About that last post

Please view a very short animated video –



In the last post mariner mentioned that many issues would be too large for nations to manage well given their current economic structures. As Harari suggested, massive numbers of people will be jobless by current definitions of ‘job.’ Many of today’s nations, especially smaller authoritarian nations, will experience a virtual disappearance of national economy similar to today’s situation in Venezuela where even today a crooked, profit-driven authoritarian government cannot hold an economy together.

The future phenomenon will roll out slowly; there will be time for nations to take several steps in preparation for the economic collapse of the Job Religion. If the reader watched the animated video, it will be clear that, like climate change, slowly a clearly unbalanced economy and its negative impact on the world’s population already is beginning to emerge; especially given the ill-fitting capitalist, oligarchical economy in place in the US at this time.

The current emigration reflects the same issue as millions and millions of humans are displaced by oligarchies, religious and political wars and shifts in the climate on several continents.

Needless to say, there is feedback: Mariner is a socialist; mariner is a communist; mariner is a lazy person who does not want to work. Without gathering numbers, mariner suspects virtually all these criticisms come from members of the Donald Party – rich and poor, entrepreneur and laborer. Mariner’s wife will confirm that mariner is not happy with any –ism. Nor is he happy with the American electorate in general – including all the identity groups across the rainbow.

For the record,

Capitalism works best to fill economic vacuum – like the early US or now, artificial intelligence.

Socialism works best to homogenize and pasteurize a disruptive and unstable culture.

Communism works best to standardize diverse cultures and contentious economies.

Humanism is the best generic umbrella for any –ism.

Somehow, somewhere, Christ’s second commandment, the 6 – 9th commandments in Islam, or achieving dharma in Hindu, will become central principles for governing the populations of the world. Albert would call it reverence for life.

Ancient Mariner

The Future of Work – IV Slow and Fast

As the United States lives day-to-day, transition to a new world of work will be virtually unnoticed. Evidence will lie in statistics and deep economical analysis. However, in terms of careers and financial security across a lifetime, the financial underpinnings of work will seem to erode quickly; the ability to feel comfort through stable income, savings and retirement will become less secure. The millennial generation already knows that thirty-year jobs have all but disappeared. The millennial attitude is that they are on their own.

The attitude of the millennial generation represents a significant shift in the culture of work. Barely noticeable is a different behavior about job security, accepting short term employment much more casually than their grandfathers who worked in one factory for thirty-five years. Grandfather lived during the period before computers began to have an effect on factory employment and tenure. Those of us twice the age of a millennial watch them with a degree of anxiety; they are living without a net of financial security under them that their elders took for granted.

Today, large corporations like AT&T and General Electric have cut payroll by sixty percent. Google, a world-wide conglomerate, only has 55,000 employees. Google is about to roll out a driverless automobile. Transportation is the largest sector for male jobs in the US. The Swiss start postal service this very day with drones. Further, global corporations have mastered the ability to move to the least expensive labor force without much difficulty – thanks to the power of the Internet and cloud storage. The current labor disruption around the world is international trade agreements which aren’t trade agreements between nations; they are trade agreements between corporate consortiums that erode government authority, human rights and the power of the citizen to vote his or her future.

Slowly, the raggedness of the work culture will increase to a point that having any job may be a whistle in the dark for tens of millions of workers. The alternative is “self employment.” A good example is AirB&B. People list their living room sofa for one night stays; real estate agents have begun to buy houses and keep them for AirB&B income; everyone with a spare room can become a motel; everyone with a car can become a taxicab; dialup services like Angie’s List and Home Advisor have begun to include individuals who can fix a receptacle or weld a broken iron railing; at high profile destinations, AirB&B opportunities are undercutting amortized prices for corporate solutions like timeshares and bundled travel packages.

Two phenomena occur in this self employed market: The income is significantly lower than the income when they had a “job;” the second is that self employed people are happier. It is an irony that most people who have jobs are dissatisfied with them, are not happy with the work environment and find the work boring. On the other hand, these same people are unhappy if they do not have a job – unhappiness related to their inability to contribute to the greater value of society and the wellbeing of their families.

