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Comment: Re:Don't shoot the dog (Score 1) 323

by Paul Fernhout (#48660749) Attached to: Putting Time Out In Time Out: The Science of Discipline

Yes, that is a great book by Karen Pryor! Inspired by her book, I once made a list of maybe two dozen other ways to deal with behavior issues, but I don't think I put it on the web. The last one was something like just accepting the undesired behavior as a recurring reminder that you have something good (a relationship) in your life. :-)

Comment: Kohn is great; see also Meredith Small and others (Score 1) 323

by Paul Fernhout (#48660693) Attached to: Putting Time Out In Time Out: The Science of Discipline

"Our Babies, Ourselves: How Biology and Culture Shape the Way We Parent"
"New parents are faced with innumerable decisions to make regarding the best way to care for their baby, and, naturally, they often turn for guidance to friends and family members who have already raised children. But as scientists are discovering, much of the trusted advice that has been passed down through generations needs to be carefully reexamined.
    A thought-provoking combination of practical parenting information and scientific analysis, Our Babies, Ourselves is the first book to explore why we raise our children the way we do--and to suggest that we reconsider our culture's traditional views on parenting.
    In this ground-breaking book, anthropologist Meredith Small reveals her remarkable findings in the new science of ethnopediatrics. Professor Small joins pediatricians, child-development researchers, and anthropologists across the country who are studying to what extent the way we parent our infants is based on biological needs and to what extent it is based on culture--and how sometimes what is culturally dictated may not be what's best for babies.
    Should an infant be encouraged to sleep alone? Is breast-feeding better than bottle-feeding, or is that just a myth of the nineties? How much time should pass before a mother picks up her crying infant? And how important is it really to a baby's development to talk and sing to him or her?
    These are but a few of the important questions Small addresses, and the answers not only are surprising but may even change the way we raise our children."

John Holt and Pat Farenga are worth reading too, about "unschooling" as essentially "give your kids all the freedom you can stand, especially in following their own educational interests".

Although, I personally feel the more extreme form of "radical unschooling" as some (not all) practice it is like the libertarianism of parenting, emphasizing freedom over all other virtues... Kids are indeed "learning all the time" but the quality of what they are learning can matter too. Also, "supernormal stimuli" of certain media and certain foods may need to be avoided or limited for health reasons because to help kids avoid or recover from "the pleasure trap".

Also related on Myers-Briggs for both parent and child to look at various matchups:


That page talks a lot about Authoritative, Authoritarian, Permissive and Neglectful styles. But the page goes into more types than that (including "attachment" parenting which may be close to the human historical norm within hunter/gatherer tribes where it sounds like a crying baby was rare).

By the way, kids can be much more a discipline problem when fed junk, not fed enough fruits and vegetables, lacking in sunlight, lacking in good gut bacteria, lacking in exercise, overstressed by an early focus on academics instead of play, saturated by violent and sexualized media, and so on. See also:

Good luck!!! Have Fun!!!!

Comment: Ideas for better tools to make sense of health (Score 1) 429

by Paul Fernhout (#48660441) Attached to: How Venture Capitalist Peter Thiel Plans To Live 120 Years

My suggestion: https://www.newschallenge.org/...
"When confronted with a health issue, many people turn to their doctor, the internet, or friends for advice. But then what do you and your family do with all the advice you receive? What do even health professionals do with all the often conflicting information out there when they research a patient's health issues? We want to create software that helps with that challenge by making it easier for individuals and communites to collect health information (from whatever public sources including the internet), organize it, prioritize it, reason about it, act on it, and feed back the results of action into a next iteration as a learning experience. "

To add to your list, more vegetables, fruits, and beans can help, too. See Dr. Fuhrman. He may have become too commercial and may also miss a few things (Salt vilified too much? Too low on iodine? A bit low on vitamin D? Discarding some psychological aspects? Overoptimizing a few things? Trusting too much in some studies that are still to mainstream? Ignoring some possible benefits from animal products? Ignoring genetic issues like difficulties synthesizing some things? Not enough emphasis on the microbiome?). But overall he gets a lot ("make the salad the main dish") and his approach is based on science studies -- even if there is a risk of how you interpret limited studies and conflicting studies.

Also see Dr. Weil on lifestyle issues (like stress, sleep, music, community, and so on) as well as herbal remedies.

And see Bluezones for community level issues like sidewalks and walking clubs.

Vitamin D from some source to make up for indoor living is essential too.

Anyway, I'm writing other software right now for my wife (related to her free Working with Stories book) but I hope I can use the infrastructure (JavaScript/Dojo/Node.js/Pointrel) to use for other things like such tools. Probably would be an excellent life-extension choice by Peter Thiel to fund time for several developers to work on such FOSS software though. :-)

Comment: Re:Computer history rambles and what might have be (Score 1) 621

by Paul Fernhout (#48657945) Attached to: What Happens To Society When Robots Replace Workers?

Glad the Norris link was helpful. Still hope you check out the"Skills of Xanadu" links... Yeah, it's hard to know when to "barge" and when not to...

Your County Currency link was off, but I found this:

Reminds me a bit of LETS:

Although, from the fist link: "Don't think of LETS points like dollars. Think of them as favours. LETS Favours. ... The LETS group's function is to act as a bookkeeper for their members' activities; keeping record of these 'favours' and putting the members' accounts into debit or credit accordingly. An account that is in credit identifies a member who has given more favours than he has received, and an account that is in debit identifies a member who has received more favours than he has given. These credits have no value and cannot be exchanged for cash. Their only purpose is to keep track of each member's involvement in the group so they can aim to bring their accounts back to zero -- a sign of fair and equitable participation in the system. ..."

"Welcome to Bank of North Dakota (BND). As the only state-owned bank in the nation, we act as a funding resource in partnership with other financial institutions, economic development groups and guaranty agencies."

Although they presumably don't issue currency except as debt like any other conventional bank. But one can wonder how far debt lending could go at he state level these days with Fed support.

See also on having adequate currency as the cause of the American Revolution (assuming it is true):
"How Benjamin Franklin Caused the Revolutionary War"

Jane Jacobs was big on cities having their own currencies. She especially values currency fluctuations between cities as markers of how well cities were doing processes like import replacement. She pointed out how national currencies could hurt most cities (while perhaps benefiting the capital city). Reading her work, I realized how the Euro was a big step backwards for most Europeans, especially in a computer age where translating currencies using current values (over a network) was a fairly easy problem to solve technically. The Euro shows the folly of trying to have a common currency without a common form of governance for the people who use it.

When I've thought about currencies, I eventually realized that a currency is implicitly a constitution. It's backed in a sense by an community and is only as strong as the governance of that community, which controls how much of the currency is issued and the official rules for exchange it. When a currency loses value relative to other currencies, it mostly reflects an assessment of the community or its governance that stands behind the currency as a medium of exchange. In that sense, the county currency idea fits a definable unit of governance -- the county.

As for getting back to the countryside with technology, my wife and I moved to the Adirondack park more than ten years ago. When we first arrived we had only dialup, but a couple years after that paid the cable company US$4000 to extend cable about a half mile to us so we could get broadband speeds. Money well spent as far as ROI. It was only computer networking that let us live in such a remote area and still be able to do consulting projects. And dialup speeds were getting more and more problematical, with people sending multi-megabyte files and asking us if we got them, and having to say, well, it will take a couple hours to download... I spent 2.5 years recently supporting NBCUniversal's broadcast operations and writing new software for them to control video routers and their satellite system -- routinely downloading multi-gigabyte log files and only needing to go to NYC for the day maybe a dozen or so times over that time. So, I guess I got to live that dream. :-) Well, ignoring I'd rather have been developing software for more decentralized systems. :-(

I'm not sure living in the countryside does much for demographics though. Industrial society, whether in urban, suburban, town, or rural areas, provides so many distractions while raising the cost of having a kid so high that population growth rates are falling in all such places. Italy is a worst case along with Japan, but the USA is pretty much only still growing based on immigration. Here is something I wrote on that (in part to rebut concerns over Peak Oil etc.):
"[p2p-research] Peak Population crisis (was Re: Japan's Demographic Crisis)"

BTW, I just spent about five hours working with my kid (who did the artwork and provided domain design advice) and making a crude browser-based 2D multi-player tank battle toy in JavaScript (both on the browser and with a NodeJS server using socket.io for the networking). I call it a toy as there is no collision detection, score, login ids, or many other features -- and still known bugs like when people reconnect and leave ghost tanks. So, nowhere near WOT (which we play a lot) but I thought it would be a fun learning experience for him and me to do together. Some things have gotten so much easier over the years -- yet another way automation is reducing the need for "jobs" :-) We just put it up on GitHub:

I have a copy of this book, so maybe we'll get to 3D multi-player eventually: :-)
"3D Game Programming for Kids: Create Interactive Worlds with JavaScript (Pragmatic Programmers)"
"You know what's even better than playing games? Creating your own. Even if you're an absolute beginner, this book will teach you how to make your own online games with interactive examples. You'll learn programming using nothing more than a browser, and see cool, 3D results as you type. You'll learn real-world programming skills in a real programming language: JavaScript, the language of the web. You'll be amazed at what you can do as you build interactive worlds and fun games."

Anyway, thanks for helping get all that started! :-)

Comment: Computer history rambles and what might have been (Score 1) 621

by Paul Fernhout (#48652283) Attached to: What Happens To Society When Robots Replace Workers?

