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Comment: You had a VM w/ VLAN; TechCentral took a big risk (Score 1) 238

by Paul Fernhout (#47761163) Attached to: TechCentral Scams Call Center Scammers

I cant believe more people aren't pointing out how potentially dangerous what the TechCrunch author, Regardt van der Berg, did was. He gave a potential unknown attacker a beachhead inside the TechCentral network, even if only for a few minutes. That is long enough for someone to potentially have compromised other machines on the network.

The article says: "We have a spare PC in the TechCentral office that has been newly installed and that contains no personal information. I used this machine for the next part of the ploy. I installed the application and provided "John" with the access details. ... Because I did not furnish my PayPal or credit card details, the scammers turned nasty and proceeded to my documents folder. I saw the engineer poking around in some folders, but I promptly disconnected the office Wi-Fi connection. After some research, I found out that they'll delete system files and users' personal documents. Fortunately, I disconnected before they managed to delete files on the dummy PC -- not that there was anything of value for them to delete."

At that point, regardless of what was done to that specific PC, they have to assume the attacker could compromise every machine on their network by exploits launched immediately from that machine in the background at all other computers on the network, like through potentially zero-day exploits such as for unpatched Microsoft issues relating to local workgroup file sharing or other services. They cant assume they knew everything the attackers were doing. That's why it's been said that firewalls, like some lollipops, are "crunchy on the outside and chewy in the middle". The article author does not say he re-imaged the PC either. Granted, his informative article that may help many other potential victims was maybe worth the risk, but he should at least make clear to his readership what those risks are and that he understood them and accepted them on behalf of helping his readership.

Contrast with what your setup, where the VM was on its own virtual LAN and so presumably could not get to other machines on your local network. And as a snapshotted VM, you can easily roll it back. Still, if you had installed software, how risky that was would also depend on the exact network configuration and how that VM's VLAN interacts with your gateway to the internet -- as in whether the VLAN to gateway interface via whatever virtualization software you were using was set up like guest networking with isolation from other guests. One mistake somewhere in configuration (or even with no mistakes and buggy virtualization software), and your production network could have been compromised. And as you said, there could be credentials on a test machine like SSH keys and such. You did the right thing by not installing anything.

Granted, it doesn't sound like these examples of scammers are doing internal network attacks, but you never can know for sure what they really intend...

Comment: Examples of nothingness as the fuel for something? (Score 1) 7

by Paul Fernhout (#47747899) Attached to: What is Nothing?

Romulan spacecraft in Star Trek: TNG were supposedly powered by an artifical quantum singularity (a black hole).

Robin Williams' life and comedy can only be understood in light of a deep depression and related suffering throughout his life. No doubt many other artists and creators have that sort of (negative) inspiration.

Michael Ende's "The Neverending Story" has an expanding "Nothingness" that drives the plot.

Jack Chalker's sci-fi Well World series, specifically "The Return of Nathan Brazil", has a spreading nothingness as a rip in space-time created via powerful weapons (the Zinder Nullifier) as a major driver of the plot.

Other examples?

+ - What is Nothing? 7

Submitted by Paul Fernhout
Paul Fernhout (109597) writes "Fraser Crain explores the issue of "Whether there any place in the Universe where there's truly nothing?". That article is also discussed at One comment there by Evgenij Barsoukov uses the rules for finding mathematical limits to compute the probability of the Universe coming into spontaneous existence out of absolute nothingness at 0.6...."

Comment: Insightful point on communities; thanks! (Score 2) 497

by Paul Fernhout (#47744657) Attached to: If Java Wasn't Cool 10 Years Ago, What About Now?

I'm moving more of my own work from Java to JavaScript, but that is mainly because JavaScript is easiest to deploy almost every where. I generally like Java+Eclipse better for big projects otherwise. However, with tools that compile other languages to JavaScript, and browsers that can get near native performance from JavaScript if written in a certain way, I'm hoping the "JavaScript" approach will continue to gain in benefits because it is just easier to deploy than Java. It's too bad Java app deployment to the desktop was never a real priority (even with Java Web Start). As an example of the difference (including in sandboxing), some school teachers can get fired for installing new software without permission (which could include a Java app which can do anything), but they can use a web browser to load up an educational web page which uses JavaScript to run a simulation without too many worries.

