Saturday, September 10, 2011

Technology - Keeping poor people poor

Technology makes us better (mostly).

It's a simple promise. Someone is going to innovate and solve a problem or optimize an existing problem. This process creates wealth, but it also creates a poverty.

Let's consider the case of the baker. A baker would mix, kneed, and bake bread. Let's say the price of bread costs one bitcoin and it takes one hour to bake a loaf of bread. The baker has 10 families to feed with their oven. Everyday, the baker gets up and prepares bread in an hour and then loafs around for ten hours to exchange loafs and interact with customers. Each family gets their bread and pays one bitcoin. Now the baker traded ten bit coins for eleven hours of his time. This is good revenue that enables his family to live well in the cottage down the street.

This lasts about ten years until those families have double. Now, there are twenty families. He doesn't want to spend twenty hours loafing about to bake bread. He has the decision: innovate or expand. He is rather primitive and hires an assistant who then takes over the night shift. Eventually, the assistant gets pissed off about his less than fair wages and then builds his own bakery. Now, the society has two bakers. Years pass again, now there are fourty families. Each baker is stressed and tries the same thing, and the cycle repeats until there are four bakers.

Now, someone invents a high capacity oven that can bake four loafs per hour. It's a innovation that changes the world. These bakers have a choice since there is more bread than what is needed. The families know of the same innovation and now expect a lower price from the bakers because they are not working as hard. So, they lower the price to half a bitcoin. In lowering the price, they have to increase their volume to maintain their life style. Now, there is competition. Now, location, quality, selection, branding, and other ways to differentiate become a part of equation.

So, location is the key differentiation. Now to get bread, most families go to the original baker since he is at the heart of the town where most work is. Those other bakers? Well, they are fucked. Now they are unemployed in a useless profession until the families spawn more. Some of them try to work for the original baker who is now dominating the entire market. Each of them know that they can be replaced, so the market losers try to win in the new job market. The baker can't hire everybody, and why should he? Two people working half as hard as they used to satisify the same demand. The employee baker is now making more money what he was making (although not as much as the boss employee) and he is doing less work; he is happy. The other bakers are out in the cold.

Now, these bakers out in the cold either have to survive the "baker" recession which lasts until the next generation of families pop up. By then, the market mover can hire them as employees. But, it doesn't end as an eight capacity oven comes out just as the families are appearing.

This is the story we have.


Technology has the prime directive of making our life better in some way, shape, or form. This has the unfortunate consequence of requiring people to be agile to change. We invent stuff, and sometimes, it changes how we work enough to the point where we are more productive with less of our most precious resource: time.

If you want to be successful, then be prepared for and anticipate change. I live every day like a super computer is going to do my job tomorrow, and I love it. I'd much rather be camping.

We should want to be lazy, sitting on a beach, camping in the forest, climbing a mountain, playing chess. We should want these things. Some of us spend so much damn time trying to innovate and put ourselves out of a job that we forget to do the things we are working hard to achieve.

Course Correction

I'm a huge fan of education, and I love to learn. I'm a fan of any government program to try to take unemployed people and make them useful in other contexts.

I'd vote for something that reduced the work week from 40 hours to 32 hours yet required the same pay. I know some 40 hour jobs can be done in 4.

Poor people, by definition, can't change into the roles needed by magic. College is expensive. Computers cost money. Government training programs suck and only prepare people for 1-2 years until the next innovation makes them useless.

I'd be in favor of sacking a lot of wealthy finance people since I believe they did steal of a bunch of fucking money with stupid rules. I have yet to see how an excel spreadsheet could turn into a robot to do my dishes.

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