Tuesday Trends

how to predict the future and robot burger flippers

July 6, 2021

I hope all my American readers had a wonderful July 4th weekend! It was really wonderful to take some time off with family and friends.

silhouette of tree under multicolored fireworks

The holiday was surreal for me, though, as I'm writing my series exploring the probable fall of the United States through fracture in the next 20 years. I had to stop and think, take some time to reflect on my country.

This world is a better place because the United States exists. Most deeply conservative folks overlook ways the US could improve itself, and most progressives are obsessed with the United States failures and weaknesses.
The truth is usually in the middle.

This country is not perfect, this country has a lot to work on, but this country is also one of the best.

I've spent years living in Europe, and I've traveled around much of the world. We could learn more from our fellow countries around the world.

But the US is still the best place on earth to turn crazy ideas into reality, to push the frontiers of science forward. It's why the most intelligent, most ambitious people come here. There's something to be said for that.

American awesomeness drives humanity forward, maybe to the United States’ demise, as we'll soon read in my next part of the series, but maybe not.

Happy birthday, United States!

What happens if...

I found an amazingly cool web app that lets you model complex systems with ease.

These aren't Nobel Prize simulations, but they are insightful. They can help you predict the future by figuring out what happens when you insert new variables into a system.

Here's the default example they provide:

Foxes and rabbits will keep their respective populations in balance in this simple model.

But, we can make it more complex, add weather, greenery (food) for the rabbits, and hunters that reduce rabbit and fox populations.

A more complex system leads to boom and busts in both the rabbit and fox populations, though if we let the cycles run long enough with the insertion of rain, then the whole thing returns to equilibrium.

Interestingly, hunting only has a short-term effect on the populations as less of one causes a boom in the other, which in turn causes a boom in the first.

Rabbit and fox ecosystems are just one system. You can model jobs and automation, the effects of ads on click-bait journalism, anything you want.

Let's look at automation and jobs.

First, is this a problem? Well, robots are getting really good, and they’re cheap. Take flippy from Miso Robotics.

It can do pretty much any job within a fast food restaurant for about $3 an hour, with no bathroom breaks or calling in sick.

Automation and profits are clearly in a self-reinforcing loop; the more a company invests in automation, the more profits, the more profits, the more money to invest in automation.

In the initial model, this leads to job loss, frustration, and political unrest.

So looking at this model, the goal is simple. Take some of the tax revenue earned from taxing the companies and insert something to reduce political unrest.

Enter UBI, Universal Basic Income, or giving people money.

Take the tax money and funnel it to a UBI program, this immediately reduces frustration and political unrest, and most UBI proponents theorize that it would boost entrepreneurialism, which in turn reduces job loss, but probably not much.

The end model eliminates frustration and unrest but still has substantial job loss.

Do we need to eliminate the job loss? Maybe we do. Maybe there’re more variables not in the model, like self-worth and identity.

We’ll have to keep thinking about this. If you want to play with this model, check it out here

How do you "fix" automation and job loss?

I'd love to hear your thoughts on automation and job loss and alternative ways to fix it outside of UBI.

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Have an awesome week and see you next Tuesday!

Once you have glimpsed the world as it might be, it's impossible to live anymore complacent in the world as it is.

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