I fought against Java back in the late 1990s compared to using Smalltalk. Back then Java was just a mess and a mass of hype. But I can accept Java is now a half-way-decent solution for many things now that many of the worst rough edges of Java have been smoothed off. I still miss Smalltalk though, and to some extent (not all), JavaScript recaptures some of the Smalltalk flavor and community -- if I squint just right, I can kind of see the entire Web as one big multi-threaded Smalltalk image. :-)

Comment: Calvin Coolidge on Persistence (Score 1) 441

by Paul Fernhout (#47736335) Attached to: Tech Looks To Obama To Save Them From 'Just Sort of OK' US Workers

From: "Nothing in the world can take the place of Persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan "Press On" has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race. (Calvin Coolidge)"

Of course, it has also been said: "Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. (Albert Einstein)"

Perhaps the difference lies in having some way of validating that you are making some progress through your persistence, even if infinitesimally?

Comment: Insightful! Govt. & US Post Office might also (Score 1) 62

by Paul Fernhout (#47736141) Attached to: UPS: We've Been Hacked

Sharing such rarely changing authentication data is at the heart of the issue as you point out. It seems like a trade-off of convenience and security with some background fraud cost. However, the issue is always convenience for who and fraud for who? In this case, banks have succeeded in mostly privatizing gains from transactions costs from credit card transaction fees while socializing the cost of identity theft to the general public (who have to change their accounts, deal with years of worries, try to straighten out fraudulent charges at riskof not being able to get a job or buy a house, etc.). This is an example of capitalism at its finest from one point of view -- privatizing gains while socializing costs and risks. That is when we need government (as the will of the People) to step in and force banks to internalize the cost of identity theft rather than pass it on indirectly. Ultimately, that might have to be done by big fines for breaches or taxes on unsecured transactions. And if banks had to do that, they would probably rapidly deploy something better because it would be cheaper than raising costs to customers and losing business to other banks that did implement better systems.

Perhaps the only worse thing is when businesses in the USA are allowed to use essentially unchangeable info about a person like date of birth or social security number to authenticate them. Other countries seem to handle this better by having an additional private PIN as part of a SSN. Some also include using the post office as part of the authentication process (like to present your ID at the post-office to approve some transaction or initiate some communications link). I'm surprised the US post office (which handles US passports now) does not get involved with authentication in general, as it seems like a surefire money-maker in the digital age, and the US post office already has procedures in place from passports to verify identity.

Comment: Very well put; see also cancer-preventing foods (Score 2) 185

by Paul Fernhout (#47724559) Attached to: New Research Suggests Cancer May Be an Intrinsic Property of Cells

Neat post. Conceptually, single-celled organisms can't get "cancer" because, in a way, they are cancer. However, they no doubt can suffer mutations or other genetic changes (like from viruses) that make them survive and reproduce more or less well, all things considered for their current environment. Cancer has to do with a cell deciding not to play nicely with the rest in a body, and to strike out on its own, so to speak. Cancer in general is a bit like a crazy individual or small group in a society trying to take over the whole thing (current US plutocrats?); generally it works out badly for everyone as core services start to fail and the cancer cells are no longer supported by the rest of the body. Cancer is like spammers, who for a quick buck in the short term, are busy destroying email and the rest of the internet that could otherwise bring everyone abundance. Cancer is about "selfishness" where the individual ignores its part to play in the whole and where the whole supports the individual. But since evolution involves variation and selection, the underlying mechanism of cancer via mutation or viral infection also in a sense underlies evolution. So yes, it will always be with us.

I've heard most people in the USA age 40+ years old have cancerous cells in small amounts, but the immune system is continually killing them off to keep them from spreading.

Good nutrition helps with that, like Dr. Joel Fuhrman talks about
"Though most people would prefer to take a pill and continue their eating habits, this will not provide the desired protection. Unrefined plant foods, with their plentiful anti-cancer compounds, must be eaten in abundance to flood the body's tissues with protective substances. Vegetables and fruits protect against all types of cancers if consumed in large enough quantities. Hundreds of scientific studies document this. The most prevalent cancers in our societies are plant-food-deficiency diseases. The benefits of lifestyle changes are proportional to the changes made. As we add more vegetable servings, we increase our phytochemical intake and leave less room in our diets for harmful foods, enhancing cancer protection even further. Let's review some of these research findings and then review what a powerful, anti-cancer diet will look like. ... A typical anti-cancer diet should contain at least 4 fresh fruits daily, at least one large raw green salad, as well as a two other cooked (steamed) vegetables, such as broccoli, carrots and peas, squash or other colorful vegetables. A huge pot of soup laden with vegetables, herbs and beans can be made once a week and conveniently taken for lunch. Raw nuts and seeds are another important, but often overlooked, group of foods with documented health benefits contributing to longevity. ..."

