The Monday Morning Teaser

A few years ago I established the practice of cancelling the Sift on Mondays following Sundays where I spoke in a church. The Sunday/Monday expenditure of energy seemed like too much for me. But in those days I only spoke two or three times a year, so I needed the breaks anyway. This year my speaking schedule has picked up, and I seem to be cancelling about one Sift a month, which I think is too much. It throws off my rhythm, and creates doubt in readers’ minds about whether there is a Sift this week or not.

So in March I’m planning to try something different: When I speak in a church on March 26, I’ll follow on the 27th with half a Sift: a weekly summary, but no featured post. We’ll see how that works.

Anyway, I’m back this week with another one of those long articles I’ve been thinking about for a while: “Jobs, Income, and the Future”. If you’re sick of reading my articles about the Trump administration, this one’s for you.

For years, I’ve been reading stuff by two kinds of people:

  • economists, who think job-destroying technologies have been a constant part of the economic landscape for centuries, and consequently believe that fiscal and monetary policy can deal with the new waves of job destruction that will come from robotics and artificial intelligence;
  • technologists, who say it’s different this time — AI and robotics challenge not just individual professions, but the fundamental economic competitiveness of human beings. Ultimately, then, we need to move away from a job-based economy into some other method of supporting everyone, like a basic income.

My uncertainty comes from the fact that both types are saying what their profession always says: Technologists always think it’s different this time, and economists never believe it. But no system lasts forever, so someday it will be different. Are we there yet or not?

What I come around to believing is: almost. Right now, proper macroeconomic policy is still capable of bringing us to full employment in decent jobs — though not if we continue on the market-worshiping path we’ve been on the last few decades. But the Robot Apocalypse is coming, and will require the kind of social change that we need to start working on right away.

That post still needs a little work, so let’s predict it appearing around 10.

Sadly, the weekly summary takes us back to the world of Trump: Russia, his speech to Congress, rolling back Obama’s climate-change initiatives, taking the Justice Department out of the business of reining in racist local police, reneging on his promise that the Keystone Pipeline will use American steel, and so on.

But there are also a few non-Trump items: I learned something new about 9-11, Brownback’s low-tax Kansas experiment stumbles towards an ending, and I took a cute picture of a sandhill crane chick. The closing is Patrick Stewart and Stephen Colbert doing “Waiting for Godot’s ObamaCare Replacement”.

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  • Xan  On March 6, 2017 at 7:59 am

    The Doug Effect was in full flower this week. You really need to stop skipping weeks. Shit goes down when you’re not writing.

  • Ben  On March 6, 2017 at 8:51 am

    Your post is timely. I am reading Kurt Vonnegut’s Player Piano written in 1952 about the worship of machines and the marketplace. The story is about an America in which only engineers and managers have jobs and everyone else either works for the military or infrastructure projects as decided by computers. Interestingly at the beginning of the story the president is a former TV star.

  • Roger Owen Green  On March 6, 2017 at 8:53 am

    As you no doubt have surmised, a half Sift is better than none.

  • pauljbradford  On March 6, 2017 at 9:33 am

    Typo “if we continuing” should be “if we continue”.

  • Anonymous  On March 6, 2017 at 10:54 am

    Or, “if we are continuing.”

  • Kenneth  On March 6, 2017 at 1:06 pm

    I applaud the plan to do a weekly summary every week even if you’re preaching (assuming there will be some vacation weeks).

  • Tom Amitai (@TomAmitaiUSA)  On March 7, 2017 at 9:36 am

    America’s shadow is not necessarily as dark as Depression-era Germany’s shadow.

    Depression-era Germany didn’t have thermonuclear weapons.

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