Thursday, December 8, 2016

Stephen Hawkins says, "This is the most dangerous time for our planet!"

Change is necessary to avoid revolutions of the kind experienced in both China and Egypt, the conditions of severe economic inequality and lack of opportunity for a decent life that i was able to witness first hand shortly before their uprisings.
Brexit and Trump's election, along with massive job losses via robotics, are early signs that revolution is near, something i have been writing about on this site since 2006.
Massive change in our thinking of how we cope with precarious part time, contract, and casual work, job losses due to technology, and in fairer sharing of the wealth and opportunity in our society is necessary to avoid revolution, rebellion, and impending gloom.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

The Next Technology Revolution Will Drive Abundance And Income Disparity

The new technology revolution will result in dramatically increasing productivity and abundance but the process of getting there raises all sorts of questions about the changing nature of work and the likely increase in income disparity.

With less need for human labor and judgment, labor will be devalued relative to capital and even more so relative to ideas and machine learning technology. 

In an era of abundance and increasing income disparity, we will need a new version of capitalism that is focused on more than just efficient production but one that also places greater prioritization on the less desirable side effects of capitalism---such as a fair distribution of the riches of the economy in light of few jobs.

Read what Vinad Khosla, Co-founder of Sun Microsystems, says about this!

Sunday, November 20, 2016

The Day Of Reckoning Is Near!

Here is yet another explanation of big scale economic changes taking place in the “developed world”----the concentration of wealth in the hands of a few as technology replaces workers.

While productivity continues to grow exponentially, worker’s employment and share of the growing profits and employment continues to fall! 

The day of reckoning is near!

Who is going to consume all the output from those machines when few people work?

Is anyone thinking of how to keep the economy working when few people have disposable income, consumption falls, and all those companies without sales shutter their doors because of lack of business?

If not!  Revolution is at hand!

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Shangra Lai is near!

The best of our world's future Shangra Lai is near, when robotics and computerized technology will replace most human work, and unchain us all from the imprisonment of work---replacing what we have to do with what we want to do.   

Paid work is a recent phenomenon in human history only arising in the last 200-300 years, while unpaid slavery started in our earliest civilizations and co-exists with paid work in some societies even today.  Before work was paid, it was mostly individual or group subsistence in a sharing society. 

The challenge in the new future will be for humanity to adjust to productive use of leisure time,  

I do believe that without human jobs, a fairer sharing of economic wealth will result through guaranteed income plans which will necessarily arise to keep the economy afloat.  This will result in a greater equity and higher living standards for all and poverty, greed, crime, war, disease, etc. all will be eliminated...all part of our future "civilized" Shangra Lai.

As a transition to a jobless world, I believe that the work week, which hasn't been adjusted downward in 60 years from 40 hours per week despite the arrival of computerized technology and robotics, should be reduced to a level, perhaps full time work of 20 hours per week, to reduce growing unemployment levels and to allow all to job-share and profit from the new technology as well as to provide all learning opportunity to adjust to more leisure time.  Also the increased productivity of the computer age should allow pay to be tied to productivity rather than hours worked.

I am pleased that Elon Musk has recently stated that he too agrees that some form of guaranteed income is inevitable as technology steals most jobs.  

Musk states he is not sure of funding mechanisms for the universal guaranteed income plans but this is a topic I have given thought to, and a post on this site of my thoughts and ideas on the topic is being prepared for an upcoming posting.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Ontario proposes major test of guaranteed minimal annual income plan

Ontario is poised to become ground zero for what may be the largest pilot project yet to test the notion of a basic income in North America.

In a discussion paper released Thursday, Ontario’s special adviser on basic income suggests topping up incomes of the working poor and replacing the province’s meagre and rule-bound social assistance program with a monthly payment of at least $1,320 for a single person, or about 75 per cent of the poverty line.
I see this as a trial study of economic systems that will be forced to emerge widely in the near future to supply consumption to keep economies afloat as most workers are replaced by robotics and other computerized technology.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

"Should the government pay to keep you alive?"

