A different form of poverty

Continuing the discussion from ‘Poor people don’t plan long-term. We’ll just get our hearts broken’:

Interesting comments all, and all pointing in a similar direction: lots of “stuff” and little employment.

At the most basic level, more and more is being automated. When I worked in employment services, I’d often get young blokes who, when asked what sort of job they were looking for, would answer “labourer”. My standard response was that there’s no market for muscle; the one who gets their labourer’s position would be the one who could drive a machine to do the work. That was more than 20 years ago and the position of the low-skilled is far worse; the skill level, below which most jobs are automated (or at least machine-augmented) is far higher now.

Beyond that, technologies like hyperbaric selective laser sintering raise the prospect of “printing” complex metal products. That raises the automation skill barrier even higher.

Projecting further still, if the dreams of Feynman and Drexler are realised, molecular nano-assemblers could produce virtually anything at almost no cost. Nano-disassemblers would really upset the intellectual property crowd with their ability to tear products apart atom by atom, recording the details as they go so the product can be replicated. Of course, being able to tear stuff apart at that level means every atom of junk could be recycled; the end of trash!

The technology would reduce physical goods to software. That gives intellectual property policy a whole new significance and piracy a new dimension.

Of course, the technology can be put to darker uses. If you can manipulate individual atoms, what’s to prevent you making explosives, without the need to buy suspicious amounts of ingredients?

Bearing in mind that some of the technologies already exist and serious resources are being thrown at others, we probably should contemplate how both society and economy might be affected.

Nothing. This might sound a bit glib, but it brings us back to ensuring we have a good education system (and I mean that in the broadest possible sense, to include good parenting and the understanding that blowing things up might not always be the best choice).

[quote=“tmthrgd, post:3, topic:331, full:true”]… I think it comes down to solid, free, accessible education; at a primary, secondary and tertiary level but also at a sort of post- level. Were as a society we also *re-*educate people, if you will.
It’s interesting that both responses focus on the aspect that I regard as least important. I reckon it’s significant that both see free education as part of the solution. To that, I’d add an imperative to ensure that everyone has something to do that they feel is meaningful.

The old adage that “The Devil makes work for idle hands” exists for good reasons. The impacts on morale are inherent in the title of this thread.

I think the right kind of education enables people to start and participate projects exploring their own interests which is why the others see it as central to the discussion.

There may need to be cheap small loans and grants to fund the projects, with the aim of raising money to make the projects either self sustaining or funding them until complete. I think these need to be available for as broad a range of projects as possible.

A couple of friends started their small businesses out of a small business course they did whilst they were unemployed. Upon finishing the course they were able to access the start-up money to get the ball rolling.

Plenty of artists I know make some of their money through government grants. I have been paid to work on music projects around Wollongong in the past. Similar funds could be established for open source software and other technical projects.

There are bush regeneration projects etc, that can help to combat climate change and generally make the local environment more livable and easy on the eye.

I’m not entirely sure how to best fund/ pay for such projects, MarkG tends to have good ideas on that front.

There are paid roles in some online games these days, I have been paid good money to build stuff in Second Life, although I haven’t done it for a while due to investing more time in politics and music. Musicians play for a living (its why you play music). I suspect the division between work and play will continue to blur which is a good thing.

In the end it is up to everyone to find meaning in their own lives, all we can do if provide a platform to enable people to pursue what they are interested in and let them go and do it.

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[quote=“davidb, post:4, topic:331”]It’s interesting that both responses focus on the aspect that I regard as least important. I reckon it’s significant that both see free education as part of the solution. To that, I’d add an imperative to ensure that everyone has something to do that they feel is meaningful.

The best analysis I know of suggests that education is the best (possibly only) hope of avoiding mass-scale unemployment when the oncoming wave of automation hits. It’s critical insurance against long-term enforced idleness because it creates prospects of either finding work in a high-skilled future or developing skills you can use in other ways.

In that regard “free education” might be an overrated priority. In a free education system 10 grand of government funding might buy one semester for one student. In a system like ours where contributions are split it buys the same for two students and therefore widens society’s access to the critical product. We have probably gone too far with fees though; the fact that poor students are being forced to reconsider education is a sure sign of having passed the happy-point of peak inclusiveness.

I concur with Simon re. funding additional community projects. We should probably look at that…

[quote=“tmthrgd, post:3, topic:331, full:true”]

What’s to stop someone already? From my understanding it’s not all that difficult as it stands.[/quote]

Given it’s possible to make older (WWI era) nerve agents from common cleaning chemicals found in every supermarket (there’s a reason why certain items have great big warnings that they shouldn’t be mixed with certain other items), the issue isn’t the technology so much as psychological issues affecting those who’d do it. That said, I don’t see the value in naming the two chemicals in question, even here. :wink: