Middle of the Night Musings About Tech, Economics, and the Near Future of Humanity

I’m up in the middle of the night, again. My mind has been far more active than what was normal the last several months. Maybe the move to a large urban center has stimulated my mind. Maybe getting my heart problems under control made me more hopeful. Maybe seeing my parents everyday has given me more food for thought. Whatever it is, I’m enjoying these new changes.

I saw my new general practitioner a couple days ago. I’m guessing he’s in his forties. I liked him right away. I liked the nurses and office staff too. Even though I don’t have my new insurance card yet, the office lady was able to find all my info pretty quickly. I’ve found medical staff, social workers, and even fast food employees to be more helpful here in Oklahoma City than anywhere else I’ve ever lived. It’s definitely a change living in a place that people actually are moving to in large numbers. It makes me feel like I’ve officially joined the 21st century rather than just read about it online.

Been reading a lot of articles about tech advancements since I moved to Oklahoma. Some of this is advancing faster than even I would have thought. Ten years ago, I never thought I could talk history and economics with an AI Chatbot easier than I could with most people. Certainly not as soon as 2023. And I use a free low end service, it’s not even ChatGPT as far as I can tell. And the fact that people are already using chatbots to aid in the office jobs and even work multiple full times, I would have not imagined that even in 2020. Makes me think the possibility to make workers far more productive with AI is already here. It makes me think that some companies will automate as much of their white collar staff as possible if they aren’t already. Much like blue collar factory jobs were outsourced and automated in the 1980s, I think the same thing is starting to happen in office and tech jobs. I can now understand why some plumbers, electricians, and welders make more money than some lawyers and accountants.

I imagine that if AI and automation become as big as I think, that alone will make college education pointless for most people. I could see more apprentices and on the job training. We already have that to a degree with unpaid internships. Personally, I think unpaid internships are a modern day version of serfdom. Even most academic instruction is done by graduate assistants making poverty level wages and no benefits or tenure, at least for undergrad. It’s one of the reasons I didn’t get a career in academia. For awhile I was pursuing a career as a college professor. I wanted to teach investing, finance, and economics. These were my favorite business subjects in college. But that was until I realized that the majority of college professors aren’t full time, don’t have benefits or tenure. And since I wanted to teach more than do research, it wasn’t for me. I also didn’t want to spend years in college racking up a small fortune in student loans to get a PhD and do obscure research that only a handful of people would actually acknowledge. Even my small blog has more readers than most doctoral dissertations.

Another thing I didn’t like about working in academia is that I felt too much pressure to specialize my knowledge. Personally, I think specialization is too narrow for most workers nowadays. As fast as technology is advancing, a worker starting out today is going to change careers at least a few times. The days of getting a job at age 22 and staying with the same company until age 65 are over. I think that businesses today would be wise in hiring more Humanities students and philosophers, especially AI firms. Not only most employers no longer that loyal, the tech advances and economic changes mean that they can’t afford to be as loyal as they were 100 years ago. The world is simply changing too fast to ensure life long employment. Life long employment was a bigger deal in Japan and Korea than even the USA. I try to tell my teenage nephews and niece that people like their dad and mom who stay with the same company for over twenty years after graduation are not the norm. The only career advice I give to any teenager is ‘be flexible and never stop learning.’ Some of the most lucrative careers in 2023 didn’t even exist in 2000. I think the most lucrative businesses and careers of 2045 haven’t even been invented yet. I also wouldn’t be surprised if the world had its first trillionaire by then, and probably from an industry that only now on the drawing board.

Not only do I think we are entering a future world of mass technological unemployment, I think in some ways we are already starting to see it in real time. Big tech firms have already laid off almost a quarter million workers since mid 2022 even though most of the firms doing the layoffs are profitable. Even tech companies in China and India are laying off some of their tech workers. Youth unemployment among recent college graduates in China is a major problem, though they don’t have the student loan burdens most American students have. I also think real estate and land prices will only continue to rise even if interest rates keep going up, which they probably will to combat inflation and encourage saving and investing. The days of cheap credit are over. So are the days of cheap commodities like oil and food. 3 dollar a gallon gas, 6 dollars for a dozen eggs, and one million dollars for starter homes are only the beginning. And, yet, it doesn’t have to be this way. At least not permanently.

