digging ditches: the ultimate human achievement?

How many Potential Einsteins, Hawkings, or Nabokovs or Woolfs or Monets or O’Keeffes are out there stuck digging ditches or scrubbing floors in order to survive? How much art and literature and scientific discoveries are the rest of us missing out on in favor of that floor being cleaned by a person rather than a machine?

We have the means to eliminate huge swaths of labor via robotics and AI. But with the current structure of our society focused so hard on earning money via labor, the elimination of those jobs would harm people rather than help them. But it doesn’t need to be this way.

Imagine you and your family live in a big house, and the only thing required of you to live there is to keep it clean and repaired. You wash the windows, wax the floors, fix any electronic problems, repaint the walls, vacuum, dust, sweep, mop, etc, and in exchange for all this work, you can live in some rooms in the house.

Now imagine you and your family invent a robot that can do all this cleaning for you. Cool! Now all the required labor is being done, and you can relax and use your time for other more meaningful, human activities.

Except that’s not what would happen in our society. The member of the family that just happened to have his name on the deed of the house would buy their own robot, and kick everyone else onto the streets and have their big empty house with no one living in it. Then they’d take the money they save from not having to feed so many people, and buy another house, also with no one to live in it except the robot that cleans it.

Our society is that family. We, most of the members of that family, work hard to keep the infrastructure running, to keep things clean and functional. We, the family that is our society, are also on the verge of inventing a tool to do all this work for us, to keep up the maintenance for us. But instead of celebrating this, we’re worried. All because our rich uncle feels we have to be working on the house in order to live in it.

When the robot workforce comes–and it will–huge numbers of people will be functionally forced out of society because there are no more floors to scrub. If we want to avoid this, we need to change the way we think about work and money.

We need socialism if we are going to survive our own technology. We need to change the mindset toward labor as a means of survival, and instead look at it as crude necessity that we are about to eliminate. We should enjoy the results of that elimination, not punish ourselves for it.

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The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck

A very powerful book that will change the way you think about migrants/refugees/the poor. I thought I had a socialist bent, I thought I was a person sensitive to these things. This book magnified my socialism/humanism by 100.

When we are divided out as millions of individuals, we are weak, and will be taken advantage of and abused by the powerful. If we stick together, take care of each other, stand up for each other, care for each other… we have the power.

It has been said a million times, but to hear it said is something other than really understanding it. And I think.. maybe I understand it now.

More spies

I liked The Spy Who Came in from the Cold  so much that I got another le Carré novel,   The Looking Glass War.

Once again it is very good, I might find myself burning through a lot of these…

This one is about a different agent, and he so far seems to be surrounded by incompetents. It’s interesting going from The Spy Who Came in from the Cold  where everyone was pure genius and things were subtle and smart, to this one where everyone so far is being an idiot. I wonder if it is just to contrast how brilliant the agent, Avery, is. I hope so, a book full of people screwing up is less interesting to me.

The writing is great either way, though.

The Spy Who Came In from the Cold by John le Carré

I finished The Spy Who Came in from the Cold and it was not what I had expected.

What comes to mind when you think of a spy novel? Action? James Bond gadgets and iconic villains with plans for world domination? Explosions and murder in the dark?

le Carré writes perhaps the complete opposite of the James Bond style spy story. It is realistic, intriguing, clever, and most importantly you have to think about it. The plots and plans are subtle and in depth. The way real intelligence agencies might plan something, the way a real spy might have to act.

I love when an author doesn’t act like I’m an idiot, or too stupid to understand something. It is very refreshing in these days of simplistic popcorn action stories where the slightest twist has to be agonizingly explained for the people who spent half of it scrolling through their phones.

I was very impressed by this book and am going to pick up another le Carré book for my next read.

Time stopping powers

Very often, unusually often probably, I wish I could stop time and just sit and read or write all day. Now I wonder why our world is such that I need to imagine fantastic powers for myself, just in order to read all day…

In the future, unless things change, even when we have robots and AIs to do all conceivable work for us that is needed to survive, corporations and those in power will still find ways to eat up all our time with work.

If AIs and robots are going to take up all the jobs (and they will) we need a society that doesn’t require money or work to live. It’s not the society we’re in now, I can tell you that much…

Another end

I’ve started reading Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood, and it’s another end of the world story. However, it is very well written so I’m not too annoyed, and I’m sure I’ll check out more of her books afterward.

Maybe there are so many stories about apocalypse because things always seem to be in decline lately. While our technology improves, costs and working / living situations seem to just get shittier. Corporations swell and get more and more abusive. Can it really lead anywhere but apocalypse?

Have you ever been at a job where your work situation improved over time? Where they added perks instead of took them away? Where your workload lessened, even slightly, as the years went by? Of course not, if you live in a capitalist society. Squeeze every ounce of energy out of your workers for the least possible pay, that’s the way to succeed as a business.

Sometimes I too want to see it all end… and that’s not something I’ve often said in my life…

Maybe I am getting old.