Sunday, July 24, 2016

zingers from international studies of future job availability

This week I had a chance to hear in detail the views of the Millennium Project on the future of work and job opportunities, and a detailed response from the International Labor Organization. It was quite a zinger.

No one suggested that the jobs have been killed by unfair trade deals, which is Trump's main placebo. Rather, it is technology. FAIR trade deals can accelerate new technology, but that is happening anyway; whether it is good or bad for humans depends a lot on the rules we impose, as another person on this list noted. (For example, if the SEC rules enforce the idea that all life outside the government focuses solely on myopic measures of cash flow, we are in trouble with or without trade deals. The trade emphasis is a red herring, a scapegoat.)

After lots of feedback from all over the world, MP focuses on three future scenarios -- basically business as usual, worse and better as they see it.

What shakes me up most is to see that ALL these scenarios (and variants) show normal jobs being enough to employ 30% OR LESS of the workforce by 2050. Are we really resilient enough to handle a trend which is moving towards a kind of 70% unemployment not so far away?

MP has 60 nodes, and a large fraction of them had serious studies of these questions. The Argentina/Uruguay node considered many theories and models of future work. They noted they started with a nice World Bank scenario which was much less scary. "However, when we dug into the assumptions, we found that they simply assumed no technological change."

One quick proposition emerges: PRESENT rules (ala SEC) plus present technology trends equals a "70% unemployment problem."

MP, in its most optimistic scenario, elaborates on ways in which society could accommodate this problem through a variety of possible measures discussed in great detail, above all self-employment, but also basic income and side payments and such. But is our world, already wincing from overstimulation and stress, and regressing to assorted forms of fundamentalism all over the world (and monopolism in a lot of Congress), really ready psychologically for a much more massive change in human ways of life? Some things need to move faster, in order for us to survive, but do we need to focus on changing rules in a way which reduces the pain of dislocation and takes SOME changes a bit more slowly? 

I now know more about ILO than I did before, but my knowledge is still superficial. It does sound as if their main role is to develop and update fair labor standards, which get written into fair trade deals.  Would Trump really upgrade the ILO, improve its effectiveness and support for it? Or would he just gut it as his colleagues have been gutting other things? 

Does a real understanding of future jobs require a deeper understanding of SEC, ILO and new technology? Is anything short of that the moral equivalent of a drunk wandering randomly and bumping into things he does not see? 


This was sent to a group which also has people with deep commitments in the election. For 40 years, as a government employee, I worked hard to stay nonpartisan, and fulfill the duty to be a positive help to the positive goals of whoever gets elected. Maybe I need to change that, especially since people like Lamar Smith no longer 
honor or support the code of Teddy Roosevelt... but I still need to be clear that I give primacy to goals beyond the choice of parties and nations as such. Goals like survival of the human species as such, and the achievement of everyone's full potential. 

There have been many other zingers this week, so zingy that I have hesitated to say much.

For example, I ran across a theory (and folks with evidence) of a Putin-Erdogan pact similar in some ways to Hitler-Stalin or to the secret agreements which destabilized Europe in a way which helped give us World War I. 
The oligarchs and siloviki really want some mix of progress and Christianity, and to crush movements to push us into a global mix of sharia and stone age culture. But Putin has his own deals, not always transparent to them, including Chechen allies he has used and empowered within Russia itself (e.g. for staged provocation events). Cutting back on one sharia state while creating another much more powerful one... 

H2S keeps rising in the Black Sea, and people do know. Why do apparatchiks try to turn that into a NATO versus Russia fight? Do they want new wars for their own sake? I suggested we need a calm very strong but very new scientific effort to understand how soon the people living in Sevastopol, in Turkey and in western shore nations might be at risk of H2S killer cloud breakouts? If it is loud and clear that this is NOT intended as a threat to any of them (it wouldn't increase H2S, the real threat there!), but intended as a follow-through of real human concern for the real humans who might be affected, could the silly fights be defused? And yes, we could emphasize that we are worried what would happen to us too, if lots of Russians died in their sleep unexpectedly in sevastopol... a matter of common rational worry, worry we need to calibrate. 

I was also surprised to learn that Chile is now facing something a lot like the "four county algae bloom" stinking up Florida. A whiff of euxinia? More precisely, something which smells like euxinia but which seems not well enough 
analyzed yet. (What are those cyanobacteria eating, and is more of it coming?). If you ever eat salmon which comes from fish farms, this is already hurting you. (More precisely, the supply-demand for such salmon is a bit worse, due to a real problem in Chile, related to the big stink.)

Today I also feel guilty that I did not follow up as much as I should have on various things with Kaine's people, when the opportunity may have existed. For example, Chesapeake also has ITS chemocline. There were clean coal options which EPA COULD have followed up on, in a very important if technical way, which I chose to discuss instead with our local Beyer group... but maybe Kaine's group would have been more accessible or more sincere
or simply capable. Oh, well. 

Tonight begins three days of NATO terrorism stuff...  

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