Friday, July 31, 2015

Machines and the Jobless Future

This conversation was inspired in part by Episodes 622 through 626 of the podcast called Planet Money, which episodes imagine a world where machines do most of the work. Check it out.

Today's people of highest social status are the leaders of big companies. As machines replace human beings in many jobs, we can imagine a world in which the number of people actually working becomes lower and lower, as a percentage of the population. Let's say that after a certain point, only 35% of people need to work in order to support everybody. 

Let's assume that within the realm of those 35% (the producers with jobs) there will always be a range of jobs from desirable - e.g. the CEO of a company - to undesirable - e.g. harvesting food. It's hard to deny that those with desirable jobs will always have a high social status - it will be both necessary for their morale and natural for them to be approved of by society at large by granting them high status. But it's not hard to imagine a food picker having a lower status than someone who doesn't work at all.

Of course there are the positive psychological effects of working, which are hard to distinguish from the current social status we give to workers as opposed to "lazy" non-workers. What if people who did not work were no longer considered lazy, but rather just unnecessary for the effective functioning of the economy? And many people who do work today are not even granted the rights of citizens (migrant Mexican farm workers) - so it's not hard at all to imagine that a group of very low paid workers would continue to have very low social status. But what of the 65% of people who are not needed at all, as far as the macro-economy was concerned? It's not hard to imagine that some of them will have very high social status - they can't all be destined to be beggars, or else no one will be able to afford to buy the stuff the 35% are producing. The 35% could keep it for themselves, out of an indigence that only workers should be able to buy the products of other workers.

The problem is that the people who don't work will still need to be able to buy stuff from the people who do, and how will they get the money to do this? Will the problem be solved by simply creating as many jobs out of thin air as possible? People will need a way of judging themselves, and it's only natural to imagine the person who works is more valuable than the one who doesn't - except that in the days of slavery it was just the opposite.

Modern capitalist companies are driven by the goals of cutting costs, but this seems unsustainable when you consider that people need to have money to buy things. If a single machine could produce all the clothes for a billion people, how would the people get the money to buy the clothes, if they didn't have jobs? If machines could produce everything they needed, there would be fewer and fewer jobs. But a company only thrives on their ability to sell things.


In all likelihood, people will create more jobs in the service business, where the jobs consist of poorer people being servants to richer people - jobs DEFINED as requiring real people instead of machines. Either that, or some artificial way of distributing wealth can be conceived, like Social Security already is, but extended to all people instead of just certain groups.




Check out this episode!

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Bringin' Shamanism Back

A discussion about Zach's video, "I'm Bringing Shamanism Back", found here:

The Trio discuss what has been lost from the world of mental health treatment by the replacement of ancient practices such as shamanism and witchcraft with "reason" and medical diplomas. The key feature of Shamanism which attracts Zach is the idea that mental illness is itself the initiatory event in the creation of a mental health expert - that authority and expertise in mental health comes primarily from those who have already had mental illnesses - unlike physical illnesses, where one can merely study and practice in order to become competent.

The Placebo effect is considered. "The shaman creates a custom placebo just for you. And it might have to do with wrapping a snake around your neck, or dancing in a pile of mud or something… in other words, he doesn't just have one pill that he gives to everybody. He's an artist of the Placebo. A Placebo should be a work of art, and that's the job of the shaman."

Zach claims one must have a mental illness before one can be an expert in the field. Ethan: "[But] the Westerner in me is always going to find holes in this. I'm thinking about the practical implications. How do we operationalize this? It's really not practical, unless we reduce communities to a smaller size and we have the community shaman again."

Society as a whole is like a mental health patient. Perhaps it requires a shaman (Zach?) to heal it. Zach: "When somebody gets depressed, you need to go to where they are. And they need to know that you get what they're saying. You can relieve them of a huge burden if they realize, 'Oh, this is where I am, and this other person is here with me.' If the world itself is the patient, you need to go to where the world is."


…and tell us about your friends!

Check out this episode!

Friday, July 17, 2015

Speed x 2.0

The Trio accelerate past the frontiers of known podcasting in this episode. Unfortunately, no one can be told what it's like. You have to experience it for yourself. Moreover, there's no turning back. Once you descend the rabbit hole, you'll never listen to another podcast the same way again. The choice is yours. But by way of encouragement, here's a hint: Wonderland is just like Paradise.

Check out this episode!

Monday, July 13, 2015

The Psychological Marketplace

The Trio steal $1000 from a baby - but they don't care, because babies only understand the "emotional economy", not the financial one. There is a giant "psychological marketplace" that parallels the monetary one, in which people participate through their relationships with each other. They instinctively trade psychological commodities - but sometimes these instincts go astray and the underlying workings of the economy must be examined. 

The idea behind this episode is actually rather easy to grasp - that the economics of trading in a marketplace also apply to human relationships, where you have a kind of psychological energy being traded instead of money. People feel bad when they get a bad bargain and happy when they get good ones. A useful metaphor indeed!


Check out this episode!

Monday, July 6, 2015

What Good Is Expertise?!?

A young student approaches a purportedly wise teacher and asks a question. The teacher's answer makes no sense to the student. The student says she doesn't understand, and the teacher gives an answer which she still doesn't understand. Who's to blame??

The Trio investigate the value of knowing a lot, versus being able to communicate it. Is the idea itself hard, or is the communication just really poor? How does one defend oneself against people who use the pretense of knowing a lot but really know very little? When should experts be respected versus rejected? Sometimes a great mind needs a great communicator, such as in the case of Zach's hero Edward F. Edinger for Carl Jung, and Ethan's Gilles Deleuze for Nietzsche and Spinoza.


In conclusion… another very interesting topic from the Trio!


Check out this episode!