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Old 04-02-2012, 10:17 AM
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Default The dream of less work

In the 50:s and 60:s it was often heard that in the 21:th century machines (robots and similar) would do all hard and boring work for us. This would free us humans and give us the oportunity to fulfill ourselves and spend our time with cultural, social, artistic and scientific activities. It was also thought that the revenues from the work of the machines should be distributed fairly equal and give us all a descent standard of living.

But those dreams have not materialized yet. Instead capitalists and politicians encourage, and even force us, to work more and more. They claim that we must work more hours and also a longer period of our lives (which will delay our pensions) just to keep our standard of living (and even more if we want to grow economically). The politicians even claim that also ill and sick people shall be forced to work in a higher degree and that wage labor is the only way to fulfilment, economically, personally and socially.

So what happened? Where did the old visions of a labor free (or at least less labor) society go? How did we end up in a society that despite a lot of technical progress forces us to work more and more and more, with increased stress and stress related diseases as a result?

Where did it all get wrong?

Last edited by redpaintednavi; 04-02-2012 at 02:05 PM.
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Old 04-02-2012, 01:12 PM
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You have nailed it. Sadly, I have no useful answers.
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Old 04-02-2012, 02:26 PM
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It didn't.

The sci-fi writers of the 1960s make two major mistakes in the stereotypical vision of the future:
1) That we'd have human-like AI by now. Obviously, AI that can imitate a human in most tasks is stupendously difficult; it takes humans themselves years to learn how to do it, and we're still very far away from working out how the brain learns as well as it does.
2) That human-like AI is necessary. The Jetsons' future has Rosey with a vacuum cleaner; come around the actual future, and what emerges is a Roomba. It turns out that it's easier and more efficient for the vacuum cleaner to wander around on its own, then it is for a robot to use a "dumb" one.

As for why we are not working 9 hours a week, (a.l.a. George Jetson) the answer to that is essentially the... effect, the name of which has slipped my mind at the moment. However, the gist of it is that if efficiency increases, we don't do the same amount faster; we do more in the same amount of time. Assuming we work the same amount of time as we did in 1960, (which I'm not sure is true) we get more work done, especially in information-processing jobs.

Re: the politicians, they're mad.
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Old 04-02-2012, 02:31 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by redpaintednavi View Post
... it was often heard that in the 21:th century ... would free us humans and give us the oportunity to fulfill ourselves and spend our time with cultural, social, artistic and scientific activities.

But those dreams have not materialized yet.

So what happened? Where did the old visions of a labor free (or at least less labor) society go? How did we end up in a society that despite a lot of technical progress forces us to work more and more and more, with increased stress and stress related diseases as a result?

Where did it all get wrong?
IMHO ... You already answered your own question Redpaintedna'vi!

Quote:
Originally Posted by redpaintednavi View Post
... we ... work more hours and also a longer period of our lives ... just to keep our standard of living (and even more if we want to grow economically) ... claim ... that wage labor is the only way to fulfilment, economically, personally and socially.
So what needs to change, then?
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Old 04-02-2012, 06:56 PM
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You CAN "Break out" of this. FIRST of all you have to realize that most of what is viewed as this great standard of living uses a house of cards as it's foundation. There are a number of forces, both external, and internal, that can cause it to collapse almost overnight, just look at what happened in the states when the housing bubble burst.
I think that one of the biggest problems is the mindset that most Americans have, that they "own" all this stuff that the BANK holds the paper on.
It is FAR better to live on a two acre plot up in the woods, growing your own food, powering your house with wind and solar, in a small house on land that you OWE NO MONEY ON, than in a beachfront ivory tower that costs a quarter of a million, and you will only be making payments on till you die, and then the Bank takes it back, and sells it to someone else. Impossible? No, I know, and have known MANY people that have done this in several States.
If you want to "live niNa'vi" on THIS planet, you MUST become a proud "Dropout of the American Rat Race".
It IS doable, you CAN do it, but like Jake, boarding that Starship, you MUST be willing to leave the entire phoney lifestyle behind, in a clean break.
Atero and I live in the house that we are building by ourselves, on land that we paid for, and own outright. We moved here in a small 16 foot long camping trailer, and every month, would buy a pickup truck load of building materials with CASH, no credit. At first it didn't look like much, but as the months progressed, this hanger home rose out of the prairie, and while it is not finished yet, we now live in the 1,800 square feet of the eventual 8,000 square foot, (mostly hangers, and a 3 car garage), home, that there are ZERO "convenient monthly payments" on.
If you want it badly enough, and are willing to walk through the door that leads to a much more natural, less stressful life, close it behind you, and never look back, you CAN do this.
I know MANY starting with the "back to the land movement" back in the seventies who HAVE done this, and PULLED IT OFF. We are are now living stress free lives, in cooperation with the nature that all of us are part of, whether or not we choose to admit it.
COME, join the "dance".
Niri Te

