom line is easy, cosmopolitan globalization (Open Borders, “free trade”, etc.) is great for the cosmopolitan globalists and hell for everyone else. Given the quite slow growth of the U.S. economy overall, it has also made the USA notably poorer. Too simplify a bit, cosmopolitan globalization shows up as a scheme to make ordinary Americans $2 poorer so that the globalization elite can be $1 richer.
How would “closed borders” have stopped the GFC ???
“How would “closed borders” have stopped the GFC ???”
A few points. Median income was already flat to falling before the GFC. See the Census tables for the details. Median household income peaked in 1999 and then fell through 2004. At the peak in 2007, median household income (in real dollars) was still below the 1999 peak. Then it crashed.
However, there are other, more direct connections between Open Borders, the housing bubble, and the crash. The housing bubble was to a material degree, an effort on the part of Bush and the Republican party to maintain a large share of the Hispanic vote via the fantasy of the “ownership society”. Since Bush’s primary interest in Hispanics was cheap exploitable labor, he needed some trick to get them to vote for him. Bush advertised food stamps in Spanish, but that clearly wasn’t going to be enough. Obviously higher wages were out of the question (why import poor, welfare dependent immigrants, if you have to pay them high wages?). Hence the need to massively promote subprime NINJA mortgages, targeted at low information borrowers. Like most bubble schemes it worked for a while and ended in catastrophe.
More broadly Bush was committed to gutting (hollowing out) the U.S. economy via “free trade” (outsourcing) and replacing every working American with an immigrant (literally via his ‘willing worker’ scheme). Given his goals (and actual polities to implement them), the economic lives of almost all Americans (not just immigrants) were at risk under Bush. Bush desperately needed a bubble in non-tradable goods or services to offset the deep economics weakness his policies entailed (the absolute U.S. trade deficit reached the highest level in world history under Bush). The housing bubble was a ‘made to order’ palliative for the pain Bush was intent on inflicting.
It ended in economic ruin.
There is another strictly numerical argument. GDP is the numerator. Population is denominator. The quotient is per-capita GDP. Open Borders increases the denominator and reduces the quotient. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Division_%28mathematics%29 for an explanation.
I think proponents of cosmopolitan globalization would note that the scheme also makes the poor in other countries more than $1 richer.
How much more is Education and Healthcare than it was in 2003?
Three Reddit predictions about the societal changes from the rise of the autos.
Re #7 – A Dutch wife is an elongated well stuffed pillow. It was used for comfort on hot nights in Indonesia (DEI). It absorbs sweat.
Alleged killer asks Siri where to hide the body.
I would not have thought about a metal foundry. Thanks, Siri!
Regarding the “2003” link.
I recently watched “Species” for the first time since it came out in the mid-90’s.
It’s an amazing piece: it tried very hard to be high tech in a contemporary way (for a movie without a huge budget).
And today, it looks horribly antiquated. Almost like some sort of steam-punkish vision, but only looking back 20 years.
In early history, each person or little clump of people made their living by direct interaction with nature.
Later, trade and specialization made the society richer, if not the individuals (though it often made them richer.)
Then, in about the last few hundred years, we have gone to a model where basically nobody makes their living from nature, and instead make their living by efforts directed at earning claims (money) on other people. Even owning land is a claim against other people.
In a world in which everything a person might consume is created by robots of some sort, and there is no physical good or service a person can do to earn claims on other people – that is, realistically, no jobs – in that world, the nature of money and economics and politics will change in radical ways. Most of them will not be pretty….
In this comment thread we see yet again people talking about household income using numbers that don’t account for healthcare, various sorts of transfers, or changes in the real price of some modern products (mostlly electronic.)
That doesn’t account for the effective price of land, and may be all that healthcare “paid for by your employer” is a bad deal or not the deal you would have chosen for yourself, but median family purchasing power and general well being have in fact changed, in at least some wasy for the better, over the ’70s to ‘teens period.
Sontag’s “Attention Surplus Disorder” made me think of TC.
7. I don’t want to come across like an expert on this, but I guess I am. With regards to the sex doll article I can tell you now that nobody has a fence like that in Japan and the furniture and floors are wrong too.
#4a: is there some data to support or reject that “the objective today is to develop accounting, law and management bots instead of bricklaying and toilet-cleaning bots because the former salaries are higher”?
I think there have been quite a few changes in software packages used in accounting over the past couple of decades while bog cleaning has remained pretty stagnant.
I use prostitutes instead of sex dolls because I want to help fund more human lives.
But what happens to the money you save by using sex dolls? Couldn’t that be used to fund human lives? I am assuming that using sex dolls would save you money, but I suppose that would all depend on individual circumstances, the cost of puncture repair, penicillin, and so on. Even if you just use the money saved to increase your general consumption instead of directly funding human lives with it you would human lives would still get funded by it and if you save or invest it you lower the cost of capital which would also help fund human lives. So I’d say don’t let human funding considerations hold you back from getting a pneumatic pal.
But doesn’t the energy and material requirements for a sex doll replace those for a prostitute? You are right it is now cheaper, but I don’t donate the difference, I just work less or buy other resource-intense stuff.
Assume, for sake of argument, that you can either rent a sex robot in the future or a human prositute (for half an hour each). Assume they are equal in price and equal in quality. Would not each sex robot replace one human? (I am assuming both the production of sex robots and reproduction of humans is a function of demand or employment rates, respectively)
When the costs of automation are the same as paying a worker’s wages, workers tend to keep their jobs out of inertia. When the costs of automation are clearly lower workers tend to lose their jobs. That’s pretty obvious. In the scenario you mentioned where the costs are equal just wait a year and technology improvements and/or rising wages will probably have made automation cheaper. (If you have the misfortune to live in a country where workers’ wages don’t rise each year, I have a little red book you may be interested in.)
And if you spend less money on Justin Beiber music and more on the Rolf Harris Sing Along Defence Fund Album, then one entertainer gets less money and another entertainer gets more money and economically speaking it is a wash overall. Same with spending less on prostitution and more on other consumption. At the end of the day your money is going to end up in someone’s pocket. Note that I’m just speaking generally. You may feel differently about specific cases. For example you may think Justin Bieber is an immoral lying monster who doesn’t deserve your money.
4. Shortly into the piece, I thought, “Great video, except for the rancid music.” What a delight, then, was the revelation that that a robot scored the video.
I would also note that part of human persistence in labor markets will be in the fact that humans enjoy humans.
I can think of no worker more readily replaced than errant, lazy, ill-mannered, tip-entitled human poker dealers (and also the other 30 percent), and yet in Las Vegas, the only attempt to introduce automated tables (superior in every practical way) was a short-lived misfire.
p.s. A robot copy-edited my first comment.
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