A future service sector job?

Jason Kottke suggests:

I could imagine Glass Concierge becoming a future job title, basically a personal assistant who looks in on your Google Glass video feed to make helpful suggestions and advice, basically a rally co-driver for your life.

Most of the post is about using Google Glass to cheat at poker.  In response to inquiries, I will review the product once I can get one.


That sounds really intrusive, although I could see it available as a service you could turn on when needed (like Amazon's live help system for the new Kindle Fire HDs).

I've said this before and I'll say it again. Tyler is a libertarian economist, and yet every time he posts one of these articles about some vapid, narcissistic "job of the future," I get a little bit more sympathetic to the Robert Frank view that instead of channeling productivity gains into more leisure time, we work about the same and spend the extra income on some stupid positional good or service, and that if we all collectively worked 75% as much and only made 75% as much income, we'd be better off.

that if we all collectively worked 75% as much and only made 75% as much income, we’d be better off.

Ok, you go first. ;)

But that's the whole point. It's difficult for one person to do that unilaterally, because a) it's hard to get an employer to go along with that when everyone else isn't asking for it too, and b) people care a lot about relative income.

Do you really think that having a Google Glass concierge is actually a good use of a person's time and efforts? I don't mean that in the tautological libertarian sense of "well the person paid for it so therefore it's a good use of the time," but in the more pedestrian sense of "I can't believe this is an actual thing that exists."

Someone served me coffee this morning. What a waste of talent, initiative and time. I could pour my own durn coffee.

Some factory full of people spends their lives making miniature umbrellas to put in novelty cocktails. What a waste of talent, initiative, and time. No joke.

technology is convenient. would you rather spend 15 minutes going to the store and buying butter or hours churning it yourself? making extra work for the sake of work is not virtuous as evidenced by the ineffectiveness of the New Deal and Obama's stimulus.

Substituting leisure for consumption and decreasing efficiency in order to increase employment are entirely different things. Try not to be so dull.

Butter and coffee aren't positional goods (though I'm sure somebody in Brooklyn is dreaming up organic, artisanal butter as we speak).

This isn't about the gains from specialization and trade, nor is it about the convenience and timesaving we get from modern technology. This is specifically about the problem of extra income being spent on positional goods, to everyone's ultimate detriment.

If you don't think the positional goods problem is real or noteworthy, than that's fine, but don't be obtuse and pretend I think people should all churn their own butter.


*then that's fine

Butter @ $3.33/oz


Coffee (kopi luwak) at $20/oz

Don't underestimate man's ability to create money-pissing contests.

If people want to spend their money on positional goods or status symbols it is entirely within their right. A large segment of the economy thrives on conspicuous consumption.

So? A little is/ought fallacy for us, or what? Doesn't make conspicuous consumption any less risible.

It's risible, but as long as chicks dig it, it will remain.

"If people want to spend their money on positional goods or status symbols it is entirely within their right."

Of course it's their right, but as Finch points out below, the competition for status goods is essentially a big n-player prisoner's dilemma, and while everybody has the right to "defect" if they feel like it, the whole point of the prisoner's dilemma is that if you can find a way to make everyone "cooperate," you can get a much better outcome for all concerned.

To be clear here, if my explanation is correct, "cooperate" means "collude" and "a much better outcome for all concerned" means "a much better outcome for those people working too much, but everybody else gets screwed."

Remember that many people are dependent on those hard-working folks in the upper-middle killing themselves in status competition, both the people who receive their tax money and the people who own their employers.

Couldn't they collude by pushing for higher marginal tax rates for their set? That doesn't seem to be their preference.

I'm not sure I understand why higher marginal taxes for their set would help. To put it in Cold War terms, what they ought to do is ban classes of weapon to make the conflict less unpleasant. They don't actually want to be poorer. Presumably if all upper-middle income folks worked less, their income would decline, but by less than you would think because the poor and the rich still need them. Raising taxes just makes them poorer, but with no offsetting benefit. Taxes on wages anyway, as the people I intend to describe are basically wage earners.

Wouldn't raising taxes on working more be a way of coordinating working less for less money among the otherwise overworking set?

You'd have to admit incentives matter, even for income taxes.
Don't think you're ready for that yet.

Higher marginal tax rates would do the trick because they disincentivize labor in favor of increased leisure. I think it's no coincidence that higher tax France and Germany, say, work substantially less than Americans do.

Of course they don't WANT to be poorer. What they would want is to be able to work less for less pay, conditional on others doing the same.

To use a cold war example, it's not so much about banning classes of weapons as it is about agreeing to a reduction in how many nukes each side has. If the US has 1200 nukes and the Soviets have 1000, that's expensive to build and maintain. If they can both agree to reduce their stockpiles to, say, 120 and 100 respectively, then both sides are made better off. Neither side really cares about the absolute number of nukes they have. What matters is how many they have relative to the other side.