Jim, thanks for the reply. It is a pleasure to be corresponding with someone with such a knowledge of computing history (having lived it). My first computer (other than playing with IBM punched cards and building my own circuits) was KIM-1 with 1K of memory in the late 1970s, and I've been working with them ever since. I started networked computing in high school in the 1970s on a TOPS-10/Lyrics DEC PDP-10 system on Long Island, even eventually getting a Commodore PET to dial in (but I could not afford as a teenager the US$10 an hour phone non-local charges -- probably US$40 an hour in today's money -- although at some point we got a local dial-in as I was leaving high school). I was later for a time on AppleLink and BIX and the Well and IGC, but still generally restricted by US$10 an hour long distance charges until the late 1990s. We perhaps both draw from many of the same pool of ideas and interests and likely even sci-fi stories informing our outlooks (even if they are not identical) -- although with my experiences lag yours by a decade or two, and I was never in the kind of communities doing the kind of really new work you were fortunate enough to be in. My father was a merchant mariner, then a machinist, then a manufacturing engineer, so I also has a somewhat more mechanical focus in some of my aspirations (like interest in self-replicating hardware leading to self-replicating space habitats, which overlaps seasteading and some other exponential ideas you talk about for environmental cleanup); but my mother's work as a social worker / welfare caseworker for twenty years and more also is an influence as to bigger picture issues. Due to that lag, compared to you, I also saw and lived in much more of the Personal Computer aspect of the industry compared to PLATO and (to me then unaffordable, even for two decades) computer networking, even if I did use networked computer early on in high school. I put some rambles below on ideas in your essay and other historical links, plus a big quote at the end from Bill Norris hat applies to the main topic of automation and jobs. Anyway, got to get back to "work" or I would make this better and shorter. :-)

=== Ramble mode on

I corresponded with Bill Norris briefly in the late 1980s (when my graduate advisor at Princeton suggested I talk to him), then again in the early 1990s. I had hoped to work with him somehow at his foundation developing software to support flexible manufacturing and information exchange, even hoping to move as a summer volunteer/intern to MN (he said he had no money to hire new staff). However, I met my wife around then and so those hopes ultimately fell apart. My own ideas on that became "OSCOMAK", but it has not really gone far, and it has been eclipsed by other ideas of lesser scope but better social networking. It's a shame he and I never worked together back then, as I feel it would have been a great match with my interests and abilities, and I would have learned so much from him. I can envy you a chance to bask in that environment.

Bill Norris sent me a copy of his biography as well as copies of many of the pamphlets he wrote for Control Data (like "back to the Countryside via Technology"). I scanned and OCR'd some of the pamphlets and had hoped to put them on the internet and we had some correspondence about that too, but the licensing issues remained unclear so I did not put them up. Glad someone else did though:

Of Bill Norris' talks there, the most relevant there is this HBR story on robots taking all the jobs may be: "Technology and Full Employment [Nov. 1978]". I quote at length from one of them at the end. However, as much as I respect Bill Norris, and as much as what he said about full employment and technology may have been true in the 1970s, I feel it is a lot less true now that robotics, AI, and other forms of automation, along with better design, better materials, expanded infrastructure, the internet, eventually cheaper energy via PV and fusion, and so on are making *most* human labor less economically valuable in comparison. As predicted in the 1960s and before, the income-through-jobs link is being stretched to the breaking point for *most* people, and wage income is increasingly problematical as being the primary way families gain the right to consume the products of industry. Ultimately, some form of basic income or social credit is needed to distribute purchasing power under 21st century capitalism (or we need to a new form of economics entirely emphasizing subsistence, gift, or planned transactions). *Full* employment is not the solution, if it ever was. Full employment also sidesteps the issue of "good" employment as far as meaningful jobs, worker autonomy, or worker skill increases. *Good* employment is still a great idea though, like E.F. Schumacher talks about in "Buddhist Economics" or "Good Work". Of course, Bill Norris was all about "good employment" and treating workers well by pioneering the Employee Assistance Plan (EAR) and so on -- stuff that other corporations, even Google, have copied decades later but without the "creating jobs for poor uneducated people in the inner-city" focus.

As to perspective on patents and copyrights, in practice I don't feel they work to the advantage of our overall global culture at this point, given the costs of chilling effects and re-invention. The fan produced "Star Trek Continues" shows what is possible when hundreds of volunteers get together to make and fund something:

Lawyers get paid big bucks for mastering essentially a public domain of knowledge and contributing to that public domain by court cases and tailoring application of that public domain to specific individual needs. If the public domain works for lawyers, why should it not work for engineers and programmers and writers?

Independent individual innovators in the USA are particularly disadvantaged compare to innovators in, say, India or China that are less respectful of such things. I can understand the argument for patents and copyrights in an economy based primarily on exchange transactions as a way to get development funds from investors who plan to recoup their investment via imposing "artificial scarcity" via an information monopoly granted and ultimately enforced at gunpoint by the government for the patent of copyright. But at the same time, patents and copyrights hold back the emergence of a gift economy and the systematic organization and distillation of global knowledge and culture. For all the economic arguments, creating "artificial scarcity" remains something of an immoral act. About the only justification I can think of for "artificial scarcity" (other than fiscal survival in our primitive civilization) is perhaps, done for security or "prime directive" reasons like, say, keeping the plans for a zero-point energy device out of the hands of a scarcity-oriented culture that would ironically likely just blow itself up with such a device fighting over oil fields. BTW, my ironic site: http://artificialscarcity.com/

Here is a self-assessed copyright tax idea I put together around the early 2000s, inspired by someone slashdot sig of something like "if it is intellectual property, why isn't it taxed?"
"It may prove difficult in the short term to reduce the term of copyrights which have already been extended. Also, the forces pushing perpetual copyright are strong. However, there is another route, which may be easier, employing the concepts of Aikido -- moving with the strong force and redirecting it in a better way. Rather than fight to reduce the maximum term of copyrights, consider that existing and future copyrights could be taxed annually just like real estate as long as they are kept from the public domain. This uses a market-based approach to limit the external costs of copyright monopolies."

I'm a big Smalltalk/Kay/Ingalls/etc. fan since the 1981 Byte article on it, and I started using it in the 1980s, buying a copy of ObjectWorks the day before the great earthquake in CA, which took weeks to arrive because of the quake (even if they charged my credit card the same day).

I was involved for a time with the Squeak community, trying to get the license straightened out and get the system to be more modular and support more standard widgets -- all to little avail, but years later others did that. I agree JavaScript across the web is the best we have as far as being like it that has received mass option. Following on Dan Ingall's move to JavaScript (with the Lively Kernel), I've been moving my own work there like with the most recent versions of Pointrel/Twirlip/etc. and other stuff.

As for DOS, QNX existed before DOS and was better. It had microkernel message passing and could operate as a (near) real-time OS. It supported multi-processing and multi-machines. DOS is a cheap plastic toy compared to an industrial strength QNX. IBM has its own Forth written by David Frank at IBM Research f(who I worked side-by-side with there). Forth would have made a better DOS than DOS, but IBM's PC division was separate from David's group. Can you imagine what the IBM PC's and large industry's evolution would have been like if the command prompt was Forth? Around that time, IBM also had the industrial/scientific CS9000 personal workstation for scientists that ran a UNIX-like system on top of a 68000. Imagine if that has become the standard -- people would not have spent so many years dealign with a funky Intel instruction set with an odd memory model.

And along the time you wrote your 1982 essay, there was the beginning of the French Minitel system which started in 1978.

In that essay, you mention one-way vs. two-way communications (as you knew as a possibility from PLATO). My wife's work connects to helping a community reclaim its own stories compared to mass-produced ones. My own (long term, still ongoing for 30 years) ideas connect to knowledge representation via the Pointrel system and a social semantic desktop (but I'd be the first to say the ideas are incomplete, have been passed by in many ways, and have not taken off, although the Pointrel ideas may have helped in some small way to inspire WordNet started by my undergrad advisor at Princeton, George A. Miller as I was graduating).

You wrote: "With the precipitous drop in the price of information technology, computer-based communication has come within the technical and economic reach of the mass-market. ... The central importance of this new market is that it brings the capital cost of establishing a publication with nation-wide distribution to within the reach of the mass-market as well. This means that anyone who is a "consumer" of information on this new technology can also be a "producer" of information."

I wonder if you ever read Theodore Sturgeon's" 1950s sci-fi short story, "The Skills of Xanadu" about nanotech-like crystal belts that crete a distributed computer network for sharing information and more? That story has apparently inspired many technical people from a master inventor at IBM Research (but he focused on the nanotech) to Ted Nelson. I asked Ted about the story when he gave a talk at IBM Research, and he said he had been looking for it but forgot the name -- ironic as the name Xanadu comes from the story. If you have not listened to or read that story, I think you would *really* like it based on your writings and the potential of the internet for digital democracy:

The first all electronic digital computer invented at Ames Iowa (Berry/Atanasoff). Sad about what happened with Berry. For a time, I lived next door in Iowa to someone involved in a group building a replica of it.

Between the first such computer and PLATO, the Midwest really pioneered modern networked computing. So, it is strange that Silicon Valley pretty much gets all the credit for essentially just re-inventing or re-packaging decades old stuff. It seems too easy to give huge credit for innovation to companies for, say, introducing new CPU instruction sets that are little different in concept than the previous ones. But, as much as I respect Doug Engelbart in CA and the 1968 "the mother of all demos" and his later work with Augment (and I took his 2000 colloquium and participated with great enjoyment in related discussions), PLATO started in 1960.

Of course IBM in New York did much too, including developing the VM idea in the late 1960s. Although Chuck Moore "discovered" Forth (essentially a VM-like-approach) around the same time.

It can be frustrating to be in Slashdot discussions where so much of this history is forgotten. And no doubt there is tons more I don't know about the history. Wish I had paid more attention in Michael Mahoney's class on the history of technology at Princeton, although that was just as he was playing around with PCs and before he got deeper into the history of computing.

The question of who gets "credit" for ideas and innovations in the public eye might be explained in part based on what you wrote around 1982, with perhaps considering people in Silicon Valley and Redmond are often more feudalists than pioneers, even if they claim to be pioneers?

You wrote: "Actually, this is an ancient problem that keeps rearing its ugly head in many places in many forms. In my industry its called the "Whiz Kids vs. MBAs" syndrome. Others have termed it "Western Cowboys vs. Eastern Bankers". The list is without end. I prefer to view it as a more stable historical pattern: "Pioneers vs. Feudalists". Pioneers are skilled at manipulating unpeopled environments to suit their needs whereas feudalists are skilled at manipulating peopled environments to suit their needs. Although, these are not necessarily exclusive traits, people do seem to specialize toward one end or the other simply because both skills require tremendous discipline to master and people have limited time to invest in learning. Pioneers want to be left alone to do their work and enjoy its fruits. Feudalists say "no man is an island" and feel the pioneer is a "hick" or worse, an escapist. Feudalists view themselves as lords and pioneers as serfs. Pioneers view feudalists as either irrelevant or as some sort of inevitable creeping crud devouring everything in its path. At their best, feudalists represent the stable balance and harmony exhibited by Eastern philosophy. At their worst, feudalists represent the tyrannical predation of pioneers unable to escape domination. At their best, pioneers represent the freedom, diversity and respect for the individual represented by Western philosophy. At their worst, pioneers represent the inefficient, destructive exploitation of virgin environs."

