The Luddites were a 19th century anti-industrialisation movement (and militia), who believed that their jobs were at risk because of the industrialisation of manufacturing. They proceeded to try and destroy mechanical looms in a vain attempt to turn back the rising tide of industrialisation. These days anyone seen as a “Luddite” is perceived to be backward and anti-technology.
I just finished reading the Kindle book Race Against The Machine, a book I thoroughly recommend. This was the driver of the NPR article I blogged about recently.
The book is mostly oriented towards the US, although the issues they discuss seem to be prevalent across all major economies. The authors make the case that technological improvements are severely impacting every job market except those for highly-skilled individuals.
I’ve just read two blog posts on creating written content programatically. The first was the article How I automated my writing career by Robbie Allen. This article gives a brief description of how the author’s company generates web-site content automatically using the quantitative analysis of data.
NPR has a story about How Technology Is Eliminating Higher-Skill Jobs. It features IBM’s Watson System, that can beat the world’s best human Jeopardy competitors. This technology is currently being used to automate the fields of law and medicine, so a lot of very technical jobs will disappear from some quite high-paying and respected professions.
Are the American people obsolete? Salon argues that because of globalisation and technology there is now a increased separation between capital and labour. The activities that generate wealth have both been outsourced to cheaper shores, and become more efficient because of technology. As a consequence the social contract in Western society between rich and poor – the rich provide the capital while the poor provide the labour – is breaking down. The rich still have capital, but they can now move the production of goods to the East, creating a shortage of jobs in the West.
I read two articles on a similar theme this morning. Firstly there was Scott Adams’ post Startup Country, about creating a small, elite, light-weight country inside another country and using it to bootstrap the economy of the larger country. Secondly I read The Politically Incorrect Guide to Ending Poverty, published by The Atlantic. This article actually talks about Paul Romer’s ideas on “Charter Cities” – a city governed by it’s own charter, rather than national laws. According to The Atlantic, this idea goes back to the 12th century with Heny the Lion and the idea of Imperial Free Cities.
I read Paul Graham’s essay on the acceleration of addictiveness this morning, and it really struck a chord. I feel as though it is almost impossible to become bored these days, there is so much to do. Is this because the world is getting more addictive, or just because I have gotten older and have much more control over my life so I tend to do only those things I want to do?
Bill Thompson has posted a thoughtful article over at the BBC about the changes that social networking is making to our standards of social interaction. He discusses his own tweeting and live-blogging at conferences, and then talks about the news updates that were tweeted by Tearah Moore during the Fort Hood incident.
The first post describes what might happen if the US collapses in the same way economically as the USSR did in the 1990’s. It then goes on to making recommendations about what to focus on – essentially food, transportation, shelter and security. I thought it was fascinating because although I have been thinking for a number of years that the economic situation was going to get bad, I didn’t envision quite a collapse of that order of magnitude. As the crisis continues however, the possibility suddenly seems to become credible.
I found the comments interesting in the Boing Boing post. It seems as though quite a number of people were actually starting to find themselves in situations reminiscent of those described in the first post – primarily from posters in the US. Scary.