Chapter 18 (WIP) – False Expectations

Jessica’s alarm clock woke her up, pulling her back into all her fears that she had just cried out. If her schedule worked as planned, she would never need an alarm clock. Go to sleep in the morning, wake up naturally, do stuff in the afternoon, and then go to work when it was time.

But in reality, she had a hard time staying up all night, despite the fact that this was her normal schedule. When she got home she couldn’t sleep, and yet didn’t have the energy to get up and do anything. So she mostly meandered around the house starting a project, and then getting distracted by another until the sun went down. Then she fell asleep, but couldn’t rest for more than an hour or two if she was lucky. The alarm clock was an absolute necessity, and Jessica had deliberately chosen the loudest, most obnoxious one she could find.

Jessica got herself ready in the dark because she didn’t want to face the lights yet. Once she was dressed, she went out and was immediately surprised to find that the sun was up. She stood in the doorway for several moments trying to figure out why she was up at this hour. Finally it dawned on her that she needed to go ID the guy at the police station. She sighed before walking out and locking the door behind her.

When she arrived at the station, Jessica was greeted by a secretary with large dark circles around his eyes, and the same expression on his face that Jessica had when she hadn’t managed to get any sleep. She told him what she was there to do, and he slowly moved to use the intercom to let the detective know. The detective seemed agitated as he said “Well send her back! And step on it!”

The exhausted secretary started his sentence quickly “He will see you now.” but soon his pace slowed down again as he directed her to the room.

When Jessica walked in, it was clear that they had been waiting for her. They didn’t say anything, but everyone was just a little to stuck to their chairs, feet up, several empty soda cans on the floor, that type of thing.

Detective Haskell stood up and greeted her with a confident handshake. “I think we got ‘im, by george I think we got ‘im. Come ‘ere, come ‘ere, take a look.” With that they flipped the light on in the next room.

All Jessica could see was Rodney staring straight into her eyes. It was no doubt the man from her dream. The man she had just trusted with so much information about herself. And now he was staring at her through what was supposed to be a mirror on his side with a big number 4 on a card in front of him. She had a hard time pulling her eyes away to see the other men. But she was able to tell that none of them was the nervous kid with the gun.

When Jessica was able to pull herself away for long enough to make any observations at all, it seemed clear that the police had just cleared out a homeless encampment and brought all the guys in here. “None of them, he isn’t here. He was more put together, he looked more like a college or…” she paused, “or even a high school student. Not a bad kid from the looks of it, the good kid who just can’t make things work anymore I guess.”

Jessica was still very well aware that the Rodney twin was still staring straight at her when Detective Haskell asked her to take another look, and walked with her as she looked at each of the men in their worn out clothes. He slowed way down as he passed number four. “Are you positive that you have never seen any of these men before? I just want to make sure that you absolutely certain.” They continued walking and looking. And number four’s eyes followed her.

Jessica turned to the detective, and gathering her wits a bit looked him straight in the eye and said, “No. none of these men is the guy you are looking for.”

The detective just said “Very well.” before opening the door to let her leave. The heavy door closed slowly, and Jessica could hear the detective say, “Number 4. Book ‘im.” before it clanged shut.

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The AI Will Steal Our Jobs!

They say that starting a post with a bolt statement is a good idea, so here you go: Artificial Intelligence will destroy our current economic structure. How’s that?

While that statement may seem like a gross overreaction and sound a little nutty, it is quite possibly true. As we move forward, AI will take more and more of the tasks we currently do ourselves. Right now they are mostly in highly repetitive tasks, such as manufacturing. These robots have already displaced many workers, they are cheaper and more accurate. But the presence of those robots have also opened up new opportunities in research and development as well as in maintenance. Here’s the catch: displaced employees cannot afford the new education necessary to go into these fields.

In the past, new technology has largely been geared towards making human beings more efficient at their jobs. If one person makes more stuff, the price of the stuff goes down and makes it available to more people. This has been the driver of our economic growth and high standard of living. Thus far technological progress has been the facilitator of our modern world.

But we are at a moment when this status quo is changing. Artificial intelligence is becoming better than we are at tasks we once considered exclusively the domain of human beings. This means that the jobs that were more nuanced and variable, are going the way of the dodo as those get replaced as well.

For awhile there will be new jobs created by this boom, but eventually those will be taken over as well. Eventually there will be very little, of anything, that human beings need to do.

So now it is not only the ‘unskilled’ laborers who will be out of jobs, but the more technical fields as well. The only people who will be able to make money will be those selling the products that the robots make, this will soon include such diverse things as health care and art to add to the products they manufacture today.

That won’t last long, if no one is earning, no one is spending.

So, now that I have completely depressed you; let me tell you why this could actually be awesome, and what we have to do to make sure that it is.

If you think about it, if robots are doing all the work and there is plenty of everything to go around, why should anyone ever have to go without? The only way this would happen is if we stay on our current economic course. If people need to trade their labor for money to trade for goods and services.