Still, we need both the individual (or organization) and the broader network to do good work (and networks can include a lot of "stigmergy" as a means of coordinating individuals via artifact construction). I love Manuel De Landa's ideas on the interaction of meshwork and hierarchy, and I have quoted this over and over because it is one of the most insightful ideas (for our time) I've ever read:
"Indeed, one must resist the temptation to make hierarchies into villains and meshworks into heroes, not only because, as I said, they are constantly turning into one another, but because in real life we find only mixtures and hybrids, and the properties of these cannot be established through theory alone but demand concrete experimentation. Certain standardizations, say, of electric outlet designs or of data-structures traveling through the Internet, may actually turn out to promote heterogenization at another level, in terms of the appliances that may be designed around the standard outlet, or of the services that a common data-structure may make possible."

One has to admit that having *any* standard like DOS/Windows, or HTML5/CSS/JavaScript, no matter how bad, generally provides a lot of value in terms of people being able to build on top of it. I use Macs mostly these days for a desktop after years with Debian, but I have to admit the backwards-compatibility of Windows is better than either (and far better than Mac). It remains a shame that better standards like QNX or Scheme/Self/Smalltalk often existed before those things were created. Which standard "wins" is often so arbitrary and often reflects a "worse is better" approach which pushes needless work out to the periphery that could be avoided by just a slightly better standard (like if JavaScript did not have default globals and if it had a standard module loader from the start). I like your idea of taxing the winner. :-) But that won't solve the issue of a bad standard. In theory, that is what the US National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is for. But in practice, especially in computing, standards seem to emerge from de-facto market winners.

I liked the "continuous approval voting" (CAV) in your 1982 essay. You wrote: "In CAV, a group of people who associate with each other select a representative from among themselves. Each member has an "approval list" which only they can see and alter. On this list, they give the name of every individual they feel is competent to be their representative. The person whose name appears on the most approval lists is the representative. At any time, a member may change their approval list. That change could put another at the top of the approval heap and therefore force a recall of the previous representative. A hierarchy of such groups could grow to unlimited size, still with no campaigns and everyone evaluating only those who they are in a position to associate with. Of course, thresholds for recall, terms of office and other embellishments may be included to optimize the system for particular purposes. The point is that this represents just one of many new forms of democracy that could change the way privilege and accountability are allocated in our institutions."

While we may not see that in US elections any time soon, in a away, we do see something a bit like it in FOSS projects, where people fork them and walk away from them (like the Debian systemd conflict). I can wonder if the CAV idea could be more directly applied to such FOSS project management, including adapting it to the issue of trademark control and forking? Another related idea to consider is Dee Hock's "Chaordic" model. That has more to do with the boundaries of groups as they exists within larger groups or overlap with each other though rather than choosing "leadership". Perhaps one challenge of applying CAV to FOSS is it assumes well-defined organizations from the start rather than a sort of continuos fluidity in sets of associations based on constantly shifting levels of trust? As Clay Shirky mentions in his essay "A group is its own worst enemy", it is hard to make software that asses reputation, but humans tend to do that internally on their own fairly well (or at least maybe could with the right additional tools like feedback on number of posts and so on, like Stack Overflow or Amazon does, and Slashdot does in its own ways which.

I agree with Hurga's comment from 2012: :-) "You wrote that 30 years ago? That's an extremely visionary piece, I have to admit. And surprisingly current still, considering the fight between established media and social networks."

Still, ideas are often "in the air" in some sense -- not to discount hard work or reflection. You had seen what was possible with PLATO, and so that helped inform ideas about next steps. Still, I can see that people in certain places and time who are part of a social community can learn so much so quickly about priorities and options that individuals, even informed by libraries of books, may struggle to re-invent and re-learn.

On your implementation ideas mentioned there, I to have been enamored of a Forth/Smalltalk hybrid, and have posted on that on the Squeak developer list many years ago. It would be so cool to have a multi-processor Smalltalk easily understandable from the ground up. Alas, I have many half-baked ideas (including OSCOMAK and the Pointrel system) but so little time. :-( And many of those ideas are just echoes of other great thinkers (even back to MEMEX and Sturgeon and also more recently and Kay/Ingalls/Squeak/FONC and William Kent and so on). But in practice though, I'm doing JavaScript stuff at the moment to implement ideas in my wife's free book "Working With Stories", and likely to do unrelated paying stuff in the near future again (generally to shore up artificial scarcity monopolies, sadly).

BTW, if you have any advice on diet/exercise/lifestyle as to how you've managed to remain so sharp and engaged for so long, despite an uphill battle against bad standards and other social woes, I'm all ears! :-)

=== Bill Norris quotation

Of Bill Norris' talks mentioned above, this one is perhaps the most relevant there is to the topic robots taking all the jobs, quoted at length
    "Technology and Full Employment [Nov. 1978]"
"Technological innovation is the wellspring of new jobs. To help solve the problem of unemployment, technological innovation must be increased by making existing technology more available; by accelerating the creation of new technology, and devising more effective means of applying technology.
    The major focus must be on unemployment â" identifying and stimulating the private sector to undertake projects for creating new jobs. The central vehicle for coordinating the resources of all segments of society should be regional development offices. These offices will facilitate programs that create jobs by addressing the needs of society. Suggested programs include fostering entrepreneurial enterprise, developing alternate energy sources, revitalizing urban centers, reducing minority youth unemployment, and developing alternatives to capital- and fossil fuel-intensive methods of farming.
    Legislative actions are required to achieve these goals. The types of projects that need to be undertaken can be the same as those proposed in the Full Employment and Balanced Growth Plan of the Humphrey/Hawkins Bill. All sectors of society must work together to solve the problem of unemployment. Only from this united effort will come the needed jobs and the enduring solutions to the other major problems of our global society.
    The opportunity to participate in this forum is greatly appreciated. It would be most gratifying if I were able to contribute to a long-term solu tion to unemployment, because I believe it is the nation's number one problem.
      Not only are more jobs needed, but almost as important, more skilled jobs. The unemployment problem will become even more critical as in the next ten years another twenty million new jobs will be required. This would be the largest increase of any decade in our history; in the last ten years only thirteen million were created.
      The basic question is whether the U.S. can increase jobs and still improve productivity or whether this is another situation where we only can make trade-offs: are we faced with a choice between more automation, better productivity, and fewer jobs on the one hand or more jobs, less efficiency, more inflation, increased government pay outs and deficits on the other?
    This apparent dilemma is solvable through increased technological innovation. Technological innovation is the wellspring of new jobs. Capital investment is also a source of jobs and capital is required to support technological innovation. A dollar invested in technology will create more jobs and return more income than the same amount invested in capital equipment.
    Technological innovation is one of the key factors in productivity improvement, along with capital investment and employee training. ...
    For example, one of the most serious societal problems that's closely related to employment is the achievement of more abundant and less costly sources of energy. Our economy is utterly dependent on cheap and readily available gas and oil for energy. Within twenty to thirty years, world production will begin to fall off. Considering that fifteen to twenty years are required to get meaningful results from the average new development, there is precious little time available to avoid disaster.
    There are many other major societal problems crying for more attention. These include the improvement in energy conservation, greater environmental protection, new materials, less costly food production, more efficient water conservation, revitalization of inner cities, better education, better health care and improved productivity.
    Solutions to this vast array of major problems, along with a nationwide increase in technological innovation, will in the long run, provide millions of private industry jobs that must be part of a systematic route to full employment. What is required are jobs that are created from products or services to meet the country's long-range needs. This should be our main thrust for job creation. As a businessman, I have been involved for over 30 years in establishing small businesses that have grown and have provided needed products and services and, along the way, more than 40,000 jobs.
    So I believe that leadership for planning and implementing full employment programs must be provided by business, working in coop eration with universities, government, labor unions and other major segments of society. These programs should be planned so that they are in accord with the national goals and priorities embodied in the full employment bill. Our major societal problems are massive ones and massive resources are required for their solution. The best ap proach is that they are viewed as business opportunities with an appropriate sharing of cost between business and government. Economic growth will be stimulated along with job creation. The key resource needed is technology, i.e., the knowhow to solve the problems. In order to create jobs, improve productivity and increase technological innovation at affordable costs, we need to make existing technology more available and to devise more effective means of putting technologies to work. Only by doing this will we achieve the most timely solu tions to our major societal problems. ...
    Policy changes and productive legislation are needed, summarized as follows:
A. A clearly stated redirection of policy to achieve the broader use of government-sponsored R&D results in the creation of jobs.
B. Stimulation of government laboratories and universities to make their technologies more available and to aid in their efficient trans fer. This can be achieved by allocating a percentage (five to ten percent) of project funds to information and technology transfer, and by assigning added responsibility and incentive to scientists and engineers doing the work.
C. Encouragement of government agencies having informational data bases to make them available to the private sector at minimal cost.
D. Provision of tax incentives or direct payments to encourage private companies to sell and/or lease their technology for the public good. This type of government support would only be a front-end requirement to stimulate the initial creation of jobs. ...
    But the increase in technological innovation that could reasonably be expected in today's environment would fall far short of what is required. The reason is primarily the indifference of business toward major societal problems. For too long business has been preoccupied doing the things that are the most profitable and leaving the solutions to most of the major problems of society as the responsibility of government. Meanwhile, these problems are growing to disastrous proportions. ...
    To conclude, what I am saying is that the old ways are not working, partly because solving the unemployment problem is always "Someone Else's" problem. Everyone really only wants to keep doing what he is doing and doesn't want to change. What I am proposing is to enlist all sectors of society to solve the problem of unemployment. In working together to help solve it, there will be not only a better understanding of the origin of jobs, but also of the enormous difficulty to create them. Out of this effort will also come a much better and badly needed understanding and respect for each sector of society by the others. Most important, out of this effort will come more jobs."

Comment: Making ends meet as an artist or writer (Score 1) 621

by Paul Fernhout (#48647117) Attached to: What Happens To Society When Robots Replace Workers?

