Welcome back, my friends

I’ve been on a longer than expected hiatus over the holiday period, but am keen to get back into this.

To that end, please note that I have published on Medium what you might call the sample chapter for my proposed book, Busted Utopia: Work, Rest and Play in the Near Future.  You can read it here (and please, feel free to send it around your networks or click the “recommend” button at the bottom of the Medium page.)

I also wanted to mention — just by way of getting back into this — this piece by Scott Santens.  Scott is a champion of the Basic Income idea and he comes at it from the same place I do: a concern that automation and AI are simply going to leave many of us workless.

I like his insistence that this time, things are different:

A conversation of increasing frequency, especially post-CGP Grey’s excellent “Humans Need Not Apply“:

Bill: We’ve been hearing about this technological unemployment crap for a long time. Every time someone has said, “It’s different this time, ” they’ve been wrong.

Ted: It’s different this time.

Bill: sigh

No, really. It is actually different this time.


This is a different kind of automation that isn’t just muscle labor, but brain labor. We aren’t replacing shovels with tractors. We’re replacing tractors with mechanical farmers.

Anyone who writes or talks about these issues — the disappearing middle class, the large-scale loss of jobs, the threats as well as the promise of automation and AI — inevitably gets responses that suggest our fears are exaggerated.

I think that response is not only understandable but warranted, just as a way of helping keep things in perspective.  But it can also be smug and ill-informed.  The fact is, there is a mountain of evidence that suggests this time it really is different and imho, we’d be crazy not to start thinking about how in Gough’s name we are going to respond.

And I really like how Scott looks at the matter, especially this take:

Basically, a basic income is an improvement that acknowledges the fact we’ve already created enough technology to cover everyone’s basic needs, and yet we still currently insist that one person with all the robots should be the one reaping all the rewards of so much non-human labor, while forcing everyone else to work even harder and looking down on those unable to find the work that no longer needs to be done.

It’s already time our machines start working for 100% of us instead of just 1%.

If you’re worried that one percent have too much power now, you really need to think about what’s happening to work.  Now.

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