Automation Catastrophe?

First Day. Air temperature quite high for February, even here in Alibam. Gym sparse and the podcast episode, one of the CBC’s “Besy of Ideas” on senses, was neither obviously flawed nor adequate engaging. Rather like grits. 

Thus I had time to think on a couple of current subjects. One is the transition to robotic motorcars and the other is the impact of automation on employment. The impetus for considering the first was a TIME periodical article. This was a rather up beat, simplistic article – what else from Amerikan journalists? – that portrayed the transition as a simple now-then from human licensed driving to human prohibited driving with no bumps in between.

Wrong. The transition will be messy and nasty as all human social changes tend to be. Thoughts of the Pullman strike come to mind. What I cannot see is Alibam red necks easily giving up their rusted, odoriferous, smoking pickup trucks that they salvaged from junk yards to expensive autocars. For one thing, they haven’t the money. These are people who live off the grid almost, but not quite. Many of them have cellular telephones, all purchased at MalWart and using non-contract plans. I have no idea how they pay.

None of these people pay income taxes. They are always paid in greenbacks and will not accept checks. I doubt many of them have bank accounts nor credit cards. They purchase their petrol at off brand stations. 

And the autocar revolution will immobilize them. What they do for money will still exist as a requirement but they would be unable to practice their craft if they cannot drive their junkers. 

And in places like Alibam that probably means no laws restricting driving. So a massive increase in wrecks and a destruction of the state economy. But the local politicians can all brag of how they resisted Washington.

The second was prompted by an article [Link] claiming that automation will not disemploy half of the adult population. Some of the rationale does make some sense like the continued need for humans in stores. What it ignores is that even those jobs will be hideously underpaid because so many will want the jobs. 

No, this is even worse that the autocars, which are a part. If we continue in the Capitalist mode we are in, we will have a bloody collapse when the disemployed take thins into their hands and create civil war. Survival wars are nasty. No one cares how many of the enemy they kill. No prisoners are taken unless they have intelligence potential and they will be killed once their information expires.

The future is bright?

Death of Money

Sixth Day. Air temperature again below the L->S phase change temperature for dihydrogen oxide. Podcast download day. Survival for the gym desert. 

Getting old is not for the young. You have got to have used up all your altruism and empathy and such to be able to withstand, however briefly, the ills of age. Needless to add, I am still under the weather although at least now undergoing some treatment. 

In that frame of mind, it seems meet to eye a couple of articles. First, a nice article [Link] entitled “Stephen Hawking Says We Should Really Be Scared Of Capitalism, Not Robots.” Not that I haven’t hammered on this previously but Hawking says it a lot better, which we can probably being educated in England rather than the Yankee republic.

If machines produce everything we need, the outcome will depend on how things are distributed. Everyone can enjoy a life of luxurious leisure if the machine-produced wealth is shared, or most people can end up miserably poor if the machine-owners successfully lobby against wealth redistribution. So far, the trend seems to be toward the second option, with technology driving ever-increasing inequality.

What struck a resonance was something unsaid but now rather obvious: the death of money.

If we go the route of complete inequality, then the serfs will have no money and the capitalists will have it all, so once we get past a transition period while the capitalists thin their own ranks, money become irrelevant.

If we go the route of equality, then money becomes meaningless except possibly for some bookkeeping purposes.

So money dies.


Fifth Day. No gym. Air temperature 31 degF. So no constitutional, just a bit of a pedal on the stationary unicycle. (Only one wheel.)

One of few positives of pedaling is that I get to read. And think quite a bit differently than during constitutional. So this morning I thought about the matter of science books. This was fostered by an article [Link] about how good this year’s crop of science books are.

February and already bragging on the year? Seems a bit hubraic.

First of all, I want to distinguish between books of science and books about science. The former are mostly textbooks or collections of papers or lectures. The latter are popularizations written for the “public,” often by non-STEMs, such as journalists. That right there makes them suspect.

Reading a book of science is hard. It’s a learning effort. If it’s about a new method or discipline – at least to you – then you’re learning the basics or even advanced stuff. Reading a book about science is hard because you have to figure out what’s accurate and what is meaning-spoiling-simplification. But it’s not a source of learning, at least is you are a STEM.

The wonderment here is that these books about science sell at all. They are generally unsatisfactory to STEMs and discussions with my colleagues indicate that the probability a STEM will buy a popularization scales approximately as the distance of the topic from their own field and endeavors. IOW, physicists don’t read popularizations of physics. 

But the questions is, do the non-STEMs? Obviously there is a great difference in expectation between the number of copies of a trashy novel sold and the number of copies of a serious (?) non-fiction book sold. Lowered expectations. So a best selling science popularization has several orders of magnitude sold than a book of socially acceptable pornography.

Which brings us to another distinction: porn. Books of science are not pornographic, even medical textbooks. Books about science are porn because they offer readers vicarious inclusion in the lives and deeds of STEMs. This is probably why so many academics write popularizations. They are thereby porn stars of a sort; they offers readers opportunity to emulate the authors’ lives.

But I don’t think STEM porn is really very popular, and not because of iys lack of veracity. More a matter that STEMs just aren’t sexually engaging. Even with other STEMs.

Facere Impetum

Four Day. Dihydrogen oxide falleth and is foretold by the weather beavers to persist all day. This illness has got me a bit turned about – probably the medications – so I got the podcast azimuth off yesterday. So today was science podcast day.

