Work, Education, Future Tech, Minimalism, and Mental Illness

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Even though mental illness has cost me any potential career, wealth, or family, I am still quite happy overall most of the time.  I would say that age 37 I’m far happier and content now than I was 10 years ago.  I have come to the acceptance that I don’t need a career to validate my life and existence.  That is something most people in modern civilization never come to realize.  I still get the questions of ‘what do I do for a living’ all the time when I’m out in public.  Anymore I just tell people I do online computer stuff from home, which isn’t a lie.  I just don’t get paid for it.  For years I lied to people about what kind of job I had.  And I felt guilty about it because the very question seemed to imply that I had to validate my existence by what I did for several hours a day.  What does it matter what I do all day as long as I’m not breaking the law or hurting other people?  I know some exceptionally brilliant people who more or less dropped out of modern society because they saw the whole idea of a 40 hour work week and family and house in the suburbs as self defeating and pointless.  I mean I don’t need to have a job paying me six figures when, as a minimalist, I can live comfortably off less than 20 grand a year.  Besides, with soon to be eight billion plus people living on our small planet, we’re going to have to learn how to do more with less anyway.

What does it matter what a person does for a living in many cases anyway?  There are studies out there and can be viewed online that state that as many as 50 percent of current jobs could be assigned to machines and done better within the next 20 years.  When this happens, and it will happen despite political interventions and social upheavals, we as humans will have to find new ways to define ourselves outside of paid employment.

And I can’t figure out why people are so scared senseless of having their jobs assigned to machines.  Practically everyone I know hates their jobs.  I have heard that old “Oh God It’s Monday” and “Thank God It’s Friday” nonsense since I was five years old.  Seems to me that griping and moaning about how much your job sucks is as American as baseball.  If I were a business owner, I think I’d install machines just so I have to deal with as few bad attitudes as possible.  Most jobs are in the service sector anymore that don’t pay as well as the old unionized factory jobs.  And most people that work in these sectors are treated poorly by bosses, customers, and even fellow employees.  I will never voluntarily work in customer service ever again.  I have enough problems of my own to be working maximum hours for little to no benefits while taking abuse from customers and bosses.  The way normal people treat customer service employees is really heartless and uncivilized.  I don’t understand why anyone would put themselves through that except for the need for money.  And I don’t need the money, so I won’t put myself through it.

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Seems to me that we are running out of low skill jobs while many high skill jobs like doctors, engineers, teachers, trades jobs, technicians, etc. are going unfilled.  Our schools, for whatever reasons, simply aren’t producing the quantities of people that are needed to keep our high tech civilizations functioning and advancing.  That concerns me.  We know my country doesn’t do a good job teaching science or math in our grade and secondary schools.  We have known this for over 40 years now.  And nobody seems interested in updating the American school systems for the high tech realities of modern times.  Our civilization cannot afford another 40 years of poor science and math education.  Why aren’t we making the changes?

Yes, our schools served us well in the industrial revolution.  But they are a poor design for the information revolutions we have been in for at least the last 30 years. Then again, with as fast as things are advancing, much of what an 18 year college freshman learns will be pointless and obsolete by the time he/she graduates from college four to five years later.  So we may have to teach kids to learn how to learn rather than give them certain facts and expect them to spit them out on a test only to be forgotten a week later.   I would love to see some kid write on her high school tests, “Why should I clutter my mind with facts I can look up on Google?” That kind of testing seemed pointless to me as a teenager and it seems even more pointless now in 2017.  Fortunately for older people like me there are mediums like youtube, khan academy, free online course through places like MIT, etc. that are keeping us more informed than we would have been in previous generations.  Used to be that a person could rote learn facts and then spend the next 30 years working on a farm or in a factory simply because the science and tech didn’t advance very fast.  Of course many people didn’t live past age 50 either, so retirement and the diseases of old age like heart disease and cancer weren’t very big problems.  Those days are as dead and gone as the draft horse and wagon.

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Unfortunately many people of my generation and the previous generations made the mistake of ending their education once their school years were over.  This we could afford when science and tech weren’t advancing really fast and people weren’t regularly living into their 80s and 90s.  But as fast as things are advancing now, it’s hurting us that our citizens and elected leaders aren’t able to keep up with the advances.  I doubt most people in my government even understand that robotics, computer programs, and AI are getting good enough that many jobs will be disappearing within the next decade or two.  My politicians are talking about bringing back old style manufacturing jobs.  As good as automation is, that’s not happening.  The U.S. is already the number two manufacturer in the world, behind only China.  Even China is automating much of it’s manufacturing now.  And when 3D printers get really good and easy to use, that’s going to end even more manufacturing jobs and retail jobs.  When I get a good 3D printer someday, I will never set foot in a Wal Mart or mall ever again.  As it already is, I do most of my shopping online.  I even get delivery pizza and deli online anymore.