An interesting debate--"Should the government pay to keep you alive?" While your immediate answer may be, "Hell No! People have to get off their asses and look after themselves!"---this traditional attitude is being increasingly challenged by thinkers on both the left and right extremes of the political spectrum as the world becomes increasingly dependent on smart machines rather than human labour to do most of the work. This article will challenge your perspective about the validity of your long held views as we are propelled into the new world! Get ready to "TAKE OFF!"

Friday, October 7, 2016

Ontario Liberals to Test Minimum Guaranteed Income Plan

As we rapidly lose work worldwide as technology steals most jobs, policy makers must devise ways of supporting the many jobless citizens and Ontario is planning to "test-drive" a minimum guaranteed income plan.  This is a very positive move as the first stage of the transition to the upcoming future of few jobs.  In past experiments, partly with the Mincom Plan in Dauphin Manitoba and others in the world, it has been found to be cheaper and more effective and efficient to replace the many various welfare and other social support programs with the one program guaranteeing a minimum income for all.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

People Stuck In the Past Threaten Our Future

The following comment was written by an an individual, a far right leaning conservative too caught up in the narrow dogma of traditional conservatism, an individual who obviously looks backward in trying to preserve the world as it was rather than adapting to what it will be.
"Socialism is the greatest threat to our nation, our freedoms, and our democratic institutions. It must be fought at all levels, and those who show support for such a totalitarian means of governance should be driven to the margins of our society. No less than this will save our country from the tyranny of collectivist ideology."
I responded—
"What a bunch of drivel Dean. The real threats to the nation are joblessness, inequality, greed, lack of opportunity, corporate fraud, concentration of wealth in the hands of a few, unfair employment practices (35% of Canadian workforce employed in part time, contract, and casual employment cutting 35% of workers out of the consumption of big ticket items thus adversely affecting the economy)...and the problem is getting worse as technology and robotics steals more---and eventually all jobs.
When few work, we'll have to pay people without jobs just to keep up consumption to keep the economy afloat.  Without consumption, the entire economy would go belly-up!
The future is coming fast---and the new times and new conditions will require new thinking and new answers---and the societies stuck with old ideas that fail to transition to the new world will be doomed.
Watch the "present" of auto production and try to find the workers making cars these days!  I'm trying to figure out, with this reality, how to make sense of the neo-con statement that wants to preserve a past that no longer exists...LOL!
Today's car manufacturing is done in large part by robots. Check out the amazingly futuristic process.

Monday, September 12, 2016

A Model European Society for North America to Emulate

 “Where to Invade Next" is an eye-opening Michael Moore social commentary documentary available on Netflix. 

Moore travels to many forward thinking progressive European countries to find fantastic social ideas about running a great country...and discovers all the great things are originally American ideas not currently practised there because America is a place that presently structures with "the me" in mind while the forward thinking societies structure everything with "the we" in mind.  

This film reveals what can and is being done in progressive and caring societies…and probably foretells the future “Shangri-La” world when most work is done by technology requiring little human labour.

A sample of great ideas being practised are free university education, corporate boards require composition of 50% workers, prisons with unarmed guards rehabilitative rather than punitive, strong sense of female equality, short work days, universal health care, generous social services like paid maternity leave for child daycare, generous pay, working conditions, and holidays, etc.   In Germany, the company even funds worker’s honeymoons.

Workers are treated generously as equals with respect and dignity---rather than slave-like peons as in America.

A story well-told by Michael Moore….but something greedy North American employers in the world’s wealthiest economy say they can’t afford!

This is truly a work world of the!

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Received this letter from a reader--Ed G

While politicians are beating their gums over the current stagflation and a 7 - 12 percent unemployment number, humanities’ successes and the accompanying problems they brought are going unnoticed.

The First Industrial Revolution (1840 – 1870) was about water and steam power, machine tools factories and textile manufacturing and the urbanization of workers.  The Second Revolution was the technological and took place at the end of the 19th century and the beginnings of the 20th. It brought in electricity, the production line, railroads and gas, water and sewer lines to serve the urbanized workers.  The Third Revolution, now drawing to a close brought humanity computers, cybernetics, robotics, 3D print manufacturing and a massive shift from production of needs to the production of wants and at the same time a move of workers to the service industries.  We now seem to be on the cusp of the Fourth Industrial Revolution and the rewards and challenges it will bring.

