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anti-pop-frustration's Journal: Ain't humanity great?

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by AdamWill (604569)

I've replied to it before on slashdot, but no, that's a fallacy.

There isn't some magic limited quality of labor that needs to be done, and once we replace all of that with robots, there'll be no work left for people to do any more. That fallacy has existed for hundreds of years. It never quite seems to happen, yet people persist with the belief.

Couple hundred years ago, it was cotton weaving - see, hundreds of thousands of people used to work weaving cotton, then machines got invented that could perform the job much more efficiently. Surely this would result in there not being enough work for all those people! oh no!

Well, in a very short timeframe that can happen, but over the long run it just doesn't work out that way. Why? We just keep inventing more work to do. There's no objective definition of 'work'. It's whatever you can get paid to do. Back in the age of manual cotton weaving, for instance, almost no-one made a living in the 'creative industries', which barely existed. Nowadays, tens of thousands of people make a good wage producing utterly unnecessary and frivolous TV shows. The key point is _there's a direct link between the two things_. Automate things that at present take hundreds of thousands of humans to do, and those hundreds of thousands of humans won't - over the long run - starve to death. We'll invent new stuff for them to do. That 'stuff' is frequently frivolous and entirely unnecessary - like television, or advertising, or professional sports, or pet grooming, or personal shopping...the reason all those ridiculous 'jobs' exist is _precisely_ because we've got so good at making the really essential tasks - farming, construction, health care, clothes manufacture, resource extraction, power generation etc - happen very efficiently that, once all of the above tasks are done for everyone in a reasonably developed country, there's still a *massive* potential labor surplus. Via the magic of the free market economy, instead of rationing all the essential labor and the results of that labor out equally so everyone works 5 hours a week and we all live a comfortable life by the standards of 1850, we instead invented a bewildering array of utterly unnecessary 'work' so most people can continue to 'work' 40 hours a week, and be rewarded with the opportunity to buy a crystal-encrufted cellphone, buy a shirt for their dog, and watch 2.5 Men on an HDTV. Ain't humanity great?

This process can continue more or less indefinitely if we want it to. I see no particular limit to human ingenuity in inventing ridiculous new spheres of activity.

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Ain't humanity great?

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