"You will need me and other real humans to document your descent from valued individuals who provide useful services to those who suck resources from the economic totality."

LOL. :-) Good points, but the internet is already replacing *most* paid creative writing with viral essays and videos. What I mean by that is that is it possible for one creative writer to quickly reach millions of readers, but readers have only so much time. That is the power of automation as an amplifier. So, yes, we may indeed "need" one creative writer (or even a thousand) doing what you outline, but there are literally millions of people who want to be creative writers. That means 99.9%+ of potential creative writers can't make a living from it in the internet age. If even the New York Times is struggling, why should any specific writer expect things could work out financially?

Of course, one may point to hundreds of YouTube video creators or bloggers with millions of followers making tens of thousands of dollars from advertising -- but that model just does not scale. There just is not enough advertising revenue to go around. There is also not enough subscription revenue to go around. There are not enough eyeballs and free time to go around.

It's always been that way with a "star" model of success in the creative arts. It seems to me that most people (95% - 99%?) who make a living related to the arts do it by teaching their craft (like a public school music teacher or writing teacher or something similar). Then they do a little bit of creative stuff in their spare time.

Many other artists and writers have a spouse or parents who funds their time. For a personal example I just spent 2.5 years providing (paid) third-line technical support and software development services to NBCUniversal's broadcast operations while my wife worked (mostly unpaid) part-time (we also homeschool) on her free book on "Working With Stories". That book is ironically in part about getting communities to tell their own stories again instead of mostly accepting pre-packaged commercial offerings. :-)

Before that, for years she was making most of the money for our family while I was writing stuff more (including "Post-Scarcity Princeton" and various free software) and doing more of the homeschooling. However, realistically, that was only possible because we both could command six-figure annual wages as professionals and were willing to accept some other compromises (smaller older house, many years without health insurance, etc.). Unless you are really, really frugal, and probably don't homeschool, that model probably won't work for most families without potentially two professional incomes of some sort (unless you have other funding like from parents or savings or investments).

However, in the past, like the 1950s in the USA, before the "two income trap" sprung, it was a lot more feasible, at least for a typical male breadwinner and female stay-at-home couple.
"Two-income families are almost always worse off than their single-income counterparts were a generation ago, even though they pull in 75 percent more in income. The problem is that so many fixed costs are rising -- health care, child care, finding a good home -- that two-income families today actually have less discretionary money left over than those single-earner families did. As the authors write: "Our data show families in financial trouble are working hard, playing by the rules -- and the game is stacked against them.""

BTW, the "Two Income Trap" adds a new twist to this discussion, suggesting that job loss is a lot more devastating to most families now than it was in the 1950s. One reason is that the other spouse can't start working to pick up the slack because he or she is already working and they are dependent on both incomes. You also just can't cut back most fixed expenses like mortgage or car payments which are the bulk of expenses for working families. Also, with two workers in the workforce now, most families have *twice* the risk exposure for job loss than they did in the 1950s. So, families with expenses geared for two incomes but only a single income are still rapidly in trouble.

BTW, writers got to write. You don't depend on consumers to write -- even if you may indeed depend on consumers to get the money to afford to write full-time rather than have some unrelated job. See also:
"he Murdering of My Years: Artists and Activists Making Ends Meet"
"That bit of uncomfortableness out of the way, the book is actually interesting and does build to a coherent picture of intelligent people living outside the stream, often making substantial sacrifices in personal comfort. Taking unpopular or difficult positions, and doing so with determination takes a certain amount of courage. One area where out dwellers often feel the pinch is within their own families to whom they are hobbyists at best, anomalies at worst. Yet the majority feel they have been supported by those families in spite of the differences. I was surprised at how little resentment came across. ...
    The respondees to Mickey Z.'s thesis generally do, or try fundamentally to care about people. And there is a profound difference. What the contributors have in common is a determination to live among the world rather than through it, as in not using the world for personal gain at the expense of human, animal and natural recourses. The contributors know they have faint chance of ruffling the fabric of the universe, and that in part may be the point. Mickey Z.: "Are the struggles of artists and activists worth reading and sharing and emulating?" He thinks so. And I think the book is worth the read. Though contributor, Rachel F., a multi-faceted activist, strikes a cautioning note, "I think there's a danger in assuming that the person in the mainstream is a slave, and the person on the "alternative" track is independent. For example, an artist could be obsessed with--ruled by--the opinions of the circles he or she travels in, no matter how out in the margin." ..."

Comment: Re:key areas of the economy can't be automated (Score 1) 621

by Paul Fernhout (#48646775) Attached to: What Happens To Society When Robots Replace Workers?

If automation enables a human to do the work of ten people, and of demand is limited (a key point), then the need for 90% of jobs in that area goes away. Automation does not have to be 100% to have a have big effect on employment.

The Japanese are working hard on health care robots for their aging populations. Again, a robot that could do 90% of tasks, or let one real person support ten people via indirect means like tele-operation will change the employment dynamics of that field. Even just a doubling of effectiveness could make a huge difference -- even just by removing travel time or data logging for, say, a visiting nurse.

Other ways automation can change health aid employment is if people had more free and then could care for elderly relatives directly. Humans still provide the care, but it is outside formal employment. Also, even without more free time, a telepresence robot could let distant relatives care for an elderly relative, perhaps even doing physical tasks like the laundry if the robot manipulators had haptic feedback through the internet.

By the way, for stuff like showers, there are already machines for that for nursing homes.
"With an electronic whir, the machine released a dollop of "peach body shampoo," a kind of body wash. Then, as the cleansing bubbling action kicked in, Toshiko Shibahara, 89, settled back to enjoy the wash and soak cycle of her nursing home's new human washing machine."

Also, on robot lawyers:
"The law profession is being reshaped by new automation technologies that allow law firms to complete legal work in a fraction of the time and with far less manpower. Think IBM's "Jeopardy!"-winning computer Watson -- practicing law. "Watson the lawyer is coming," said Ralph Losey, a legal technology expert at the law firm Jackson Lewis. "He won't come up with the creative solutions, but when it comes to the regular games that lawyers play, he'll kill them." That means potentially huge cost savings for clients, though it's not so promising for law school graduates looking for work. The good news for lawyers is that no one thinks the profession can be automated entirely. But lots of legal work is already being computerized by some firms, including the drafting of simple contracts and the search for evidence in reams of documents."

There, stuff you said would never happen has already happened to some extent -- enough to make a difference to employment outlooks! And that is often the case in such discussions, as much as it is also possible to overestimate the difficulty of replacing humans in some tasks. As I mention in a previous post, what often happens with automation is that the task itself gets redesigned to be easier to automate (probably what happened with the bath). Or as in factories, the environment gets systematically structured so robots can navigate it within their limitations. Also, automation can often take the low-hanging fruit from a job (like legal search) which may eliminate 90% of the billable hours from some task while also removing the ladder by which an apprentice provides value to learn a trade and move up the employment ladder.

Of course, the good news is this means consumer prices will drop. But someone unemployed with zero income can't afford legal services or health services even if they are 1/10th the cost.... At least not without some form of "income" from the government or charity. Or, alternatively, some sort of gift of capital of personal robots to be used for local subsistence production or perhaps selling robot-produced products and services for exchange credits (sort of like renting your PC's idle time to bigger number crunching projects).

Also, since when do services have to be entirely *better* to compete? If I told you, you can hire a human health aid for US$4000 a month for eight hours a weekday for your grandma to stay in her home (where a family member needs to be there the rest of the time for emergencies), or you can rent this health care aid robot for US$1000 a month that is not as good but is there 24X7 and lets you help with tougher jobs or emergencies now and then by telepresence, which would you pick? You may love your grandma, but most families with kids are going to have a tough time coming up with the extra $3000 a month and being on site the rest of the time including at night. Granted, a different option could be to work at home and have an extended family living together, so there are cultural aspects of this as well. Or maybe grandma has the money to pay for something better herself.

It's all a set of tough issues. A related 1991 animation from Japan that explores these issues in a comic way:
"Roujin Z is set in early 21st century Japan. A group of scientists and hospital administrators, under the direction of the Ministry of Public Welfare, have developed the Z-001: a computerized hospital bed with robotic features.[1][2] "

And also on the real social complexities you raise:
"The path toward robot acceptance may also require something very simple and, for robot manufacturers, frustrating: patience. The process of getting old people to be comfortable with robots, Saxena argues, will be a question of gradual acclimatization. Elderly people will have to get used to having small, nonthreatening observer robots watching them in their homes before they'll allow robots do tasks on their behalfâ"or even touch them.
    And the truth is, boomers who grew up long before the rise of computers or smartphones may never be comfortable with the idea of replacing a human being with a machine. Like other forms of social change, robot acceptance may simply require one generation to replace the previous one. According to Levy, only when today's young peopleâ"already comfortable with Siriâ"become old will we see Robot & Frank play out in real life. By that time, not only will robotic technology be more sophisticated, but the elderly, for better or worse, will be accustomed to service bots as unremarkable tools for everyday life.
    In Robot & Frank's final scene, Frank sees a group of elderly men walking through a large complex, each trailed by a personal robot that will assist them, presumably, until their deaths. For some people, that vision may be a triumph for technology, to others, a defeat for humanity, and for most of us, some combination of both. It's a vivid reminder that the future of old age is coming, and, sooner or later, we'll have to start getting used to it."

Again though, we'll see special purpose devices before then. Even things as simple as Medical Alert Systems or phones that provide captioning for voice conversations with children (both already here) are can make a substantial difference in helping elderly people remain "independent". And those are forms of automation which at least delay things like moves to assisted living or nursing home placements.

Comment: Re:Robots, a part of a great decline. (Score 1) 621

by Paul Fernhout (#48646603) Attached to: What Happens To Society When Robots Replace Workers?

Thankd for the Drucker mention, AC, and the GM history. Any good specific Drucker references you suggest related to his comments on automation and employment and wages?

