Automation Creating Other Jobs Rather than Just Taking Away Jobs is not a Good Argument Against UBI

It is often argued that robots are not here to take your jobs because robots themselves open new opportunities for jobs while they make certain jobs obsolete. This is often used as an argument against Universal Basic Income (UBI).

One level at which this argument is invalid is that shifting from one job to another is still nowhere near easy, and a Universal Basic Income helps provide a padding for the time spent undergoing this shift and gaining the appropriate skills for the next job.

There’s another problem with using this as an argument against UBI, though: the process of automation creates economic efficiency, providing the owner of the machines massive value from machines’ significant reliability advantages over people. Without the UBI, the owner of the machines, probably someone already quite well off, reaps all the monetary benefit of automation, when the economic benefits of automation should be reaped by all the people. People should be looking forward to the stage in the progress of society when, due to the brilliance of innovators and engineers past, the infrastructure is created to be able to sustain a world where people do not have to work to have a baseline living: with how impressive robots are, this shouldn’t be considered a radical idea. It’ll be a while until we get there, but the people should know how far on the way there we are from how many jobs are fulfilled by robots, and people should demand that they get their fair share of the value created by automation—value added not from the pain of labor of any human—and that as the GDP of a nation climbs up propelled by automation, it isn’t just that the worth of the people who own the machines increases while the rest stay where they are.

Jobs should exist because things need to get done, not because humans morally must work. If more things are getting done by machines, humans deserve to need to work less.

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I now have a third reason to hate π day.

I’d like to start by disclaiming that I am in the camp of people that considers τ the correct circle constant. This does not constitute one of the reasons I hate π day. It’s something that I think is the wrong choice, but it doesn’t make me hate it.

The first reason I hated π day was that it’s a brutal and arbitrary bastardization of a beautiful mathematical construct. Celebrating π on March 14 is like celebrating Labor Day on January 4 because “14” is the 1337ification of “la”, the first letters in ‘Labor Day’. Celebrating π on the 22nd day of the 7th month of some sort of year would at least be celebrating π on numbers that represent a significant rational approximation, and not just an arbitrary cutoff in a string of digits. On top of this, though, π day is conceived on the coincidence of the digits in a decimal approximation of π imposed on a calendar that’s religiously conceived; this imposes non-secularity onto math.

The second reason I hated π day was because of its role in painting nerds in the general public vision. π day has somehow become one of the ways most people are most exposed to what they would see as nerdiness. It has definitely somehow taken an exclusive pedestal as the holiday of nerds. And thus, common traditions of π day easily become what people see as the center of nerd culture. And what are these traditions? Things like memorizing digits of π and obsessing about circles in weirdly fetishistic ways. There are far cooler and more awesome things to be associated with being nerdy that could be the façade of nerdy communities to the general world, but π day puts on display the silliest possible facet.

And now, there is a new third reason: the way π day has become commercialized and appropriated. Walking around on π day is now a rapidfire march of cringe, filled with silly substitutions of π wherever the string ‘pi’ comes up in a word. See, πzza sale! The joke’s that the word ‘pizza’ starts with ‘pi’, get it? Haha, so funny! Seriously, though, these substitutions were funny the first time we saw them. And then they stopped being so. They only ever look forced now. It is so freaking old. Please stop. (I promise I’m not just bitter that I’m allergic to most pizzas and pies.)

Happy birthday to Albert Einstein, everyone.

History

I have a gradually strengthening opinion that the best indicator that someone has absorbed the most important lessons of history is a great reduction of the frequency of asking “How could these people have been so stupid?” History is most learned when one grasps the conditions, forces, and influences that cause people and groups of people to take actions and support causes and leaders they have come to evaluate as reasonable that to one’s local context appears ridiculous. The recognition of these patterns during one’s life is history’s most valuable takeaway.

Two Forms of Argument I Don’t Buy at All

I’d like to mention two forms of argument that I really, really dislike and in which I do not acknowledge any validity. I find them frustrating because they’re utterly nonsensical to me but for some reason they seem widely accepted as actually legitimate points. They are rather similar, although they are definitely essentially different.

Here’s the first: “A is often responded to with B, and even though A is good, B is more bad than A is good; therefore A is not a good choice.” I’ll actually provide an example: the first argument presented here.

If B isn’t a necessary result of A, but rather just a tendency of happening in response to A, then problems are the fault of those that bring about B, not the people doing A that causes some people to decide to do B. The fact that people tend to decide to bike more riskily if they’re told to wear helmets should not be a reason to stay away from prescribing helmet use. They have the ability to not decide to bike more riskily; if they make that choice, that’s their problem. Drivers of cars acting more riskily around bikers wearing helmets, on the other hand: that is a legitimate argument, because the drivers acting more riskily is not within the bikers’ control.

(I consider the later points valid, and I actually agree with the proposition being made, but due to the reason that I staunchly support the freedom to do anything risky to oneself that doesn’t causally harm others.)