I don’t even have to go back to school to learn new things, thanks to online learning.  For all I know, our grandkids’ generation may be able to have all their education online without having to set foot in a classroom.  I’ve already learned as much online through five years of rigorous study on youtube and khan academy as I ever did in my years of formal education.  And I absolutely love it.  Maybe one of the reasons I’m not scared of the avalanche of changes our civilization is and will be facing in the next couple generations is because I have had to reinvent myself several times because of mental illness.  We as a civilization will have to reinvent ourselves to avoid destroying ourselves.  Maybe my schizophrenia inadvertently sling shot me ahead of most of the crowd.  We are heading towards some really cool things in the future, but whether or not we as a species make a successful transition is not certain mainly because we are stumbling around without much of a plan to manage the transition.

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Thoughts on Upcoming Graduations and Future Possibilities

College graduations are this weekend in my home state.  Some days it’s hard to believe that it’s been thirteen years since I finished college.  Other days it seems like it was somebody else’s life.  I am definitely not the same person I was then.  Back then I believed I could still work in spite my mental illness if I found the right situation.  Over the next several years I worked a variety of jobs; retail clerk, sales man, teacher’s aide, factory worker, loading dock worker, cook, dish washer, janitor, and now blogger.  Besides the teacher’s aide job, none of these jobs had anything to do with what I studied in college.

In my younger years, I was kind of resentful that I didn’t find a good paying job in the field I studied.  For awhile I believed that college was a waste because of this.  I really don’t feel that way anymore.  After studying science and tech advances for the last few years, I know now that it’s impossible to spend four to five years in college and expect to have a career in that field for the next forty years.  The science and technology is advancing too fast anymore.  Entire new industries are being creating and being destroyed every year anymore.  It’s foolish to tell an eighteen year old kid fresh out of high school that what they major in has to last them until age sixty five.  Most eighteen year olds don’t know what’s even available, let alone where their true strengths lie.  When I started college I never saw myself becoming a writer and blogger.  There were very few blogs in 1999 when I started college.  There weren’t even social media sites, good search engines, youtube, netflix, etc back then.  And that was just eighteen years ago, not that long ago.  Who knows what will change in the next eighteen years.  I might not even need to use a keyboard to write a blog by 2035.

As far as telling an eighteen year old kid that they have to stay in one career field for their lives, that’s asinine.  These kids graduating high school this spring won’t hit even our current retirement age until the mid 2060s.  We can’t realistically train these kids for lifelong careers when we don’t know what will be available by then.  Maybe some of the kids graduating this year will be working in vertical farming, yet in 2017 this tech is still in development phases.  Maybe some of these kids will be robotics mechanics.  Perhaps some will become technological nomads and just go wherever the work takes them.  Have lap top, will travel much like the hired guns of the Old West.  Maybe some of the kids graduating this spring will work on building moon and Martian colonies.  Maybe some of these kids will be among the first to have their children genetically modified.  I don’t know.  But I doubt few of them, if any, will be able to make careers as truck drivers, fast food workers, retail clerks, telemarketing, book keeping or most manufacturing.  These jobs will be among the first to be automated.

And ironically, no one else knows exactly what the future of work holds for these kids leaving high school either.  Tech gurus like Bill Gates, Elon Musk, Ray Kurzweil, etc. can have good ideas but we realistically can’t foresee what will and what won’t happen in the next twenty, thirty, or forty years. And politicians can say they want to revive blue collar manufacturing jobs, but that’s not going to happen in spite their best efforts.  We can’t go back to the past and trying to do so will only make the transitions to a higher tech world civilization even harder and delay the inevitable.  For all I know, by 2065 the basics of life could be cheap enough that working may optional for some people.  Maybe the only real jobs humans can do will be in science research and space exploration.  Of course I could be completely wrong and World War III knocks humanity back to the Stone Age.  What I do know is that as much change as I have seen since graduating high school in 1999, even that change is going to be dwarfed by what’s coming in the next couple generations.