Last edited by Niri Te; 04-02-2012 at 06:59 PM.
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Old 04-02-2012, 07:43 PM
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A dream is about the right way to describe that. It's a lot of work and isn't fungible, meaning it can't be exchanged for anything you require, you have to find someone willing to exchange for what there is, the entire reason currency was developed in the first place - that is, if you have resource foo and need bar, but the person who has bar only wants baz, you have to find a way to convert some of your foo to baz, which without currency could potentially involve dozens of intermediaries. Need communications, building materials, medical supplies? You can't exchange food you grew for it, you have to find an intermediary who can sell it, who will of course not do it for free, the very reason barter failed and currency was developed to solve its inherent problems.

I think the idea of calling it a 'dream' is because it was misundersood. There is never going to be 'no work' without proper AI and post-scarcity resources, but work today is better and easier - you won't get lung infections from working in a coal mine, or lose an arm in a factory or farm accident; and you get more for your time thanks both to higher pay rates (remember that back then, the middle class did not exist) and greater availability of items and methods that were previously rare or hard to produce/perform. The truth is that the reason people specialise is because it allows them to perform tasks they are skilled at in return for receiving others from people who are good at that, if everyone had to do everything for themselves, humanity would never be able to support its own population in numerous ways, from physical space and resources to service-wise to socially, to production of anything even moderately advanced that requires specialisation from more than one skillset.

People no longer have to take clothes to a river and rub rocks on them; they don't have to spend hours producing food unless that is their actual profession. Nobody has to know a little of every plausible skill to get by, because it is easier and more efficient to let people who are good at it to take care of it in return for (indirectly) providing services to them or to those they are a client of.

That won't change unless/until humans reach the singularity.

By all means, claiming self-sufficiency is a goal some people find ideal, but without post-scarcity resources and methods (such as 3D printers capable of self-replication), it's never going to be possible for everyone to survive. By everyone splitting themselves to provide everything, there is no opportunity to improve and innovate in the areas a person is skilled in. Even the vast majority of people who do more than most themselves still require external support, which tends to be acquired via currency; attempts as covering this via like-for-like exchange without it inevitably collapse.
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Old 04-02-2012, 08:14 PM
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This may very well be true in Europe, but I can show you entire sections of the mountains of northeast Washington State where I used to live in the late eighties, where huge sections of the DeFacto economy are by barter. The same for the entire County in extremely rural west Texas where I live now. Medical care? Ateyo got a bad infection from a bad tooth a year ago. Did we run into the "big city" of El Paso? No, the head of the Emergency management District of this County is one of my "Back to the Land" neighbors. His backhoe broke several years ago, and I fixed it. As a result, if Ateyo has a medical problem, he fixes it. He has me "on retainer" for any heavy equipment problems that he may have in the future. If you get in with the right groupof people, you CAN make barter work.
HNM is right though, there ARE some things that ARE difficult to barter, although we will trade it back and forth out here in 5 gallon cans, buying Gasoline, or Propane takes currency, and that's where the "two worlds" members of our communities are very valuable. They have jobs, usually part time, in the City, and are willing to trade pieces of paper for goods and services out here. I have no personal experience with that as I am retired Army, and get a monthly check from the Veteran's Administration, but that makes me one of the "Two Worlds" members of the community, and when I see someone with monetary needs, that I can barter my paper for something that they can do, or have, I will trade my paper with them, rather than with someone who has an income stream who also barters.
Niri Te
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Old 04-03-2012, 05:23 AM
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Niri Te, I really admire you for walking your talk. The original utopian dream was that technology would give us more free time; I'm practically old enough to remember it when it was still real. See the House of Tomorrow at Disneyland for instance. The reality has been very different. Wages for Americans have fallen since the 1970s and the number of hours they work has increased (see the two charts on page 339 in Financial Reckoning Day Fallout: Surviving Today's Global Depression - William Bonner, Addison Wiggin, Kate Incontrera - Google Books) and this Harris poll: US Leisure Time Plummets 20% in 2008, Hits New Low showing US leisure time reached at all time low in 2008. Clearly we are not using technology to our advantage.

