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posted by LaminatorX on Sunday March 23 2014, @11:32PM   Printer-friendly
from the Where's-my-20-hour-work-week? dept.

Papas Fritas writes:

"Jeremy Rifkin writes in the NYT that the inherent dynamism of competitive markets is bringing down costs so far that many goods and services are becoming nearly free, abundant, and no longer subject to market forces and while economists have always welcomed a reduction in marginal cost, they never anticipated the possibility of a technological revolution that might bring those costs to near zero. The first inkling of this paradox at the heart of capitalism came in 1999 when Napster enabled millions of people to share music without paying the producers and artists, wreaking havoc on the music industry. Similar phenomena went on to severely disrupt the newspaper and book publishing industries. The huge reduction in marginal cost is now beginning to reshape energy, manufacturing and education. "Although the fixed costs of solar and wind technology are somewhat pricey, the cost of capturing each unit of [renewable] energy beyond that is low (PDF)," says Rifkin. As for manufacturing "thousands of hobbyists are already making their own products using 3-D printers, open-source software and recycled plastic as feedstock, at near zero marginal cost" and more than six million students are enrolled in "free massive open online courses, the content of which is distributed at near zero marginal cost."

But nowhere is the zero marginal cost phenomenon having more impact than the labor market, where workerless factories and offices, virtual retailing and automated logistics and transport networks are becoming more prevalent. What this means according to Rifkin is that new employment opportunities will lie in the collaborative commons in fields that tend to be nonprofit and strengthen social infrastructure like health care, aiding the poor, environmental restoration, child care, care for the elderly, and the promotion of the arts and recreation. "As for the capitalist system, it is likely to remain with us far into the future, albeit in a more streamlined role, primarily as an aggregator of network services and solutions, allowing it to thrive as a powerful niche player in the coming era. We are, however, entering a world partly beyond markets, where we are learning how to live together in an increasingly interdependent, collaborative, global commons.""

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  • (Score: 4, Insightful) by Covalent on Monday March 24 2014, @02:46AM

    by Covalent (43) on Monday March 24 2014, @02:46AM (#20056) Journal

    Look at the situation in very poor neighborhoods in America. Many people in these areas cannot afford much of anything - they live at the mercy of charities and welfare. For this population, there is already a "money free economy". Now there is of course commerce. Jobs are had and lost, things are bought and sold. But the number of people who "earn" a living is shrinking as a percentage of the population, in large part because there aren't enough jobs to employ all of the unskilled people.

    What do these people do with their time? Mostly they try to survive, and spend the rest of their time on entertainment (TV, internet, video games - much of which can be gotten very cheaply). So extrapolate this out a bit (I know, it's a dangerous thing to do but let's go for it anyway). Suppose we have 20% of the population not working. They don't cost the state as much as you might think, though, because this is the future and stuff is cheaper. Food is already cheap. Housing is cheap because the population has leveled off at 9 billion or so. Entertainment is most people in this situation just vegetate. They enjoy their amusements and scrape by.

    Then it's 40%. Then 50%. At some point, automation starts to take over the jobs of skilled people, then technical people, then maybe even artistic people and academic people.

    What then? This group might just vegetate and enjoy amusement, too. But is there a group of those people that will "work" just to cure their boredom?

    I think the answer is decidedly Yes. This is Roddenberry's utopia (mentioned earlier). In the Star Trek universe, there are those people who choose to join Starfleet and work...for nothing other than the satisfaction of doing it. They are the future's version of Linux developers and maker faire folks. What we rarely see on the show, though, are the rest of humanity. What glimpses we do get are often people involved in gambling, black market scheming, criminal activities, or just generally amusing themselves. Sound familiar?

    So my two cents is this: The future will involve the elimination of work done by humans for compensation. Some humans will continue to work because they are driven to do things that interest them. There will be little or no cost to this - automation will make nearly everything effectively free. The rest of humanity (probably a large percentage) will plug their brains into the internet v12.0 and watch porn or movies or games or play candy crush.

    Sadly, this sounds a bit like 1984. Damn that Orwell...

    You can't rationally argue somebody out of a position they didn't rationally get into.
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  • (Score: 3, Insightful) by mhajicek on Monday March 24 2014, @03:15AM

    by mhajicek (51) on Monday March 24 2014, @03:15AM (#20064)

    What do these people do with there time? Frequently, reproduce.

    The spacelike surfaces of time foliations can have a cusp at the surface of discontinuity. - P. Hajicek
  • (Score: 2) by evilviper on Monday March 24 2014, @12:15PM

    by evilviper (1760) on Monday March 24 2014, @12:15PM (#20169) Homepage Journal

    Look at the situation in very poor neighborhoods in America. Many people in these areas cannot afford much of anything

    I believe the cost of real-estate in cities is the dominant cost... You could be middle-class in most of the US, but unable to afford a tiny apartment in NYC, LA, etc. It's a shame "welfare" doesn't have the option of relocating them to smaller towns away from the city, where a fraction as much money would easily pay their rent AND keep them fed and equipped. I certainly consider rental prices when looking at job salaries in different areas... that's a big reason why I never moved to Silicon Valley. So why can't welfare programs?

    As a single, middle-class guy, I'm paying 1/3rd of my gross income in taxes... If my job didn't prevent me from moving back to a lower-rent area, I could live comfortably for 4 years, on just what I pay in income taxes each year (never mind sales taxes, gas taxes, etc., etc.)... Of course much of that goes to military, police, roads, not just social programs, but still. Since the breakdown between tax-paying versus non-tax-paying people is more like 50-50, it sounds like there should be plenty of money to go around, if it was not for welfare programs paying astronomical rent prices in major cities (See: Section 8).

    Hydrogen cyanide is a delicious and necessary part of the human diet.