To Really Help US Workers, We Should Invest In Robots

On March 29, 2017,

University students experiment with human-robot interaction and autonomous manipulation, two elements of manufacturing’s future. Nikolaus Correll, CC BY-ND

On March 29, 2017, Nikolaus Correll writes on The Conversation:

America’s manufacturing heyday is gone, and so are millions of jobs, lost to modernization. Despite what Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin might think, the National Bureau of Economic Research and Silicon Valley executives, among many others, know it’s already happening. And a new report from PwC estimates that 38 percent of American jobs are at “high risk” of being replaced by technology within the next 15 years.

But how soon automation will replace workers is not the real problem. The real threat to American jobs will come if China does it first.

Since the year 2000, the U.S. has lost five million manufacturing jobs. An estimated 2.4 million jobs went to low-wage workers in China and elsewhere between 1999 and 2011. The remainder fell victim to gains in efficiency of production and automation, making many traditional manufacturing jobs obsolete.

Though more than a million jobs have returned since the 2008 recession, the net loss has devastated the lives of millions of people and their families. Some blame robotics, others globalization. It turns out that those forces work together, and have been equally hurtful to manufacturing jobs. The car industry, for example, imports more and more parts from abroad, while automating their assembly in the U.S.

As a robotics researcher and educator, I strongly advocate that the best way to get those jobs back is to build on our existing strengths, remaining a leader in manufacturing efficiency and doing the hard work to further improve our educational and social systems to cope with a changing workforce. Particularly when looking at what’s happening in China, it’s clear we need to maintain America’s international competitiveness, as we have done since the beginning of industrialization.

Chinese competition

In 2014, China exported more, and more valuable, products than the U.S. for the first time. Many of these were made by the low-wage laborers China has become famous for.

Yet China has also emerged as the largest growth market for robotics. Chinese companies bought more than twice as many industrial robots (68,000) in 2015 than American companies did (27,000). China’s Midea – an appliance manufacturer – just purchased the German robotic powerhouse Kuka.

China has understood that its competitive advantage of cheap labor will not last forever. Instead, labor costs will rise as its economy develops. Look at FoxConn, for example, the Taiwanese manufacturing contractor of the iPhone known for the high-pressure work environment at its plants in China. The company already uses more than 60,000 robots, and has said it wants to use as many as a million robots by 2020.

That’s a bold goal, especially given the current state of robotics. At present, robots are good only at highly repetitive tasks in structured environments. They are still far inferior to humans in simple tasks like picking items from a shelf. But FoxConn’s goal of transforming its streamlined manufacturing line is definitely achievable. Many of the tasks now done by humans thousands of times a day can be easily automated – such as applying a puddle of glue, placing double-sided tape, positioning a piece of plastic, tightening screws or loading products onto a pallet.

The lesson here is simple: Some occupations will simply disappear, like those of weavers in the textile industry displaced by the power loom. We need to embrace this disruption if we want to avoid being taken out of the game altogether. Imagine if China is able to replace our low-wage jobs with its workers, and then can automate those jobs: Work Americans now do will be done here, or anywhere – but not by humans. FoxConn is planning its first plant in the U.S.; soon, Chinese robots will be working in America.

Seeing opportunity, not loss

The good news is that while many types of jobs will cease to exist, robots will create other jobs – and not only in the industry of designing new robots.

This is already beginning to happen. In 2014, there were more than 350,000 manufacturing companies with only one employee, up 17 percent from 2004. These companies combine globalization and automation, embracing outsourcing and technological tools to make craft foods, artisanal goods and even high-tech engineered products.

Many American entrepreneurs use digitally equipped manufacturing equipment like 3-D printers, laser cutters and computer-controlled CNC mills, combined with market places to outsource small manufacturing jobs like mfg.com to run small businesses. I’m one of them, manufacturing custom robotic grippers from my basement. Automation enables these sole proprietors to create and innovate in small batches, without large costs.

Returning to manufacturing dominance

This sort of solo entrepreneurship is just getting going. Were robots more available and cheaper, people would make jewelry and leather goods at home, and even create custom-made items like clothing or sneakers, directly competing with mass-produced items from China. As with the iPhone, even seemingly complex manufacturing tasks can be automated significantly; it’s not even necessary to incorporate artificial intelligence into the process.

Three trends are emerging that, with industry buy-in and careful government support, could help revitalize the U.S. manufacturing sector.

First, robots are getting cheaper. Today’s US$100,000 industrial robotic arms are not what the future needs. Automating iPhone assembly lines will require cheap robotic arms, simple conveyor belts, 3-D-printed fixtures and software to manage the entire process. As we saw in the 3-D printing industry, the maker movement is setting the pace, creating low-cost fabrication robots. The government is involved, too: The Pentagon’s research arm, DARPA, has backed the OtherMill, a low-cost computer-controlled mill.

In addition, more people are programming robots. Getting a robot to accomplish repetitive tasks in industry – for example, using Universal Robot’s interface – is as simple as programming LEGO Mindstorms. Many people think it’s much harder than that, confusing robotic automation with artificial intelligence systems playing chess or Go. In fact, building and programming robots is very similar both physically and intellectually to doing your own plumbing, electrical wiring and car maintenance, which many Americans enjoy and are capable of learning. “Maker spaces” for learning and practicing these skills and using the necessary equipment are sprouting across the country. It is these spaces that might develop the skill sets that enable Americans to take automation into their own hands at their workplaces.

Lastly, cutting-edge research is improving the hardware needed to grasp and manipulate manufacturing components, and the software to sense and plan movements for assembling complex items. Industrial robot technology is upgradeable and new robots are designed to complement human workers, allowing industry to make gradual changes, rather than complete factory retooling.

A path forward

To fully take advantage of these trends and other developments, we need to improve connections between researchers and businesses. Government effort, in the form of the Defense Department’s new Advanced Robotics Manufacturing Institute, is already working toward this goal. Funded by US$80 million in federal dollars, the institute has drawn an additional $173 million in cash, personnel, equipment and facilities from the academic and private sectors, aiming to create half a million manufacturing jobs in the next 10 years.

Those numbers might sound high, but China is way ahead: Just two provinces, Guangdong and Zhejiang, plan to spend a combined $270 billion over the next five years to equip factories with industrial robots.

The stakes are high: If the U.S. government ignores or avoids globalization and automation, it will stifle innovation. Americans can figure out how to strengthen society while integrating robotics into the workforce, or we can leave the job to China. Should it come to that, Chinese companies will be able to export their highly efficient manufacturing and logistics operations back to the U.S., putting America’s manufacturing workforce out of business forever.

http://theconversation.com/to-really-help-us-workers-we-should-invest-in-robots-71125?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter

 

Nation Expected To Lose 30% Of Jobs To Automation In 15 Years

On March 29, 2017, Neil C. Bhavsar and Christianna Reedy write on Futurism:

The consultancy firm PricewaterhouseCooper is predicting that the U.K. will lose 30 percent of its jobs to automation in the next 15 years. Automation is a global issue, and some countries are considering Universal Basic Income as a means of counteracting its associated job loses.

THE ROBOT REVOLUTION

Whether we like it or not, robots are making an impact in the job market. Experts predict that almost a million jobs will be replaced by robots in 2030, while companies like apple are justifying such predictions. This may also be a boon to governments that wish to cut costs, and almost 80 percent of administrative work will likely be automated in the course of the next 15 years.

We’re expected to see changes in sales, customer service, transportation, shipping and logistics, healthcare, and legal paraprofessionals. The consultancy firm PricewaterhouseCooper (PWC) took a look at the future of one of the world’s super-powers — the U.K.