There is a lot of disagreement if you research this. http://weber.ucsd.edu/~vramey/resear..._Published.pdf says as much, but says that leisure time per week is essentially unchanged since 1900. It is instructive for pointing out that the original utopian leisure dream is probably due to a 1930 paper by Keynes. Cumulative lifetime leisure time is up because people live longer.

While it seems self-evident that the working classes appear to be better off than they were during the Victoria era, that period may have been an anomaly that is revealed when we look back further. Primitive culture - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia says that it's a defining feature of primitive cultures that they have more leisure time.

Some anticipated that work would be optional in the future. Robert Heinlein's first novel "For Us The Living" depicted a "social dividend" (presumably from automation) that was enough for everyone. Closest equivalent I can think of is the oil dividend for Alaskan residents. The original Star Trek series showed work being more or less optional and money no longer necessary (they weren't consistent on that point). Now that seems like a cruel hoax.

Partly I think this is a result of ruinous central bank policies and national debt, a topic that I used to find immensely boring until I discovered how much it was affecting my life. And also that we have not as a people matured enough to deal with the social implications of our changing technology.
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Old 04-03-2012, 06:11 AM
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Sempu,
I think the biggest reason that people are working longer and harder, is due to the Corporate "Fat Cats" manipulating the job market.
They use the threat of replacing the disgruntled, or those that are in THEIR estimation, "lazy", with either those out of work, who will do anything for anything over minimum wage, or the threat of moving the company production to China, and design and public relations to India "in an effort to stay in business", to turn hard working Americans into indentured servants. The fact that many Americans are in hock up to their eyeballs and can't afford to miss a single payment, acts as sufficient pressure to cause many working people into two jobs for scandalous wages.
Niri Te
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Old 04-03-2012, 10:01 AM
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The situation seems rather similar here in Sweden too. Here we now have got ourselves a government that, inspired by the US, goes along with the capitalists and which has launched a political agenda called “The line of work”, ie that everyone must work, else they get no money or allowances. Even the ones that are sick are forced to apply for jobs, otherwise they do not get any financial support from the state.
People who are unemployed are put into programs so they will not stay at home (people who just sits around home are considered a problem) but are forced to attend specially created “jobs” for only fractions of a normal salary in order to be able to get some financial support.
At the same time executives and owners of big companies and corporations, and also higher officials of the state, get richer and richer.

Some parties and political groups have been lobbying for a six hour working day (today we have eight hour mandatory workingdays, but many ofcourse work much longer days) as a first step towards a more work free society, but most of the leading political parties, and ofcourse the companies, have opposed to that idea, claiming that it would ruin our economy.

At the same time stress related illnesses and disease are increasing at an alarming rate. Many people get burned out and/or severly depressed. But the authorities and companies do not care, they perhaps think it is an appropriate price to pay for incresed economic growth.

