A couple weeks ago I was pondering the ratcheting effect of minimum wage laws (actually minimum wage plus all the errata like fringe benefits and whatnot). If you’re interested here are the links.
- Mechanization Is A Feature Not A Bug: Part 1
- Mechanization Is A Feature Not A Bug: Part 2
- Mechanization Is A Feature Not A Bug: Part 3
- Mechanization Is A Feature Not A Bug: Part 4
- Threshing Wheat
For those of you who have no desire to click links I’ll summarize: I mentioned that, as a consumer, I’m perfectly happy when machines replace people. For example, ATMs and Self Serve Gas Pumps are (in my opinion) superior to the humans they replaced. I also admired the great mechanical land barges that harvest wheat and are part of the reason my corn flakes are dirt cheap. (Note: trying to grow stuff with my antique tractor has taught me what a stone cold pain in the ass farming can be with sub-par machinery.)
This is a rare instance when I’m a “glass is half full” kinda guy. I’ve already seen the self order kiosk at a couple fast food places and I don’t mind them. (Am I the only one that finds it frustrating trying to explain what I want to someone two feet away who’s just punching ideograms on a terminal?) I’m eagerly awaiting my first robotically created hamburger. For me, it’s just a game.
Also, for me, I see every minute a human spends doing anything as an opportunity cost. Whatever they were doing, could they be doing something cooler? What is the cooler thing that they’re not doing? Would the world be more awesome if they were right now doing the cooler thing? Humans have a certain unknowable amount of time, the less time they spend darning socks the more time they have available for something more. (Unless one aspires to be the best damn sock darner ever… excellence in any venue is a reasonable goal.)
Now I’m not a fool. I know that 99% of free time will be spend on bullshit. Great big harvesting machines replaced herds of people with hand scythes and most of those former hand scythe operators didn’t go on to write symphonies. That’s ok. They had a chance. If one has options and then decides to sit on the couch growing moss… at least the chance was there. That’s a good thing.
There’s a different and opposite opinion to mine. I think of a person as having a certain amount of time and ponder what they’ll do with that gift. The other side thinks of a person as needing a job and ponders their misery if they’re not employed. I’m not so sure about this. The purpose of a job is not to entertain the masses. Jobs are not playpens for adults. The removal of one duty just broadens the horizon for another.
However, in the interest of fairness I’m posting this video. It’s a “glass is half empty” discussion of what the hell are we all going to do when our robot overlords replace us at the job? It’s well written, well reasoned, and well presented. Let it never be said that I don’t air contrary opinions.
I’m still perfectly happy in an employment arms race with machines and I’m well aware that I might indeed someday lose. I can live with that. So long as those robots keep my corn flakes cheap and don’t screw up the bacon supply… good luck to ’em.