I'm not sure that makes sense mathematically. Of course, I'm not sure my collusion idea works mathematically either.

Clearly people would work less (or at least less hard and effectively) if you raised their marginal tax rate. But they'd also have wealth they earned destroyed through taxation. At any particular level of before-tax income worked, they'd be less well off. I think one issue is that a marginal tax increase would harm people below whatever hours-per-week limit you would otherwise impose. It doesn't very directly address the issue of hours worked.

I should be clear that I don't actually have enough confidence in this to advocate it or anything. I'm sure the unintended consequences would be ridiculous. It would be interesting to see how competition was channeled if you removed time in the office as a figure of merit. It would be interesting to see if the environment became less competitive, because it might not.

My 4:20pm post was in reply to dirk's 3:49pm post.

It's a prisoners dilemma, and defection to working more is just to easy. There are laws discouraging and sometime preventing low-wage people from working too hard, but there really aren't for moderate- to high-wage folk. So until you get to primarily earning your income through capital, you're kind of screwed. The competition among these folks is good for everybody else, but it squeezes out their surpluses. They'd be better off if they colluded and reduced the labor they supply. I'm thinking of the $50-500k set here.

I don't know if I really believe this, but it has at least occurred to me as a possible explanation, and I think it aligns well with your suggestion.

My kingdom for an edit button.

High wage part time is actually pretty common in healthcare. For the rest of us, it's still do-able provided you're willing to take your increased leisure time in the form of years per lifetime rather than hours per week.

If you have time to comment on blog posts, you probably already are.

what is a positional good or service?
seems you are subscribing to the leftist argument for regression

Come on, don't bog me down in semantics here. You know what I'm talking about, and if you don't, Wikipedia's got it covered.


I subscribe to the leftist argument for regression.

if we all collectively worked 75% as much and only made 75% as much income, we’d be better off.

I find this argument pointless. In essence you are arguing that if everybody did things the way you want them to vs the way they want them to, you'd like the results.

I think you implicitly assume that everyone would like the results and I find that supposition doubtful.

I agree! I've often been struck by this, and similar puzzles. A former colleague of mine working in quantitative finance told me that he and others like him worked 100 hour weeks, made $X (a very big number), and were largely stressed out and unhappy. I asked if they wouldn't all be happier if there were twice as many of them working 50 hours a week for $X/2, or even $X/3. He said yes, but that wasn't an option. I don't understand why. And yes, I know we're all free to choose what we want; the question is why we (collectively) structure the choices the way we do.

I've thought about this too and I think one reason is that perhaps for some tasks division isn't really optimal - a holistic perspective is sort of required. Having Todd there on Mon-Wed and Bob there on Wed-Fri wouldn't work, or Todd in the morning and Bob in the evenings. Not sure how many jobs actually have that property as a matter of necessity, but it's a potential issue.

Every sci-fi retelling of Cyrano de Bergerac had this trope, and I can see that becoming a very early adopter of the tech in the real world.

Please direct me to these sci-fi retellings of Cyrano de Bergerac.

Looking for par'Mach in All the Wrong Places of Deep Space 9 was the one that sprung immediately to mind.

Maybe we just need Freestyle Poker now.

How about a job where you get paid not to do this? I would pay someone not to have this sort of intrusion in my life. Maybe this is a better guide to what the jobs of the future will be like.

I was wondering what the Glass would be good for. Now I know. I can have someone nattering in my ear all day.

More likely it will be your boss, friendly policeman, social service worker or suchlike who want to see how you're doing.

NSA's motto circa 2013, "If you see something, say something!"
NSA's motto circa dorktopian future "See something"

That isn't a very good use of google glass to cheat at poker. It seems to just have a remote human playing, with the glass wearer acting merely as a physical proxy. I'm sure real poker cheaters could do much better. Like if multiple linked Glass wearers were at the same table, for instance.

Having perfect recall, multiple observers so that you can simultaneously view all players, or the ability to rewind video would all be a big help.

Online players use HUDs that track elaborate statistics on their opponents. Good players are aware of this and attempt to manipulate the statistics. Having these things available live would be a major change.

Clearly old-fashioned cheating could do much better, but there's no question whether better management of the information you legitimately encounter would improve your play.

A personalized Grillo Parlante. Anyone recall what happened to him?

Squashed like a bug, or as a bug. Whatever.

In the future, rich people will walk around wearing nothing on their faces besides maybe cool-looking sunglasses, and their poor harassed personal assistants will wear the Google Glasses for them.

Tyler, if you are still looking to get your hands on a Google Glass, I got one and also just got an email allowing me to invite others to get access, and I couldn't think of a more worthy candidate, so you are now on a list somewhere and will hopefully get an email allowing access from google soon.

Have yet to set mine up, btw...

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