Last edited by redpaintednavi; 04-03-2012 at 10:04 AM.
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Old 04-04-2012, 12:07 AM
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Redpaintednavi, how scary Seems like some governments don't care about helping individuals anymore.
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Old 04-04-2012, 12:19 AM
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Seems like some governments don't care about helping individuals anymore.
I didn't know they ever cared about helping individuals.
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Old 04-04-2012, 12:21 AM
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Damn it, I stared at the screen for ten minutes trying to figure out how to word that, and I blew it.
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Old 04-19-2012, 06:47 PM
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Originally Posted by Human No More View Post
You can't exchange food you grew for it, you have to find an intermediary who can sell it, who will of course not do it for free, the very reason barter failed and currency was developed to solve its inherent problems.
Recommended reading: Debt: The First 5,000 Years - David Graeber - Google Books
Pure barter economies never existed, so no one lived in these and then invented money. What usually happens is that within a group of people that have a social connection (tribe, town, clan, island,...) there is a more free exchange of goods and services. People contribute if they have something to contribute and they are given in times of need. If this is done more formally, tokens of remembrance can be exchanged that remind someone of bein "in debt" to someone else because of such unilateral exchanges. From that source, money can develop when the social relationships are getting worse, which happens if the size of the group gets bigger or other reasons destroy trust. Barter economies did exist between such groups, e.g. one town or clan or island or whatever exchanging goods with foreigners. In that case, there is an uncertainty if a unilateral exchange would ever be rewarded, so the deal has to be made final and no debt should arise.
But that is just a technicality here - no matter if the "currency" is fame, tokens, "I owe you"s, money or gold - some have different properties than others but that connects to the topic at hand only on a secondary level.

Quote:
I think the idea of calling it a 'dream' is because it was misundersood. There is never going to be 'no work' without proper AI and post-scarcity resources, but work today is better and easier - you won't get lung infections from working in a coal mine, or lose an arm in a factory or farm accident; and you get more for your time thanks both to higher pay rates (remember that back then, the middle class did not exist) and greater availability of items and methods that were previously rare or hard to produce/perform.
Sigh. I can just say that this is incorrect if you take the 1950ies and 60ies as a reference point as the OP did.
For once, it is rather well shown, that the factual wages (corrected for inflation) dropped since then, that work time is now higher and that in a family of four, in most cases 2 parents have to work at least part time. There was a "peak" when it comes to the existence of a middle class, of low work hours and high income and that was in the 1950ies and 1960ies. Incidentially this was also when the taxes for the rich were the highest in the US and elsewhere.

Compared to the early industrial age, it certainly is true that many people do enjoy less work and more safety and pay than the industrial workers of that time. Farmers were a bit different, they had a better status than wage workers and there were a lot of farmers. Interestingly going back a bit further to a preindustrial age, the amount of work drops, which is part of why there was some resistance against the industrial revolution. As much as I dislike the christian church, it provided medieval craftsmen and farmers with over 100 work-free days in a year (Sundays, Holidays, special services,ceremonies, festivals...).

The promise was clear though - less work and more leisure time. While it may be true in respect of physical manual labour, it is not true for time, which is what is the essence of life itself. And it is true, that certainly we could today work only 10 hours if the technological advances would be used for that goal. But instead they were used to increase profits and produce more stuff and waste.
A simple example, the washing machine. Lets say it takes a man 100 hours to build one. If he builds that and shares it among 5 families living in a house, each family has to "pay" 20 work hours for that machine and they can from then on save work when washing clothes. Now new technology comes along and with some good tools and a CNC cutter that guy can make the machine in 20 hours. Now what could happen is, that he does the same as before, in which case each family would only have to spend 4 hours for their share to use that machine. What happens in a consumerist economy is that instead that man works 100 hours just as before, produces 5 washing machines, each family gets one and still has to "pay" 20 work hours to get it. The result is more washing machines, a bit of comfort because one can use the machine at any random time without asking anyone. In addition each family can feel more "independent" and of course to some degree there is an issue with wear and tear of the machines, but here we get into planned obsolescence and the quality of manufacturing which goes too far.

This is "Jevons paradox" applied to work.

