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11 February 2011


Paul Emery

Well thought out essay George. I'll give these ideas some thought

Michael Anderson


You and I have different opinions on other subjects, but we are completely in sync on this particular issue.

I am very worried about the future; automation is going to decimate the middle classes in nations all across the planet.

When we cut down all the large diameter trees in North America during the 20th century, it took about 5 decades for that progress to translate into the closing of the mills that only could handle large diameter trees.

Nowadays, technology is making previously viable businesses obsolete in a matter of months.

We had better get this problem figured out very soon.

Michael A.

D. King

This subject pisses me off....must go to my happy place now.


The New Patent laws will kill innovation and engineering. Not for the major corporations, but the small startups…like APPLE!

@#$^ing congressional idiots!

Account Deleted

"automation is going to decimate the middle classes in nations all across the planet." I remember that automation would do all sorts of nasty things and Japan led the way in automation and they prospered quite well, thank you very much. The middle class will be decimated because they will become fat, dumb and happy or rather in this country - already have become that indeed. The middle class decimates itself by it's greedy desire of comfort and the govt it elects to facilitate it's descent. The problem is nothing new - there are always those fearful of change and adapting to new circumstances. The clever and industrious will do well as they usually do.

D. King

"I am very worried about the future; automation is going to decimate the middle classes in nations all across the planet."

Yes, in 1939!


Michael Anderson

It's not automation itself that is the problem, it is the pace of change.

But no worries Scott and D., just amble back to your island and pour yourself another run and coke.

I'm not so worried about those of us already working, it's about subsequent generations. And just as our ancestors worried about us--and strove to invent new machines, political systems, and societies--some of us are doing the same.

Others tipple rum and cokes, tossing our bon mots from behind lazy keyboards, stuck in obscurity and irrelevance.

Michael Anderson

Not "our," "out."

Account Deleted

Michael, that's a strange take on the future. The "pace" of change will just rush ahead - all on it's own? Some unseen force from the other side ushering it along at a pace we mortals can not keep up with? Nonsense! Every generation whips the pace of change along at a rate that reflects the technological and sociological alterations of each age. As to the next gen? My son-in-law works for a firm engineering and selling telecom equipment. They are the pace of change. My son works in Seattle (from home at the moment) for companies that create apps for smart phones and does work with video for internet advertising. Also does web work and animated videos in his spare time. His audience is world wide. He is the pace of change. And it is most amusing to see your typical modern liberal view that I am a member of the idle rich, lounging about, swilling alcohol all day. I can assure you, I am barely in the middle of middle class - and I have gone to college as well as the school of hard knocks. My views come from one who's money comes from honest toil and I begrudge the selfish and greedy and lazy on the left that see fit to confiscate my capital for their own stupid and foolish ends. I am also far more generous with my money than possibly you and definitely more so than the so-called "leaders" of the left who give little or nothing. Folks such as I stay current in more ways than just viewing and observing. My education is ongoing and diverse. I am the pace of change from the 60's onward - and I am far more involved and relevant than many twenty-somethings. Your sad efforts in this exchange of ideas comes down to a pathetic attempt to belittle and dismiss others you do not agree with. But it is enlightening to me every time I see the other side's view point. Carry on!

Michael Anderson

OK Scott, let's dial 'r back a notch or two. Sorry for lumping you in with Dave, apparently you are not the island type. I appreciate what you wrote here, and I'll try to stay focused on the subject.

The reason that the rate or pace of change is accelerating is because we are have built machines that are become the creators. Sure, we started the ball rolling, but now it's running downhill and picking up speed.

Ironically, it's the folks who use all ten digits manipulating difficult parts and pieces who will be the last workers standing. People fixing complex (and older) machines will still be necessary for many decades to come. But once old machines are replaced by new machines that are designed as single-use modules, even those ten digit-ers will start to become obsolete.

Retail clerks stocking grocery shelves? Their numbers will be reduced substantially in the next ten years as that process is automated. Same with toll-takers, tellers, more customer service personnel, loan officers and title company workers, and other front-facing paper shufflers whose jobs will be eaten up by the Internet.

The USG Empire Mine in northwestern Nevada closed on January 31, 2011 after 88 years of continuous operation. One hundred miners lost their jobs. At first I thought this was primarily due to the drop in demand for sheetrock because of the housing dip, but it turns out that another big factor was the recent opening of automated gypsum mines in places like Plaster City, California along the Mexican border where 1/5th of the workers are needed to produce the same output.

The other factors that George has been listing in his various articles on this subject include The Great Doubling and problems with American education. All together we have a perfect storm getting ready to smash repeatedly against the bulkhead of American exceptionalism.

I'm not saying that the storm will sweep us away. But it certainly time to bring the rowboat in to shore and batten down the hatches.