One thing Fuhrman misses in his discussion is that these compounds are not "Anti-cancer" as much as the human body has adapted via evolution to use these compounds to prevent or fight cancer.

He is right that cancer is best prevented rather than treated. As I've heard, it said, you can either get your chemotherapy every day from fruits and vegetables, or you can end up getting it all at once in the oncologist's office (not that most current chemotherapy is probably worth it anyway).

Fasting may also sometimes help prevent cancer as well as can a ketogenic (fat burning) diet that deprives cancer cells of sugar.

But your point stands that this is all combinatorial (statistical, entropical?) about when something gets out of hand. Even when we have Elysium-like medical beds that get rid of cancer instantly, some computer virus or malicious person may make them work incorrectly. Or, as in the movie, selfish elites can keep the healing beds to themselves.

Comment: Maybe Dr. Smith left the cap off the bottle again? (Score 1) 303

by Paul Fernhout (#47717031) Attached to: Scientists Baffled By Unknown Source of Ozone-Depleting Chemical
"Don and John come out of the ship asking about carbon tetrachloride. Smith says he uses it to remove stains--he's used it and left the top off. John asks him if he has any thoughts besides his immediate needs---without the carbon tetrachloride they will lose their food supply. They use it as food preservation (NOTE: how is a mystery---it is highly toxic). They will have to eat only non-perishable items and now face a food shortage (what about the hydroponic garden?). ..." :-)

Will Robinson saved the day on that episode, but he had to come all the way to Earth via an alien matter transporter to do it.

Kidding aside, you make a great point!

Comment: Making Silent Running drones for gardening (Score 1) 133

by Paul Fernhout (#47716885) Attached to: FarmBot: an Open Source Automated Farming Machine

A post from me to comp.robotics.misc in 1999 about Silent Running drones which spawned a thread with 32 messages:
Anyone remember the drones (Huey, Dewey, and Louie) from the sci-fi movie Silent Running?

Some links: ...

They have always captivated me, and were an early influence in getting me interested in robotics and AI.

I particularly liked the scene where all three worked together to perform a medical operation.

I've long wanted to build some robots like these for gardening and maintenance. It seems to me that multifuncional drones such as those (with changeable end effectors) would be very valuable in agriculture, by reducing the need for pesticides and fertilizers through picking off pests, pulling weeds, and spot applying fertilizer, and by not compacting the soil like tractors.

Has anyone given any though to what it would take to make such drones today?
How much would it cost to build such a system (part cost, design time cost, assembly time cost)?
How long would it take?
How much could it lift?
How long would the battery (fuel cell?) life be?
How well could they be made to walk or climb stairs with today's technology?

Anyone out there started such a project to clone these drones?

Any advice on where to find more information on their design, or maybe the originals made for the movies?

Would that design concept (one armed, collaborative walking robots, three feet high) now be considered obsolete (i.e. compared to the post model in Hans Moravec's latest book "Robot")?

Could a business case be made today for a company to build such robots? Or instead, would anyone be interested in collaborating on an open source design for robots that looked like those?

Comment: Square foot gardening is the rebuttal (Score 1) 133

by Paul Fernhout (#47711745) Attached to: FarmBot: an Open Source Automated Farming Machine

Other styles of farming whether square foot gardening or indoor hydroponics can be much more productive per acre than big field farming with tractors, but they are *labor* and *knowledge* intensive. Robotics (or other automation) make greater yields per square foot much more achievable more cheaply. That also makes vertical farming in cities more feasible.

See especially:
"A 2010 study published in the journal Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems showed that biointensive methods resulted in significantly increased production and a reduction of energy use when compared with conventional agriculture (Moore, S.R., 2010, Energy efficiency in smallâscale biointensive organic onion production in Pennsylvania, USA, Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems, 25:3, pp. 181â188). This study states that "Current mechanized agriculture has an energy efficiency ratio of 0.9 ... energy efficiency for biointensive production of onions in our study was over 50 times higher than this value (51.5), and 83% of the total energy required is renewable energy."

