Chaos Manor View, Wednesday, July 22, 2015
I’m in novel writing mode now, which means that for a few days I will have less time for this page and Chaos Manor Reviews; but Chaos Manor Reviews will generally have something computerish, and I’ll try to keep this place going; and it won’t be that long.
We had a good Wednesday story conference including Skyping Dr. Jack Cohen in England, and one thing it indicated is that we’ve come to a part in the opening of the book that needs me; technical stuff mostly, and fitting it into dialogue and action scenes so you don’t get lumps in the stew; the sort of stuff I used to turn out fairly quickly, but it seems to go slowly now because my typing is so bad. I am not able to touch type at all. The good news is that I am getting better at two finger; but, alas, that means I have to look at the keyboard and not the screen. Then when I look up I see the silly mistakes I have made, and have to go about fixing them. It’s slow; but it’s faster than typing on a Selectric and we wrote quite a lot, including The Mote in God’s Eye http://www.amazon.com/Mote-Gods-Eye-Larry-Niven/dp/0671741926 on typewriters, and Mote still holds up (and sells pretty well, too; if you haven’t read it, you will probably like it a lot).
Anyway, that’s the way things are. I also learn that all my little ornaments each open a new file, and those add up, so I’m trying to get a new scheme to put in the little gold bubbles a different way. We’ll see.
I need to comment at length on the Iran “deal”, but it is sort of pointless: it’s pretty well a done deal. Mr. Obama has made that clear. He’s in this all the way.
As to why, unless you assume deliberate malice on his part, he must be assuming that he’ll win the Persians around to his way of thinking: we are showing trust and good faith, and we expect that in return; after which we will both be better off. After all, we’re not on a war course with Iran, but they can’t know this because we sent an invading army into Iraq. Jihadists don’t blow up Brazilian airplanes and civilians. Treat Persia right and they’ll stop holding Death To America parades, and the world will be a better place.
We tried force, and CIA operations and such; give peace a chance. And of course he is President and it’s pretty well his call.
I do point out that in the early 1500’s, a sophisticated Prince, Suleiman, later called Suleiman the Magnificent, became Sultan of Turkey; It was thought by many of the European leadership that this was a man you could do business with, and many set their policies to accommodate that assumptiuon.
Islamic scholars were just completing new editions of the Koran and the Hadith (Sayings of the Prophet), and the plain language laid upon the Leader of Islam the duty to bring the entire world under submission; there could be truces with the infidels, but peace with them is forbidden by the black letter law of the text. But there are black letter commandments in the Bible, particularly the Old Testament that were no longer taken seriously (see Jonathon Swift on that 200 years later); surely Suleiman would be a reasonable man.., Of course he was not, and in 1529 marched to besiege Vienna after taken much of the Balkans and starting feuds there that continue to this day. His siege was not successful, although it could have been; it was a near thing, actually. And the campaign was undertaken at considerable cost, both economically and to his prestige. Fortunately his rule was tempered by the loss of his genius advisor and his oldest son to palace intrigues and the Ukrainian/Polish girl known as Roxelana, but that’s another story. So are the Ayatollahs ruling Iran, and the Sunni/Shia conflict continues.
I do not think Mr. Obama has the correct appreciation of the situation, but I was not elected President; and under the Constitution we have only one President.
As to what strategy we adopt if this one does not work, one thing is certain: Iran will have nuclear weapons before we can know.
Still more on automation and jobs
There is little doubt that, someday, robots will be taking a lot of jobs from people. Whether that will be in five years or fifty cannot be determined with certainty until after it has happened. It is however true that, right now (which is where we are on the time-line), truck drivers are not seeing their wages fall because self-driving trucks are taking their jobs from them. Right now, much of the talk of automation taking jobs is clearly a smoke screen designed to obscure the real reason that current wages are stagnant or falling.
However, there is another angle to automation that I think people have missed. It’s possible that, at least under some conditions, robots could simply be a stealthy means of offshoring jobs to low-wage countries that have, until recently, been hard to offshore!
For example, there is a company that makes robotic floor cleaners for large establishments. These floor cleaners are only competitive when wages for that class of labor are over ten dollars an hour. Obviously the businesses would be even happier employing human labor at a dollar an hour – that would be cheaper than using robots (for now).
But here’s the thing: these robots are, I believe, largely assembled by hand in places like Vietnam where wages are a dollar an hour or less!
So here’s the thing: what if the total amount of human labor saved by these cleaning robots is equal to the total amount of overseas human labor required to assemble the robots (and their spare parts etc) in the first place? In this case we haven’t saved any human labor at all – we’ve used the robots as a conduit to replace $10/hr labor with $1/hr labor!
Yes I know – the truth is in the specifics, and in this case would require the kind of careful quantitative analysis that modern jingoistic economists have largely abandoned (‘Anything labeled free trade is always good just because’ etc). Still, something to consider.
The problem of ‘unemployment’â€¦
You have hit “ glancingly “ at the problem.
The last time industrialization created a surplus of goods-per-working-hour the response of the industrialized world was to simply decrease hours to match. (It is amusing â€“ but the reduction of factory hours from 60 per week to 40 per week is nearly a match to the reduction of farm laborers. Effectively we got more factory workers but each did less factory work â€“ and the total volume of factory work hours remained fairly stable.) Why can we not do the same again? Well, one block might be the law/union homogeny that has demonstrated itself entirely resistant to any shift in the â€˜eight-hour-day/five-day-weekâ€™ formula. Another might be the burden of confiscatory taxes â€“ which have in effect already removed a third of the working hours so far as the worker compensation is concerned. In effect, 1/3 of the â€˜surplus hoursâ€™ have already been taken away â€“ just not the work involved. These are both injurious, and annoying, and frustratingâ€¦ but the stupidity of the master class has been overcome before and can be again. What can NOT be overcome, unfortunately, is the unsuitability for productive action of a fair percentage of the population. The productive cannot lay down a portion of the working day because the unproductive are incapable of picking up the â€˜slackâ€™. [One may, from another angle, view the division as having occurred, if one takes idle dependency as a form of work. Which â€“ I grant â€“ as it is paid for â€“ can be so viewed. Consider the percentage of â€˜career welfareâ€™ personnel. The numbers are, again, amusingly close.]
As for solutions? I have none save that of history. The industrial revolution destroyed a fair percentage of the English population. Whatever upheaval cuts off the bread for the charity-dependant class will do the same. This is sad, but hardly a unique event, or one difficult to anticipate in any context save time.
Keryl Kris Reinke
When there is little shortage of goods, all is well; it is easy to divide a large pie. Or it is said to be.
Freedom is not free. Free men are not equal. Equal men are not free.