In a few years even a developed country like Britain might lose a significant portion of its work force — about 30 percent — to automation, leaving 10 million workers without a job. Breaking the numbers down in terms of the sexes, this means that 35 percent of jobs currently held by men are at risk. Women are expected to fare slightly better, with only 26 percent of jobs currently held by women expected to be replaced by robots.  While sectors such as wholesale and administrative work are most likely to get the replacement, the health care and social work industries might keep the automation at bay for now.

PWC’s chief economist, John Hawksworth, asserted in a PWC press release that this is because “manual and routine tasks are more susceptible to automation, while social skills are relatively less automatable.” In light of this prediction, the PWC’s team does offer several solutions, including increasing education, spreading potential gains from automation, and considering a form of Universal Basic Income (UBI).

HOW A SOCIETY WITHOUT JOBS COULD WORK

A UBI is gaining traction around the world as potential solution to global automation. While certain entrepreneurs dislike the notion or feel that we aren’t ready for it yet, countries like Finland, Canada, and even cities in the U.S. are experimenting with the system.

A UBI guarantees every citizen a monthly income regardless of any additional salaries they may accrue. While some urge for a complete replacement of all social programs with UBI, others suggest just a partial consolidation. In order to pay for the program as a whole in the U.S., experts suggest possibly eliminating tax cuts that represent upwards of $540 billion for the wealthy or reducing the $853 billion budget on defense.

Will UBI provide as sustainable solution to living in an automated world? We might just have to wait 15 years to find out.

Nation Expected to Lose 30% of Jobs to Automation in 15 Years

News From The Center for Economic and Social Justice (www.cesj.org) Network:

There has been a lot of noise circulating about the basic income plan. It sounds very nice to say that everyone should have enough to live on as a fundamental human right. The problem is, however, that people who produce what others consume without getting anything in return tend to get resentful. This sets up an “us v. them” mentality, and demands that all those people not working be punished or eliminated. As Abraham Lincoln noted in his debates with Stephen Douglas, it’s against nature for some to work and others to benefit: “It is the eternal struggle between these two principles — right and wrong — throughout the world. They are the two principles that have stood face to face from the beginning of time; and will ever continue to struggle. The one is the common right of humanity, and the other the divine right of kings. It is the same principle in whatever shape it develops itself. It is the same spirit that says, ‘You toil and work and earn bread, and I’ll eat it.’ No matter in what shape it comes, whether from the mouth of a king who seeks to bestride the people of his own nation and live by the fruit of their labor, or from one race of men as an apology for enslaving another race, it is the same tyrannical principle.” As the first principle of economics and Say’s Law of Markets make clear, no one can consume what has not been produced . . . and anyone who consumes without producing can only get it from those who produce.

And yes, in the future, the vast majority will have zero economic value. And yet there are those who would allow a political elite to dictate over you and be owned by them instead of owning yourself and self-sufficient. See http://www.foreconomicjustice.org/?p=16392. The real solution is to empower EVERY child, woman and man to contribute productively to the society’s economy and build a future economy applying technology and responsible renewal growth by acquiring and accumulating the wealth-creating, income-producing capital assets of the future. This can be accomplished without the requirement of past savings or pledging equity to banks as collateral to secure capital credit loans, repayable out of the future earnings of the investments. Instead access to capital credit can be collateralized with capital credit insurance and reinsurance on a financially feasible basis using a tax deferred program permitting an accumulation to a level capital self-sufficiency.

Support Monetary Justice at http://capitalhomestead.org/page/monetary-justice.

Support the enactment of the Capital Homestead Act (aka Economic Democracy Act) at http://www.cesj.org/learn/capital-homesteading/, http://www.cesj.org/learn/capital-homesteading/capital-homestead-act-a-plan-for-getting-ownership-income-and-power-to-every-citizen/, http://www.cesj.org/learn/capital-homesteading/capital-homestead-act-summary/ and http://www.cesj.org/learn/capital-homesteading/ch-vehicles/.

 

Socialism’s Empty Promises

David Davenport writes on PolicyEd.org:

The video “Socialism’s Empty Promises” references a Gallup poll that shows 35 percent of Americans have a favorable opinion of socialism. That number is even higher for younger Americans. David Davenport responds to questions and comments from the video below.

Q: These Americans aren’t supporting socialism, they’re supporting “democratic socialism.” What does “democratic socialism” mean to you?

I think it is helpful to understand what people are reacting to when they say they support socialism or democratic socialism. I think they’re responding to what they see as the excesses of capitalism, particularly the financial crisis and the problems that arose from the recent recession.

My generation was running away from socialism and communism and running toward capitalism. That informs how we think about socialism. But think about the younger generation and the experiences they’ve had. They have the housing market crash, they have high student debt, they see income inequality–all things that have been prominent for them, especially since 2008–and so they’re reacting to capitalism. They’ve put a label on it, but I’m not sure the label is accurate.

“Democratic socialism” does have a meaning, even though recently there has been an effort to reinvent it. “Democratic” refers to a political system and “socialism” to an economic system with its own set of questions. Under socialism, the means of production are owned and operated by the state–think industries and businesses. The democratic part in this context means that it’s done voluntarily. We decide as a people, on our own or through our elected representatives, that we want the state to run the means of production. It doesn’t come about from a revolution, like in the Soviet Union or Cuba or even Venezuela, where someone comes into power and upends the system. Democratic socialism is a system in which we as a people make the decision to go in that direction.

Misconception: We’d have a better system under democratic socialism because the economy would be run democratically.

Well that doesn’t seem feasible, at least in this country. “Democratic” control over the economy, even in tiny countries with homogenous populations doesn’t work, much less in our enormous and diverse federal republic.

Why isn’t it feasible? Well, it would mean suspending property rights and many other basic rights that have become well established in the United States over hundreds of years. There are other ways to soften the excesses or failures of capitalist markets without weakening private property or preventing businesses from making decisions.

We should ask those who say they’re for socialism or democratic socialism if they’d prefer that their favorite companies make decisions about what products to make and sell or if the government is better suited to respond to market forces and customer feedback to make those decisions. I think we know what the answer will be. Socialism–true socialism–moves us in a direction they’re unlikely to support.

Q: What do you think people who support socialism actually hope to see happen?

I think what most people have in mind when they say they support socialism is an expansion of the welfare state. I think they want a kinder and gentler economic system than pure capitalism, and they are perhaps concerned about helping those who don’t do so well in the current system. They would like to help people with more safety nets and more programs like free education or health care. But that’s not necessarily socialism. Even the prime minister of Denmark, the country many people hold up as an example the United States should emulate, had to step in and clarify that it is not a socialist state. It’s a free market economy with a large welfare state.

To be fair, another group of people might actually support the government taking over more industries or niches of the market, but not all of the means of production. Perhaps they think the government should be the dominant player in higher education like it is in K-12 education, funding or even running it.

Or maybe they mean the government should take over the telecommunications industry, for example. I don’t even think Bernie Sanders wanted that. But undoubtedly some people think the government should be running more industries because they believe they will do so more fairly or without a profit motive. In my view, that is still not socialism or a good idea.

Q: What does the image of a kinder, gentler capitalism look like?

Those who believe in capitalism and the free market believe it works best when there is equality of opportunity.

The Hoover Institution just republished President Hoover’s essay American Individualism. It asks why “American individualism” or “rugged individualism” works in this country? Well, it works because we’re all committed to equality of opportunity. It’s the idea that you get to make decisions about what’s best for you, which means you can live a better life.  It’s the ideal and we’ve not achieved it, but we can continue to aspire to it.