The fact that many people have inefficient backyard gardens does not mean that people could not have very productive gardens if they knew more and had more time for them. Biosphere II was a good example of intensive food production in a small space.

See also books on "Survival Gardening".

The best one I've seen (by that name, by John Freeman) is not mentioned there though:

Don't know about this new one by someone else:

Granted, that is mostly about organic vegetables and beans. Grains may be a somewhat different issue, but they are already heavily automated in many ways. But as Dr. Fuhrman suggests, eating more fruits and vegetables is healthier than eating more grains (especially refined grains).

You should not discount that gardening in the sunshine can be good health-promoting exercise. It saves money indirectly by displacing other less healthy recreational activities like shopping for the next unneeded consumer item.

BTW, we can grind up rock to get good fertilizer for relatively cheap, especially if powered by excess renewable energy:

By this estimate by economist Julian Simon, there is plenty of opportunities for growing lots more food if we want to:

General purpose agricultural robotics makes intensive gardening so much more feasible to do on a small local scale... Still, highly-automated indoor agriculture powered by cheap energy is probably more the future of food production because it is so much more predictable.

Comment: Also our FOSS Garden Simulator started around 1990 (Score 1) 133

by Paul Fernhout (#47711563) Attached to: FarmBot: an Open Source Automated Farming Machine

Though only finished and released around 1997: http://www.gardenwithinsight.c...

(Unrelated work and also two years of grad school to learn more about ecological modelling plus excessive ambition caused delays in getting it done...)

And MECC's "Lunar Greenhouse" from 1989 ran on the Apple II:

This emulator did not work for me, but seemingly Lunar Greenhouse is online:

But there are other text-based games like Hamurabi which goes all the way back to 1968 where you "plant" crops and harvest them. I played a variation of tha first around 1980 or so.

It can be played online:

I've long wanted to build a general purpose gardening (and maintenance) robot like the ones in "Silent Running". For some reason, there has been economic resistance to supporting general purpose agricultural robots. Cheap illegal labor in that sense harmed my career in robotics in the 1980s when I really, really wanted to make such things. :-(

That's one reason I've just done software, which is cheaper to do on your own than robotics. Or it was, now that robotics is getting so much cheaper for various reasons due to cheap powerful embedded computers and cheaper sensors and actuators and 3D printing and web-based design and manufacturing like via 100K garages and such.

There were a couple times I spoke with academic roboticists about making general purpose agricultural robotics in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Both were interested in industry-fundable specific purpose robots, like for seeding transfer in greenhouses (Rutgers) or for autonomous wheat harvesting with big machines (CMU). Those were no doubt fairly practical ideas, and I may have been well served in a robotics career to have pursued such practical ideas in cooperation with those professors, but they were not the general purpose system I really wanted to work on like the Silent Running-type drones. Still, they might have been stepping stones to better systems -- but it is easy to be too ambitious and impatient when you are young.

Nowadays though, there seems to be a resurgence of interest in agricultural robotics, and I wonder if crackdowns on illegal agricultural labor may even be connected to it?
"Crackdown on illegal immigrants left crops rotting in Georgia fields, ag chief tells US lawmakers

Also, this is a problematical statement from the point of view of a robotics engineer: "A robust agricultural guest worker program, properly designed, will not displace American workers," Black said in remarks prepared for the hearing. "As my testimony shows, in Georgia, even with current high unemployment rates, it is difficult for farmers to fill their labor needs."

That guest worker program displaces robotics engineers... Otherwise there would be a much greater demand for general purpose agricultural robots.

Instead, I worked on virtual gardening software for growing virtual plants. My wife and I also made a simpler version of the garden simulator just for breeding virtual plants (mostly her work):

That said, there is little that is better for mental health for many people than real gardening with real plants and real sunshine and real dirt... So, robots could help us, but it is still healthy to get your hands dirty in the soil and sunshine and not leave it all to the robots...
"Silent Running Final Scene - Joan Baez (Rejoice in the Sun) "

Silent Running is a movie that inspired so much of my own work... Even a lot of the motivation behind the garden simulator is related to the movie, because if we are going to live in space, we should know how to grow food there. One design idea for that garden simulator software was to have a "growbot" to do repetitive tasks, but we went for a more hands-on approach for that version.