With the problems of extraction of natural resources and the manufacturing of needs solved and on the decline, I expect, with others, that there will be an ‘unemployment’ rate of near 30 percent.  At the same time a massive increase in the ‘social worker’ sector to ‘police’ the massive numbers of recipients will be needed.  On of the basic objectives of any ruler is to settle the people’. That settlement cannot take place if the people are not fed, housed, and clothed.  However, there is a solution on the horizon.

Much attention has been paid to the problem of poverty, which has remained unsolved.  The reason it has remained unsolved is that poverty is relative and cannot be solved.  If the word is changed to privation, the insufficiency of food, shelter and clothing, it becomes definable and therefore solvable.  It is well known that the welfare systems in place are to address the problems introduced when capitalism emancipated slaves from slavery to wage slavery and manipulated workers by managing wages.  The solution being studied and on the verge of implementation in many countries is the provision of a Basic Income.  That idea is as old as the writings of the revolutionary Tom Paine (1737 –1809). 

Canada was a leader when it experimented by testing the in Dauphin Manitoba in 1974 - 1979.  More youth finished high school, teen pregnancies were reduced, hospital admissions were lowered, especially for mental heath.  It became a ‘town without poverty”

Leaders in all political parties support the idea and it is part of the Green party Platform

Massive material is available with the Google Search Engine.  Studies have proven that some $40 billions in annual budgetary savings could be realised.

On December 28 2015 the Toronto Star published an item by Robin V. Sears, a principal at Earnscliffe and a Broadbent Institute.  The Head was “Three big tests for the new Prime Minister.”  The three items were — “real carbon roll¬back, genuine democratic reform, and transforma¬tion in the lives of Canada's aboriginal citizens..”

A fourth needs to be added and substantiation made for it to be included.  That fourth, to address the problems of the Fourth Industrial Revolution is the implementation of a Basic Income.

And So I Responded!!!

All this is "old hat" for me Ed as i've been writing on this topic since 2008 on my blog and in response to a naive Toronto Star columnist 4 or 5 years ago, had a 3 or 4 column wide rebuttle “letter to the editor” published as the lead letter heading all of the single column letters.

My approach to the problem of the disappearance of work due to robotics and technological innovations is not as bleak as your crime and starvation scenario but rather indicates the need to phase in shorter work weeks with pay tied to machinery productivity rather than hours worked as we transition to a future of little work.  This would avoid revolutions seen in China and The Middle East and provide more (reduced hours with pay tied to company profits/productivity) jobs opportunity and the resultant available consumption capital necessary in the economy to keep the economy afloat.
Interestingly, the public support in America for Presidential Nominee Candidates like Donald (“We’re Gonna Make America Great Again”) Trump and Bernie (“More Fairness and Opportunity for the Working Class”) Sanders are strong signals of widespread public dissatisfaction with the American System that only works for a few and, without change, is a pre-cursor to future revolution.
I have also written about the Dauphin Manitoba Guaranteed Income experiments and see this distribution of wealth as necessary and a positive product of robotics in freeing people to do things they want to do (think, philosophize, write blogs, volunteer, travel, take up new hobbies like art, music, etc.) rather than things they have to do (tedious, boring, and repetitious work).  The working classes will get to live the life of the capitalist classes---sit on their asses and let the money flow in to support a good life style.  Even without the need to work, few people will be idle.  Magically, activity always more than fills idle time!  Just ask any retiree!
This problem of reducing work is not new to the world.  Before the industrial revolution of the mid 1800's, every man, woman, and child worked 100 hours per week in physical hand labour.  Mechanization of production allowed for increased efficiency of production and decreased hours of work so, over many years, the full work day became defined as 8 hour days that got enshrined in laws like Ontario's Employment Standards Act defining the work week as 40 hours for a 5 day work week or 48 hours for a 6 day work week.

The Problems Then?  

  • The work week has not been redefined for over 60 years despite computers, technological innovation, and robotics which have freed humans from being tied to the job.  We now simply have to redefine the work week as we reduce hours of work (job share) with pay tied to productivity rather than hours worked as we transition to the impending future of the need for little human work, and
  • We need to figure out ways to fairly divide the fruits of the economy to provide everyone with a "fair share" of the economic pie to allow for the necessary and growing consumption to keep the national and world economies growing and flourishing, where technology frees humans from the bondage of work but continues to provide a growing income tied to growing national economic productivity to feed the consumption necessary for continued economic growth.