When it comes to what to do about it, I think we have to focus more on things that create opportunities for everyone, like education.  But equality of opportunity never assures equality of outcome. Not everyone will achieve the same, but we should try to start with as level a playing field as possible. I believe we stray from this approach when the government intervenes through the tax code, regulations, or other means to pick economic winners and losers.

Comment: Venezuela didn’t fail because of socialism, it fell because of low oil prices. Cuba didn’t fail because of socialism, it fell due to authoritarianism.

Let’s be more general than Venezuela or Cuba because the issue that we’re trying to address isn’t specific to these countries, it’s about capitalist versus anti-capitalist societies, with socialism falling on that side of the spectrum.

My sense is that, if you look over a long period of time, gross domestic product grows far more rapidly in capitalist and free market economies than it does in socialist or state-run economies. There are always short periods of time when special cases arise, but I think it’s accurate to say that over time, there is far more economic growth in free market countries.

Comment: True socialism has never been tried.

If you think it’s never truly been tried, what gives you confidence that true socialism could ever actually be implemented or work?

What we can point to are countries’ experience with much larger welfare states, which is my interpretation of what people actually want when they say they favor socialism. Denmark and others have had this experience. They’ve generally found that it’s not sustainable and have had to pull back.  They simply can’t generate enough economic growth to support their generosity. Margaret Thatcher used to say, “The problem with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people’s money.” Instead of idealizing or romanticizing that, we should probably learn from it. Bernie Sanders was talking about making America more like Denmark, not making America great in an American model.  I’m not sure Denmark’s model is one we would want to emulate.

Q: Do you have any closing thoughts?

Gordon Lloyd and I wrote this book called Rugged Individualism, which is one of the phrases used to describe the American character. When people came to this country, think about what were they running from. They were running from an environment where many of the key decisions were made for them, either by a king or queen, or by the church, or by their birth into a stratified social system. A lot of key decisions were made for them by others. So to answer why they wanted to come to this country, I think it’s fair to say they wanted to be individuals and make decisions for themselves.

So why would we want to move away from that direction? At the end of the day, socialism means taking away more decisions from individual people in the name of vague notions of fairness or equality.

This is the debate that Toqueville said is at the heart of the whole American experiment: Liberty versus equality. America isn’t only about fairness and equality–it is also about liberty. We have to hold those ideas in tension, which is not easy, but throwing out an economic system in favor of another that has a dubious record doesn’t seem wise.

https://www.policyed.org/intellections/socialisms-empty-promises/scholar-responds

 

The Retail Apocalypse Has Officially Descended On America

On March, 21, 2017, Hayley Peterson writes on Business Insider:

Thousands of mall-based stores are shutting down in what’s fast becoming one of the biggest waves of retail closures in decades.

More than 3,500 stores are expected to close in the next couple of months.

Department stores like JCPenney, Macy’s, Sears, and Kmart are among the companies shutting down stores, along with middle-of-the-mall chains like Crocs, BCBG, Abercrombie & Fitch, and Guess.

Some retailers are exiting the brick-and-mortar business altogether and trying to shift to an all-online model.

For example, Bebe is closing all its stores — about 170 — to focus on increasing its online sales, according to a Bloomberg report. The Limited also recently shut down all 250 of its stores, but it still sells merchandise online.

Others, such as Sears and JCPenney, are aggressively paring down their store counts to unload unprofitable locations and try to staunch losses.

Retailers stores closing 2017Mike Nudelman

Sears is shutting down about 10% of its Sears and Kmart locations, or 150 stores, and JCPenney is shutting down about 14% of its locations, or 138 stores.

According to many analysts, the retail apocalypse has been a long time coming in the US, where stores per capita far outnumber that of any other country.

The US has 23.5 square feet of retail space per person, compared with 16.4 square feet in Canada and 11.1 square feet in Australia, the next two countries with the most retail space per capita, according to a Morningstar report from October.

Visits to shopping malls have been declining for years with the rise of e-commerce and titanic shifts in how shoppers spend their money. Visits declined by 50% between 2010 and 2013, according to the real-estate research firm Cushman & Wakefield.

SearsA Sears store in the Woodbridge Center. Business Insider/Sarah Jacobs

And people are now devoting bigger shares of their wallets to restaurants, travel, and technology than ever before, while spending less on apparel and accessories.

As stores close, many shopping malls will be forced to shut down as well.

When an anchor store like Sears or Macy’s closes, it often triggers a downward spiral in performance for shopping malls.

Not only do the malls lose the income and shopper traffic from that store’s business, but the closure often triggers “co-tenancy clauses” that allow the other mall tenants to terminate their leases or renegotiate the terms, typically with a period of lower rents, until another retailer moves into the anchor space.

shopping mallGetty Images

To reduce losses, malls must quickly find a replacement tenant for the massive retail space that the anchor store occupied, which is difficult — especially in malls that are already financially strapped — when major department stores are reducing their retail footprints.

That can have grave consequences for shopping malls, especially in markets where it’s harder to transform vacant mall space into non-retail space like apartments, according to analysts.

The nation’s worst-performing malls — those classified in the industry as C- and D-rated — will be hit the hardest by the store closures.

The real-estate research firm Green Street Advisors estimates that about 30% of all malls fall under those classifications. That means that nearly a third of shopping malls are at risk of dying off as a result of store closures.

http://www.businessinsider.com/the-retail-apocalypse-has-officially-descended-on-america-2017-3

With intense price competition and lower cost operations due in large part to efficient automation, jobs will continue to decline and along with this decline will be the further devaluation of the worth of labor.
 
We need to reform the system and provide equal opportunity for EVERY child, woman and man to acquire personal, full voting and full dividend earnings payout ownership stakes in the successful corporations who are growing the economy and forming the workings of our future economy. This transition from a focus on jobs to a focus on capital ownership must begin immediately, as with every passing day, there are fewer “customers with money” to support a growing economy, and the economy will retreat even further with more job destruction and devaluation of labor’s worth.
 
To accomplish this transformation will require enacting the proposed Capital Homestead Act and extending equally to EVERY citizen, insured, interest-free capital credit for strictly investing in future viable capital formation projects, repayable out of the future earnings of the investments, and without any requirement for past savings or equity to secure the bank loans or the requirement to have any source of income.
 
 

America Wants Jobs, Jobs, Jobs

America wants jobs, jobs, jobs. To get them, workers will have to compete with machines.

Posted by Big Think on Sunday, November 13, 2016

We are looking at a future where there will be hordes of citizens of zero economic value. That is, unless the system can be reformed to empower EVERY citizen to acquire ownership in the wealth-creating, income-producing capital assets resulting from technological invention and innovation.
Because productive capital is increasingly the source of the world’s economic growth it should become the source of added property ownership incomes for all. The reality is if both labor and capital are independent factors of production, and if capital’s proportionate contributions are increasing relative to that of labor, then equality of opportunity and economic justice demands that the right to property (and access to the means of acquiring and possessing property) must in justice be extended to all.

As this article is testament to, with increasing punditry, scholars and others are writing about the impact of the Second Industrial Revolution where tectonic shifts in the technologies of production are destroying and degrading jobs due to the shift from labor worker input to the non-human factor––human-intelligent machines, superautomation, robotics, digital computer operations, etc.

