Getting Ahead of Ourselves

The Fourth Industrial Revolution is transforming practically every human activity: the way we make things; the way we use the resources of our planet; the way we communicate and interact with each other as humans; the way we learn; the way we work; the way we govern; and the way we do business. Its scope, speed and reach are unprecedented.

Think of it: Just 10 years ago, there was no such thing as a smartphone. Today, no one leaves home without it.
No one, that is, except that 32% of Americans didn't have smartphones in 2015, the last year for which numbers are available. That creates potential problems for models like Amazon's new checkout-free store, which requires both a smartphone and a checking account. The people who don't are of course the very people who are going to lose out in the new economy that these same companies are rushing to create.

They're aware of that, but so far their minds turn quickly to socialist solutions.
How can we secure the future of those whose jobs will be eliminated by machines? Do we need a guaranteed basic income? Should we impose taxes on software and robots? Do companies that provide global IT platforms have to comply with national rules and regulations? If so, how can they be enforced? What freedoms and rights should individuals have in the digital age?
Do you have any better answers? I'm not liking the way the discussion is shaping up. Even the list of questions sounds like a future I'd rather we could avoid.


E Hines said...

Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, the latter which subsumes private property ownership within it. These don't change, nor do they need to. What amazon, et al., are doing are producing tools, nothing else. They're no more a threat to individual liberty and duty than was the steam engine or the printing press.

Oh, wait....

This is just another naked power grab attempt by those who Know Better.

Eric Hines

Grim said...

There has been a serious erosion of rights 'in the digital age,' although it's practical rather than formal. Formally, you still have the same 4th Amendment rights as ever. Practically, your 'papers' are now likely to be electronic and owned by others than yourself. Your privacy rights have thus largely been curtailed by the shift in technology without needing to change the Constitution to curtail them.

Is the government free to track everywhere you go all the time? No, of course not. Is AT&T or Ford free to sell or give them telemetry data on your cell phone or smart car? Of course they are. It's their data. You could drive an older car, for now. For now you can still get parts for them and still work on them. But that's changing too: keeping ownership of the car you buy so that you can't work on it yourself due to their 'intellectual property rights' is the wave of their future. If they can get what they want, we'll have 'the same' rights formally, but also practically a lot fewer real liberties.

raven said...

People supply two assets for the gov. They can work, and produce tax revenue, and they can produce votes to keep the gov in power.
Absent the tax money, and ABSENT the VOTE, they have no value.

As soon as a totalitarian gov figures out votes are no longer necessary to remain in power, things will get sticky quickly for the non producers.

My dystopian view is that the end goal is a largely de-populated planet, which for practical purposes will be a playground for the anointed few. A Praetorian guard to protect them, a technocrat class to make the goodies, a few unfortunate low class serfs to supply whatever twisted pleasures they want, and maybe lifespan enhancing treatments for these New Gods.

james said...

How many places don't take cash anymore?

How much fun it is going to be to have to carry around my own tracking/purchasing/id device ...

E Hines said...

No, my rights and duties haven't been eroded. Only my ability to enforce them have been. It's an arms race, and it'll swing my way again, or my grandkids' way. Just like they did when we uncultured figured out that steam engine and the printing press.

All it takes is the same willingness our ancestors had.

Eric Hines

Dad29 said...

Remember that the OnStar system is ALWAYS on. At the request of any LE agency, GM will 'turn on' the mikes in your car for their listening pleasure.....

Christopher B said...

To be a bit contrarian, though it is getting tougher to find an old-fashioned payphone, I haven't noticed that 'dumb' phones are any harder to find, cash is still widely accepted, and Amazon isn't likely to take over the entire retail sector anytime soon (no matter how much Bezos tries). Using any kind of a promissory payment system, whether it's a check, credit card, or app, creates a paper trail of the transaction that can be researched. Basically everything financial is digitized and converted to EFT now, including checks, or else we'd be drowned in a paper flood and pretty much unable to process anything in the windows allowed for funds transfer. Socialist solutions have been around for quite a while, too, and we've made our peace with at least a few of them.

E Hines said...

It makes no sense to have payphones when everyone can make calls anywhere for free--or at least for an already paid and sunk cost. It's also easy enough to encrypt those calls; it only requires the callee to have the same encryption/decryption algorithms. The digitizing tech is well known; it's only not widespread. We already do that with our storage mediums (Microsoft has offered hard drive encryption since its DOS days), email encryption is easy and more widespread than phone calls, if not as widespread as it needs to be. Why does anyone think the FBI--especially Comey's FBI--has been demanding encryption backdoors?

One more comment, to answer the questions in the last cited paragraph of the OP.

1) We won't, anymore than we bothered with buggy whip manufacturers. Firemen on trains were taken care of by private unions, with too much government intervention, but primarily privately. We can ease the transition by providing job retraining, but here, too, government's involvement should be limited to the bully pulpit. It's in business' interest to work the transition quickly and efficiently; they'll come along.

2) Of course not. After the resultant price inflation has worked through the economy, and it'll do so in very short order, the basic income will have exactly the same buying power as exists in today's no basic inflation. The zero inflation baseline just will be higher by the amount of the basic income.

3) Of course. They're operating in that other house; they have to follow that house's rules. If they don't like the rules, they don't have to operate there.

4) By that house's police and courts.

5) The same ones we have under our social compact. Digitizing is only a tool, that all of us--government and employer of government--can use. Digitizing does not impact our rights and freedoms--and duties--it only impacts means of enforcement.

Eric Hines

Dad29 said...

process anything in the windows allowed for funds transfer


In the early 1970's, checks were written and cleared by banks in not more than 3 business days, even coast-to-coast. The Fed banks were very good at that.

The 'windows' certainly have not gotten smaller than that, have they?