[ExI] Fwd: retrainability of plebeians

Emlyn emlynoregan at gmail.com
Fri May 1 04:11:52 UTC 2009

2009/5/1 Rafal Smigrodzki <rafal.smigrodzki at gmail.com>:
> On Thu, Apr 30, 2009 at 6:31 PM, Emlyn <emlynoregan at gmail.com> wrote:
>> People in paid work don't feel like they need to give back. It's a
>> social norm, that being in paid work means you are "doing your bit"
>> for society. So not a very strong drive to volunteer.
> ### Do paid workers do it for their "bit" or simply because they want
> to buy a flat screen TV?

Both. We want our flat screen TVs (or indeed 3 square meals) and we
also want to find meaning in our lives.

We have a social truth that paid work is meaningful, and to the extent
that we individually buy that notion, we can find our meaning in it as
well as our subsistence. Even if we don't, there seems to be a
fallback truth that if you are working, you need feel no other
pressure to contribute.

> Do the unemployed volunteer a lot?

It probably depends where you are and why people are unemployed.

Unemployed people I've known who have volunteered have said they still
felt the stigma of being "unemployed". Also in Australia, the welfare
system frowns on unemployed people volunteering more than a little,
because of course they are supposed to be finding a job!

>> 1: Let's say that sewers need cleaning. Then, why would we want to
>> make a person do it? It's a job for a machine. The only reason we
>> think it's ok for a person to do it now is because we are used to
>> people doing crap like this.
> ### There are two reasons why humans do it: because some people need
> to have their sewers cleaned and because people who clean sewers are
> cheaper to hire than people who make sewer cleaning robots.

You don't need to hire people who make sewer cleaning robots, you need
to buy or hire the robots themselves, and probably hire robot tend
maintenance staff (presumably far fewer people than your original
sewer cleaners).

When you look at this with a transhumanist hat on, doesn't it drive
you crazy? That people lives are so cheap that we can't afford the up
front investment to automate away their drudgery?

> This may
> change in favor the robot makers but even then somebody will need to
> commit resources (time, capital) to cleaning sewers, and that person
> will need to be rewarded for their sacrifice, in some sort of
> material, or spiritual coin.

If few people are required (say robot makers, and robot tenders), then
you don't need to find a motivation that works for everyone (eg: work
or starve). You just need a motivation that appeals to enough of the
right people to do the work. When that becomes a small enough
percentage of the population, reputation plus inner motivation can be
enough, especially considering that people in this scenario are not
having to also separately work to feed themselves. The opportunity
cost of volunteering in a modern western economy is very high. I think
the situation changes if you can drop that way down.

> -------------------
>  If a universal income made it really hard
>> to employ people to do this, then it would provide incentive to
>> private industry (or a free project!) to automate the job once and for
>> all.
> ### Since you would need to tax private industry into oblivion to
> provide an universal income guarantee, nothing would get automated.
> And why would you expect that there would be a sufficient amount of
> voluntary contribution to sewer cleaning or building and maintenance
> of sewer cleaning equipment? How many volunteer sewer cleaners have
> you met recently?

Well it might be that we need more automation, so that we are not
trying to replace full employment with full volunteerism. Also, when
people are waking up in the morning and finding they are not compelled
to do anything, there'll be a good chunk of people who will do "good
honest work" like this, for the wuffie, and for the internal

I should mention that there is also a halfway point; you could also
pay them but tax that payment of course. Many many people will want
more than the base income even if the base income is pretty good.
Resource hoarding is a status game; many people want flat screen TVs
(or large wasteful cars), for signalling purposes presumably.

> --------------
>> 2: I actually think you'd still have people volunteering to do work
>> like this. Absent the need to earn a living, people still need to find
>> meaning in their lives. Many find meaning by doing something they know
>> is needed by others, no matter that it's a bit shitty. I'm constantly
>> surprised, for instance, at the depth of driver support on Linux.
>> These drivers are mostly maintained by volunteers I think.
> ### What percentage of the population spend 8 or more hours a day
> producing good quality Linux software? 0.01%? 0.00001%? Somewhere
> around the lower bound, I think.

That doesn't matter, as long as there are enough. There is no per-user
cost for software.

This is the whole point. More technology = more useful product from
less human labour. Why we have an idea that we need to keep everyone
labouring is beyond me.

> If it was true that a lot of people could find all their meaning in
> serving others, there would be no monetary economy - some of such
> servants would be farmers, feeding other servants, who would produce
> all the goods needed to keep all servants alive (in effect generating
> their own income guarantee), and all of them would then spend all
> their extra time providing free flat screen TV's, haircuts and
> blowjobs to all comers. Since it's not happening, it's a proof that
> the vast majority of humans are not charitable, although most would
> like to pretend they are.
> Rafal

No way. This is a network effect problem.

Why do we work for money? Because when we predict the behaviour of
others, we know that we wont be able to live without money to trade.
Isolated volunteers will live in poverty.

If on the other hand everyone did everything voluntarily, you'd have
the same problem with money; if you insisted on being paid, you'd have
nothing to do. You'd probably find it very difficult to spend money,
because no one would take it. You can see it in microcosms even now;
try to buy a book in library, or buy a premium social networking


http://emlyntech.wordpress.com - coding related
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