The question that requires an answer is now timely before us. It was first posed by binary economist Louis Kelso in the 1950s but has never been thoroughly discussed on the national stage. Nor has there been the proper education of our citizenry that addresses what economic justice is and what ownership is. Therefore, by ignoring such issues of economic justice and ownership, our leaders are ignoring the concentration of power through ownership of productive capital, with the result of denying the 99 percenters equal opportunity to become capital owners. The question, as posed by Kelso is: “how are all individuals to be adequately productive when a tiny minority (capital workers) produce a major share and the vast majority (labor workers), a minor share of total goods and service,” and thus, “how do we get from a world in which the most productive factor—physical capital—is owned by a handful of people, to a world where the same factor is owned by a majority—and ultimately 100 percent—of the consumers, while respecting all the constitutional rights of present capital owners?”

Yet politicians and conventional economists would rather continue to focus on Job Creation that holds back technological invention and innovation, instead of a focus on enacting economic policies that focus on wealth-creating, income-producing capital Ownership Creation.

Given that there is no question that robotic technology will continue to expand the productivity and in large measure destroy jobs and devalue the value of human labor, the question that SHOULD be urgently addressed is WHO SHOULD OWN THE FUTURE TECHNOLOGY ECONOMY? Will ownership continue to concentrate among the 1 percent wealthy ownership class who now OWNS America, or will we reform the system to provide equal opportunity for EVERY child, woman, and man to acquire personal ownership in FUTURE non-human capital assets paid for with the FUTURE earnings of the investments in our technological future?

For solutions achieve Monetary Justice at http://capitalhomestead.org/page/monetary-justice. Support the Capital Homestead Act (aka Economic Democracy Act) at http://www.cesj.org/learn/capital-homesteading/, http://www.cesj.org/…/capital-homestead-act-a-plan-for-get…/, http://www.cesj.org/…/capita…/capital-homestead-act-summary/ and http://www.cesj.org/learn/capital-homesteading/ch-vehicles/.

Utopian Thinking: Yo ‘Take Back Control’ Of England, We Must Find Out Who Owns It

On March 20, 2017, Guy Shrubsole writes on The Guardian:

“The ownership of land,” wrote the 19th-century radical economist Henry George, “is the great fundamental fact which ultimately determines the social, the political and … the moral condition of a people.”

Who owns land matters. Landowners get to choose how their land is used, and that has big implications for almost everything: where we build our homes, how we grow our food, how much space we set aside for nature. Owning land confers wealth, status and often political power.

Margaret Thatcher’s ambition was to create a “property-owning democracy”. But like many members of Generation Rent, I don’t own a single square inch of the country of which I am a citizen. Even homeowners own only a small fraction of our island: urban areas cover just 10% of England and Wales. So, then: who actually owns this place? That’s what I’ve set out to investigate with my blog, Who Owns England?. I started it last summer, post-referendum, determined that if Brexit really meant “taking back control of our country”, then I’d like at least to know who owns it.

But the answer has turned out to be fiendishly difficult to find. It’s taken dozens of freedom of information requests and hours of poring over maps to even begin piecing together the jigsaw. I now know that the Ministry of Defence owns 750,000 acres, that the aristocratic Grosvenor Estate has 140,000 acres, and that grouse moor estates cover an area of England the size of Greater London. It’s very clear that land ownership in England is concentrated in the hands of the wealthy few: the investigative journalist Kevin Cahill has estimated that just 36,000 individuals own half of the UK’s rural land. But no one seems to have the full picture.

Understanding who owns this country has been a utopian project for at least a century and a half. In 1872, in an effort to disprove radicals’ claims that only a tiny elite dominated the landed wealth of the nation, Lord Derby – a major landowner himself – asked the government to undertake a proper survey. The Return of Owners of Land – or “Modern Domesday”, as it became known – was the first comprehensive assessment of land ownership in Britain since William the Conqueror’s swag list after the Norman conquest. But far from dousing the demands of the radical land reformers, the survey lit a fire under the issue.

The Return showed that just 710 aristocratic individuals owned a quarter of the entire country. Popularised by the author and socialite John Bateman in a bestselling book, The Acre-Ocracy of England, who owned land suddenly became the talk of the town. But it wasn’t just the gentry keeping up with the Joneses; land reform had become the political issue du jour. After all, this was a time when you couldn’t vote unless you owned property; when tenant farmers were struggling under a severe agricultural depression; and when the urban poor were crammed into overcrowded slums, at the mercy of grasping landlords.

Into this potentially revolutionary situation walked Henry George, an American economist with a radical new solution for the ills of the world. He proposed a land value tax – a tax on rent-seeking landowners who got rich simply by owning land in valuable locations and allowing it to accrue in value. In order to levy such a tax, it would first be necessary to survey all landowners and carry out a valuation of their property.

George’s utopian ideas inspired a generation of radicals, spanning all parties – from socialists to Liberals and even radical Tories such as Theresa May’s political inspiration, Joseph Chamberlain, who ran for election on the promise to secure for all farmers “three acres and a cow”. Yet English land reform was a dream that soon faded. The Modern Domesday was forgotten, George’s land tax dismissed as too radical, and all that the land reformers achieved was some legislation to create allotments. (A later push for land reform in the Edwardian period was first defeated by the landowning interest in the House of Lords and then cut short by the first world war.)

But spool forward to the present, and there are plenty of fresh reasons for wanting to know who owns our land. We face a housing crisis of epic proportions, caused at least partly by housing developers’ “stranglehold” on land supply, as the communities secretary puts it. As Brexit looms, we need to completely overhaul our broken system of farm subsidies, which for too long has rewarded landowners simply for owning vast estates, rather than providing public goods.

We face the existential threats of climate change and a potential mass extinction event, both demanding that we rethink our relationship with the land in order to restore nature and make ourselves more resilient against worsening flooding. And if we’re to reduce spiralling inequalities in wealth, we might well start by addressing landed wealth. Land, after all, is inherently scarce and prone to monopoly; as Mark Twain once observed, “they aren’t making it any more”.

Fixing all of these requires first knowing who owns our land. It’s something that should unite the most radical activist with the mildest reformer. Whether you’re a conservative aspiring to create a property-owning democracy, an anarchist who believes all property is theft, or a Georgist campaigning for land value tax, the first step is finding out who owns it all currently.

So if the answer to who owns England isn’t available from existing public data, how to find out? Well, the Victorian land reformers did leave us one other legacy: the Land Registry, whose job it is to gradually register who owns all land in England and Wales. Yet 150 years after it was founded, it’s still not completed its task – around a fifth of all land remains unregistered. And though the Land Registry has thankfully just survived a government attempt to privatise it, it remains a very closed public service: you have to pay £3 just to find out who owns a single field. Paying to find out who owns the whole country would cost a fortune.

It’s high time, therefore, to open up the Land Registry and mandate its completion. In the era of the internet, open data and GIS mapping, it’s frankly archaic for the Land Registry to hide its secrets behind a paywall. If Companies House can drop its search fees and open up its wealth of information for free, so can the Land Registry.

The government’s recent housing white paper heralded some welcome steps in this direction – announcing that the Land Registry would soon make freely available its datasets on land owned by UK companies and offshore firms. But that’s only a fraction of the total. Aristocratic families, who almost certainly still own the great majority of England, will be exempt – since their huge estates are invariably registered in an individual’s name, if they’re registered at all.

“Who owns England?” is a beguilingly simple question, but finding an answer to it would be genuinely utopian. Knowledge, after all, is power: and knowing who owns our land would be a first, crucial step towards really taking back control of our country.

