Monday, August 22, 2011

The Next Leg Down, Up, Down, What, and Then What?

Revised 8/23/2011.
Good Morning, America:
  • Only 58% of American adults are in your workforce, at all. If this isn't Marxian unemployment, the 100% predictable outcome of the massive success of the capital industrialization process, then nothing is.
  • According to the most recent available Bureau of Labor Statistics numbers, just 48.9% of your youth is employed (16-24 y.o.). This was the lowest July rate on record for the series, which began in 1948; and July is the BEST month for summer employment.
  • The longer people stay unemployed, the less employable they become; your human resources are literally rotting on the vine.
  • As youth are equally or more deleteriously impacted than mature Americans this time around, you can't just discard an inconvenient surplus of spent humans; dumped off on the corner to live as the next wave of invisible people, or euphemistically whisk them away into so-called retirement, living in silent poverty or near-poverty.
  • This second recent major stock market correction, presently underway, coincides with record profits and consolidation for the wealthy; which literally makes no fundamental sense, right? If profits are the supposed definition of success, then rational markets would reward said success, not punish it. Think about it this way: what sane parent beats their child for bringing home straight A's? Yet this is precisely how dysfunctional markets behave.
  • Having enjoyed a youthful 200 years of absolutely stratospheric success and wild popularity, Wall Street has today become a doped up sagging starlet in Las Vegas; maniacally addicted to a distorted permutation of casino capitalism, with you America, human beings as cardboard chips.
  • This blog continues to be about encouraging enlightened, adaptive, non-Marxian (certainly non-violent) progress. Think of our global and national economic systems like software that ran well on the old machine, but is incompatible with the best of the new. Time to increment; hence, the '++.'
Moreover, bullshit make-work jobs are NOT the answer; nothing zaps human value, productivity, and  self-esteem faster than reporting to a bullshit location, answering to bullshit processes, to engage in bullshit behavior in the name of a so-called job. It's time to break the job trance: the concept of J.O.B. as sole or ultimate Justification Of Being for humans. Jobs are simply no longer sufficient nor scalable to adaptive progress, moving forward.

What could possibly ever replace, or at least complement jobs, as authentic, productive, identity-legitimizing human activity? Purpose, to begin with, along with some pretty damned impressive mathematics, lifelong learning, and highly laudable roles -- equal in scale to their achievements -- for emergent artificial intelligence, extended cognition, and augmented realities; once we get to specifics of implementation, below. Certainly, in everyday life, editing the invisible hand's implicit spin on the "what do you do" question at cocktail parties -- what's meant is what do you do, for money, of course -- will take a lot of time and positive cultural reinforcement. Nobody is pretending that altering the trajectory of human behavior isn't among the most challenging and complex hacks imaginable.

Perhaps your purpose is mastering a dozen languages (half of them computer languages). Perhaps bringing smiles to the faces of the elderly, or people in general, most builds your own sense of accomplishment and pride, while powerfully encouraging others to work hard to accomplish their goals. Did you notice what happened there? Work and Goals didn't go anywhere in a world without jobs. At least not in a world without jobs in the sense we've known them for the past couple of hundreds of years.

Maybe your favorite thing to do is smoke weed and stay drunk 90% of the time. Shocking, right? Obviously, our default reality has long complained that without jobs, people would all become lazy dope-head alcoholics. Closer to truth is that the people who are going to behave that way are already behaving that way; in fact, research suggests that we are causing significant increases in this undesirable behavior, due to the current regime of obliterating human dignity outside of the narrow context of slips of paper or digits on a spreadsheet exchanged for the valuable commodity in the known universe: human energy and attention.

Maybe your purpose could be to compassionately foster new opportunities for people who's purpose is helping others find a purpose! Maybe you could be the one helping such people to find something that's more compelling and interesting than staying baked all day every day. Don't you think that would give your life more meaning than putting pot smokers in cages -- paying for their food, board, and healthcare -- while earning $8.00/hour to hold them hostage with guns?

