It's time to have a 2020 Presidential Election thread


This struck me as a fascinating thought. What is the maximum amount of work that needs to be done in a society? On the face of it, I’d guess it wasn’t actually infinite, purely because these things rarely are. But that’s just a guess…

If everyone in the population has all their needs and desires met, what else is there to do? (Or is the assumption that people’s desires could ever be fully met a faulty one?) There is the general advancement of knowledge and science - would this have a ceiling on the maximum rate of advancement that could be achieved? Or an end state, where either everything is known, or some permanent barrier to such understanding is found?

Sorry, a bit off topic, but thought it was an interesting idea you mentioned, and I’ve genuinely no idea what I think yet!


I don’t know why we should assume that we’re nearing the end of human needs when that has never happened before. Every time we’ve introduced a wave of innovation and efficiency we’ve just found new ways to fill the time with new needs that take advantage of the new capabilities.

In 1940 people weren’t sitting around wishing they had a way to browse a website full of cute cat pictures for hours. That need simply didn’t exist. Just like we can’t imagine some of the dumb shit we’re going to be doing to take advantage of more stuff being automated.


The first wave of automation replaced manual labor, but people could still work in service labor. The second wave of automation replaces service labor, and undoubtedly some people will find work in mental labor. The next phase of automating will replace mental labor. What sort of labor remains?


Well, since it’s the end, you by definition wouldn’t have had it happen before. But yeah, i don’t think we are gonna get there anytime soon.


Well, not all mental labor is equal. Just as some kinds of physical labor were more easily automated than others, the same goes for labor requiring cognitive processing.

Eventually though, after you have automated it all? At that point you’re able to penis so some crazy things, and solve some very hard problems. Eh, either humans go extinct, or perhaps exist in some state where all labor is essentially just recreational.


There is a lot of science fiction about this. Banks’s Culture books come to mind (nobody works for existence, everyone’s needs are met, everyone is effectively rich). People still do stuff, but it is mostly because they want to do it.

Even Robinson dabbles in this in the Mars books; the Mars colonists seem to more or less work on what they want to work on, at least once the colony has been well established.


I wish to god I had more wit to respond to that.


I think the entire paragraph deserves to be bolded.


Well, new desires and needs keep getting invented. I have a strong desire to keep playing video games, which means lots of people need to work to make them. I doubt that had much of an impact on the economy of ancient Rome!


As we can see, the intelligence behind Google’s autocorrect is not quite at the level where we have to worry about AI replacing humans.

(I think that was originally supposed to be “solve”? Penis so some is pretty good though too.)


Autocorrect is the Spectre vulnerability for humans. Hmm!


Leave it to Google to cock that up.


True, but there will still only be an upper limit of 24hrs/day to fill per person. Maybe I was too pedantically fixated on whether there would be an actually infinite amount of work to always be needed.

I’ll look into these examples, thanks, this idea does prick my interest: I haven’t read much Banks or any Robinson. But just to contrast my lower culture expectations, I am unshakeable in my belief that, post-capitalism, we will set up a Starfleet and boldly go etc etc.


I mean, I’m all for going full Culture, but the problem will be when no one can hold a job and they still need jobs to survive. So we either have the people with all the money help pay for it, or there is a revolt where everyone destroys all the robots and kills all the people that own them and we get set back several decades. I’d rather try the first method than wait until the second one happens.


I am with you entirely.


You’re in for a treat!


I mean, if we have a surplus of people compared to jobs, there other options.

We could reduce the work week to something like 20 hours. There is nothing in the world that mandates a 40 hour work week. If 20 hours is sufficient, we could make that the new norm.

Also, if we have a surplus of people, there are some jobs that could always use more people. We could channel more people into schools, lowering classroom sizes to something manageable. We could also have more journalists, nurses, doctors and other essentially jobs that might benefit from a more human touch.

But to go back to an earlier discussion, a person’s time and labor has some innate value, regardless of the work. There is no job so useless that the person doing it should not have the dignity of being able to live off it’s salary. No job.

Except maybe middle managers. Seriously, what do those people even do?


QFMFT! Lucky dog, you.


We should already be moving that direction. And finding ways to accommodate people leaving the workforce at earlier ages, to make room for young people.

When I was a middle manager, I kept the developers from destroying the company. So, it wasn’t nothing.


There’s tons of work that needs doing now that isn’t done: cleaning forests so they don’t burn every year, repair crumbling infrastructure, transform the existing infrastructure into sustainable one (smart electric grid, more and better mass transit, more efficient homes, …) , shopping for the disabled, taking good care of the elder or disabled, a lot more care of mental health, a lot more preemptive medicine, cleaning rivers, taking care of parks and monuments… if only someone thought of a Job Guarantee as a buffer against a downturn!
As to automation, Timex is right, it’s not a magic pill. For many tasks, you can’t do it without a human. You can’t understand a language without understanding a ton of context (this video made me realize it), whether it’s from the group, the region, the country, then there’s tone and intent… by that point, you’ve made a sentient species with everything that comes with it, and no technical person thinks we’re close. Jobs will go away, but if even the Luddites were fighting labor practices and not the machines, so can we.