The English are beginning to ask Who Owns England? Likewise Americans should be asking Who Owns America?
The article cites that Margaret Thatcher’s ambition was to create a “property-owning democracy”. In the United States in July 1974 Ronald Reagan said we need an Industrial Homestead Act. Unfortunately, these were words spoken with no resulting action.
In 1864, Abraham Lincoln signed the Homestead Act. There was a wide distribution of land and they didn’t confiscate anyone’s already privately owned land. They did not take from those who owned to give to others who did not own. It set the pattern for the American system of private property ownership.

The proposed Capital Homestead Act (CHA) (www.capitalhomestead.org) takes its lead from the Homestead Act of 1862. The 1864 Homestead Act offered the landless white citizens of America part-ownership of the country by giving them 160 acres of frontier land, free, if they produced on it income for themselves and their families for a period of five years.

In Lincoln’s America of 153 years ago, the problem confronting the vast majority of the citizens of our nation was that most people owned no land that they could work to sustain their livelihood. Today, the major problem for the vast majority of the people of our nation and of our world, for that matter, is that 99 percent of the people own no capital (or a viable share of the non-human means of production) in a high-tech, capital-intensive economy. The Capital Homestead Act would make it possible for every American to become a viable owner of productive capital and not just for the tiny elite who now own our corporations. The Act would establish for EVERY citizen a Capital Homestead Account or “CHA” (a super-IRA or asset tax-shelter for citizens) at their local bank to purposely acquire a growing dividend-bearing stock portfolio to supplement their incomes from work and all other sources of income. The CHA is primarily a tax-sheltered vehicle for the democratization of capital credit through local banks. It would enable every child, woman, and man to accumulate wealth and receive dividend incomes from newly issued shares in new and growing companies, without being taxed on the accumulations (including property and shares gained through inheritance, savings, and arrangements like ESOPs (Employee Stock Ownership Plans), CSOPs (Citizens Stock Ownership Plans), and CICs (Community Investment Corporations). In addition to serving as a source of capital credit for corporate workers, CHAs would also provide an ownership-building account for individuals who do not work for profit-making enterprises, such as school teachers, civil servants, military personnel, police, and health workers, and for individuals who have no remunerative employment, such as the disabled, the unemployed homemakers and children.”

Enacting The Capital Homestead Act would make it possible for every American to become a viable owner of productive capital and not just for the tiny elite who now own our corporations.

Marshall Brain On Robotics And Employment

Marshall Brain speculates on how robots will change the economy and replace human workers. At Singularity Summit 2008.

address what Marshall Brain is talking about with solutions to empower EVERY citizen to contribute productivity to the economy by owning the “technology.” See “Education Is Critical To Our Future Societal Development” at http://www.foreconomicjustice.org/?p=9058

The Conversation About Basic Income Is A Mess. Here’s How To Make Sense Of It.

On March 19, 2017, Charlie Young writes on Economics:

Universal Basic Income(UBI) is either absolutely bonkers pie-in-the-sky thinking or an ingenious idea whose time has come – depending on whom you ask. A litany of recent articles argue for and against the idea of giving every resident of a society or economy a guaranteed income stream, usually sufficient to live above the poverty line, regularly and into perpetuity. Those arguing for say that it offers a potential new awakening of cultural expression, as well as dismantling the disincentives to work associated with means-tested benefits, while supporting us through an age of automation, and also creating space for reimagining ownership of the commons. Those against say that there’s no such thing as free money, that people would simply stop working, that layabouts get enough as it is, and that it could lead to either the dismantling of capitalism or of the welfare state. Both sides of the argument – each including those from the political left and right – accuse the other of ‘not understanding economics.’ But the fact that people are arguing over whether or not UBI as a whole is a good idea means there’s something very wrong with the narrative. The debate we have today is rooted in a false dichotomy. It should be very difficult to be for or against something as broad and diverse as the ideas parceled up in UBI.

UBI is in fact not a single proposal. It’s a field of proposals that’s perhaps better thought of as a philosophical intervention, a new conception of macro-economic and political structure. It’s unusual to argue wholeheartedly against representative government, taxation or universal suffrage, while it is common to disagree on which party should govern, whether taxes should be raised or cut, and particular elements of voting procedure. In the same way, we shouldn’t argue all-out for or against UBI but instead inspect the make-up of each approach to it – that’s where we can find not only meaningful debate, but also possibilities for working out what we might actually want.

UBI has appeared to make some strange bedfellows; its supporters include anarchists, libertarians, liberal lefties and Republicans (including Richard Nixon). But on closer inspection it is clear that different groups are proposing fundamentally different things. UK think-tank Compass, for example, suggests replacing key elements of the current means-tested benefits system with a basic payment to all citizens, padded by slightly raising the top rate of tax. Economist Charles Murray, on the other hand, advocates paying all US citizens over the age of 21 a sum of $10,000 per year to serve as, in his words, ‘a replacement for the welfare state’. Then there is Dr Thomas Pogge, who suggests a global resources dividend (GRD) whereby current and historical injustices against the global poor are counteracted through the modest taxation of global natural resources – including fossil fuels, land used for farming, mining and destroyed habitats – and redistributing the levy amongst those involuntarily excluded from their use. All of these proposals (and dozens more) fall under the umbrella of UBI.

The most important distinguishing feature between the different iterations of UBI is where the funding comes from. Wrapped up in this are ancillary questions: what would a UBI replace, compensate for, or complement in the rest of the economy? What would the knock-on effects be for social welfare and the government’s responsibility to its citizens? Who gets the money is another question worth looking at (just how ‘universal’ is the income?), as is its amount and regularity. With these distinctions in mind and after reviewing relevant literature, I suggest an initial distilling of UBI into the following three categories:

A. Recalibrating existing tax and benefit systems

B. Replacing the Welfare State, aka ‘Voucherisation’

C. Communalising common assets

Recalibrating existing tax and benefit systems

According to advocates of [A], for UBI to be politically feasible it must be achieved using the existing infrastructure of taxation and spending. UBI is an immense ideological intervention – or so the argument goes – and as such should be funded without radical changes or additions to taxation but instead through restructuring the existing ‘inefficient’ and ‘unfair’ benefit systems.

Advocates tend to offer here what is referred to as a ‘no-frills’ UBI: subsistence or sub-subsistence levels of income to be supplemented by earnings from employment and/or disability, housing or child benefits.

Proposals found in [A] often set out to combat inequality and poverty, including through the dismantling of poverty traps such as the sudden removal of benefits as low-earners incomes rise (which can in some cases mean marginal deductions for the poor of 80%). They also often look to alleviate the pains of unemployment resulting from automation, which is projected to affect the poor most dramatically , as well as helping the projected expansion of the caring economy (especially important in ageing nations).

The savings from restructuring existing benefits are likely to be very large. Malcolm Torry of the Citizen’s Income Trust claims the administrative savings from dismantling the means-tested benefit system are in the range of £8-10bn. Put simply, it’s very expensive to decipher who is and isn’t deserving of government support, especially when recipients must prove their worthiness. Restructuring benefits to look more like a UBI could not only save money, proponents claim, but also be fairer.

Examples of these kinds of UBI proposals include the work of the RSA, a proposal in the recent manifesto of the UK Green Party, and the work of Phillippe Van Parijs of Oxford University, founder of the Basic Income European Network..

What they all have in common is a shared belief that a politically feasible UBI must be small-scale, sometimes include transitional proposals, and be based on funding from existing tax structures.

Replacing the Welfare State aka ‘Voucherisation’

Economists and political theorists on the right, especially those identifying as libertarian, see UBI as a vehicle through which to reduce government intervention in public and private life at large. From this perspective, a guaranteed UBI would legitimize the dismantling of other forms of welfare provision, as it levels the economic and social playing field. Similar to [A], proponents of [B] argue that means-tested welfare is seen as unnecessarily costly, ineffectual, and fundamentally unjust in that it is an economically and socially distorting form of state charity.

