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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: 2) by VLM on Monday March 24 2014, @01:33PM

    by VLM (445) on Monday March 24 2014, @01:33PM (#20205)

    You are correct, although I wouldn't be surprised to even see starter motor brushes go away eventually.

    Tangentially another interesting ratio to watch over the next few decades will be the ratio of shipping cost to labor cost. When most Americans are still employed and paid $25/hr and Chinese are political prisoners who work for free or work only to avoid beatings and diesel is $1/gallon that's one situation of world trade we decades of experience with. However, extrapolating into the future only a little bit, when all the good jobs are gone so the few remaining working Americans are only paid $8/hr on average and Chinese are paid $2/hr and diesel is $8/gallon that will result in a whole nother scenario of world trade.

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  • (Score: 2) by Grishnakh on Monday March 24 2014, @02:43PM

    by Grishnakh (2831) on Monday March 24 2014, @02:43PM (#20251)

    You are correct, although I wouldn't be surprised to even see starter motor brushes go away eventually.

    No, starter motor brushes will never go away. The complexity of a brushless motor isn't worth it for something run as infrequently as a starter motor, especially considering how much power a starter motor requires (far more than a radiator fan motor; starter motors have extremely high power density). Starter motors will always have brushes.

    What's going to happen is that starter motors will simply become obsolete before too long. They'll be replaced by starter/alternator/drivemotor units, as they already have on most hybrid vehicles, or they'll be rendered totally unnecessary with the move to all-electric vehicles like the Tesla.

    As for your predictions about labor rates and transport, don't forget just how incredibly cheap ocean-based transport is per ton. Even with higher diesel costs, that isn't going to add much to a product's price, so having Chinese labor rise up to 1/4 the cost of American labor will still make it worth it to ship most things from China. It'll affect things, sure, but it's not going to be the world-changing event you're thinking of. IIRC, it's actually far cheaper to ship things by ship across the Pacific than it is to ship them by train across the US (and truck is even worse).