Though by all means, let us please get back to lamenting about the impossibility of JOBS, JOBS, JOBS, particularly given the clinical reality of 50% actual unemployment. Even if we did create a massive 1930's style work projects administration, to function as a motorized wheel-chair for a paraplegic industrial economy, we can't put a nation of knowledge workers, physicians, lawyers, computer engineers, and software architects to work building dams and bridges; it's time to grow up, humans.

Recently, lamestream media commentators have remarked that markets have corrected as a vote of no confidence in government's ability to manage it's own affairs in the wake of the AA+ downgrade. This doesn't even pass the blush test, and epitomizes the ROTFLMAO test. 

To suggest that the same demented, delusional, crazed, schizophrenic markets -- which just got done running to government for $1.2 trillion and their own very existence on the cusp of 2008 to 2009 -- could cast such a vote with any credibility whatsoever, is not merely laughable, it's scary stupid. Idiotic. Reckless. Not funny or even sporting. Just plain wrong-headed.

Yes, a lot of these realities sting. I'm actually not nearly as pessimistic as much of this may sound. In fact, I wouldn't put the effort into these entries if I didn't deeply believe in the universal human potential to adapt and advance. Yet, like that dysfunctional drunken starlet, admitting to symptoms is only the beginning; getting to root causes is the only way to sustainable recovery and a flourishing future.

Moreover, it is exceedingly difficult to reach anything resembling a better place -- to get there from here -- if people can't agree where there is. A central proposition of this blog is that we already got there --  in terms of the material and economic goals envisioned by the architects of the American Experiment -- a decade or so prior to the bicentennial, and then we didn't know what to do with ourselves. Hence, the relatively drunken derivatives partying and reveling by a rapidly shrinking few, ever since.

Presently, the fact that there is still vastly more than enough supply of stuff on the shelves for everyone; as there will continue to be into the indefinite future -- with only 49% to 58% of people working, thanks to astronomical industrial efficiencies -- is a pretty fair measure of thereness, insofar as our forebears would have imagined any massively technologically advanced, postscarcity world, from their vantage point. This entire world game comes down to perspective, after all, doesn't it?

Since examples are a great way to illustrate a point, here's another. As a culture, we are so dysfunctionally addicted to scarcity thinking that government agencies must do battle with communications companies over who makes up the rules to the games for manifesting profits literally out of thin air; all by pretending that there is a shortage of freakin' radio waves and lightwaves that move ephemeral packets of information across the internet. To wit, "the Deregulators belief in a world of bandwidth scarcity, which justifies their tiered-pricing approach to [pricing and] services; and the Openists belief that a world of bandwidth surplus is upon us if we would but build it" (Educause). That is really stretching beyond credibility to create a scarcity-based game out of infinite photons and electromagnetic pulses.

Okay, I do admit that building more radio repeaters and connecting them with more fiber optic cables is one logical labor program for a post-information economy; though such works programs are hardly the solution to sustainable half-employment, moving forward. The one-time sunk cost and effort of such an infrastructure labor program only further proves the rule about the proliferation of non-material ways that people create and circulate information, knowledge, and social value in an advanced postscarcity context.

Overall, if we are to have any hope of getting through this global and domestic transition, there's a good chance that we must encourage continued education and development of an entire nation of futurists, everyday people who think carefully and critically about the kind of society we want to live in, so that we might stand a better chance of coming together for this next leg of history's journey. A journey that is far more likely than not to include some form of Mixed Economy

Now would be a good time to begin learning about any number of viable alternatives, some basic math, including domestic and international sustainable resource circulation research from the past four of five decades.

Our industrial capitalist republic has long been referred to as the American experiment; and it's been magnificently successful in countless ways. Like any good longitudinal science, perhaps today we're in the very process of falsifying some of the base assumptions of that experiment, in a manner that can begin moving us forward again, empowered by this liberating data -- data that demonstrates that a society can not only survive, but thrive, with only half-employment -- rather than disillusioned and derailed by it. Even if Roubini is right that Marx was right.