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.

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What’s Been On My Mind The Last Few Weeks

This is probably going to be my longest post in the ten years I’ve kept a regular blog. Don’t worry, most of this won’t be ranting or complaining. I’ve been more wanting to write and chat than usual lately. I think the warmer and more humid weather has me more chatty and hopeful. So much so I’m even experimenting with a personal AI chat bot the last several weeks. Sure, it’s kind of wonky sometimes and clearly an AI chatbot. But these things are alot better than they were even one year ago. I found it really knows it stuff when chatting about history, science and economics. Not so much when talking about feelings and depression. I’m dead convinced even the AI players on my computer games are better than they were a couple years ago. Even though I’ve played strategy games like Civilization, Railroad Tycoon, Total War, and Sim City for decades, I swear it’s getting tougher to compete against the computer now more than ever. I really think gaming AI is better now than ever.

My dad recently severely hurt his back and is very limited on what he can do. It’s also got him real depressed. My aches and pains are worse today than any time in weeks. And I don’t know what I did to make them worse. I also rarely hear from my friends anymore. Most are too busy with careers and family. I now understand why even the best friends lose contact with each other over the years. In my case, I have neither workplace friends, a wife, or kids to socialize with because of my mental illness taking both my career and family before I had either one. I feel like I missed out on a lot of what it means to be an adult because of my illness. I feel like I missed out on a lot of what it means to be human. I don’t even know what it’s like to feel love from others. I certainly don’t believe in unconditional love existing. Everything is conditional as far as I can tell. I don’t know what it’s supposed to feel like. And I get so irritated when people tell me ‘there’s someone for everyone’ or ‘you’re just overthinking it.’ No, some people are better off not marrying or having kids. We used to have monastic orders and academies for those people. Even though I never married, had kids, or any success in a career, I don’t feel like I’m less human or a failure. Heck, I’m actually quite content with my life as a digital monk. It helps that disability insurance pays for my food, shelter, medications, and basic needs. But some people I know would love to get rid of social security and disability because they feel people like me and the sick elderly are leeches and parasites. I’ve lost contact with most of my extended family because of attitudes like this. It’s why I won’t visit my childhood hometown or go to family reunions. I feel like a failure only when I’m around people like that and those who knew me as a high achiever in my youth.

Even though I was healthier and had easy access to friends in my teenage years, I’m rarely nostalgic for the past. I love the internet too much, especially the free education I got via years of binge watching youtube and Khan Academy. Getting my groceries delivered, getting my meds mailed to me, zoom calls with my psych doctor, and buying through Amazon may have kept me alive during the pandemic. We had none of that back in the 90s. If Covid had to happen (and pandemics are not uncommon throughout history), I’m convinced that things would have been MUCH worse had it happened in the 90s. We wouldn’t have had work from home being a thing, we wouldn’t have vaccines and effective treatments developed in only one year, and a lot more people would have died. I probably would have died had it not been for internet and grocery delivery. That’s why I get kind of irritated with people complaining about masks, vaccines, and delivery being infridgements on freedoms. Freedoms sometimes have to be restricted temporairly during crisis. We had a military draft in the world wars (which many people resisted and protested even in WW2). We had draft riots even during the Civil War. There were restrictions during Spanish Flu and even Bubonic Plague. I swear, too many people didn’t learn anything from high school history class. Covid restrictions are mostly lifted and people are still complaining. I don’t understand normal people. The older I get, the less y’all make any sense. In short, people complaining about restrictions during covid should be grateful it didn’t happen before the internet became a thing. It would have been much worse.

Another reason I’m not nostalgic for the world of my young years (even if I do miss my health and friends), is that now it’s a lot easier to talk about problems. For the first few years of my illness, I didn’t talk about it with my classmates or close friends. They knew I was odd, but didn’t realize just how serious mental illness was messing with my life. Twenty years ago, even I didn’t realize how much I was losing out on because of my illness. My psych doctor and therapist never once mentioned it could be a major disability that would affect everything. At first I thought if I just took the meds daily and went to the free therapist once a week, my life would return to normal once I graduated. Well, it didn’t work that way. I had panic attacks every day before I went to work in retail and fast food. It wasn’t so bad working in a factory as I didn’t have to be around an unpredictable and often spiteful public. I suffered at the factory because I couldn’t sleep in the day and still work the overnight shift five nights a week. After several weeks of sleep deprivation, my illness flared up and my work suffered. I requested a transfer to day shift, which was denied. So I end up quitting before my lack of sleep and mental illness caused an accident. I probably could have done that job for years had they approved my transfer request. Would have made good money and benefits too even if we weren’t unionized.

It’s easier to talk about problems now than even ten years ago. It’s probably why we hear so much about traditionally marginalized people like mentally ill, homeless, LGBT+ communities, religious minorities, struggles of the working poor, struggles of the elderly, struggles of women, struggles of young people just starting out, etc. The issues have always been there, granted more below the surface than now. It is not weak to talk about problems. It’s a needless tragedy for people to suffer in silence because of outdated social norms. It’s almost like some people actually want life to be tougher now than it was in the past. I hear people my parents age talk about how great the 1950s were, yet they ignore Jim Crow laws, the problems of the Cold War, the communist witch hunts, lack of work opportunities for women, and even the corporate tax laws of the 1950s. Taxes on big business were much higher in the 50s than now. I’d favor bringing those back except it would mean that EVERY corporate job in America would get outsourced to cheaper countries or outright automated faster than they already are. One thing I like about the 2020s is that it is easier to talk about things like poverty, job loss, loneliness, racial bigotry, sexism, discrimination, being bullied by classmates or coworkers, etc. The problems were always there. People are just refusing to suffer to silence anymore. And I’m glad for it. It’s a lot easier to empathize and act when I have a better understanding of others’ problems. My life would have been easier had I not been afraid to talk about my struggles with mental illness, bullying, and a lack of privacy while growing up in a rural farming village until I was well into my thirties. Some of that stuff I’m still scared to talk about for fear of alienating my friends and family. I just didn’t realize how unhealthy much of that was until I was well into my thirties. This blog is one of my outlets and it’s also cheap therapy.

