RE: [unrev-II] Availability of Knowledge & Consequences of Efficiency

From: Garold (Gary) L. Johnson (
Date: Sun Oct 21 2001 - 08:44:49 PDT

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    You are absolutely right, but it is worse than that<g>.

    I believe that we are already beginning to suffer from the problem of not
    enough of what we designate as "work" to go around to allow everybody to get
    a slice of the economic pie based on production, and that will only get

    Currently work is tied to economic reward, which is tied to survival.
    Looking at history, however, we see:

    * At one time 95+% of people were involved in farming in some way, now that
    number is somewhere below 3% and falling, yet that 3% supplies more food for
    more people than the 95% used to.
    * At one time most people were involved in manufacturing (don't know the
    percentages) and that number shrinks continually while the volume of
    manufactured goods continues to increase.
    * Currently there are more and more people involved in some sort of
    information work and that number is growing.
    * We are starting to move into knowledge work (as opposed to information)
    and we will see that grow.

    I believe that one of the major social issues we will have to deal with is
    how to move from a "work equals survival" paradigm, and still have it be
    possible for people be productive. People who are not allowed to contribute
    in some way tend to go criminal, and there needs to be a way around that.

    I don't have an answer, and I don't think it will become critical in my
    lifetime, but I believe that it is a major social change that has to be
    made, and I would like to see the solution designed and engineered rather
    than "just happen".

    I read a book that I will have to dig out that makes a fair argument that we
    are already working at greatly lowered productivity levels to make the
    available work stretch to all the people. His claim is that nearly all
    industry is less than 50% efficient - I think he is optimistic based on my
    observations. He states the problem very well; unfortunately, his solution
    is central planning and just move people from whatever jobs they are in to
    the emerging jobs where they are needed - a solution that has been
    demonstrated to be unworkable.


    Garold (Gary) L. Johnson

    -----Original Message-----
    From: Eric Armstrong []
    Sent: Friday, October 05, 2001 9:56 PM
    Subject: Re: [unrev-II] Availability of Knowledge & Consequences of

    David Kankiewicz wrote:

    > P.S. Some how, you've made me convince myself that it has to be
    > created,
    > no matter what the cost... Hmm, I'm still thinking...

    Super discussion David. I wish we had the kind of collaboration tool
    we've been
    envisioning to carry it on, IBIS-style. I feel like we have a common
    goal -- to
    arrive at, or predict the arrival of, some kind of system that "works",
    and we're
    both struggling with a series of obstacles, alternatives, and
    implications that we're
    trying to make sense of.

    In my contracting, I've found that the majority of weeks, I work 32
    hours. That
    gives me enough time to be productive, and leavs time for things I'm
    in. I usually do that in 5 days. (I'd rather work 4 days, but cutting
    back to 24
    hour weeks would be financial suicide, and I find I just can't sustain
    consistent level of productivity for 8 hours.)

    I suspect the transition will involve cutting down work weeks like that
    -- but
    that transition assumes a big enough wage that its feasible.

    As a walked away earlier, I was thinking about your major premise --
    over time, fewer people will needed to do things we need them for now.
    I buy that premise. Even though I am less sanguine about how far or fast

    that trend proceed, I suspect it is inevitable -- barring a comet,
    running out
    of energy, running short of food, etc.

    That thought produces *two* interesting paths for the future:
      1) We render lots of people obsolete, by virtue of automation and
           knowledge-based systems.

       2) We press the reset button, and wind up having to rebuild
           after a long, dark age.

    Each of those scenarios has a strong probability. The status quo appears

    to me to be the lowest probablity future in the bunch.

    However, to return to your point -- what DO we do as we transition from
    a human-powered civilization to an increasingly machine-driven
    that takes advantage of automated knowledge systems?

    How will that transition play out? At first, we'll see increasing
    but it won't be so severe that it causes alarm. Later that number will
    If we're on the ball, we'll probably enact social legislation to reduce
    weeks, etc, so that we can keep consumers in enough coin to keep the
    economy moving -- otherwise, it could fall down for lack of people to
    spend money!

    Eventaully, we may well work our way down to 2 hour days. I hope
    so. I wonder how much suffering will occur as a result of the lag
    between our step-wise transition to that level, and the unemployment
    that precedes each step?

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