The Guardian Science Podcast was all about the chronic pain and the evils of the Capitalist system. Seems Big Pharma doesn’t want to do pain med research because the meds often have nasty side  effects with a few, and they don;t want to play with old ones for which the patent has expired.

So suffer for the free market, folks.

On which path, I also heard a podcast about a strong correlation between football games and rape on college campuses. Seeems that the density of involuntary copulation is much higher on game days. Quite significant. 

This isn’t surprising. At least to anyone who was an undergraduate at a college with a football team. Irrationality is rampant and the thrill of competition, actual or spectator, is so strong in males that they do dastardly thing. Like rape.

Maybe curfews for women are in order? After all, that’s why colleges had all sorts of coed restrictions when I was an undergrad. And no one ever mentioned rape. Not that you would expect them to. Women didn’t report then. And the college administration would never admit to such. Adverse impact on cash flow.

And I rather doubt that coeds would accept much in the way of restrictions. So maybe, do away with campus social organizations?

This brings us to the question of whether fraternities have any positive value. Ain’t gonna touch  that one. Too much emotion in the discussion.

Maths Blind

First Day. Frawggy. Not the nice type of fog that sits a few meters off the ground, the wet yucky kind that is everywhere. Hence to gym, and a podcast episode of the CBC’s “Best of Ideas” on Shackleton.

Shackleton is not someone I pay much mind of. Explorers aren’t that engaging. The most instructive thing about them is their inability to get along in society. So their chief benefit and therapy is going elsewhere.

The podcast was slanted rather heavily about climate change. Differences between then and now. They kept trying to make some moral/ethical connection but it failed consistently.

Speaking of failure, I ran across an article [Link] this weekend entitled “Gravity waves exemplify the power of intelligent equations.” And yes, this is one of those horrible parasitic pieces of journalism that use the current “big” topic as a shoehorn for something almost orthogonal. 

In this case, the article is really about the physics embedded/implied by maths. Gravitational waves are such a thing since Einstein saw them in his Relativity maths. 

This is not a new thing. It’s something you learn as an undergraduate, at least in physics. To a lesser extent in Chemistry and vanishingly in Biology. And it is a wonderful thing, I was particularly fulfilled by a quote from Heinrich Hertz,

“It is impossible to study this wonderful theory, without feeling as if the mathematical equations had an independent life and an intelligence of their own, as if they were wiser than ourselves, indeed wiser than their discoverer, as if they gave forth more than he had put into them.”

But the thing that struck me yesterday, and saddened me, was that since half of humanity is maths blind (acalculate) and much of the rest mind wiped on the subject, they can never enjoy the thrill and beauty of this. They have to live their lives in the dark, so to speak, unaware of what may be.

Very Greek Tragedy, I think. 

Book Gouging

Seven Day. Fair. At least so far. Air temperature about the same as yesterday so off I go to park. Halfway through first lap the rain portends. Plow on! But at a slightly – old man – pace.

I have been experimenting with a numbered week system. Hence the days are numbered rather than named. It works well for me, mostly because I don;t have to interact with bogs about it. 

Speaking of boggery I ran across an article [Link] in The Daily Illini, the campus rag of the Boneyard, on the subject of textbook prices, “The reason for the rise: College textbooks see price increase”. The basic bottom line is greed and pain avoidance. Evidently the textbook manufacturers up the prices of textbooks every year – and bring out new editions – to keep their stockholders off their cases. 

So a classic example of evil corporate greed. 

But what gathered me in was a claim that textbooks ‘ cost increased faster than other things. So I made a comparison. Basic text books cited: ~$300 Yankee. 

Back when I was a Freshman, comparable – maybe – textbooks were about $15, maybe $20. The first textbook I paid $50 for was in graduate schule. I say maybe because textbooks in those days weren’t full of color and crap like books today. My basic chemistry text was half the mass of its current equivalent. SO from a materials standpoint there is a significant difference.

If we ignore that the ratio of today price to then price is ~ 20.

When I was a freshman, hamburgers in greasy spoons cost $0.5. Today they cost $5. So a ratio of 10. (I have discussed the hamburger model of money previously.)

Based on this simple comparison model, textbooks have increased their price twice as fast as hamburgers and since hamburgers represent the economy…

Time to fix the problem. Starting with the professors and lecturers who abet the publishers.

FBI Worms

Sixth day. Even higher air temperatures. But larger wind speeds. So the constitutional was actually a bit colding.

Some intelligence on the FBI-Apple grrr brr is emerging, [Link] courtesy of the British press. Why is this so often the instance, that anything decent out of journalists has to come from England? More evidence that Amerika is one with the Austria-Hungarian Empire?

For once I have to agree with Apple. Usually I find them greedy slave-makers but in this instance their refusal is in the greater interest. I suspect that’s only the facade on why they are doing this but they’re getting enough grief from the Yankee Givernment’s Secret Police/Gestapo without me adding to their besetment.

Will they cave? Probably. After all, this is the home of the two-party dictatorship. That will demonstrate, once more, that democracy is dead and we may as well all move to some lesser decomposed country.

Not that we don’t deserve this. After all, we quit thinking about government years ago, back when we let the parties take power and turn us all into serfs.