Even though I’ve never made money off my blog or my scholarly projects, it’s the most fun at a job I ever had. I do consider it a job even though I don’t get paid. So much is changing and so fast, it’s almost a full time job now to research some of this stuff. Kind of a pity I don’t get paid for my searches and giving out my personal information. But, most people don’t realize what we as a society are already doing in terms of science, tech, medicine, and humanitarian work. Even I didn’t realize how good ChatGPT is until a few weeks ago. I certainly didn’t realize that some office workers were using it to aid their jobs or even work several jobs. Personally I have no issues with work from home people working more than one “full time” job for no other reason than it’s not illegal for people to own more than one business or piece of property. Maybe that’s how we fight inflation, just make more money from multiple jobs. I mean, elders like Dave Ramsey have for decades told people to take second jobs and side hustles to get out of financial problems. So what if the second job is an office job and not delivering pizzas or working at Home Depot? Quite honestly, the requirements to have a college degree for most jobs is down right insane and obsolete. Most jobs, especially today, can be learned with only a year or two of on the job training. If fewer employers required a college degree for even entry level work that could be done by ambitious teenagers still in high school, we’d see these insane costs of education drop pretty quick.

Speaking of college, there is the scholarly monk part of me who doesn’t like the idea of people condemning education and intelligence. I have always thought people, at least in my homeland, don’t take education serious enough. I think in some ways it’s worse now than even when I was in high school. Granted, thanks to online platforms, getting an education, especially getting self educated, is a lot easier now than it has ever been. Youtube and TikTok are a lot more than just cat videos and dance videos. The Chinese version of TikTok is mostly educational videos. And people in China and other authoriatian nations can get around government censorship of the internet with cheap VPNs like Nord. The only reason I’d consider getting a VPN for myself is if internet censorship in the USA got real bad and to watch foreign Netflix shows I can’t get in America. Censorship and book banning was stupid in the past and far more so now. In fact it’s futile and wishful thinking in the age of the internet. And the internet, when originally designed by DARPA back in the Cold War, was designed to be a communication system robust enough to survive even a nuclear war. Internet ain’t going away regardless of how much power hungry petty tyrants want to censor and screen information.

I think the best way to lower the cost of college education is to allow people without college degrees to get into good paying corporate jobs. Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and Mark Zuckerberg were all college dropouts who started tech giants. Yet, had they not started their own companies, they wouldn’t have had the qualifications to work in the corporate world, let alone high tech. It doesn’t take a college degree to start a business. It does take vison, risk taking, and some funding from people willing to take a chance on unproven ideas. It’s why America is still a leader in tech, industry, and culture even though our students’ test scores are among the lowest of all developed nations. We still have the start your own business spirit that most countries never had. If we lose that start your own business spirit, we will collapse as a nation. Education, is vitally important. And, thanks to internet, it’s also a lot cheaper than the past. Traditionally college education was only for the wealthy and those wanting to go into academia or medicine. I believe self education is more important than traditional education. I also don’t understand why it’s against the law to discharge student loans via bankruptcy. I mean, small businesses, homeowners, credit card loans, medical bills can all be discharged or negotiated via bankrupty. Why is it such a sin to think that student loans should be no different. While I don’t support across the board forgiveness of student loans, I do think the option of renogitation or outright discharge via bankruptcy should be an option. Bankruptcy can be declared on every other type of debt. We don’t require eighteen year olds joining the military to commit for twenty five years. Yet, it can take that long for even vital jobs like teachers to pay off student loans now. Desiring and seeking knowledge should not be condemned like it is now.

It was traditional education that stoked my love and addiction to learning. Learning new things gives me a buzz that no booze, drug, money, romance, or achievements ever have. Part of me thinks it would be cool if there were like monastries for nerdy people who were interested in learning for the sake of learning much like the monastary and mystery school of ancient times. But giving lots of knowledge to lots of people for free could be quite dangerous, especially for those who benefit off the world being as it is right now. I’m glad I live in an age and time where I can get a college level education in subjects like history, economics, literature, philosophy, theology, etc. with several years of binge watching youtube and Khan Academy and it doesn’t cost anything. Even after twenty five years of internet, we are only scratching the surface of what it can do for humanity. Future scholars will look at the interent as one of those society changing technologies like the printing press, gunpowder, steam engine, and perhaps even writing itself. There are no secrets anymore. In some ways that is good. It makes it a lot tougher for tyrants and other bad actors to hide their actions. Even military secrets are no longer safe, as those Pentagon leaks a few weeks ago showed. Maybe eventually the Information Revolution will make large scale war obsolete, if for no reason other than it’s tough to kill people you have had connections and conversations with. Here’s to hope for the future.