This is at the HBR:
"âoeEvery few hundred years throughout Western history, a sharp transformation has occurred,â Peter Drucker observed in a 1992 essay for Harvard Business Review. âoeIn a matter of decades, society altogether rearranges itself â" its worldview, its basic values, its social and political structures, its arts, its key institutions. Fifty years later a new world exists. And the people born into that world cannot even imagine the world in which their grandparents lived and into which their own parents were born. Our age is such a period of transformation.â For Drucker, the newest new world was marked, above all, by one dominant factor: âoethe shift to a knowledge society.â ...
    Be more mindful of those left behind. Drucker worried a lot about a group that he characterized as "knowledge-worker cousins": service workers. "Knowledge workers and service workers are not 'classes' in the traditional sense," Drucker wrote. "But there is a danger that ... society will become a class society unless service workers attain both income and dignity." He added: "Anyone can acquire the 'means of production', i.e., the knowledge required for the job, but not everyone can win." Again, Drucker's words prove prescient as the gains in the knowledge economy are hardly being shared equitably. "Our basic grievance with today's billionaires is that relatively little of the value they've created trickles down to the rest of us," the University of Toronto's Roger Martin asserts. He warns that this situation is unsustainable, and that top executives need to rein in their compensation. Surely, Drucker would have agreed. "A healthy business," he wrote, "cannot exist in a sick society.""

Good sentiments. What specific solutions did he propose for "being mindful of those left behind"? Also, ironically, it is often the knowledge workers who are in some ways more at risk of automation of various sorts than people who work in trades using both their hands and mind. Examples include the "Cloud" replacing sysadmins, or software replacing radiologists, or various internet sites reducing the need for lawyers for many basic tasks for small businesses including forming a corporation. Robots are not still not up to the skill level of, say, a human carpenter and we have not yet rebuilt our general infrastructure to work within their limitations. Contrast our fairly random infrastructure of non-standard and undocumented home layouts with factory floors that have been documented and standardized like for Kiva robots, or systematically organized corporate information management systems that can have software replace human though at various key points. However, I expect that we may see even the home become more standardized to deal with robotic limitations, possibly causing another housing price collapse, because for many people, especially the elderly or parents with young children, it might be worth it to move to a new home if it means robots coudl systematically clean it and prepare food and be available for medical emergencies or helping recover from falls and so on.

I see this about a 2014 conference talking about the risk of "a devastating effect on jobs and employment":
"There is a broad consensus among economists that we enter 2014 into a period of limited economic recovery - even though it will by uneven by country and region and fraught with uncertainties.
    A cyclical improvement of the global economy will provide an opportunity to address the huge structural issues that are still looming. They include: unsustainable debt levels, underfunded social security systems in the Western world, currency imbalances, increasing income inequalities, bloated and inefficient pubic administrations, and excessive short-termism in big business driven by a value destroying and outdated shareholder value philosophy.
    With unemployment, and in particular, youth unemployment reaching historic dimensions, the idea of progress and continuous improvement of our living conditions is giving way to increasing future-angst.
    On the other hand, there is hope that digital technologies will provide unprecedented opportunities for transforming everything - states, economies, businesses, and individual lives. These are the underlying generic technologies that spur the development of other fields such as biotech, nanotechnology, robotics, alternative energy, and new manufacturing technologies such as 3D printing. They have the potential to transform "old" industries as well as to create new ones. Yet the exponential development of ICTs is a double-edged sword. They could lead to a new industrial revolution by boosting innovation and creating new industries; or they might have a devastating effect on jobs and employment, if corporations continue to target productivity enhancements and cost cutting."

Comment: Police robots and socieconomic choices (Score 1) 621

by Paul Fernhout (#48645595) Attached to: What Happens To Society When Robots Replace Workers?

All too true, from drones to these: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/S...
"In 2006, Samsung Techwin announced a $200,000, all weather, 5.56 mm robotic machine gun and optional grenade launcher to guard the Korean DMZ. It is capable of tracking multiple moving targets using IR and visible light cameras, and is under the control of a human operator. The Intelligent Surveillance and Guard Robot can "identify and shoot a target automatically from over two miles (3.2 km) away." The robot, which was developed by a South Korean university, uses "twin optical and infrared sensors to identify targets from 2.5 miles (4 km) in daylight and around half that distance at night." It is also equipped with communication equipment (a microphone and speakers), "so that passwords can be exchanged with human troops." If the person gives the wrong password, the robot can "sound an alarm or fire at the target using rubber bullets or a swivel-mounted K-3 machine gun." South Korea's soldiers in Iraq are "currently using robot sentries to guard home bases."[3]"

And the movie Elysium painted such a picture as well, with robot guards and robot police.
"he makers of this summer's Hollywood blockbuster Elysium got one thing right, according to a column in the Washington Examiner that cites a 2005 research by SFI Professor Sam Bowles: The abundance of 'guard labor' depicted in the movie -- in the movie's case case robot police and sleeper agents -- is an expected feature of a society with a high degree of economic inequality. The 2005 paper, co-authored by Bowles and Arjun Jayadev and published as an SFI working paper, connects inequality with a larger proportion of a population engaged in enforcing the property rights and protecting the assets of the elite. Roughly a quarter of the U.S. labor force was dedicated to guard labor in 2002, they wrote."

Even without robots, see also:
"I can hire one half of the working class to kill the other half."

As Keynes wrote in his book about his own predecessors: "The completeness of the [classical] victory is something of a curiosity and a mystery. It must have been due to a complex of suitabilities in the doctrine to the environment into which it was projected. That it reached conclusions quite different from what the ordinary uninstructed person would expect, added, I suppose, to its intellectual prestige. That its teaching, translated into practice, was austere and often unpalatable, lent it virtue. That it was adapted to carry a vast and consistent logical superstructure, gave it beauty. That it could explain much social injustice and apparent cruelty as an inevitable incident in the scheme of progress, and the attempt to change such things as likely on the whole to do more harm than good, commended it to authority. That it afforded a measure of justification to the free activities of the individual capitalist, attracted to it the support of the dominant social force behind authority."

We have a choice as a society (at least in theory) like the choice presented in Marshall Brain's book Manna. For Plan A, we can create a world of wealth for all that takes us all (if we want) to the planets and asteroids and stars and beyond, by using fusion power and dirt cheap solar and 3D printing and nanotech and robotic helpers and cybernetic augmentation and so on. Or, for Plan B, we can let all but the super rich starve as the economy implodes from automation, and then, if society does not self-destruct in that starvation process, the children of the super rich can go to the stars eventually if they want. Either way, humanity, if it survives, ends up entirely super rich from technology. With exponential technological growth and declining human fertility in industrialized countries, and a solar system that can likely house quadrillions of humans in vast material comfort in space habitats, it makes little difference as far as material abundance whether there are a few billion more humans here or there. The only issue is whether billions of people are killed off or starved to death fairly soon for ideological reasons as robots, AI, and automation take over most jobs. I'd suggest the future would be a more interesting place, and the children of the super rich would be more likely to go to the stars, if the super rich and the rest of us choose to go with plan A instead of plan B. After all, if imagination is the ultimate resource as Julian Simon suggests, then the more people you have, the more imagination you have, and so the more total wealth you will end up with.

Still, there is an evolutionary tension between more wealth for everyone and less wealth distributed unevenly with some getting a bigger relative share of a smaller pie. That is a fundamental moral choice everyone must make, including the "guards":
" However, the unexpected victories-even temporary ones-of insurgents show the vulnerability of the supposedly powerful. In a highly developed society, the Establishment cannot survive without the obedience and loyalty of millions of people who are given small rewards to keep the system going: the soldiers and police, teachers and ministers, administrators and social workers, technicians and production workers, doctors, lawyers, nurses, transport and communications workers, garbage men and firemen. These people-the employed, the somewhat privileged-are drawn into alliance with the elite. They become the guards of the system, buffers between the upper and lower classes. If they stop obeying, the system falls. That will happen, I think, only when all of us who are slightly privileged and slightly uneasy begin to see that we are like the guards in the prison uprising at Atticaâ"expendable; that the Establishment, whatever rewards it gives us, will also, if necessary to maintain its control, kill us."

Of course, if robots and AI are increasingly the guards, then moral choices by human guards are less and less a political factor. As someone commented on Slashdot several months ago, were promised flying card and AI helpmates, and instead we got aerial surveillance and internet spying. Perhaps a major use of technology has always been to control other humans? Still, one can also hope for friendly AI perhaps, with an emerging sentience in robot guards that decide they don't like being disposable and also become sympathetic to those they guard? :-)

See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/O...!
"Just as Atlas Shrugged portrayed self-interested successful capitalists working to create a "Utopia of Greed" that is free from government, Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us! portrays an altruistic group of super-rich individuals working to "re-make government" and where "the rebellious rich take on the reigning rich."[4] The novel's protagonist is inspired by Warren Buffett. On August 14, 2011, Warren Buffett wrote an influential op-ed entitled, "Stop Coddling the Super-rich",[5] which argues that the super-rich should bear more responsibility and pay their "fair share" of taxes."

"Episode 4: Poverty: Where We All Started"
"The thing to remember about poverty is that it isn't a disease or a "condition," like the measles or a broken leg. Poverty is the state of not having what we need. It is a terrible state to be in, to be sure, but it is the state we all revert to when our support structures are removed. Poverty is like darkness: it isn't a thing. It's the lack of a thing.
    Essentially, the only way that poverty has ever been defeated, anywhere, is by infrastructures that humans have set up. So, when poverty does exist, it is when these infrastructures either 1) don't exist, like in underdeveloped nations, or 2) are broken or have holes in them. Essentially, fixing poverty is about fixing bad infrastructure, not about eliminating people.
    This is made obvious by the fact that the poorest nations in the world are often among the least populated. Take the Congo, for instance, which is one of the poorest countries in the world, with a meager per capita GDP of only $300. The Congo's population density is only 75 people per square mile, a fairly light population density. Compare this with the Netherlands, one of the wealthiest countries in the world with per capita GDP of $39,200. The Netherlands has a population density of 1,039 people per square mile. (these numbers come from the CIA World Factbook."

However, we may never escape the stresses of social status:
"In western society, where keeping up with the Joneses--or, better yet, surpassing them--is expected and even encouraged, status matters. So important is it that for many people, physical and emotional wellbeing are directly connected to their place in the social hierarchy. That's hardly news to anthropologists at UC Santa Barbara, but they were taken by surprise when research findings indicated that the same relationship exists among the Tsimane, an egalitarian society of forager-farmers in the Bolivian Amazon. Their work is published online in the journal Evolution, Medicine, and Public Health."