BTW, MIT has (or had) stuff in robots and gardening, starting from around 2008:
"Our long-term goal is to develop an autonomous green house consisting of autonomous robots where pots and plants are enhanced with computation, sensing, and communication."

Anyway, I'd still love to build the Silent Running drones, as impractical as they may be. Those three drones captured the spirit of the better hopes for robotics working in friendly partnership with humans (including medical care), compared to so many unpleasant realities or fears about robotics (like cruise missiles and predator drones, and the Terminator movie franchise).

The Red Dwarf scutters reminded me of those Silent Running drones. They seem easier to build (as they use wheels). I put together a web page on an "Open Scutter" project in 2010, but nothing more has happened with it:

But so many other distractions. I'm embarrassed to say my MakerBot Thing-o-matic kit (purchased from before MakerBot turned to the dark side of non-FOSS) is still not put together... Of course, I've also often found it a lot less fun (and sometimes even harder) to put together someone else's design than to just DIY from scratch. But mostly I wanted to put that together with my kid and the logistics have not worked out well for that yet.

Comment: In Praise of Idleness By Bertrand Russell... (Score 1) 304

... from 1932 echos part of your point:
"First of all: what is work? Work is of two kinds: first, altering the position of matter at or near the earthâ(TM)s surface relatively to other such matter; second, telling other people to do so. The first kind is unpleasant and ill paid; the second is pleasant and highly paid. The second kind is capable of indefinite extension: there are not only those who give orders but those who give advice as to what orders should be given. Usually two opposite kinds of advice are given simultaneously by two different bodies of men; this is called politics. The skill required for this kind of work is not knowledge of the subjects as to which advice is given, but knowledge of the art of persuasive speaking and writing, i.e. of advertising. Throughout Europe, though not in America, there is a third class of men, more respected than either of the classes of workers. These are men who, through ownership of land, are able to make others pay for the privilege of being allowed to exist and to work. These landowners are idle, and I might, therefore, be expected to praise them. Unfortunately, their idleness is rendered possible only by the industry of others; indeed their desire for comfortable idleness is historically the source of the whole gospel of work. The last thing they have ever wished is that others should follow their example."

The key part agreeing with you being: "The second kind is capable of indefinite extension: there are not only those who give orders but those who give advice as to what orders should be given."

You make another interesting point on equal distribution of material wealth in the USA essentially in terms of mass. To support your point, it's true that a lot of "money" controlled by the wealthiest 0.1% is now in the "casino economy" of the stock market and so on (FIRE sector) and so unavailable for use by most people to signal demand for material goods.

Still, I can doubt your point on equal distribution of goods and services is true overall, even if it is no doubt true for, say, beverages. I'd be curious to see more substantiation of that point.

It seems to me in the USA that wealthy people own a lot of land (and control corporations and politics, see: ), they have in general better quality products and services (including education and food), as families they have more potential free time and self-determination, they have better access to medical care, and they face less financial precarity in their day-to-day lives. In general, they are not forced to take on risks that poorer people are (unsafe cars, unsafe neighborhoods, unsafe food, unsafe jobs, etc.). Those are enormous benefits towards a happier life. Still, as you point out, by strictly material standards, most people in the USA are better off than even the wealthy of 100 years ago. That is an important point. However, there is more to life that material goods. Things like face-to-face community, craftsmanship, general literacy, time spent by mothers with their young children, and time spent in nature and in sunshine seem to have declined per capita in the USA -- as have birth rates. A whole bunch of illnesses, including mental illness, seem to be on the rise.

There is a deeper issue here if we put aside the controversial issue that robots and AIs could do most jobs soon (and in a way, robots etc. just crank up a trend that has been going on for decades) . The fact is, most human labor is already not needed for use to live near to our current standard of living. Bertrand Russel pointed this out in that 1932 essay: "Modern technic has made it possible to diminish enormously the amount of labor necessary to produce the necessaries of life for every one. This was made obvious during the War. At that time all the men in the armed forces, all the men and women engaged in the production of munitions, all the men and women engaged in spying, war propaganda, or government offices connected with the War were withdrawn from productive occupations. In spite of this, the general level of physical well-being among wage-earners on the side of the Allies was higher than before or since. The significance of this fact was concealed by finance; borrowing made it appear as if the future was nourishing the present. But that, of course, would have been impossible; a man cannot eat a loaf of bread that does not yet exist. The War showed conclusively that by the scientific organization of production it is possible to keep modern populations in fair comfort on a small part of the working capacity of the modern world."