Rant About Working and Money

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I’ve been feeling quite calm and content since Thanksgiving.  I really haven’t left the complex that much but I do keep myself occupied.  I still watch a lot of educational videos on youtube and curiosity stream.  Most people will find me odd for saying this but I love learning new things.  Sure the things I learn may not help me make more money or land a dream job, but so what?  Why does everything I do have to have a dollar sign attached to it?  Why can’t I do something just to make myself smarter and more interesting?  I know plenty of well to do people who haven’t voluntarily read a book since high school.  But these people are one dimensional, boring, and really don’t know what’s going on in the world outside of their workplace.  You may make a lot of money but that doesn’t make up for the fact you may be boring, uninteresting, a bad parent, or your marriage is falling apart.  Most of my critics think I’m wasting my time and efforts learning extemporaneous things and not doing practical things like chasing women or complaining about my coworkers.  But I don’t care.  I’ve reached the age where I’m focused on what I need to do to advance my work and purpose and everything else is just background noise.

As it is I consider this blog and my own enlightenment my career now.  I don’t care that I don’t make much money from it.  Besides money isn’t backed up by anything tangible as most countries haven’t been on a gold or silver standard for generations.  Your money is fake.  Your money is less real than a porn star’s body parts.  And that is why I don’t care that I don’t get much money from this blog or my other outside projects.  My critics just love to brag about how much they work in one breath and then complain about how much they hate their jobs in the next.  Robots and automated programs will be taking many jobs within the next twenty years.  Someday that job you lord over others to brag about how much you are earning your keep will be taken over by machines.  Then what?  Then you will be in the same place with the “welfare bums” and “lazy idiots” you have damned for generations.

I really have no patience for people who brag about how much they supposedly work and about how irreplaceable they are.  Screw you, we are all replaceable.  There have been tens of billions of humans that have lived in the history of our species, individuals are not that special.  Many jobs will be replaced by machines within the next generation.  Many millions of people will be unemployed without their consent.  And here you are complaining about people that can’t find jobs to support themselves or resorting to welfare programs.  Well, screw you!  We will probably all be on some kind of tax payer sponsored support within the next thirty years, especially when automation takes off.

Many people think we’re going to bring back millions manufacturing jobs and it’ll be like the go go 1950s once again.  First of all, most manufacturing jobs are getting to the point that machines can do them better than any human can.  Even Chinese factories are putting in robotic manufacturing processes as we speak.  It’s not like an average person just out of high school is going to work the same factory job for forty five years and then get a pension anymore.  Those days are as dead as the horse and buggy.  And it’s stupid and pointless to try to bring those days back.  If we are to compete on a world stage, we’re going to have to update our entire education system and retrain millions of workers.  It angers me to think that I spent my educational career in a mediocre system that didn’t challenge me or even try to prepare me to compete on a global scale.  Heck I feel like I was cheated by my school systems.  There is more to life than whether you can throw the football a long way or become prom queen.

We aren’t going to bring back the “good ol’ days”, and they weren’t that good to begin with.  I have no patience with people who have an overabundance of nostalgia for the past and think that the old days were some magical time where people respected others and an honest day’s work meant an honest day’s pay.  In most cases, an honest day’s work meant you didn’t get whipped by your slave masters for most of history or beaten by your alcoholic husband.  I hate nostaliga and I am really sick and tired of people longing for a past that never existed in the real world.  Do your homework already!

I guess I shouldn’t rant that much about people who won’t do their homework.  But it does get old after awhile.  It does scare me that even though I’m a schizophrenic on disability pension I do more homework into the state of science, technology, and world affairs in a typical day than most people do in a month.  The internet is a great tool to learn cool and great things.  Use it for some constructive purpose already.  The internet was not designed just so you could troll people who don’t agree with you.  Dealing with stupid people who think they’re something special because they have the internet (which they had nothing to do with in making) gets tiring and discouraging from time to time.  I guess this  is one of those times I’m just discouraged with so many people in my life acting and thinking like a bunch of barbarian brutes.  I will feel better eventually but I just need to vent right now.  Even mentally ill people should be allowed to have moments of weakness.  Screw the stiff upper lip at all times!