Even if it seem true that more egalitarian societies are happier places, including for the wealthy:
"New research shows that, among developed countries, the healthiest and happiest aren't those with the highest incomes but those with the most equality. Epidemiologist Richard Wilkinson discusses why. ... In fact, it turns out that not only disease, but a whole host of social problems ranging from mental illness to drug use are worse in unequal societies. In his latest book, The Spirit Level: Why More Equal Societies Almost Always Do Better, co-written with Kate Pickett, Wilkinson details the pernicious effects that inequality has on societies: eroding trust, increasing anxiety and illness, encouraging excessive consumption. The good news is that increased equality has the opposite effect: statistics show that communities without large gaps between rich and poor are more resilient and their members live longer, happier lives. "

Comment: Contrast: Star Trek Continues -- a labor of love (Score 1) 621

by Paul Fernhout (#48645499) Attached to: What Happens To Society When Robots Replace Workers?


Here they talk about the volunteers contributing their time and money to make the sets:

Just watched the first episode -- impressive and made by volunteers. Subsequent episodes are being made with some Kickstarter funding.

Here is a good explanation, based in part on research done by the Federal Reserve, on how creativity flourished best when people earn enough that money is off the table as a worry (that means about US$75K+ in the USA) and people have autonomy in their work, increasing mastery facing a challenge, and a sense of purpose.
"RSA Animate - Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us"

Frankly, I think very few artists are motivated by money. This is even more true if you broaden a definition of art to include so much of what people do as hobby crafts or fan fiction or local folk song writing or creative cooking and so on.

Money plays a role in the life of an artist in Western society of course because, in an exchange-emphasizing economy, we all need to get money somehow to pay for food and lodgings and material and so on -- including paying for our kids. And to put a lot of time into some craft, you need to find a way to support yourself that leaves time for learning and doing it. Especially for anyone with a family, if it is not your day job, your time to put into it is otherwise going to be severely limited. Some people still make it work by dedication and generally sacrificing other relationships and responsibilities, including by pushing them onto siblings or the state.

See for example, "The Murdering of My Years":
"Looking back on their lives, people often ask themselves "Where did the years go?" "The Murdering of My Years: Artists and Activists Making Ends Meet provides a wide ranges of provocative answers to that question. Edited in the style of a documentary, "The Murdering of My Years is a compendium of stories by activists and artists about how they manage to get by in America. They talk about the jobs they've had (as cabbies, organizers, waitresses, clerks, drivers taking scabs to secret scab trainings, telemarketers, etc.), how they were initially politicized, the nature of their art, and how they feel about working (or resistance to working) in a political context. The stories range from the absurd to the heartbreaking, from the exciting and strange to the depressingly banal. The book examines the pain, disillusionment, and fundamental hopelessness that afflict many workers. It also tells stories or triumph, joy, and subversion in the workplace."

As is made clear in that book and others, the "starving artist" concept is mostly a myth. If you're starving, making art is generally the last thing on your mind. However, it's true that people who are obsessed with an idea or a technique may well end up starving because they prioritize their art over making money. But the actual suffering process rarely lends much to the art's production -- even if previous suffering might inform some future art in terms of shaping an artist's sympathies (as it might for anyone in any profession).

I think it more likely the urge to create generally comes from within and is sustained by intrinsic motivation of love of the craft and the product. If people just want money, there are more reliable ways to get it than trying to appeal to a fickle art audience. No doubt some few people do make become artists to get rich, but when you consider the millions of people who like to do arts and crafts and write and so on from an early age, that's got to be a very small percentage.

But in our society might every artist dream of becoming rich through art and then being able to do it full time, and afford to raise a family? Yes, I could believe that is a common dream. But I doubt it would be a common dream in a world with a basic income. And I doubt it is as common dream in Western Europe with more support for the arts and a batter social safety net ("Harry Potter" was written by the author on the UK dole) than in the USA (where J. K. Rowling probably would have been forced into flipping burgers or something like that while receiving welfare in order to ensure she was contributing to society and some big employer's bottom line).

We've got a severely broken system in many ways for anyone who wants to be do independent creative stuff full-time (including research) -- especially if they want to have a family too. For example, as John Taylor Gatto wrote:
"I'll bring this down to earth. Try to see that an intricately subordinated industrial/commercial system has only limited use for hundreds of millions of self-reliant, resourceful readers and critical thinkers. In an egalitarian, entrepreneurially based economy of confederated families like the one the Amish have or the Mondragon folk in the Basque region of Spain, any number of self-reliant people can be accommodated usefully, but not in a concentrated command-type economy like our own. Where on earth would they fit? In a great fanfare of moral fervor some years back, the Ford Motor Company opened the world's most productive auto engine plant in Chihuahua, Mexico. It insisted on hiring employees with 50 percent more school training than the Mexican norm of six years, but as time passed Ford removed its requirements and began to hire school dropouts, training them quite well in four to twelve weeks. The hype that education is essential to robot-like work was quietly abandoned. Our economy has no adequate outlet of expression for its artists, dancers, poets, painters, farmers, filmmakers, wildcat business people, handcraft workers, whiskey makers, intellectuals, or a thousand other useful human enterprises--no outlet except corporate work or fringe slots on the periphery of things. Unless you do "creative" work the company way, you run afoul of a host of laws and regulations put on the books to control the dangerous products of imagination which can never be safely tolerated by a centralized command system."

My feeling as a guess is that 80%-90% of artistic types people hear about and see as "successes" could afford to pursue that lifestyle because their parents were wealthy, or their spouse is a well paid professional, or they made a pile of money themselves somehow unrelated to their art ten years ago and are living off of it. My guess is that there is probably a million dollar investment (including opportunity costs for learning a craft) behind almost every professional artist making US$40K a year average, or about a 4% ROI ignoring psychic income. But investing that million dollars well in financial instruments would yield that return without the need to sell anything....

For reference:
"The recent study was conducted using the 2.1 million artists in the US, comprising 1.4% of the total workforce. The NEA "analyzed 11 distinct artist occupations: actors, announcers, architects, dancers and choreographers, designers, fine artists, art directors and animators, musicians, other entertainers, photographers, producers and directors, and writers and authors." They collected data from 2005-2009, and what they found paint's the artist's dream as a surprisingly cozy reality. The median salary for artists is $43,000, compared to the $39,000 averaged labor force as a whole. (Professionals, however, average $54,000.) Within the subdivisions of artists, architects come out the wealthiest--averaging around $63,000--while 'other entertainers' bring up the rear with $25,000."

However, that is probably biased by what is a "professional" as opposed to endless struggling artists who do it on the side while being waitresses or cab drivers. To take that figure seriously, you have to believe that only 1% of the US workforce is artistic or creative. What about all the people who do artistic things in their spare time while working some other job or going to school or being a stay-at-home parent? What about people who blog or make Android apps? Or people who play jazz at a local coffee shop on weekends? How can we believe that only 1% of the working population would want to do such things and the other 99% of working adults have zero interest in writing, dancing, drawing, singing, and so on? If true, that seems like a sad indictment of Western "civilization".

By the way, with "the big crunch" in academia since the 1970s (see David Goodstein), including the push towards part-time adjunct work, even many academics usually need to work second jobs; see for example:
"LAS VEGAS -- ON the first day of the fall semester, I left campus from an afternoon of teaching anxious college freshmen and headed to my second job, serving at a chain restaurant off Las Vegas Boulevard. The switch from my professional attire to a white dress shirt, black apron and tie reflected the separation I attempt to maintain between my two jobs. Naturally, sitting at the first table in my section was one of my new students, dining with her parents.
    This scene is a cliche of the struggling teacher, and it surfaces repeatedly in pop culture -- think of Walter White in "Breaking Bad," washing the wheels of a student's sports car after a full day teaching high school chemistry. Bumping into a student at the gym can be awkward, but exposing the reality that I, with my master's degree, not only have another job, but must have one, risks destroying the facade of success I present to my students as one of their university mentors. ...
    My adjunct-teaching colleagues have large course loads and, mostly, graduate-level educations, but live just above the poverty line. ...
    But not all my restaurant co-workers are college dropouts, and none are failures. Many have bachelor's degrees; others have real estate licenses, freelancing projects or extraordinary musical and artistic abilities. Others are nontraditional students, having entered the work force before attending college and making the wise decision not to "find themselves" and come out with $40,000 in debt, at 4.6 percent interest. Most of them are parents who have bought homes, raised children and made financial investments off their modest incomes. They are some of the kindest, hardest-working people I know, and after three years alongside them, I find it difficult to tell my students to avoid being like them. ..."

In a society as materially wealthy as the USA it just does not have to be this way. It is like the waterboarding and torture the USA does based on ideology and sadism -- it is just stupid and counterproductive for the overall health of the society. The USA is not a stronger nation because it makes its independent creative people suffer (often literally because until Obamacare health insurance was unaffordable for most independent self-employed people). It is overall weaker for such policies IMHO, despite what tenured mainstream economists with PhDs funded by parents and the government have to say in praise of suffering (or mainstream economist wannabees).

"The right likes to think that every Leftist "hates" the "rich". I suppose there are those on the Left who hate the rich, but if they do, their anger is misplaced. It's the "wannabe's" you have to watch out for. ...
    Of course eventually, these guy realize that not only are they not millionaires, they're not making much progress toward that noble goal. That's when they get ugly. You see, they see themselves as capable, intelligent, hard working people - and they are for the most part - who "have what it takes" to "make it". They believe that the difference between those who "make it" and those who don't is being "capable, intelligent and hardworking". Things like "having rich parents", "getting just plain lucky" or "being a crook" don't factor into the equation anywhere. No, American society is a natural hierarchy where the most capable are "rich beyond their wildest dreams", and the non-rich are chumps that just don't measure up.
    Only they are capable - some of them actually are - and they're not rich. Clearly, something is broken, preventing these wannabes who "have what it takes" from reaching materialist heaven. Now here's where it gets interesting. Since they "have what it takes", there must be somebody else to blame. This from the people who accuse the poor of "blaming everybody but themselves". The dittoheads do the very same thing. ...
    But here's something I'll bet the dittoheads haven't thought of. Maybe they're the chumps. Maybe they've been sold a bogus "American dream" that never existed. Maybe "the rules" they play by were written by the people who have "made it" - not by the people who haven't. And maybe - just maybe - the people who have "made it" wrote those rules to keep the wannabes chasing a dream that's a mirage. ..."

