Sunday, February 15, 2015

Butlerian Jihad (Repost From 2011)

"The target of the Jihad was a machine-attitude as much as the machines," Leto said. "Humans had set those machines to usurp our sense of beauty, our necessary selfdom out of which we make living judgments. Naturally, the machines were destroyed."
                                                                                  Frank Herbert, God Emperor of Dune

To start, I would highly recommend reading the entire article by Chris Skrebowski over at the ODAC.  Then make the jump with me as to why the lesser developed countries get such a huge economic boost from relatively small amounts of oil.  The law of diminishing returns is at play here.
Why is China’s tolerance higher? Because the value of oil is higher there. For example it is fairly clear that the economic benefit of the first car in a family is much greater than that of the third. Similarly the productivity gain from the first truck in a commercial fleet is greater than that of the twentieth. This observation suggests that rapidly industrialising economies such as China and India have a higher marginal productivity from an incremental barrel of oil than in more developed economies.
This in turn poses a terrifying question: Would this higher price tolerance mean developing economies could keep developed economies in growthless stagnation by paying oil prices that were just above those that bring developed economies to an economic halt?
This really cuts to the nut of the problem that the industrialized world faces.  It points at a problem that Mayberry and I have been discussing.   When you think about the way that energy is used in this country, you might say that, along with peak oil, we are looking at peak return on investment.  The amount of power that we use is inappropriate to the economic realities.  Hence the inordinate use of power.

We have powered everything.  We put a motor or engine on everything because we are too damn lazy to do the minimal amount of work required to simple household tasks.  Pound a nail?  Fuck that, but a compressor and a nail gun, groovy.  Screw a screw?  Piss on that noise,  buy an electric drill.  Mop the floor?  Buy a floor cleaner.

All of these things suck power.  All of these things increase the rate that you are able to get the job done (I won't say efficiency, that is still in question, but they certainly do make tasks fit well within our legendary fifteen -minute attention span. When you go to other less-developed countries, they use the older hand powered systems.  Now, all of the first part of this article is a set up, the next is an apparent non-sequitur, but look hard and the ghost of Ned Ludd still appears and makes it clear and connected

Now, we have been bleeding jobs for years now.  I would guesstimate (which is every bit as accurate as BLS statistics) that around twelve to fourteen percent of our neighbors and friends don't have a job or have a job worth having.  That is because our beneficent leaders, the corporations, have replaced us with robots.  They don't appear to be stopping this trend any time soon.  Every thing has a motor attached to it for the express purpose of getting rid of a human body so that a mid-level manager can move up the line for eliminating one of his employees.

The issue that we need to be dealing with is the distribution of wealth and the need for humans to have a job.  Mechanization and robots are there solely to increase production and decrease human costs.  Both of these functions are questionably appropriate in the current and future economic milieu.

We have had a systematic concentration of power in the hands of the large corporations at the expense of first, the lower class, and now the middle class.  This trend is accelerated by the political class, but remember above all, that it is the machines, wielded by the corporate managers, who drive the trend.


Craig Cavanaugh said...

Excellent points 'Gringo. I was amazed at the amazement of folks who watched me build my workshop with a good old fashioned hammer. They looked at me like I was nuts. But I saved a bunch of money in exchange for a little more time, which I had anyway. The shop got built just the same, no air nailer required. Plus, I felt good. If I can ever build another boat, it will be sans power tools...

russell1200 said...

It is the "job worth having" metric that is hard to capture. Losing you job and going to work at a big box hardware store is in theory a wash.

Degringolade said...

I consider a job worth having is something where you do something of worth.

Hard to find that in a big box hardware store, selling improvements to people lost in the dream