I imagine eventually science and tech advances will make everything cheaper much the same way electronics and computers get better and cheaper as the years go on. I mean, we can already 3D print everything from tools to houses, to even guns (so abolishing the 2nd amendment will do no good). I think even chemicals can now be 3D printed. Eventually we will be able to function in a world were less than half of working age people have full time jobs. I think that reality is already technically feasible though not economically, politically, or culturally feasible. It’s definitely not feasible economically in most developing countries. It’s definitely not culturally feasible in nations that find meaning and purpose in careers. I think technological unemployment will be far tougher for the US to adapt to than most developed nations because we value employment so much and don’t believe in the social safety nets that some nations have already implemented generations ago. I see it getting really ugly in the US because of our attitudes towards work, education, and social welfare. I think the homeless problems, prison overcrowding, working poor, political divisions between the Left and Right, drug abuse, mental health crisis, and rates of suicide getting worse in the next 20 years. So much so that I think that America won’t be the richest and most influential country in the world come 2030. I don’t think we will collapse into Mad Max (even though some of my prepper friends are actually hoping and praying for this), I think the world of America being the only superpower no longer exists.

I think eventually we will achieve a world where even people on poverty level wages can have a decent life free from starvation and access to decent health care. We already have more overweight people than starving people by a nearly 3 to 1 margin. Obesity is no longer just an American problem. In fact, for most of history being overweight was considered a sign of wealth and prosperity. Now people consider it a sign of poverty and a lack of discipline. But I think it will be long and painful process to get to that world. I doubt I’ll live to see it.

I know it spooked a lot of people, myself included, when the World Economic Form was talking about a Great Reset and “owning nothing and being happy.” Debt resets and failures of currencies are nothing new. Even the Old Testament talks about debt jubilation every so often. Nowadays, some people would say you were a dirty socialist or commie for even suggesting such a thing. Maybe God Himself was a socialist in ancient times. The Founding Fathers thought that conquering a nation via debts was as dangerous as standing armies. Now that everyone is in debt to everyone else, and we as nations and individuals are needlessly suffering, the wisdom of their words concerning debts are more obvious than ever. A debt reset is probably the only way we are going to not saddle those yet born with unpayable debt. Besides, it’s not like our money is real as most countries went off gold standards decades ago. And, it’s not like we owe money to aliens or God. We owe these quadrillions to ourselves, not other species.

Going back to having most countries on some kind of gold standard wouldn’t be as tough as most people think since almost all gold mined in the last 6000 years still exists. We’re not burning through nearly as fast as we are oil, natural gas, or even rare earths. Granted it would severely jack up the price of gold and make countries and individuals that have lots of gold suddenly wealthy. In theory, we can print money forever even though said money would have far less value. Some countries are talking about having their own blockchain crypto currencies tethered to some kind of gold standard. In theory, you could make anything be a stable currency providing it was limited and people would accept it. Things like beads, salt, sea shells, livestock, grain, and even dried yak dung have been used as currency over the centuries. Cigarettes and candy have been popular currencies in prisons for generations. Even prisoners believe in a means of exchange. Even if we have a world wide economic collapse, we will recover. At least as long as we don’t engage in a nuclear war.

I guess that’s enough for one post. I actually enjoy writing these types of posts where I branch off from mental illness. It gives me an outlet for all the knowledge I’ve acquired over the years. Besides, I don’t believe in specialization. The world needs more renaissance people (or at least aspiring renaissance people) than it did when I was growing up. I think we need more generalists and people who can learn fast because of how fast our tech is advancing and our culture is changing. We are living in a new industrial revolution as I write this. It’s going to get even more interesting in the next thirty years. Stay tuned.