As this jobless society expands, many, if not most, will not have steady income; many will not earn enough to live even a meager lifestyle. Lack of income will come fast upon individuals who lose their regular jobs. The slow part is the transition of public and private institutions to a point where every citizen is available for what today is called a dole. The government must expand ideas similar to Social Security, welfare, paid services like health, and the existence of price controls on most services and purchases. This challenge is a difficult one for a capitalistic society. Change will come slowly.

Institutions already are making adjustments to the new labor market. Government, colleges, and private sector training are growing steadily. Unemployment benefits frequently are extended to eighteen months or more. A few corporations make room for subsidized small businesses that contribute to the corporate productivity. The American automobile industry has used this model for most of its existence.

Normal to the history of change in society, it is the proletariat that will bear the cost of change. We can hope that the change to a jobless society will not last too long. What can we do to ease transition?

Ancient Mariner


The Future of Work – III When Jobs End

In the past, all the way back to the earliest beginnings of the Industrial Revolution around 1800, older job opportunities that were eliminated by mechanization reemerged as new opportunity in new production jobs created by the revolution. Without the support of company sponsored training or unemployment insurance, these transitions were hard times for the displaced workers. Still, at some point, a worker could find another job in a new production sector. The same has been true for every turn of automation since.

However, it is a common position among futurists that, moving forward through the 21st century, the number of jobs available will begin to dwindle. It may be that large numbers of citizens will not have the opportunity to find another job. As a rule of thumb right now, economists determine that every major shift in the economy creates a job loss of 15% that will not be recovered in the transition. At some point, automation will increase this loss incrementally – never to be recouped.

It is important to dissect “job” from “work.” A job is the result of hiring by an employer wherein the individual hired receives a salary or some form of recompense. Work is the act of investing personal time, energy, and other resources wherein the individual feels justified in one’s behavior and feels personally responsible for one’s contribution; the individual also derives a sense of self worth from doing the work. A job can fulfill an act of work but work has a broader definition that includes the wellbeing of the individual.
The introduction to an article in The Atlantic written by Derek Thompson expands on the difference between jobs and work and shows that although different, the two are permanently entwined:

“The end of work is still just a futuristic concept for most of the United States, but it is something like a moment in history for Youngstown, Ohio, one its residents can cite with precision: September 19, 1977.

For much of the 20th century, Youngstown’s steel mills delivered such great prosperity that the city was a model of the American dream, boasting a median income and a homeownership rate that were among the nation’s highest. But as manufacturing shifted abroad after World War II, Youngstown steel suffered, and on that gray September afternoon in 1977, Youngstown Sheet and Tube announced the shuttering of its Campbell Works mill. Within five years, the city lost 50,000 jobs and $1.3 billion in manufacturing wages. The effect was so severe that a term was coined to describe the fallout: regional depression.

Youngstown was transformed not only by an economic disruption but also by a psychological and cultural breakdown. Depression, spousal abuse, and suicide all became much more prevalent; the caseload of the area’s mental-health center tripled within a decade. The city built four prisons in the mid-1990s—a rare growth industry. One of the few downtown construction projects of that period was a museum dedicated to the defunct steel industry….”
“….the widespread disappearance of work would usher in a social transformation unlike any we’ve seen. If John Russo1 is right, then saving work is more important than saving any particular job. Industriousness has served as America’s unofficial religion since its founding. The sanctity and preeminence of work lie at the heart of the country’s politics, economics, and social interactions. What might happen if work goes away?”
1 John Russo, Professor of labor studies at Youngstown State University.

The conservative constraints on what constitutes work today, when even government work “is not real work,” is tied to the roots of capitalism and work ethic in American history. Roots bound in hundreds of years of culture suggest that a change in that culture will be resisted just as the transition from slavery to modern civil rights is resisted. It will take generations to restructure the opportunity to work and to establish an adequate financial subsidy. In the case of work, joblessness will require more immediate transition which may not change smoothly if hurried. For example, how hard has it been (and will it be) to redefine Hispanic immigration? There are great grandchildren of undocumented workers living in the US. Whole generations of Hispanics carry an anxiety within themselves: “When will I be found out?”