So much of potential US productivity has been squandered in competition:
"But our [women's] rebellion was simultaneously based on thinking that went something like this: If a family can live comfortably on one full-time worker's income, then a family can live comfortably on two half-time workers' incomes. So rather than dad being gone from 8 to 5 Monday through Friday with mom stuck at home, mom and dad would each work 20 hours a week, and divide home and childcare equally. Women working meant income and childcare equality, and more home-time for dad.
    I will pause here to give you the opportunity to stop laughing.
    What in fact happened is that when we were done smashing the barriers that kept women out of the Ivy League and managerial positions, the Gen-Xers came rushing in with a very different idea in their heads, namely, now my partner and I can both devote our lives to climbing the corporate ladder. Market research executives have a name for them: DINKS, or double-income, no kids.
    Here is sobering statistic from "The X Factor: Tapping into the Strengths of the 33- to 46-Year-Old Generation," a study from The Center for Work Life Policy in New York: About 43 percent of Gen X women and nearly a third (32%) of Xer men do not have children at all -- nor do they intend to.
    With all that extra income, these wealthy (primarily white), highly educated Gen-Xers could afford to buy bigger houses, more luxurious cars. So, of course, housing and other prices followed suit. Eventually, we needed two incomes just to maintain the same quality of life that the Boomers and Silent Generation enjoyed from just one. And after the fad of downsizing, globalization of the workplace, and two economic downturns (in 2000 and 2008), we are now all running as fast as we can just to not fall behind."

Elizabeth Warren also talks about this in "The Two Income Trap":
"Of course, the notion that mothers are all going to run pell-mell back to the hearth and turn back the clock to 1950 is absurd. But that aside, a big part of the two-income trap is that families have basically bid up the cost of living. Housing is a big example. A generation ago, an average family could buy an average home on one income. Today you can't do that in three-quarters of American cities. We all know that housing prices are going up, but what most people don't realize is that this has become a family problem. Housing prices are rising twice as fast for families with kids.
    A lot of that has to do with public schools. As confidence in the public schools has dwindled, people are bidding up the prices on homes in those school districts with good reputations; so for a typical family, the only way to afford one of those homes is to send mom to work. Average mortgage expenses have gone 70 times faster than the average father's income, and the only way families are keeping up is by bringing in two incomes.
    Of course that's where you see the trap. If families were simply sending Mom into the workforce and using that money to build their savings, or to have more fun, or to go on more vacations, you wouldn't see the same kind of financial trap. If Mom or Dad got laid off, heck, they'd stop going on vacation. But that's not the case. If mom gets laid off now you can't say, "Well, we'll just stop paying the mortgage for awhile." One of the things we've heard over and over after our book was released was mothers stepping forward and saying: "You're telling my story. You know, maybe I prefer to work and maybe I don't, but I tell you I have no choice financially. The only way we're getting health insurance and the only way I'm sending my kids to a decent school is for me to work and work some more." ...
    Yes, there's this great myth out there that we call the "Over-consumption Myth," which goes: If you earn a decent income, and you're in trouble financially, it must be because you're blowing all your money at the Gap, and TGIF. The myth is so powerful, it almost seems like heresy to question it. But when we actually looked into the data on what real families actually spend, it's just not true. An average family of four actually spends less on clothing than their parents did a generation ago, adjusted for inflation. That includes all the Tommy Hilfiger sweatshirts and all the Nike sneakers. How does this work? Well we forget all the things we don't spend money on anymore -- how many kids have leather shoes for Sunday school anymore? How many people dress up in wool suits for work everyday?
    The point is that families today are spending their money no more foolishly than their parents did. And yet they're five times more likely to go bankrupt, and three times more likely to lose their homes. Families are going broke on the basics --housing, health insurance, and education. These are the kind of bills that you can't just trim around the edges in the event of a downturn."

Germany shows a different ways forward on this.
"How did Germany become such a great place to work in the first place? The Allies did it. This whole European model came, to some extent, from the New Deal. Our real history and tradition is what we created in Europe. Occupying Germany after WWII, the 1945 European constitutions, the UN Charter of Human Rights all came from Eleanor Roosevelt and the New Dealers. All of it got worked into the constitutions of Europe and helped shape their social democracies. It came from us. The papal encyclicals on labor, it came from the Americans."