Account Deleted

The issue of the mine in Nevada closing is interesting because you see it as a problem where as I see it as a bonus. We can now get sheetrock manufactured more efficiently. It's been in business for 88 years? So ??? What has that got to do with anything other than nostalgia. Did any of the miners in Nevada pay attention to the competition or plan anything for them selves? A friend of mine worked at the Libby's can making plant in So Sac for years. Good paying, steel workers union job, right? Always be a need for canned goods, right? He actually saved his money and read business news, rather than blowing his money on power boats and shoving white powder up his nose. The demand for canned goods actually declines and cans made elsewhere are cheaper. The plant is shut down and everybody goes on unemployment. But wait, what about the fund of money they have all paid into all these years? Well, it seems that the steel union thought they would never have to pay out of the fund and it seems the fund was empty. The money could not be accounted for. What was their recourse? Nothing. The good old unions screwed the workers again fair and square. And 6 months later, most of the men he knew at the plant were still collecting unemployment and complaining about their bad luck. My friend bought a small diesel tractor and went into business for himself. He has left that behind, but has always adapted to whatever jobs were in need. The job he ended up doing years later didn't even exist when the plant closed. The machines may be more advanced but we still have to have some one to design and maintain them. I don't worry about the "future". I worry only about the people that can not think and function on their own and they seem to be getting larger in numbers because it's way to easy to exist that way. The number of self functioning adults that are prepared to produce needed goods and services is declining as a percentage of the whole. They can no longer carry the non-producers. It's not a problem of technology, it's a problem related to the type of people that are being raised in the current system. Our govt has for years rewarded debt and failure and punished producers and savers. Why should we be surprised at what society has become?

Michael Anderson

Scott, I couldn't disagree with you more. The "type of people being raised in the current system" are way ahead of past generations, if you look at the planetary population as a whole. There are more living engineers and scientists on terra firma than at any other time in human history, and our aggregate understanding of the physical universe is absolutely breathtaking.

What George is describing is the "American problem." Most of the horses of hard work, good fortune, and coincidence that led to our post-WWII prosperity have left the barn.

You can blame it on politics, or bad genes, or whatever you're inferring, but national winners come and go like the summer breeze, and we are on the wane unless we chart a new course. Here is what I would suggest. George probably has a different list, but I think we have similarities:

1. Promote education, particularly in the physical sciences and mathematics. This is not necessarily a money push, there is a cultural component as well.

2. Another facet of education in which America can lead are as managers and supervisors of the scientists and mathematicians. Daniel Pink writes about design, story, symphony, empathy, play, and meaning in his NY Times bestseller "A Whole New Mind."

3. Political reform, political reform, political reform. We are trying to run a 21st century economic system with a 19th century political system. Counties, for example, are obsolete. So are the too-many city and regional gov't bodies. We need to reduce the codes, streamline the process, and get rid of waste in the system. We also need to remove unnecessary political rancor, which is exacerbated by our antiquated two-party system.

4. Gov't will have to do a better job of mitigating accelerating change. When the large-diameter trees were finally almost all cut down, entire communities that had been established before the turn of the 20th century in the mountains of the west coast were devastated. Gov'ts failed to do their job in helping them transition.

Scott, please don't misunderstand my POV. I embrace accelerating change, I don't think it can be stopped. But what we can do as a contiguous society is work together to ameliorate the negative and often disruptive effects of that change.

I think the 20th century is rife with examples of poorly-ameliorated technological change. We are in much greater danger of this in the 21st century.

If the transformation in Egypt goes well, perhaps we can use that country as a model for how we will move forward. But there are plenty of examples in the past 100 years where change didn't work out so well.

Lamenting individual behaviors might get us there. Is that the only answer for you Scott?

Michael Anderson

"4. Gov't will have to do a better job of mitigating accelerating change. When the large-diameter trees were finally almost all cut down, entire communities that had been established before the turn of the 20th century in the mountains of the west coast were devastated. Gov'ts failed to do their job in helping them transition."

BTW, markets also failed to mitigate this economic devastation!

D. King

“Sorry for lumping you in with Dave, apparently you are not the island type.”

I’m right here!

I don’t drink and the only reason, which you missed, I dream of a nice quite island is solitude and a refuge from stupidity. I hold a utility patent and am very worried about what is going on with our constitutionally guaranteed patent rights. Most progressives stupidly buy into the brain dead European belief that by controlling patents you can control which technologies are developed, and who profits. In other words, low life scumbag thieves. Controlling patents essentially kills the innovators incentive. But, as with failed green tech in Spain, our progressive friends press forward to kill U.S. patent rights.

Michael Anderson

Hi Dave! Nice to hear from you...

Yeah, that patent stuff is tough. Gov't deliverables can be a bitch in times of rapid change. Things that you thought were a "sure deal" are suddenly not. Lots of chaotic winners and losers when the pace of change is out of control.

Modern gov't is supposed to deliver a level playing field, but as the USA works toward becoming a banana republic, all those ideals kinda go out the window.

How come the free market isn't protecting your patent rights?

George Rebane

That America still wants strong international patent accords may one of the last robust signs that we still have what it takes to be competitively creative. If you can't create then you copy, and you don't go to bat for anti-copying rules. Intellectual property today is protected more by being the firstest with the mostest to achieve market branding and market share with your clever idea.