The interesting debate now would be WHY this happens. Is it greedy capitalists who pull the strings on that (some evidence points to something like that) - is it "human nature", is it consumerism, is it maybe the concept of money or of lending money only against an interest, demaninf perpetual growth?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sempu View Post
Niri Te, I really admire you for walking your talk. The original utopian dream was that technology would give us more free time; I'm practically old enough to remember it when it was still real.
Thanks for providing these links, Sempu.
And yes - I am also close to an age where I can remember this. When I was little, only my dad had to work in an office for rather regular work hours. When I was 15, he did the same but with unpaid overtime while my mom started to have a fulltime job as well. And no, that is not meant sexist - I would not care if it would be the other way around (which would as a possibility truely be womens equality) but the point is that both of them together had to work more and more.
Governments are now even pushing the limit of pension times up because people get older. What now - I thought we could surely afford to have more free time at least when we are older and enjoy these longer lives instead of working them away. Despite of that, unemployment is rampant - if the problem really would be that there is too much work to be done, that would not be the case. So something else drives the combination of unemployment and increased work hours for those that have employment.
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Old 04-20-2012, 08:54 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sempu View Post
While it seems self-evident that the working classes appear to be better off than they were during the Victoria era, that period may have been an anomaly that is revealed when we look back further. Primitive culture - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia says that it's a defining feature of primitive cultures that they have more leisure time.
Again, it depends on the metric. I'm sure people crippled in factory accidents, coal miners with lung disease, people with no appreciable skill and no means of gaining one would have disagreed.

Quote:
Some anticipated that work would be optional in the future. Robert Heinlein's first novel "For Us The Living" depicted a "social dividend" (presumably from automation) that was enough for everyone. Closest equivalent I can think of is the oil dividend for Alaskan residents.
That was always going ot be unrealistic, and expecting it is naive.

Quote:
The original Star Trek series showed work being more or less optional and money no longer necessary (they weren't consistent on that point). Now that seems like a cruel hoax.
Yes, their economics would never have worked without a post-scarcity society (which they arguably had via replicators, but not fully), but it took until well into the 22nd century.
I think you need to read The Logical Fallacy of Generalization from Fictional Evidence - Less Wrong .

Quote:
Partly I think this is a result of ruinous central bank policies and national debt, a topic that I used to find immensely boring until I discovered how much it was affecting my life. And also that we have not as a people matured enough to deal with the social implications of our changing technology.
Clearly you don't know enough about it then.
Without banking, there would be no money, nothing would be financed. No large scale projects would be possible.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Niri Te View Post
Sempu,
I think the biggest reason that people are working longer and harder, is due to the Corporate "Fat Cats" manipulating the job market.
They use the threat of replacing the disgruntled, or those that are in THEIR estimation, "lazy", with either those out of work, who will do anything for anything over minimum wage, or the threat of moving the company production to China, and design and public relations to India "in an effort to stay in business", to turn hard working Americans into indentured servants. The fact that many Americans are in hock up to their eyeballs and can't afford to miss a single payment, acts as sufficient pressure to cause many working people into two jobs for scandalous wages.
Niri Te
Again, your beliefs don't align with reality.

It isn't possible to arbitrarily fire someone without paying them. Many does not mean all; it is only the fault of people who took out bad debt and now struggle to repay it (and possibly the banks for taking on too much debt they knew people were going to default on, but that's beside the point).
In al truth, people are lazy. Offer someone two jobs at the same pay and they'll take the easier, or shorter hours. Offer someone a marginally harder one at 2x as much as they'll take that one.

Quote:
Originally Posted by redpaintednavi View Post
The situation seems rather similar here in Sweden too. Here we now have got ourselves a government that, inspired by the US, goes along with the capitalists and which has launched a political agenda called “The line of work”, ie that everyone must work, else they get no money or allowances. Even the ones that are sick are forced to apply for jobs, otherwise they do not get any financial support from the state.
People who are unemployed are put into programs so they will not stay at home (people who just sits around home are considered a problem) but are forced to attend specially created “jobs” for only fractions of a normal salary in order to be able to get some financial support.
You mean you think people should be entitled to sit at home and claim money from people who DO work?
Here, you only get benefits if you apply for jobs, and I completely support that, even as it is there are far too many chavs who have neither intention or action to apply for jobs, yet still live at the taxpayer's expense more or less permanently.

Quote:
Some parties and political groups have been lobbying for a six hour working day (today we have eight hour mandatory workingdays, but many ofcourse work much longer days) as a first step towards a more work free society, but most of the leading political parties, and ofcourse the companies, have opposed to that idea, claiming that it would ruin our economy.
I'm sure that anyone with a job would oppose it too. Since there's already 30 min mandatory break that is't paid, that's a huge reduction in income (and in Sweden, tax levels are stupidly high anyway).
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