As does the Netherlands:
"Still, de Bruin's observations suggest that glamour, hospitality and charm may not be essential ingredients for female happiness. Living in a wealthy, industrialized society plays a huge part in the Dutch woman's sense of contentment, she said, given the benefits of a social net that allows for balance between work and family life. She backs that claim with statistics: 68 percent of Dutch women work part time, roughly 25 hours a week, and most probably do not want a full-time job."

I listed several pathologies that can chew up productivity here (including endless schooling, lack of preventive health care, and so on):

Now, it may well be true that a marketplace is a better way to organize useful labor than central planning Russell was enamored of (assuming the market is policed by government regarding externalities, monopolies, wealth concentration, and systemic risks).

But Russell's general point from 1930 is still valid and has been made by others and is even more valid today -- that we already are at the point where most of us don't have to work to provide a decent life for most. But instead, much human energy is frittered away in competition, war, boring schooling, guarding each other, and then addictive pursuits stemming from the craziness of it all. As Bob Black suggests:
"Only a small and diminishing fraction of work serves any useful purpose independent of the defense and reproduction of the work-system and its political and legal appendages. Twenty years ago, Paul and Percival Goodman estimated that just five percent of the work then being done -- presumably the figure, if accurate, is lower now -- would satisfy our minimal needs for food, clothing and shelter. Theirs was only an educated guess but the main point is quite clear: directly or indirectly, most work serves the unproductive purposes of commerce or social control. Right off the bat we can liberate tens of millions of salesmen, soldiers, managers, cops, stockbrokers, clergymen, bankers, lawyers, teachers, landlords, security guards, ad-men and everyone who works for them. There is a snowball effect since every time you idle some bigshot you liberate his flunkies and underlings also. Thus the economy implodes."

It's true that material expectations are higher now than in the 1930s. But so too are our abilities via robotics, AI, and a better knowledge of materials and design.

As I think Kevin Carson or someone else on the p2presearch list suggested, what would our economy look like in an intermediate state if this process of implosion was going on? Perhaps it might look much like today -- with rising unemployment, falling GDP, and various short-term social distresses?

Yes, we could perhaps create a world where people were providing endless services to others, such as the person who watches the person who watches the person who watches to ensure your dog is guarding your house (see also Dr. Seuss on bee watching). We could create a world where almost everyone is a maid or gardener to a few ultra-wealthy people like in some third world nation. Some liberals have even joked that it looks like the goal of most US Republican leaders is to remake the USA into Pakistan (no strong government, little publicly supported infrastructure, privatized education, huge rich/poor divide, etc.).

But is that really the world we want? I guess is does come down to an assessment of human nature and what most people want. Also, if most of those services could be provided by AIs and robots, which you reasonably question, then even if people want more services, there is no need to have people provide them.

While I agree in the current value of tradeskills, many trades are tough on the knees, and it is hard to be a tradeperson past 50. And in any case, we would soon see falling wages if everyone rushed to the trades right now. They could absorb more people than now, but not everyone who needs a job to survive in our current economy. Again though, robots and AI don't have to replace all humans to make a big dent in the economy. They just have to allow, say, one skilled human welder to do the work of ten welders by supervising ten robots who do the mostly routine welding.

There have been several articles on the development of 3D printing for homes, so even the trades are going to be facing automation. In general, better design, made easier by better computers and the internet, can eliminate many jobs in many trades, by making products last longer, making them easier to DIY install or repair, or by making products in automated factories. For such an example, and maybe it was not perfect, but there was Bucky Fuller's Dymaxion Bathroom:
"The four, stamped sheet metal or molded plastic sections are each light enough to be carried by two workers. They'll fit up tight staircases and through narrow doors, allowing retrofitting in existing structures. All the appliances, pipes, and wires are built-in, limiting on-site construction to mere hook-up. With the sections bolted together, the interior has no germ-harboring nooks, crannies, grout cracks or anything that can rot. Large-radius corners make germicidal swabbing easy and complete. Downdraft ventilation draws fumes and steam to the undersink vent. Both sink and (deep) bath-shower are arranged to ease the care of children and seniors. The mirror doesn't steam up, the sink doesn't splatter, and the toilet paper stays dry. Dymaxion Bathrooms are to be equipped with "Fog Gun" hot water vapor showers that use only a cup of water to clean hygienically without soap. ..."