 

Thoughts on Socializing While At Work

I wanted to originally do this in one post.  But I had to break it into two smaller posts.  Consider this my buy one, get one free promotion. I do enjoy having good conversations one on one or with small groups.  But far too often we are kept apart from people on an individual basis.  We seldom have in depth conversations with our coworkers because there isn’t enough time during the work day to just sit down and chat with your coworkers.  And most people are usually too tired to spend time with coworkers at the end of a shift or they have family obligations.  We work with these people every day, sometimes for years at a time, yet we rarely get to really know them.  The irony about most jobs is that much of what is done during an eight hour work day is redundant busy work, especially in most office jobs.  Most of what is done in an office, from my experience any way, seems could be done in half the time the work shift demands people be at their cubicles and acting busy.  I found the same thing in high school and college.  Some of those classes could have been only half as long and almost all of them could have been more stimulating.  I had a couple friends who were homeschooled for part of their academic careers and they said they usually had only four hours of classes a day while I had at least seven.  And they still did better on tests, and later their careers, than many kids I went to regular school with.  Unless you are working in the trades, working in the medical field, or working in a factory, most jobs could probably easily be done from home via telecommuting or with only four to six hour work days.  Even store clerks have to always look busy.

During the years I worked in retail I was told it was bad and tactless to chat with my coworkers while we were on the clock.  Who decided this?  I wasn’t asked for my opinion. Can’t have coworkers knowing each other and getting along well, now can we?  That might make things awkward when a coworker gets fired or reprimanded for arbitrary reasons. As long as we’re not insulting the bosses, the company, the customers, etc., than screw you.  As long as we are still helping the customers and getting our work done, it shouldn’t matter that coworkers would spend a few minutes talking to each other during slow times.  The same people we sell to in the large chain stores chat with their coworkers in their offices but manage to get their work done, let’s not kid ourselves.  Why should we have to look busy when we have a few free moments?  Why shouldn’t we be allowed to get to know our coworkers?  My coworkers and I didn’t complain when our bosses took half hour cigarette breaks, hid out in their offices for hours at a time claiming they were doing ‘paperwork’, taking longer than allowed lunches, or talked with their friends and family on company time.  And some people wonder why fast food workers are demanding $15 an hour.  I don’t think it’s the money that’s as large of a deal as the lack of respect and accountability that front line workers get from their managers and their companies.

Yes, the money matters.  The money from fast food and service jobs matters more than twenty to thirty years ago simply because there aren’t that many manufacturing jobs left, at least not in America.  We are running out of jobs that people with less than average intelligence can hold.  Those jobs are being outsourced and even those outsourced jobs are being taken over by machines. A buddy of mine works at a caller center for a bank and is sometimes concerned about his bank outsourcing his job to India.  Yet, the man and woman in India may soon be worried about their jobs being taken over by automated programs.  I get my prescription medications refilled by an automated program that calls me when I’m running low already.  The only time I actually deal with a human is when I pick my medications up at the pharmacy.  And in several years when delivery drones get real good, I may not even have to do that.  Dominos Pizza is already experimenting with delivery drones that take your order right to your door in some countries. Sheesh, my five year old nephew might not even need a driver’s license when he turns sixteen in eleven years.

No longer can a kid not smart enough for college move into a factory, farming, or mining job for the next fifty years of his life.  These twenty to thirty somethings working at McDonald’s or Wal-Mart would have been doing factory work if they came of age in the 1950s instead of the 1990s or 2000s. They are not lazy and unmotivated like most of the popular culture and elder generations think they are.  People thought the World War II generation were drunkards and fornicators when they were in their teens and twenties during the Roaring Twenties.  The clean shaven 18 year old GI who grew up dirt poor in the 1930s that was a private in World War II probably had a 35 year old commanding officer who drank copious amounts of bootlegged alcohol and had lots promiscuous sex with flapper girls and suffragettes during Prohibition.  I also doubt the World War II generations of Japan and Germany are held in such reverence; they might even be considered an embarrassment.  The world is a stage, we are the actors, and the history books are almost always written by the winners.

If our elders were born in 1980 instead of 1950 they’d be irritated about having only fast food and retail jobs as easily available jobs too.  Bill Gates once said that my grandparents generation would have called making hamburgers an opportunity.  Smug and hypocritical advice coming from someone who outsourced a lot of his company’s work.  It could be that once wages get to $15 an hour, then front line employees will be replaced by machines.  Yet, I have never seen a computer shop at Home Depot or a robot eat at Subway.  Reminds of a story I heard from a TED talk when the CEO of an auto maker in Detroit and the head of the auto workers’ union were talking.  The company president was talking about putting in robots in the factory and jokingly asked the union boss how he would get robots to pay union dues.  The union man jokingly asked the auto exec how is he going to get robots to buy cars.  Just some things to think about.  Things could get ugly in the next couple decades.  Occupy Wall Street could just be the start.