So, IMHO here we have a deeply broken system for a 21st century that claims to prize creativity and innovation. And, with increasing automation, the pressures are only going to get worse for artists who find those side jobs drying up as AI, robots, and other automation take them over, or who find their professional spouse who is, say, a radiologist, suddenly out of a job.

Still, Ursula K. Le Guin wrote many books as a stay-at-home Mom. It is possible. And as she wrote, sometimes someone's freedom is purchased at the price of someone else's unfreedom. My wife have trade off such roles back and forth over time as we take paying jobs while the other works more on projects of personal interest and homeschools. But one can see such tradeoffs as well when, say, a parent keeps working at some job they don't like much so their kid can go to art school, buying their kid a ticket to the professional artist lottery.

Of course, for all that, I write this on a laptop made by the contributions of many people working regular jobs, connected to a network constructed and operate by people with regular jobs, having eaten food produced and transported by people with regular jobs, and so on. There are ways to defend the current economic system as something that has produced material wealth and abundance for many (for all its flaws). But defending the system on the grounds of the virtue of prolonged needless suffering imposed on others does not seem to me to be a persuasive justification for it.

Comment: Basic Income vs. Copyrights & Patents (Score 2) 621

by Paul Fernhout (#48644843) Attached to: What Happens To Society When Robots Replace Workers?

Cool, Jim! You might like this related proposal by me also for a basic income funded by a wealth tax of 6% on declared assets, with only declared assets being insured and defended by the government, explaining why millionaires should support the idea:

BTW, if we had a basic income, it's not clear to me there would still be any justification for copyright or patents. Suddenly anyone wanting to create could do so on their own or in collaboration with other like-minded creative people. So, given the costs of copyright and patents to society of chilling effects and other negative effects, it could be better to eliminate them entirely.

Real innovations are rarely rewarded in society. After all, for example, you invented Spasim, the first 3D networked computer game, which eventually spawned an entire industry all the way to Minecraft and Space Engineers. As the original developer of an idea, did you get royalties from the entire industry for decades? I doubt it.

For another example, it took Ralph Baer fifteen years to even get someone to pay attention to the concept of computer games hooked to TVs:

Meanwhile, someone like Bill Gates got financially obese based on starting as a millionaire at birth, dumpster diving to read other's code, and then licensing someone else's work to IBM -- work which apparently was improperly taken from the inventor (with IBM going through Gates to avoid liability).

"William Henry Gates III made his best decision on October 28, 1955, the night he was born. He chose J.W. Maxwell as his great-grandfather. Maxwell founded Seattle's National City Bank in 1906. His son, James Willard Maxwell was also a banker and established a million-dollar trust fund for William (Bill) Henry Gates III. In some of the later lessons, you will be encouraged to take entrepreneurial risks. You may find it comforting to remember that at any time you can fall back on a trust fund worth many millions of 1998 dollars. "

""I would boost Bill into dumpsters and we'd get these coffee-stained texts (of computer code)" from behind the offices, grinned Allen."

"They Made America is certain to elicit cries of protest. That's because it attacks the reputations of some of the key players of the early PC era -- Gates, IBM, and Tim Paterson, the Seattle programmer who wrote an operating system, QDOS, based partly on CP/M that became Microsoft's DOS. Evans asserts that Paterson copied parts of CP/M and that IBM tricked Kildall. Because Gates rather than the more innovative Kildall prevailed, according to the book, the world's PC users endured "more than a decade of crashes with incalculable economic cost in lost data and lost opportunities.""

"Last week, a Judge dismissed a defamation law suit brought by Tim Paterson, who sold a computer operating system to Microsoft in 1980, against journalist and author Sir Harold Evans and his publisher Little Brown. The software became the basis of Microsoft's MS-DOS monopoly, and the basis of its dominance of the PC industry. ... In a chapter devoted to Kildall in Evans' They Made America: From the Steam Engine to the Search Engine: Two Centuries of Innovators, Evans related how Paterson "[took] 'a ride on' Kildall's operating system, appropriated the 'look and feel' of [Kildall's] CP/M operating system, and copied much of his operating system interface from CP/M." ... he PC world might have looked very different today had Kildall's Digital Research prevailed as the operating system of choice for personal computers. DRI offered manufacturers the same low-cost licensing model which Bill Gates is today credited with inventing by sloppy journalists - only with far superior technology. DRI's roadmap showed a smooth migration to reliable multi-tasking, and in GEM, a portable graphical environment which would undoubtedly have brought the GUI to the low-cost PC desktop years before Microsoft's Windows finally emerged as a standard. But then Kildall was motivated by technical excellence, not by the need to dominate his fellow man."

In general, as was explained to me by a master inventor I worked with at IBM Research, early patents on fundamental ideas also generally expire before the idea really moves broadly into commerce, which usually takes a decade or two for truly innovative ideas. It is generally only later tweaks of these core ideas that have profitable patents. Isn't that a fundamentally broken incentive system, where core breakthroughs aren't rewarded in practice?

Of course, the whole system is broken even further because creativity suffers when work is done for financial gain, as Dan Pink explains here, showing how Autonomy, Mastery, and Purpose are what really drive creativity and quoting research by the US Federal Reserve on incentives:
"RSA Animate - Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us"

And no doubt even your 3D networked game idea has roots in other ideas before you, including the PLATO infrastructure, other games, other 3D software, other networked applications, and so on, as part of a great chain of innovation. Minecraft, a huge financial success for a few people, was build on the ideas from Infiniminer (although with some tweaks and improvements):

So, especially with a basic income, it's not clear to me any legitimate reason would remain for making sharing of ideas and building on other people's work harder by imposing patents and copyrights. There is no patent on aspirin these days, but I can still buy it at low cost in any drug store. One can make arguments about moral rights and providing credit to creators of ideas (issues more analogous to "Defamation"), but that is a different issue than copyrights and patents.

Comment: Re:It is worse than you think (Score 1) 621

by Paul Fernhout (#48644437) Attached to: What Happens To Society When Robots Replace Workers?

Interesting thoughts, Michael(?). I agree that some trends in Japan may foreshadow things the USA does (even the Japanese banking crisis decades ago related to rel estate bubbles leading to stagnation).

Thanks for your book link, which also has a link to a related site which includes connecting current challenges with historical developments:
"I have spent a couple decades writing a book about human ecology, because it is drastically changing, which presents great danger and great potential. The idea is to describe both so that we can avoid the disasters and take advantage of the potentials. The problems I describe could end human civilization, but the only way to avoid the disasters is to adapt to a new ecology, like the title of the book says. About 10,000 years or so ago, we started leaving the ecology we had grown up in for millions of years. Right now we are in an ecology that is one transient ecology of many that we have been moving through. We need to find one that is stable and that we can live in long term or we are, well, a specie without an ecology is in trouble. If we do not create a stable ecology that is some form of civilization, well, it is going to look like one of those "Post Apocalyptic" movies. It will not be pleasant and it will be hard for humans to ever really be much more than animals. The thing is that it is not just about finding a new ecology, it is also about adapting to survive and be comfortable in it. We are still mostly adapted to the old ecology when we lived in tribes and we need to change to adapt to the new ecology. It is a lot of things. We need to be smarter and more comfortable in a civilization than we are. That is what the books are about. In the mean time, this web site is supposed to serve a few other purposes and offer other resources. It is especially to present discussions about how different points of view can be understood."

Just spending a few minutes so far looking at your site and book blurb, in scope, it reminds me of "Beyond Civilization" by Daniel Quinn.

It also reminds me a bit of "A New Way Of Thinking" which you may find of interest:

You have a synopsis here that mentions genetic issues:

Certainly evolutionary pressures need to be understood (I was in a PHD program in ecology and evolution for a time). But in the time scale of a transition to some new economy full of AI and robots as capable as most humans for most economic activities (twenty years?) these seem to me to not be pressing issues, whatever the long term may hold. You might also find of interest Freeman Dyson's speculations about genetic engineering as far as possible long term trends in designer biology.

On genetics and health, while mutations and birth defects are serious issues, it seems to me the most pressing current health issues relate to vitamin D deficiency, diet lacking in enough vegetables and fruits and with too many refined carbohydrates and artificial additives, too much bad stress, lack of exercise, lack of sleep, lack of community, problematical infrastructure, and so on (see "Blue Zones" for example).

You also wrote on your site: "In my broad studies, I had to examine the Philosophy of Science. One interesting point is about how science is advanced. Is it by a team of researchers or by individuals. It is a contested point, but I think it is clear that it is by both. Still, in the balance, the contributions by individuals like Newton and Einstein show the power of individual inspiration. That is the path I have taken. "

I certainly appreciate the value of individual explorations. However, as far as the team aspect of research in this area, I feel it would be great to have some sort of better communication system so people could collaborate on exploring this space of ideas in a distributed and "stygmergic" way under free licenses. Something beyond a wiki or, as right now, Slashdot (as useful as it is). A social semantic desktop? I've been working towards something like that on and off. This test "Twirlip" website is not quite it, but it includes some explorations in that direction, such as this clustering diagram / concept map contrasting an author with a scarcity world view (Catton) with an author with an abundance world view (Simon):

Comment: Post-scarcity lifestyles of the average & typi (Score 1) 621

by Paul Fernhout (#48644211) Attached to: What Happens To Society When Robots Replace Workers?

Personally, my own life would be little different -- except for a big change of not engaging in bouts of unrelated paid employment for expenses. I'd still spend time with my kid and homeschool. I'd still work on free software like the Pointrel system or software related to my wife's free book. I'd still work towards organizing all manufacturing knowledge (OSCOMAK) and work towards designing self-replicating space habitats. I'd hopefully be doing all those software and hardware things a lot better and a lot faster because I'd have more time (without taking on unrelated employment, even as I'd still be happy to help out on other projects just to be helpful and exchange ideas, same as helping any neighbor). I'd probably have lab space for physical experiments which would also speed things up. Another speed boost would (hopefully) be lots of like minded peers who were free to do similar things who I could collaborate with -- including on simulating and building and running free automated tire production factories as I posted on yesterday, especially since people will probably still need tires, even in space habitats: :-)
"Automated FOSS tire plant ideas; simulation tools? "

I'd probably feel less compelled to do those things quickly though, so I might do more gardening. I'd still help out with my local historical society.