Prof. Matt Zwolinski of the Cato Institute enumerates four libertarian arguments for a UBI. He places them under the banners of: i) reduced bureaucracy, ii) reduced cost, iii) reduced rent-seeking (i.e. under a universal program there is less space for political exploitation or benefit fraud), and iv) a reduction in the state’s ‘invasive/paternalistic’ tendencies, as there is no longer a need to categorise beneficiaries as the deserving poor.

Examples include a proposal from one of the founding fathers of neoliberalism, Milton Friedman, a litany of publications from conservative think tanks including the Cato Institute, and the proposal of Charles Murray’s mentioned above.

One clear difference between the literature making up [A] and [B] is that the former focuses on macro-level indicators of say, inequality, and potential effects of redistribution on such indicators, while the latter focuses instead on changes in individual behaviour resulting from a UBI. The proposals that make up the [B] category put faith in individuals to, given more adequate means, make the world around them in a more effective way than the state can do on their behalf. The poor, in this view, are likely to make intelligent choices about how to spend cash grants, an argument backed up by empirical economic evidence from Uganda to Mexico. Thus, the two kinds of proposals differ in intention, assumed problem, and predicted outcome.

Communalising common assets

The communalising of common assets can be global natural resources, the carrying capacity of the biosphere, atmospheric carbon, fisheries and forests, unearned income, or even the productive capacity of automation and technological change. The fundamental assumption here is that such assets – be they physical, biological or cultural – should be respected as the common property of all, rather than be the source of exploitative disparities from unequal access and power. This set of proposals is more systemically transformative than [A] or [B] as it is predicated on the realisation of new economic institutions and drivers. This category is also more diverse in scope than either [A] or [B], differing not only in terms of funding source but also in geographical distribution – some propose a global UBI.

Peter Barnes and James Boyce outline this range of proposals as charges placed on the access and use of ‘communally inherited assets’ and the redistribution of the resulting revenue[3]. Charges could be placed, for example, on polluting the scarce resource that is the carrying capacity of our atmosphere, or on trades of stocks, bonds and derivatives (the latter of which could raise $300bn per year). Barnes and Boyce claim that charges on a ‘portfolio of universal assets’ could grant US citizens a UBI of $200 a month.

Iterations of wealth tax that could fund UBI include those suggested by Thomas Piketty like progressive capital taxation, and the Georgist land value tax (LVT) as proposed in the UK context by Martin Farley. Farley suggests land ownership be taxed and the raised revenue, coupled with that raised by what he calls Commons Licenses (a version of Barnes and Boyles’ common asset proposals), could fund a £4,500 annual UBI.

Economist Yannis Varoufakis and futurist Kartik Gada, on the other hand, have each suggested that the labour savings from automation could (and should) pay for UBI. Varoufakis’ proposal is one-part wealth tax and one-part ownership restructuring: a small tax is levied on shares from every initial public offering put into a Commons Capital Depository that in effect grants citizens property rights over new technologies that yield financial returns. The Commons Capital Depository would then pay out a UBI to all citizens. Varoufakis sees this as potentially alleviating “irreconcilable political blocs, while […] reinvigorating the notion of shared prosperity,” largely due to reframing understandings of when wealth is a result of hard work vs. context and luck especially in the face of technological unemployment.

Similar ideas have been touted by Silicon Valley entrepreneurs and tech-firms. Y Combinator has even launched its own UBI pilot programme (though this is arguably closer in essence to [A] than [C]).

While some proposals focus on addressing inequality and poverty traps [A], others focus on increasing individual freedoms and reducing government interference [B], and still others attempt to introduce new feedback loops into the economy and restructure the polity of ownership [C]. It is important to note that these are not necessarily mutually exclusive, given that the ideological foundations and value frames associated with each often overlap. However, the ontological differences are worth bearing in mind when speaking of UBI more generally.

Its time we treat UBI as the messy fabric that it is. Only by teasing apart the strands of the various arguments can we have a coherent discussion about whether and how best to implement its specific iterations. It’s especially important that we know what we’re looking at, especially given the recent upsurge in interest. Even if you consider yourself “pro” Universal Basic Income, a UBI by any other name may not smell as sweet.

The Conversation About Basic Income is a Mess. Here’s How to Make Sense of It.

While a Universal Basic Income sounds appealing to those solely dependent on a job or welfare, there is a far better way for EVERY child, woman and man to EARN more income by providing equal opportunity to acquire personal ownership in future wealth-creating, income-producing capital formation using insured (lending protection) capital credit, repayable out of the future earnings of the investments. This would not require anyone to pledge as collateral (past savings/equity as security for repayment).

Using such new owner-creation financial mechanisms would enable EVERY citizen to contribute productivity to the economy, create demand for a higher standard of living, while not taking from those who already are capital owners through taxation to support otherwise non-productive citizens.

We should be looking at how “the rich are getting richer,” not on how we can take and redistribute the earnings of the rich and middle class. Obviously, the distinction between the rich and the non-rich is that the rich OWN wealth-creating, income-producing capital assets, the very essence of technological progress, and the poor only have their labor to sell to the wealthy capital ownership class.

The fact that the core function of technological invention and innovation is to invent “tools” to reduce toil, enable otherwise impossible production, create new highly automated industries, and significantly change the way in which products and services are produced from labor intensive to capital intensive, should surprise no one who is conscious and who has even causally observed the constant shift to non-human productive inputs in the manufacturing, distribution, and sales of products, as well as the delivery of services, that has been occurring during their lifetime.

The urgency is to figure out means for people to earn an income without dependency on jobs. The focus should not be on a pro-job growth future but an alternative to wage dependency as economists across the board predict further losses as AI, robotics, and other technologies continue to be ushered in.

Such future invention and innovation should be financed using mechanisms that create new owners simultaneously with the growth of the economy, while respecting the private property rights who now own, and ensuring that any further concentrated capital ownership acquisition will be abated.

The fundamental challenge to be solved is how do we reinvent and redesign our economic institutions to keep pace with job destroying and devaluing technological innovation and invention so not all of the benefits of owning FUTURE productive capacity accrues to today’s wealthy 1 percent ownership class, and ownership is broadened so that EVERY American earns income through stock ownership dividends so they can afford to purchase the products and services produced by the technology economy.

A National Right To Capital Ownership Bill that restores the American dream should be advocated by the progressive movement, which addresses the reality of Americans facing job opportunity deterioration and devaluation due to tectonic shifts in the technologies of production.

The question that requires an answer is now timely before us. It was first posed by Kelso in the 1950s but has never been thoroughly discussed on the national stage. Nor has there been the proper education of our citizenry that addresses what economic justice is and what capital ownership is. Therefore, by ignoring such issues of economic justice and capital ownership, our leaders are ignoring the concentration of power through monopoly ownership of productive capital, with the result of denying the 99 percenters equal opportunity and access to become capital owners.

The question, as posed by Kelso is: “how are all individuals to be adequately productive when a tiny minority (capital owners) produce a major share and the vast majority (labor workers), a minor share of total goods and services,” and thus, “how do we get from a world in which the most productive factor—physical capital—is owned by a handful of people, to a world where the same factor is owned by a majority—and ultimately 100 percent—of the consumers, while respecting all the constitutional rights of present capital owners?”