There is nothing bleak about the future.  The "crisis" felt by the Luddites who destroyed the early machines taking their jobs is now being felt by many---but those early machines eased all the back breaking labour and brought the world the highest standards of living ever known to man---and this history of progress will be repeated!

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Where'd All The Jobs Go?

The Good Old Days of Full Employment---1936 Auto Assembly

Where'd all the jobs go? ---1995 Auto Assembly!

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Free Trade Not Responsible For Job Loss

Many who blame job loss to foreign imports do not understand the massive job changes brought about by technology. Robots and machines have replaced far more U.S. workers than Mexicans or Chinese. Today, U.S. factories produce twice as much stuff as they did in1984, but with one-third fewer workers. Manufacturing as a share of GDP is virtually unchanged from 1960.

This academic analysis re the impact to Canada of the the potential loss of free trade deals makes the point I've been making in on this website since 2008, "That manufacturing job loss is not due to offshore manufacturing but due to job theft by technology."

As i've argued on this site, the real problem re job loss is that no compensating downward adjustments in worker full-week hours been made 1) To let workers share in the benefits of technology, and 2) To maintain sufficient employment levels to insure adequate middle class consumption necessary for a viable economy.

A reader (business owner) responded to this item as follows---"Wayne D.-- So with one third less workers should they make a 13 hr work week and bring back the other 2/3rd of work force and pay them all good full time wages (typical 40 hour work week ) to work 13 hours /week. Serious question.

And so I responded---Without debating the figures you use Wayne, let me give you a serious answer...."The benefits of technology must be shared with workers through reduced work hours with sufficient compensating hires to keep up prior employment levels. 
Pay should be tied to increased productivity resulting from technology rather than hours worked. 
Presently all the benefits of technology are pocketed by employers, resulting in record profits (shown by record executive salaries, record stock market highs, record dividends, record levels of dead cash in corporate accounts, and an obscene concentration of wealth in the hands of a few). 
Presently, workers are paying all the costs of technology implementation through job losses with all short-term benefits accruing to employers. 
Every job loss leads to less consumption which will in the end result in a downward spiral of fewer jobs and less consumption with fewer and fewer people frequenting businesses like yours, Wayne, which will result in widespread bankruptcies as technology steals most jobs leaving few workers and little consumption in the economy. 
Both businesses and workers lose in the longer term through employer’s shortsighted greed. 
And by the way Wayne, the full full work week has not been reduced from 37.5 hours per week for the last 60 years. Now that we have computerized technology to do most of the work, don't you think it's about time we adjusted work week hours?

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

A Model For Wealth Sharing When Few Work?

Is this the way the wealth of our society will be shared to insure consumption and the lifeblood of our economy when technology steals most of our jobs and few people work?  Mincome Program, Dauphine Manitoba, cancelled by Conservatives on change of government 35 years ago!

Friday, June 3, 2016

Don't blame American job losses on China!

Trump, and many workers, should blame technology, not trade, for our job losses - a point I've been making on this site since 2008.

And this displacement of workers by technology is creating record returns for companies and investors and giant bonuses and salaries for the executive classes.

Without change, this practice will continue robbing the economy of consumption leading to revolution by working classes, increasing crime, and failure of our economy as companies go bankrupt through loss of sales because the population has few consumption dollars for anything beyond basic needs.

The early signs of revolution?  The "Occupy" Movement of a few years ago and now the surprising political support for Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump!

Voters are fed up with the greed, corruption, and concentration of wealth in the hands of Corporate America and they demand change!  

Workers should share in the benefits of technology through decreasing work hours to keep up employment with ever-increasing wages.   

Because of these two historical adjustments, the pre-industrial revolution world has progressed from a 100 hour work week for every man, woman, and child to the present 37.5 hr work week with the highest standard of living in recorded history---but that work week has not changed for the last 60 years despite all of the computerized technology that is stealing the jobs.

