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Are US politicians just pretending to be ignorant about exponential growth in technology and its implications for society re: the future of work? Or are they in fact, ignorant?

mellon's picture

Science builds on itself and the more we know, the faster we learn more. Most of us must know this fact- which leads us in lots of directions. Here's a very important one. Probably around mid-century, we will become able to make machines which are "self aware" and as smart (or as dumb?) as we are, one of the implications of that being that long long before then, most jobs we now hire people to do will one by one, be automated, and whole job categories will not so gradually disappear at a rate we've never seen before. To be replaced by smaller numbers of new jobs that will blink into and out of existence rapidly as technology evolves faster and faster.

Predictability society used to count on is vanishing which means that we're increasingly likely to make huge and costly mistakes if we try to draw too many conclusions about the future based on the recent past. Predicting specific things very far into the future is an exercise in futility. I don't remember when I first started knowing this- a very long time ago.

So the people who go on insisting that nothing is changing and that unemployment is a personal failing? What about them, those $^@&@% politicians who want us to think that the poor are poor because there is something seriously wrong with them; and the rich are rich because they are better than the rest of us? Well, they are very wrong, and nothing is going to change that fact. Its likely that at some point not far away, so many of their formerly conservative constituents will have fallen off the economic map that they will have to change their positions- and the sooner they do, the less embarrassing it will be and the better the chance that they - and our society as a whole- will be able to navigate the future with success.

The tendency to make this particular error is human nature, to some extent, explained well in an essay by Ray Kurzweil in his "The Law of Accelerated Returns" People who are not directly involved with technology tend to underestimate the rate of scientific change because they look at the side of the curve that's in the past and guesstimate that the future side of the curve will be somewhat similar. But of course, it never is.

Either that or the drivers of the dysfunctional car America, who have been so irresponsible for so long that we seem to counterproductively expect too little from them, know they can get away to some extent with pretending they are not seeing the road ahead. But it's flirting with tragedy to pretend you don't see the road.

Which is worse, to pretend, to not see, or to in actuality not be looking at the road when you're driving?

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V. Arnold's picture
Submitted by V. Arnold on

...have an agenda and you and I are not it.
The interesting thing about the future is; it hasn't yet been written and nobody, I repeat nobody, knows what it holds.
Technology, as you point out, is exponential in growth (More's Law), but unforeseen events have a way of warping the perceived linear acceleration (it's not linear).
All we can really say is; we'll see (said by a very wise Buddhist monk).
I, for one, do not believe we can reliably plan for a future not known, much less imagined.
Living the simplest possible life is a tonic for an uncertain future, IMHO.

V. Arnold's picture
Submitted by V. Arnold on

...there is no reason to think it is not of limited duration, given the apparent acceleration...

okanogen's picture
Submitted by okanogen on

Put water back in depleted aquifers,
Unwarm the atmosphere
Grow plants without water
Love a child
Breed a cow.....

Submitted by lambert on

Not alone, no. At least for the first two items.