There is a solution, which will result in double-digit economic growth and simultaneously broaden private, individual ownership so that EVERY American’s income significantly grows, providing the means to support themselves and their families with an affluent lifestyle. The Just Third Way Master Plan for America’s future is published at http://foreconomicjustice.org/?p=5797.

The solution is obvious but our leaders, academia, conventional economist and the media are oblivious to the necessity to broaden ownership in the new capital formation of the future simultaneously with the growth of the economy, which then becomes self-propelled as increasingly more Americans accumulate ownership shares and earn a new source of dividend income derived from their capital ownership in the “machines” that are replacing them or devaluing their labor value.

The solution will require the reform of the Federal Reserve Bank to create new owners of future productive capital investment in businesses simultaneously with the growth of the economy. The solution to broadening private, individual ownership of America’s future capital wealth requires that the Federal Reserve stop monetizing unproductive debt, including bailouts of banks “too big to fail” and Wall Street derivatives speculators, and begin creating an asset-backed currency that could enable every man, woman and child to establish a Capital Homestead Account or “CHA” (a super-IRA or asset tax-shelter for citizens) at their local bank to acquire a growing dividend-bearing stock portfolio to supplement their incomes from work and all other sources of income. Policies need to insert American citizens into the low or no-interest investment money loop to enable non- and undercapitalized Americans, including the working class and poor, to build wealth and become “customers with money.” The proposed Capital Homestead Act would produce this result.

The end result is that citizens would become empowered as owners to meet their own consumption needs and government would become more dependent on economically independent citizens, thus reversing current global trends where all citizens will eventually become dependent for their economic well-being on the State and whatever elite controls the coercive powers of government.

Support Monetary Justice at http://capitalhomestead.org/page/monetary-justice.

Support the Capital Homestead Act (aka Economic Democracy Act) at http://www.cesj.org/learn/capital-homesteading/http://www.cesj.org/learn/capital-homesteading/capital-homestead-act-a-plan-for-getting-ownership-income-and-power-to-every-citizen/http://www.cesj.org/learn/capital-homesteading/capital-homestead-act-summary/ and http://www.cesj.org/learn/capital-homesteading/ch-vehicles/.

The Labor Content Fallacy

On April 26, 2015, Gerald Huff writes on Medium.com:

Those who argue against the risk of technological unemployment due to the coming wave of robotics, AI, and other disruptive technologies often point to what is known as the Luddite or Lump of Labor Fallacy. Their reasoning is as follows: “You Luddites believe that there is a fixed amount of labor to be done in any given economy at any point in time. When technology substitutes for labor in some industry, you think all of the displaced people must therefore become unemployed. But the reality is that when costs are lowered in that industry due to increased productivity, the savings are passed onto consumers, who spend those savings in other business sectors, which create jobs to meet the demand. Human desires are infinite, so there will always be new demand creating new jobs as automation lowers costs. Of course, there is disruption, and displaced employees will need to retrain for the new jobs, but it has always worked out this way and always will.”

Historically, this has, in fact, always been true. Outside of agriculture and large scale manufacturing, each incremental unit of a good or service (especially a service) has required significant incremental human labor. The amount of labor varies by product or service, but until very recently there was essentially nothing you could buy that would not require additional human labor hours, either in its production, distribution, sale, or delivery.

We are at the very beginning stages, however, of a new era. Those who argue the Lump of Labor Fallacy are becoming guilty of a different kind of fallacy, the Labor Content Fallacy. There is no law of economics that states that producing a good or service must require human labor. It’s just been that way so far because machines were incapable of performing the most basic of human tasks — communicating in natural language, sensing emotions, moving and operating in unstructured environments, processing information and making decisions, and manipulating wide varieties of objects large and small. Every business that wanted to innovate and deliver a valuable service or product had to hire humans, because there was simply no alternative.

In this new era, we can already see that machines and AI are steadily gaining these skills. IBM’s Watson, Google’s driverless car, Microsoft’s real-time translation, Narrative Science’s Quill, Cynthia Breazeal’s Jibo, Rethink Robotics Baxter and Sawyer, and DARPA’s Atlas are the initial versions of systems that have the potential to replace people in jobs that were historically safe from automation. Over the next few decades, as new disruptive businesses emerge employing these technologies, they will provide goods and services with minimal human labor content. The historical connection between consumption and job creation will be broken.

This phenomenon is most obvious with digital goods, which exhibit essentially zero marginal cost of production. Imagine 100 million consumers who save money due to automation in some industry buying 100 million downloads of Taylor Swift’s latest hit. How many new jobs are created by that $100 million of spending? Basically, zero. What if those 100 million people paid a dollar for a year of the WhatsApp messaging service? How many new employees would WhatsApp need to hire? Since they handled 450 million customers with a staff of less than 50, the answer is — not many.

This is a remarkable new development. Most businesses throughout history have had labor as their largest single cost and their front line employee costs scaled with their number of customers. Of course there are service businesses today where this remains true. If the 100 million people all decided to get more frequent haircuts, there is no doubt we would need a lot more stylists. The critical question is this: what direction do we think our economy and technology are headed? As more and more of our products and services are digitized and machines can handle more and more of once human-only tasks, I believe we are headed into a new kind of economy with vastly reduced labor content and therefore, far fewer jobs.

Some might argue that digital goods are too obvious an example of zero marginal labor content. What about physical goods? We will continue to crave physical objects after all, not just songs and movies and games that can be downloaded. So let’s project Amazon ten years from now, just based on the initiatives they have already undertaken. Our 100 million consumers take their savings and buy products online thru Amazon, no salesperson involved. The products themselves are made at highly automated facilities with very low marginal labor content. In ten years, Amazon warehouses will be completely automated. They are already testing prototypes of robots to replace the human “pickers” who stand for hours as a parade of Kiva robots bring shelving units to them and a computer points a laser at the item they should retrieve. Customer orders will be loaded into self-driving trucks that navigate their way into neighborhoods, where drones or ambulatory robots complete the deliveries. The trucks, drones and robots will of course themselves be built in highly automated factories. Increased demand from consumers, increased economic activity, no increase in jobs for humans.

Of course, if you extend the timeline out further, that entire process could be disrupted by future generations of 3D printing. Drop a glass on the floor and shatter it? Talk to your smartphone for a few seconds and a new one will be printed within minutes. You pay for the design (unless it was open source) and $1 per pound for the raw feed stocks. That’s it. No marginal human labor required.

What about the most labor-intensive sectors of the economy? In the US the highest growth in employment recently has been in food service, retail, education, and health care. With rising minimum wages, automation may very soon come to restaurants (Momentum Machines already has a self-contained burger making robot). Technology is poised to revolutionize education, with movements like micro-credentialing reducing the need for large faculties and administrations at big expensive institutions. Despite huge regulatory barriers, we are also starting to see innovations in health care, where within ten to twenty years we may very well be managing chronic diseases without the need for nurses and doctors.

Some will argue that the money flowing to these low or zero labor content businesses finds its way into the hands of the owners of capital or shareholders, who then invest it in new businesses — the so-called “job creators.” But if their investments are in Facebook and WhatsApp, there are meager numbers of jobs created (despite many billions in returns). Even the unusual part-time employment offered to many by Uber is slated within decades to disappear as the Uber CEO has already indicated he prefers (and has begun investing in) fleets of self-driving cars.