Despite Trump’s and Clinton’s claims, automation has eliminated much lower-skilled work while productivity soars


Thursday, June 2, 2016


R.K.----And what of the impact of moving jobs to Mexico, China, and other low-wage countries, Bill? Technology is a factor for sure, but it's not the whole story.

MY RESPONSE--- R.K. --Manufacturing worldwide is being taken over by machines. Undoubtedly many of those machines are manufactured in the west and sold as part of our export trade---machines for trinkets. We are being left with non-transferable service jobs that are also being replaced by technology---eg BMO $1B 2nd qtr profit that was reduced due to more technology purchases that will replace more than the 1850 workers currently announced....but dividends are increasing as will executive salaries and bonuses....only the "controllers" of the economy are benefitting from the technology---not the workers or the economy. I have written extensively on this topic since 2008 on this site.

MY FURTHER RESPONSE--- R.K.---TImes are always changing and we'll always have some luddites resistant to change. There is no question that changing ideas about work and "earnings" have to accompany the changing realities and about how we look at work, what is fair and necessary in a society to ensure consumption to keep a vibrant economy afloat, and how to fairly share the fruits of the economy when few are working.  Our practise now is to deprecate those who are given survival money for not working (welfare---a bad word!)---but what do you call it when machines do virtually all work and few people work? This will be the future norm---few workers and how to fairly provide most of society with a living stipend to provide everyone with a decent living standard and sufficient consumption to keep the economy alive. This may happen in the next 20-30 years and is a pressing problem.  In the meantime, we should get used to the idea of job sharing through a decrease in working hours, with pay based on machine productivity rather than on human hours of labour, as we transition to the future of virtually no work....a day when machines read vital signs over your smartphone and take over medicine, a day when machines build machines and buildings (3D printing!), a day of all automated vehicles, a day when machines generate all computer code, a day when voice commands direct machines to deliver your every whim and fancy----a day of 100% leisure for all when the biggest problem for humankind will be figuring out how to productively, stimulatingly, and interestingly utilize our time---maybe a major problem facing humanity---but a problem successfully met in many undeveloped regions where art, music, and social interaction flourishes....Africa, Caribbean Islands, and pockets of the American unemployed particularly among the inner-city black populations who have been cultural leaders in the development of music, dance, language, fashion, sport, etc.

R.K. ----What's your solution, Bill?

MY RESPONSE--- Solution? As stated above----up until about 60 years ago, we've been following a consistent post industrial revolution pattern--decreasing work hours and increasing pay commensurate with increasing productivity!...With the accelerated takeover of work by technology and robotics, we'll have to once again resume a cut in work week hours while maintaining a growing fair share of the fruits of our economy, with pay based on productivity of our machines rather than human work hours, as we transition to days of little human work----coming in the next 20-30 years. We have to start envisioning a new world which will have new rules than the world we've known. Those who can't/won't accept the changes will be left behind. People have to look ahead and not behind. I remember giving a lecture to Chinese students in 1998 criticizing China for its overriding worship of China's glorious history and accomplishments. I summarized with the analogy that any person (country) that walks forward looking backward over their shoulder is bound to walk into a brick wall. Old problems, old questions, old attudes,  old answers, old ideas, old skills, old insights, old habits, and old ways of doing things while looking at the new world in old ways just won't work for the new problems, new questions, and new challenges we will face in our rapidly changing world where...knowledge is advancing exponentially and doubling in rapidly compressing periods of time. As Alice in Wonderland said, "I have to run as fast as I can just to keep up!

Interestingly, when machines take over all work, machine labour will cost the same everywhere and most production will migrate back to consumming countries or resouce-producing countries as transportation of goods and materials will become the determining issue. 

 R.K.---(drum roll please...) I agree with you, Bill. :)

R.K.---Not sure it will be as short a time frame as 20-30 years, but the world industrialized economies are evolving into a scenario where the masses will find it increasingly difficult to find meaningful, full time work based on the changes you elaborated on above.

My question to some free-market capitalists in an online debate group I participate in was, "What will happen to the tax rate on the affluent citizens if the range of traditional middle-class industrial and commercial worker jobs keep getting replaced by robotics and out-sourcing to low-wage, Third World countries? Who will pay all the tax revenue needed by the current-style, size and scope of Western Democracies?"