I'd encourage you to look at Bertrand Russel's essay (overlooking some 1930s-era comments on Russia), or stuff by others like Bob Black on work:

Humans seem adapted to a certain amount of daily physical exercise. We can either get this through some form of manual "work" (including gardening and caring for young children) or by going to the gym. It seems like gardening etc. might be preferable to boring repetitive gym "work"? Again, when going up Maslow's hierarchy of needs, and given a lot of AI and robotics would we really want to turn to a paid human for most services? Would you really want a "personal shopper" to find your next DIY-installed faucet for you instead of turning to Amazon and looking at the reviews?

One can make the case for general "work" by all, but within these limits like EF Schumacher does:
"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."

Still, as Bertrand Russel points out, it takes some degree of education (and not like modern Prussian-derived schooling designed to dumb most people down) to understand the potential of "idleness". The basis of much of modern science came from a small subset of the idle rich of Europe.

I don't think most people see the end of scut work as bad. What they see is that the end of menial work means a lot of people starve or otherwise suffer in our current economy where the right to consume for most people (and their families) is based on offering personal labor for sale. While there a lot of things wrong with using IQ as a measure, as someone else on Slashdot mentioned years ago, half of all people have an IQ of less than 100 (by definition), and IQ correlates somewhat with the type of skills we are talking about for a 21st century economy. These may be people who are loving parents, hard workers, highly knowledgeable about some tasks, good friends and neighbors, generous volunteers, good joke tellers and story tellers, and so on. But what does the future hold for them when so many low skill or menial jobs are being automated and when 24X7 video entertainment is available cheaply? Is it fair that all these people will be disenfranchised from receiving the fruits of the industrial base and larger society they and their ancestors helped create? And to what end, given the possibilities of automation to produce essentially endless material abundance relative to human needs and even most wants?

Marshall Sahlins claims hunter/gathers has a lot of leisure time and did relatively little work by modern standards, and what work they did was skilled and relatively enjoyable (given humans became adapted to a certain niche for a long time):
"Hunter-gatherers consume less energy per capita per year than any other group of human beings. Yet when you come to examine it the original affluent society was none other than the hunter's - in which all the people's material wants were easily satisfied. To accept that hunters are affluent is therefore to recognise that the present human condition of man slaving to bridge the gap between his unlimited wants and his insufficient means is a tragedy of modern times."

As I see it, the *need* for a lot of work relative the the easier days of our hunter/gatherer past came from a few things. One is rising expectations (which may be a good thing, depending) and that is what you point to for the future demand for work. However, the "voluntary simplicity" movement questions this. Another is humans making work for each other in often pathological ways, generally related to turf wars and social status -- although not entirely questionable depending on how one views group selection vs. individual selection regarding evolution and mate selection. However, the peace movement, cooperative movements (see Alfie Kohn), and other social trends question this level of competition. Another key reason is the need to work harder because of increasing populations relative to the Earth's carrying capacity pushing people onto marginal lands. While a sandy beach in the tropical Caribbean or by an African lake may make for easy living from the water's bounty, there was only so much warm beach front property to go around. Everyone else had to work harder on more marginal lands. However, we've become so potentially good at making food and stuff from so little (even figuring out how to make useful aluminum from otherwise useless rocks). Our population growth is slowing, and in any case, if population grows again, there is the promise of outer space including perhaps living in self-replicating space habitats that can duplicate themselves from sunlight and asteroidal ore like JD Bernal envisioned in the 1920. My OSCOMAK project hoped to help with all that. So, new options in each area are opening up for alternative ways of thinking about all this. Bertrand Russell saw that in 1932. It is only more true now.

Again, perhaps this comes down to different expectations of human nature in different settings. Also, at some point quantitative changes can become qualitative changes. Sure, people can formalize the exchange of social favors in a retirement community using some form of tokens or currency (including a LETS system), especially if they grew up in an exchange-oriented economy. But at some point, such social interactions around exchanging mainly optional services may lend themselves more easily to a "gift economy" approach like common in North American economics several hundred years ago (among the Native Americans, including via "Potlach"). Again, I like James P. Hogan's 1982 novel "Voyage From Yesteryear" for illustrating one possibility of what might happen as a scarcity-based world view encounters an abundance-based worldview. Like Bucky Fuller said, whether it will be utopia or oblivion will be a touch-and-go relay race to the very end...

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