There will come a moment when a great layoff will occur for which job replacement is not available. In that moment, a new world of work will be born wherein citizens are paid a stipend so that each citizen may continue to work – whether a job definition exists is irrelevant. A society cannot operate except people are allowed expression through work, contribution, and personal gratification. A “job,” on the other hand, is a matter of definition, nothing else.

There is no doubt that the welfare mother who raises her children to be responsible adults is doing valuable work. In the future, this could be considered her job.

Ancient Mariner

The Future of Work – I

The mariner has pondered for decades how human culture would operate in the age of the Jetsons (animated TV show from 1962-1990 sporadically). Everything in the future was automated; automatons were everywhere and performed virtually every job requiring hands and decision-making. What did George Jetson do at work? What was his actual job? What was his product? A humorous cartoon show about the future is not the place to wax culturally about the ramifications of such intense automation.
In the early years of the nineteenth century, it was the Luddites who protested against newly developed, labor-economizing technologies. The Luddites were textile workers that were put out of work by improved methods for making frames and looms. These jobs were lower income jobs and labor-intensive in nature. The Luddites were simply left on a limb without options or income.
At the turn of the twentieth century, it was carriage makers, harness makers, blacksmiths and farriers among many other skilled laborers who were dropped from the work force as the automobile suddenly replaced the horse as the common form of transportation.
Throughout the later years of the century, especially from 1970 to the present, millions of jobs disappeared in the US due to automation and trade policies that sent many surviving labor jobs to less expensive labor markets in less developed nations.
In the twenty-first century, disappearing jobs is a chronic issue that is rising to the surface of the workforce. Automated services already are affecting very large sectors of employment. Consider the following:
• Within fifteen years, fast food restaurants will no longer require counter workers or preparation workers. Perhaps the manager and a helper will be all the humans required to serve the public. Anyone who has visited a fast food restaurant recently can see the transformation to automated service occurring systematically. In the United States alone, 4.4 million workers depend on these jobs.
• Even now, retail sales are undergoing massive conversion to automated service. Simply ordering online instead of shopping at a store is decimating “brick and mortar” outlets, forcing many large and familiar retail chains to go out of business or close significant numbers of stores. The floor sales person is coming to an end as more and more products can be bought or ordered via machines. Many retail sectors will have growth in sales but the number of employees will diminish drastically. Today, retail sales support 42 million jobs.
• Within two decades, the transportation industry will drop millions of transportation jobs because of automated buses, trucks, trains and automobiles. A 2013 study by Oxford University predicts that automation will replace half the jobs in the US by 2040.
Being employed is not the only issue. Since 2000, the average wage of college graduates has dropped over 7%. US wages in general have stalled since 1985 for economic reasons but now face further cuts without relief. In every case the mariner could find, trade agreements have reduced job opportunities in the US. President Obama claims the TPP will return manufacturing jobs to the US but every indicator of future employment suggests that the wages will be low and the opportunities, even as they occur, will be lost to automation.
Setting jobs and income aside for the moment, there are two cultural issues. The first is if vast numbers of men and women cannot find work, what do they do all day? Especially in America, where having a job has become a permanent part of the American psyche, how does one feel successful? What is a person’s worth if they cannot produce income or physical participation in society?
The second cultural issue is class stratification. There will be sectors where jobs escape automation, will likely have better salaries, will be more influential in the evolution of politics, culture, and are able to participate in the benefits that come from financial security. What we consider lower level jobs today will be the common job of everyone whose job has disappeared. Quite likely, a worker will work part-time.
The automation of work is similar to the effect of a tsunami as it comes to land: It comes quickly and silently until it is too late; it literally erases the cultural fabric that binds every citizen to another; it makes present ideas about economy useless.
Yet, it is almost impossible to guess what the future looks like. The future is so different that we cannot envision it. It sits on the other side of a solid wall that blocks our view and our imagination. Like the tsunami, it is approaching us even now – but we have no way to protect ourselves.
What shall we do?
Ancient Mariner