D. King


“Small Entity” inventors are more vulnerable with the proposed changes. Additionally, small to medium sized companies can be besieged by challenges for the life of the patent. The new “incentivize” mediation scares the crap out of me. What does that even mean? This is an attack on the system by people who don’t know what they are doing but have been lobbied by people who do.

George Rebane

Agreed Dave. Been there and have the scars to prove it.

Todd Juvinall

Speaking of patents. Dave King, could you chat with me about a couple of ideas I have? I am at 530-273-2155. Thanks.

Account Deleted

Actually Michael, we do agree on that point. I just assumed we were talking about this country. Much of the rest of the world is racing ahead. They are hungry and hustling. They will eat our lunch economically and militarily in a few years if we don't change our course. Where we disagree is the role of govt. The problems you accurately point out are caused by the govt. We don't need the govt. to promote education. We need the govt. to stop supporting folks that didn't bother to educate themselves. By educate, I mean prepare themselves as productive members of society. College is usually not the way to get there. The economic tigers in the east know that if they don't hustle, they don't eat. It's a wonderful motivator. Reduce political rancor? That's easy - everyone just agree with the Tea Party. If you don't, then you are the cause of political rancor. As to reducing unnecessary regs. Michael what planet do you live on? I'm not kidding here. You can not be serious. It's not the local govts it's the feds and state govts that do that. The local govts have the least resources and they will be the ones to have to implement (or suffer the consequences of) bad regs. They have to face the local tax payer who can explain the results directly of a bone headed rule. The fed govt is hopelessly corrupt, bankrupt and getting worse by the hour. And you want more?? The best govt was the one handed to us by the founding fathers. We started veering away from it almost immediately and now have gone totally off course. The most honest thing Nancy Pelosi ever said was - "Is it Constitutional? Are you kidding me?" As far as "lamenting individual behaviours" - well, what do you think makes up a country? Individuals. If the individuals are no good, how can a country be good? What is your answer? Humans as robots - just do what the man on the big screen tells you? Proper individual behaviour is the only thing that allows a society to flourish and grow. I think we have found a core difference here between you and I.

George Rebane

Scott, I do believe that you have summarized well a number of important factors that delineate the "core difference" between a conservative/libertarian and a collectivist.

Your words should not be misunderstood to reject all collective efforts in a society, for without a minimal or basic set of collective functions a society does not work. It is the tendency of 'if a little bit of collectivism works, then more of it should be even better' that separates us.

Michael Anderson

George wrote (with Scott's implicit ceding): "Scott, I do believe that you have summarized well a number of important factors that delineate the 'core difference' between a conservative/libertarian and a collectivist."

So whenever I read replying posts like this, I have to go back and read what I wrote. I keep getting put into the "communist collectivist" bucket, but then I go to the Bay Area and my friends there call me Gordon Gecko or John Galt (and not in a loving way ;-)

Then Scott wrote: "Reduce political rancor? That's easy - everyone just agree with the Tea Party. If you don't, then you are the cause of political rancor."

Umm, OK, seems a bit reductionist, but I'll let it slide.

Then Scott wrote something else: "As to reducing unnecessary regs. Michael what planet do you live on? I'm not kidding here. You can not be serious. It's not the local govts it's the feds and state govts that do that."

Well, I live on planet earth, and regs are regs. Were you here during the NH2020 imbroglio? Locals told other locals trying to implement state and fed regs to go pound sand. And they won.

The regulations will be reduced only when the grass roots speak up. The California Code is a disaster, and needs to be reformed. But that can only happen in a bipartisan fashion. So long as the conservatives bash the "libs" and refuse to negotiate, with their blame fingers waggling, nothing is going to ever get done. I don't discount that "libs" have waggled similarly, but we now may have a window where we can do some good work.

Will it happen?

Account Deleted

Onerous regs don't come from the local level. (for the most part - I don't want to be absolute) The feds and the states pass almost all of the idiot regs that harm our economy and they don't even want to listen to us. Look at the last bit of tom foolery with the fire sprinkler requirements. They made damn sure nobody knew there were even hearings on the matter. The feds lead content ban on carbureters so infants won't suck on motorcycle carbs dripping gasoline is another mind boggling blow out. The feds are refusing to back down so far, even though they know it is causing financial ruin for many small businesses with zero good done for the health of anyone. Compromise? On how much poison is in the food? And of course, we conservatives first have to stop speaking up for our principles - then we will be allowed to maybe have a word with the govt. Oh thank you soooo much. I stand by my comment. You can not be serious. Bad regs come from afar - not from local govt. Besides, the NH2020 was not a mandatory law from the feds or the state so it could be shot down. Most are mandatory, and the local govt has to implement them. As to the political rancor comment - I was flat out having fun at your expense. It takes two to tango my friend. As the famous diplomat from East LA once said "can't we all just get along?" And please Michael, I would like to know what your alternative is to improving individuals as a means to a better society. You called me out on that point, and I think it is key to the different way we see the world. Thanks!

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