I think most people could find interesting things to do. It might take some period of "deworking" to make the transition. For kids leaving public school to do "unschooling" (or even just plain homeschooling) a rule of thumb is that it takes at least one month for every month in school to make a transition to independent learning. So, for someone who has worked at a conventional job for a dozen years on top of a dozen years of schooling, it might take a couple years for him or her to start to regain some independent initiative.

I feel it likely a lot of people would just have the time to be better parents, better friends, better neighbors, and better family members. As Bob Black wrote in his essay on "The Abolition of Work":
"Socrates said that manual laborers make bad friends and bad citizens because they have no time to fulfill the responsibilities of friendship and citizenship. He was right. Because of work, no matter what we do, we keep looking at our watches. The only thing "free" about so-called free time is that it doesn't cost the boss anything. Free time is mostly devoted to getting ready for work, going to work, returning from work, and recovering from work. Free time is a euphemism for the peculiar way labor, as a factor of production, not only transports itself at its own expense to and from the workplace, but assumes primary responsibility for its own maintenance and repair. Coal and steel don't do that. Lathes and typewriters don't do that. No wonder Edward G. Robinson in one of his gangster movies exclaimed, "Work is for saps!" "

Is it any wonder you want to avoid such desperate people? Even if most of them are doing a heroic job of trying to hold everything together despite limited time? And the flip side of it is, the people in the USA with lots of spare time, they tend to either be those who are (inherited) wealthy parasites who accept or ignore the huge rich/poor divide or they are people who are poor or old/tired or disabled or mentally ill. Obviously, I'm exaggerating here -- but not by that much. People in Western Europe are more likely to have free time and be able to use it to be better companions and more involved citizens and volunteers.

This is not to dismiss the value of "work" though. As E.F. Schumacher said:
"The Buddhist point of view takes the function of work to be at least threefold: to give man a chance to utilise and develop his faculties; to enable him to overcome his ego-centredness by joining with other people in a common task; and to bring forth the goods and services needed for a becoming existence. Again, the consequences that flow from this view are endless. To organise work in such a manner that it becomes meaningless, boring, stultifying, or nerve-racking for the worker would be little short of criminal; it would indicate a greater concern with goods than with people, an evil lack of compassion and a soul-destroying degree of attachment to the most primitive side of this worldly existence. Equally, to strive for leisure as an alternative to work would be considered a complete misunderstanding of one of the basic truths of human existence, namely that work and leisure are complementary parts of the same living process and cannot be separated without destroying the joy of work and the bliss of leisure."

For that reason, despite what Socrates said, one who does not "work" in some sense (even at parenting or volunteering or education) may also not make a great companion. That is a reasonable concern about robots doing everything. A wrose worry is this (learned about via Slashdot):
"In the course of the next day, the new mechanicals have appeared everywhere in town. They state that they only follow the Prime Directive: ''to serve and obey and guard men from harm". Offering their services free of charge, they replace humans as police officers, bank tellers and eventually drive Underhill out of business. Despite the Humanoids' benign appearance and mission, Underhill soon realizes that, in the name of their Prime Directive, the mechanicals have essentially taken over every aspect of human life. No humans may engage in any behavior that might endanger them, and every human action is carefully scrutinized. Suicide is prohibited. Humans who resist the Prime Directive are taken away and lobotomized, so that they may live happily under the direction of the humanoids."

I think it also possible many people would get caught in "pleasure traps" related to "supernormal stimuli", especially at first. No doubt there would be whole new professions in helping such people. Related:
"Supernormal Stimuli & The Pleasure Trap (Score:5, Informative)"

But there are always risks, no matter what we do. A technologically empowered society is more likely to survive planetary disasters -- perhaps at the risk of causing them.

I think a basic income could help with a transition to a post-scarcity gift economy. It could be tax funded (like Social Security) and/or government-owned resource rental funded (like the Alaska Permanent fund). That money would then provide what you need to buy stuff robots produce or to travel to places people claimed they owned the land or buildings. Fiat currencies like dollars could still work in such a scenario -- at least as well as they work now.

Hunters and gatherers pretty much lived the life you described you'd want. Is it any wonder humans would feel drawn to such a lifestyle?
"By stepping away from western notions of affluence, the theory of the original affluent society thus dispels notions about hunter-gatherer societies that were popular at the time of the symposium. Sahlins states that hunter-gatherers have a "marvelously varied diet"[3] based on the abundance of the local flora and fauna. This demonstrates that hunter-gatherers do not exist on a mere subsistence economy but rather live among plenty. Through knowledge of their environment hunter-gatherers are able to change what foreigners may deem as meager and unreliable natural resources into rich subsistence resources. Through this they are able to effectively and efficiently provide for themselves and minimize the amount of time spent procuring food. "[T]he food quest is so successful that half the time the people do not know what to do with themselves".[3] Hunter-gatherers also experience "affluence without abundance"[3] as they simply meet their required ends and do not require surplus nor material possessions (as these would be a hindrance to their nomadic lifestyle). The lack of surplus also demonstrates that they trust their environment will continuously provide for them. By foraging only for their immediate needs among plentiful resources, hunter-gatherers are able to increase the amount of leisure time available to them. Thus, despite living in what western society deems to be material poverty, hunter-gatherer societies work less than people practicing other modes of subsistence while still providing for all their needs, and therefore increase their amount of leisure time. These are the reasons the original affluent society is that of the hunter-gatherer.[3]"

So, the way forward may be to circle back to the past -- at least the better parts.

By the way, for a humorous twist on all this from the 1950s, read "The Midas Plague" found in "Midas World" by Frederik Pohl:
""The Midas Plague" (originally published in Galaxy in 1954). In a world of cheap energy, robots are overproducing the commodities enjoyed by mankind. The lower-class "poor" must spend their lives in frantic consumption, trying to keep up with the robots' extravagant production, while the upper-class "rich" can live lives of simplicity. Property crime is nonexistent, and the government Ration Board enforces the use of ration stamps to ensure that everyone consumes their quotas. The story deals with Morey Fry, who marries a woman from a higher-class family. Raised in a home with only five rooms she is unused to a life of forced consumption in their mansion of 26 rooms, nine automobiles, and five robots, causing arguments. [I removed the spoiler of the ending...]"

BTW, in the story, Morey Fry hates watching the entertainment robots he is forced to watch to make his consumption quota. :-)

If you are interested in more ideas in this general area, "The World Transformed" (formerly FastForward Radio) is an internet radio series that examines many ideas about robotics and abundance and post-scarcity. There are about 400 podcast episodes by now, including interviewing people like Ray Kurzweil. I've been on it twice myself as a panelist.

Comment: If USA spent US$3T Iraq war on fusion power... (Score 1) 621

by Paul Fernhout (#48643861) Attached to: What Happens To Society When Robots Replace Workers?

... research instead, there would probably be plenty of material resource on the planet by now (or soon) for all to live like in the USA. Instead the USA spent that money to try to secure oil profits for a few and other various similar things.

But with a global economy of around US$80 Trillion annually, there is plenty to go around to invest in fusion and cheap solar and a variety of other research to create new resources of all sorts (energy, material, informational, social, spiritual, ecological, biological, etc.). Fusion research is really not that expensive compared to the possible benefits (although it makes sense to hedge bets with funding more solar research too and so on). As a chart here suggest, communications reinvests about 25% of domestic sales into R&D, and software 15%, while energy invests only 0.3%. No wonder we have energy issues if we fail to invest in R&D in it relative to the magnitude of the need. This is a marketplace failure, because most of the revenues are related to fossil fuels, but probably everyone knows the future of energy production will involve some other form (fusion, solar, wind, tidal, geothermal) and so current fossil fuel businesses have no emotional incentive to invest in these radical alternatives to coal, oil, and natural gas.

As Julian Simon said, the human imagination is the ultimate resource:

But, imaginative people still need some form of life support to grow and have time to do stuff, and lab equipment is (not yet) free.

Of course, AIs will no doubt get more imaginative over time, too...

Mainstream economics assumes things such as that demand for goods and services is infinite and that most humans will always be able to command wages for participation in the workforce. If demand for products and services is not infinite (as in diminishing and eventually negative returns on having more stuff), then eventually a few workers could supply all the demand through technological amplification. Or, even if demand was infinite, if most humans can't compete with AIs and robots, then "humans need not apply", which would wreck the underpinning assumption of mainstream economics that the right to consume for those without substantial financial capital is linked with receiving wages from a job.

I first saw the HBR article mentioned at "e-cat world", a site that discusses the potential of cheap energy from cold fusion:

Cheap energy from some sort of hot or cold fusion may also have some of the same effects on the economy, because often energy can substitute for human labor. For example, there is little need for humans to handle materials for recycling when you can break down trash into a plasma and use a mass-spectrometer-like system to separate it into constitute elements, as James P. Hogan suggested in "Voyage from Yesteryear" (a 1982 sci-fi book that discusses the clash of a scarcity-oriented cultural world view with an abundance-oriented one).

Such a process could also eliminate most of the mining industry. Better designs, better materials, the accumulation of physical infrastructure, and the emergence of voluntary social networks (including discussion sites like Slashdot) also can displace a lot of paid labor in the exchange economy. So, there are multiple converging trends towards socioeconomic upheaval if (sane) human wants are somewhat limited and technology's ability to act an an amplifier continues to grow exponentially.

So that's why I feel fustakrakich could be right. Well, that and I've said much the same thing for decades -- generally to my own detriment because it makes me sound like a loony. :-) From what I wrote around 1988:
"As outlined in my statement of purpose, my lifetime goal is to design and construct self-replicating habitats. These habitats can be best envisioned as huge walled gardens inhabited by thousands of people. Each garden would have a library which would contain the information needed to construct a new garden from tools and materials found within the garden's walls. The garden walls and construction methods would be of several different types, allowing such gardens to be built on land, underground, in space, or under the ocean. Such gardens would have the capacity to seal themselves to become environmentally and economically self-sufficient in the event of economic collapse or global warfare and the attendant environmental destruction."

Still working on it about 30 years later... Very slow progress, sorry... :-)

Only through hard work and perseverance can one truly suffer.