[FoRK] Making robotics a priority

Stephen Williams sdw at lig.net
Tue Jul 12 21:08:50 PDT 2011

On 7/12/11 7:26 PM, Ken Ganshirt @ Yahoo wrote:
> --- On Mon, 7/11/11, Greg Bolcer<greg at bolcer.org>  wrote:
>> I think they allow companies to
>> increase competitiveness, so not that it's zero sum, but any
>> short term detriments are far outweighed by the long term
>> profitability of the company which in turn goes back to
>> competitiveness.
> I don't get that, either, Greg. How is it that "competitiveness", in this context, is a Good Thing? Specifically, how is it that making the investors in a company richer balances or outweighs having fewer people working in the economy?

Why would there necessarily be fewer people working in the economy?  And if there were, why is that necessarily a bad thing?  You 
are assuming many things in that thinking that do not necessarily hold true.

Work is not only about surviving.  It should seldom be much about that at all.  Ideally, work is about making yourself useful.  
Maintaining a workforce that is less efficient than currently possible, especially for the sake of keeping people busy, is a waste 
of human life and extremely myopic.

One definition of post-scarcity might be that nearly all work falls into the "making yourself useful" category rather than "I have 
to do this to survive".  Watching the tomatoes grow is not much of a challenge for most humans.  We only have humans picking 
strawberries because we've been lazy about automating it.  Don't like pesticides?  Automate debugging using nothing but a tiny pair 
of scissors and good eyes.  (From a nanopunk novel.)  There are endless examples.

Can't find a job for everyone?  Really?  Everyone has a "full" education?  They're prepared for the future?  Cover the basics 
efficiently, and we'll figure out something to do to keep busy, just as we have with almost no farmers, almost no factory workers, 
almost no one to tend to the horses or firewood (equivalents).

> And how is it that making a company more profitable ties back to competitiveness? I can see how a competitive company might, arguably, be more profitable. I don't see how making a company more profitable necessarily makes it more competitive.

If you are not competitive, then, when your competition has volume of whatever to cover your potential customers, you will have zero 
profit, at best.  More likely, a big loss.

"More profitable" means "more competitive" because it means you can produce at less cost than your competitors.  The assumption is 
that everyone tends to pay the market rate which is roughly where demand volume (which is often dynamic based on value-price in some 
sense) settles against the available volume of producers, where price is roughly where the producers that can still produce more are 
willing (and able) to sell.

If you are not profitable, that means that it costs you the same or more to do something than people are willing to pay.  That's 
either because people no longer want "it" as badly or because someone else is producing enough at a lower cost / higher 
value/convenience or because it has become freely and plentifully available.

You seem to have a very owner/worker mentality about this.  For about $1000 you can buy a desktop 3D printer.  Maybe with $100/mo. 
for access to the right software (SolidWorks et al)/classes/finishing shop (i.e. TechShop), and you could go into business producing 
widgets.  With a smattering of in-5-years robotics and Amazon/UPS plug-and-chug just-in-time material module delivery and finished 
part pickup, you could automate production, shipping, and selling.

Without competitive worker efficiency, you have no workers.  Even if you're the only worker.  With it, you have something useful to do.
With AI/robotics, everyone potentially has a factory in their backyard.

> Can you help me with that?

Would you like another helping?  ;-)

>               ...ken...

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