No one ventured a solid, solutions-based answer.

When I asked about a UBI (Universal Basic Income)? No answer besides, "Where would the money come from?"

What's your answer Bill?

MY RESPONSE---Ah ha, the tax rate!  Let's be fair!  In a utopian sharing world, everyone would realize that we are all on this boat together and there is no room for anyone whose insatiable greed wants to sink us all.  Those who benefit more from the society should pay more---basic!

In these days of soaring executive salaries, soaring stock markets as a result of record dividends payouts, burgeoning corporate bank accounts of dead cash, and  the resulting record concentration of wealth in the hands of a few, all facilitated by a race to the bottom in corporate tax rates granted by right wing governments, I have no sympathy for corporations or the wealthy who continually call for tax breaks, only as likely to hide their surplus cash in offshore tax dodges.

In the case of taxes required to sustain governments, i suspect they'd be fewer in the idyllic and inclusive "new world" that brought everyone fairly into the economy---with I'd suspect, less war, less crime, less jails, and less poverty, erasing the costliest functions of governments and reducing the size and massive costs of our bureaucracy to fund and carry out these programs.

But, carrying on the "boat analogy," there is a need for leadership on that boat by a captain and his lieutenants.  But, no matter how smart or skillful the captain, he is unlikely to save a leaking boat.  Boat safety, in large measure, rests on factors external to the captain---just as in an economy where profitability is often more a factor of world and national economic climate, which are factors external to company leadership.

The captain has a grave responsibility as best as he can, for looking after all others on the boat and thus may deserve a finer bed than the rest of us....but 10 beds or 50 beds on this crowded ship---NO WAY!  No one on the ship should be thrown overboard because the captain wants more room.  Similarly, it is unethical for self-interested and greedy CEO's to throw workers overboard to cut costs to justify their own increased salary and bonuses.  It is a privilege to run a business in this country and that comes with costs---taxes and social responsibility!

In point of fact, executive pay levels continue to climb, no matter the financial or business performance of the company.  CEO's are often awarded healthy increases despite slumping sales, profits, and stock market performance, even while laying off hundreds or thousands of workers. 

I have little concern for tax rates on the affluent.  According to Forbes Magazine, the 85 wealthiest in the world have as much wealth as the 3.5 million poorest, and in the USA, the wealthiest 1% captured 96% of all posi-financial crisis growth since 2009, while the bottom 90% became poorer.

According to Oxfam's "Working For The Few" Report, wealth controls government policymaking causing the rules to bend in favor of the rich, to the detriment of everyone else.   In the report, Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis, is quoted with the observation ‘We may have democracy, or we may have wealth concentrated in the hands of the few, but we cannot have both.’

In the above illustration, I've demonstrated that I believe in a variance of economic rewards within ethical and reasonable limits.  The question is what is a reasonable and fair variance...and actual practice varies widely around the world.   While the Swiss will vote on capping CEO salaries at 12 times the pay of their lowest paid workers (which is a huge incentive for them to raise these minimum wages), the 2012 average of S&P 500 US companies was $12.3M, or 354 times the salary of the average worker (or in perspective, the CEO makes his worker's annual salary in 6 hours), and in Japan, the large cap CEO makes 67 times the salary of his average worker who makes approximately the same as his counterpart USA worker.   It is interesting to compare how many hours top paid Canadian CEO's have to work to earn your annual income.

In the case of the giant wads of taxpayer cash provided to "save" GM, this appears to be the corporation calling "wolf" to get cash to add to their bottom line.  The $12B didn't produce one job, create one unit of increased productivity, create one new sale, or save jobs in Canada.  It showed in the financial statement "bottom line" as increased profitability supporting executive bonuses and salary increases and increased dividends for the investor class. The corporate world is always complaining of high costs and high taxes yet executive salaries and bonuses, the soaring stock market, and burgeoning corporate bank accounts are all at record highs so things cannot be too bleak for the corporate world....tag days need not be arranged for them anytime soon.  And Corporate tax rates, on monies not hidden offshore, have fallen to record lows and far smaller marginal tax rates than you and I footing the bills. Corporations operating here have to be held far more responsible for their ethics, honesty, and social responsibility---and paying their fair share of taxes.