People who discount the possibility of technological unemployment are guilty of believing the Labor Content Fallacy. We need to begin preparing for a different kind of economy. In an age of ubiquitous smart machines, we need to shift our mindset away from the goal of “full employment”, as that will simply not be possible. While there will be infinite human wants and ever expanding amounts of work to be done, we just won’t need humans to do the work when machines can do it better and cheaper. Humans Need Not Apply.

https://medium.com/@geraldhuff/the-labor-content-fallacy-96b8ddadf5cd#.oc917q2tl

This is an excellent article that corresponds with much of what I and others in the Just Third Way movement have been saying since the 1960s.

Author Gerald Huff asks the critical question: what direction do we think our economy and technology are headed? As more and more of our products and services are digitized and machines can handle more and more of once human-only tasks, […] we are headed into a new kind of economy with vastly reduced labor content and therefore, far fewer jobs.

The other critical question that requires an answer is also now timely before us. It was first posed by binary economist Louis Kelso in the 1950s but has never been thoroughly discussed on the national stage. Nor has there been the proper education of our citizenry that addresses what economic justice is and what capital ownership is. Therefore, by ignoring such issues of economic justice and capital ownership, our leaders are ignoring the concentration of power through monopoly ownership of productive capital (“technology”), with the result of denying the 99 percenters equal opportunity and access to become capital owners. The question, as posed by Kelso is: “how are all individuals to be adequately productive when a tiny minority (capital owners) produce a major share and the vast majority (labor workers), a minor share of total goods and services,” and thus, “how do we get from a world in which the most productive factor—physical capital—is owned by a handful of people, to a world where the same factor is owned by a majority—and ultimately 100 percent—of the consumers, while respecting all the constitutional rights of present capital owners?”

To solve today’s big problems, including technological displacement of labor, systemic poverty, achieving sustainable and environmentally sound growth, and closing the growing wealth and power gap, our leaders need to enact a legislative package called the “Capital Homestead Act.” Starting in the United States, it would change Federal Reserve and tax policies to extend equal opportunity and the monetary means for every citizen of the world, as a fundamental human right, to become empowered and earn a living both as a capital owner and as a worker.

A New Role for Money and Credit

By democratizing capital credit through local banks all citizens, from the poorest to the richest, could acquire ownership shares in feasible projects (that earn enough to repay the capital credit) involving newly created capital and transfers of existing productive capital assets. The credit would be repaid from the full stream of projected future profits (“future savings”), thus not violating private property rights of existing owners.

A key element of the proposed monetary system — an essential component of a more just free market system — is how it would finance life-enhancing growth in ways that enable every person (as an individual) to gain equal access to the means of acquiring ownership of income-producing wealth, without the need for government redistribution and subsidies.

A National Economic Agenda for Uniting America

The proposed reforms behind the Capital Homestead Act are based on the system principles of economic justice, particularly as they relate to global money, credit, taxation and ownership systems.

The aim needs to be to build a broad base of leadership influence and people power organizing as part of a political strategy to gain bipartisan support leading to the enactment of the Capital Homestead Act.

Support the Agenda of The Just Third Way Movement at http://foreconomicjustice.org/?p=5797, http://www.cesj.org/resources/articles-index/the-just-third-way-basic-principles-of-economic-and-social-justice-by-norman-g-kurland/, http://www.cesj.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/jtw-graphicoverview-2013.pdf and http://www.cesj.org/resources/articles-index/the-just-third-way-a-new-vision-for-providing-hope-justice-and-economic-empowerment/.

Support Monetary Justice at http://capitalhomestead.org/page/monetary-justice.

Support the Capital Homestead Act (aka Economic Democracy Act) at http://www.cesj.org/learn/capital-homesteading/, http://www.cesj.org/learn/capital-homesteading/capital-homestead-act-a-plan-for-getting-ownership-income-and-power-to-every-citizen/, http://www.cesj.org/learn/capital-homesteading/capital-homestead-act-summary/ and http://www.cesj.org/learn/capital-homesteading/ch-vehicles/.

Kurzweil Claims That The Singularity Will Happen By 2029

On March 15, 2017, Dom Galeon and Christianna Reedy write on Futurism:

Kurzweil’s Predictions

Ray Kurzweil, Google’s Director of Engineering, is a well-known futurist with a high-hitting track record for accurate predictions. Of his 147 predictions since the 1990s, Kurzweil claims an 86 percent accuracy rate. Earlier this week, at the SXSW Conference in Austin, Texas, Kurzweil made yet another prediction: the technological singularity will happen sometime in the next 12 years.

“By 2029, computers will have human-level intelligence,” Kurzweil said in an interview with SXSW.

The singularity is that point in time when all the advances in technology, particularly in artificial intelligence (AI), will lead to machines that are smarter than human beings. Kurzweil’s timetable for the singularity is earlier by around two decades compared to other predictions, notably those of Softbank CEO Masayoshi Son, who predicts that the dawn of superintelligent machines will happen by 2047. But for Kurzweil, the process towards this singularity has already begun.

“That leads to computers having human intelligence, our putting them inside our brains, connecting them to the cloud, expanding who we are. Today, that’s not just a future scenario,” Kurzweil said. “It’s here, in part, and it’s going to accelerate.”

To Fear or Not to Fear?

We all know it is coming sooner or later, but the question in the minds of almost everyone is: should humanity fear the singularity? Everyone knows that when machines become smarter than human beings, they tend to take over the world. Right? Many of the world’s science and technology bigwigs — like Stephen Hawking, Elon Musk, and even Bill Gates — warn about this kind of future.

Well, Kurzweil doesn’t think so. In fact, he isn’t particularly worried about the singularity. It would be more accurate to say that he’s been looking forward to it. What science fiction depicts as the singularity — at which point a single brilliant AI enslaves humanity — is just that: fiction.

“That’s not realistic,” Kurzweil said during his interview with SXSW. “We don’t have one or two AIs in the world. Today we have billions.”

For Kurzweil, the singularity is an opportunity for humankind to improve. He envisions the same technology that will make AIs more intelligent giving humans a boost as well.

“What’s actually happening is [machines] are powering all of us,” Kurzweil said during the SXSW interview. “They’re making us smarter. They may not yet be inside our bodies, but, by the 2030s, we will connect our neocortex, the part of our brain where we do our thinking, to the cloud.”

This idea is similar to Musk’s controversial neural lace and to XPRIZE Foundation chairman Peter Diamandis’ “meta-intelligence” concept. Kurzweil expounded on how this technology could improve human lives.

“We’re going to get more neocortex, we’re going to be funnier, we’re going to be better at music. We’re going to be sexier,” Kurzweil said during the SXSW interview. “We’re really going to exemplify all the things that we value in humans to a greater degree.”

To those who view this cybernetic society as more fantasy than future, Kurzweil pointing out that there are people with computers in their brains today — Parkinson’s patients. That’s how cybernetics is just getting its foot in the door, Kurzweil said. And, because it’s the nature of technology to improve, Kurzweil  predicts that during the 2030s some technology will be invented that can go inside your brain and help your memory.

So, instead of the machines-taking-over-the-world vision of the singularity, Kurzweil thinks it’ll be a future of unparalleled human-machine synthesis.

“Ultimately, it will affect everything,” Kurzweil said during the SXSW interview. “We’re going to be able to meet the physical needs of all humans. We’re going to expand our minds and exemplify these artistic qualities that we value.”

Kurzweil Claims That the Singularity Will Happen by 2029

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-4319436/Singularity-create-super-humans-Google-expert-claims.html

It is imperative that we citizens, as individuals (children, women and men) need to attain equal opportunity to OWN future technologies––the non-human means of production, and acquire such OWNERSHIP using financial mechanism such as insured, interest-free capital credit, repayable out of the future earnings of the investments in our future economy, without the requirement of past savings, with the investments paying for themselves.