But there’s a second form of argument I often find being presented that is somewhat related.

“It would be better if everyone did B than if everyone did A, but it would also be better if everyone did either than if some people did each. Therefore, with many more people doing A than doing B, people doing B should be convinced to do A.”

This form of argument outright angers me. If everyone doing B was truly better than everyone doing A, people doing A are the problem, not people doing B: they’re doing the worse thing, and it shouldn’t matter what the actual proportions of people doing each are. Proponents of getting people to switch from B to A are literally telling people doing a better thing to do a worse thing. This is the sort of mentality that impedes progress and helps to further solidify suboptimal status quos, which need lowering of activation energy to leave for better situations, not heightening. This makes society stall.

The Unjustified Condescension of Anti-Anti-Sports

Hank Green recently released a video titled “Sports are Dumb” (with a thumbnail that says “Sports aren’t dumb?”, to preface the content of the video), suggesting nerdy-types should attempt embracing sports more, a video of surprisingly bad quality compared to what typically comes from Hank Green. All in all, the video takes part in a recent trend of treating anti-sports academic types as having shallow, impulse reasons for their avoidance of sports, when there are multiple solid reasons for not partaking, or even being actively against, sports.

Arguments in the video are not very good. The video makes it seem like eventually generalized hand-waving will stop and a concrete reason for supporting sports will eventually be pronounced, but the hand-waving pervades the entire video punctuated by occasional not-very-justified raw thoughts. Let’s note the problems in the parts of the video that are points.

1. No one is required to give a reason for being uninterested.

Hank’s claim that it’s hard to rationalize being against sports is multiply problematic: there are good reasons to be against sports which Hank conveniently occludes by pretending he can’t come up with anything, but even before this, people shouldn’t have to explain why they are uninterested in something.

Imagine if someone asked you if you wanted to come see the movie tonight, you said you weren’t interested, they asked you why, and you can’t come up with much beyond that you just didn’t feel like it, and that someone judged you for being unable to come up with a reason for lack of interest. Beyond the difficulty of translating gut instincts, the fact that there are usually too many things in the world one could be involved in, and not the opposite problem, means that the burden of justification should be on being interested in something, not being uninterested. “Caring about stuff is good” is an empty statement—there’s only so much care any particular individual can give, so giving more care to one thing is taking away care from another. People don’t have a deficit in things to care about; people have an excess. “You should care more” is never more than “You should care about this instead of that”.

2. There is good reason to not just be uninterested in but against sports.

Hank alludes to the experience many nerds have of being bullied by more athletic types, and claims lack of interest in sports is due to internalizing feelings against sporty types. As for lack of interest itself, there’s the above, but even on top of this, I claim both that (1) sentiments against sports are completely justified for academic types and (2) there are real-life, tangible ways in which the major sports harm society at large.

Continue reading “The Unjustified Condescension of Anti-Anti-Sports”

A Contributional Solution to Uniqueness-Dependent Namespace Collisions

Once someone else has picked a username in a site, chances are you can’t have that username now. This is also true of several other namespaces, inside and outside of the computer world.

There are extensive problematic things about this. Perhaps you’ve been to a site that allows one-character usernames, and then modified the URL from a profile page to see who the lucky ones were that got the one-character usernames, and discovered many accounts where barely any activity has occurred beyond the creation of the account. What a waste! This could even be done maliciously, to claim an account that’s a natural moniker for someone before that person can get to it. There’s in fact this entire TLD that’s pretty much a namespace extortion market.

But this problem could be solved. A provider of a namespace could select a set of usernames that could be desirable, and assign pre-specified levels of contribution (maybe measured by posts, publications, victories, or some combination of what’s available in a site) necessary to actually be able to acquire that username permanently. Other usernames that one would expect would not be competed over can be guaranteed permanent upon acquisition, just not these particular ones, one-character and two-character usernames, and often-desired usernames like “dragon”, “monkey”, and “shadow”. (Bonus thought inquiry: is the state of password standards of the populace still so despondent that if you implemented this standard on the password field people would still fight for the convenience?) Thus, if you turn out to be a major contributor to the site (measured in some means), and someone just parked such a username and did nothing with it, you become entitled to have that username instead.

Thus, we have a system for which:

  1. One can’t successfully just prevent others from getting nice or appropriate usernames by parking an account.
  2. If one wants a permanent username but is worried about their level of contribution, there’s still a large set of usernames that one could choose from.
  3. One who picks a username that is tentative knows there’s a threshold after which they are safe and can be assured they have that username permanently, and doesn’t need to worry about future username-seizing by other users.

I’m curious why this seems to not have been implemented anywhere prominent yet, actually: I’m sure I can’t be the first to think of this. There is an alternative solution to this problem that I have seen, utilized by Discord, for example, where all usernames have a site-assigned number suffixed to them, so that multiple people can in fact choose the same username, and have them still be distinguishable. I like this solution as well, my only complaint (and a small one) being that one then doesn’t have full control over what becomes their particular unique identifier.