However, if we eliminate the need to pay for those goods and services, why do we panic over the loss of income? In other words, if we make those basic necessities available to all, it won’t matter if the robots do all the work.

Here we get a choice, how do we create an equitable system?

Option 1: Necessary goods and services are provided to all, and money is used to buy luxury goods.

This option is a good middle ground, and very likely to be the solution, but as I see it being implemented, it would be in a simple reactionary way. Like refugee camps, or homeless shelters. Necessities are covered, but living conditions are appalling with no visible path out of the situation.

If we plan ahead, we could create this as a positive way to keep everyone happy and healthy. But it would still leave the wealthy with power and influence over those who just get by on the basics with little upward mobility.

Option 2: Basic universal income.

The results of this option would be very similar to the plan ahead version of option 1. People would get some support, (although that income may not cover everything they need depending on health, implementation, and local economic variation.) but would still struggle to grow. Any growth would depend on the movement of currency to people from all walks of life. This would require that anyone attempting to improve their station from subsistence would have to advertise essentially, to gain the attention of those who do have money to burn. It would just be redistribution of the wealth between the wealthy.

Option 3: Preemptively create a non-monetary based system. No money means that all basic services would be available to all add needed. And anyone willing to grow would not need to convince someone else to part with their money, but only to show that they are providing some benefit to society. Without competition, the existing barriers of the economy would break down.

Everyone could be required to work a certain amount of time in service to community or society as we grow to reach the time of robots doing all of the work. As robots take on more of the workload, the required human workload would be readjusted and distributed equally. Less work for humans would not result in lost jobs creating starvation in a land of plenty.

As a bonus to this idea, if we got rid of money, there would be a huge number of ‘jobs’ that surround the redistribution of wealth that would disappear with it. This means that the starting workload for each person would be much less work than we currently do today. These jobs would include things like cashiers, loan specialists, stock traders, bankers, accountants, investors, and sales to name a few.

Even if we only eliminated that workload and required a lot less work to keep the status quo, I suspect that we would actually make progress toward a work-free future faster. Without all that time spent on the redistribution of wealth, the free time that people would gain would go towards hobbies.

Everyone has a few things they enjoy doing in their free time, and some of those have the potential to drive us to the future. Some people enjoy listening to music or watching movies. Some people enjoy creating neat things. Some people enjoy robotics and coding in their free time. Giving people more free time, and unlimited access to education (one of the most basic services provided) would spawn a massive outpouring of growth in many areas, including STEM. There are many people caught in the day to day grind of living paycheck to paycheck who could do so much for our world if we can unchain them from the money train.

This does require a whole new way of thinking. But in a world without scarcity, we do not need to create a system of artificial scarcity, which is how money works.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Happiness

They say that being happy comes from enjoying what you have and living in the moment. I believe that, and I try my best. Overall, I am very happy. But this is a lot easier when I ignore what is going on in the real world.

The problem is that ignoring bad things allows them to continue. Some people say that the problem is that I care too much. That may be true, but I know that if we allow bad things to happen, it will affect us down the line. If by acting now I can help prevent that, I will act now.

I keep running into the problem that so many bad things are going on in the world that I cannot really be active enough in any one thing. Especially since I am a parent and I work full-time. This frustration that I have is probably part of the reason that so much of what I post are merely rants. I know full well that I am not adding anything meaningful to the debates. I just feel the need to DO SOMETHING.

I sign petitions, but so many of them ask for money after you ‘sign’ that I don’t even know if it gets counted unless I donate. I am not a bottomless pit, and I cannot donate to every worthy cause I come across.

Renewable Energy

Hey America! Fossil Fuel is not the answer. Even Nuclear Power is unnecessary. Let’s set aside the debate over whether or not global climate change is happening or if it caused by man. It does not matter. There are enough reasons to stop using fossil fuels without that.

The argument about the technology not being ready has been made since the 1970s. The technology is there now. We have the ability. Yes, batteries are still the weak point, but there are very promising possibilities there too (Tesla) (Hydrogen). The potential energy that is out there is astonishing. The power from the sun alone provides more than we need.

Many countries are making great headway towards completely eliminating the use of fossil fuels (Germany) (Austria) (China). If this is possible so quickly after starting down this road, why is America vowing only to reduce our output by a small percentage over the next several decades? Those in power are making this seem like it is an incredibly difficult goal to attain and is going to make a huge difference.

The only reason that this is challenging is because of the power that the existing structure has to prevent any change. Our current model is to the benefit of a few who will pay a lot of money to keep it the way it is.

What about the other objections people raise? One of the strangest to me is that the technology is not nice to look at. For one thing, what is more important? The future of the planet or the color of your roof? Another thing, the methods of getting fossil fuels are a lot less pretty. solar_vs_fossil_fuels

Ok, so you don’t want solar panels or wind turbines in your backyard and you are willing to pay for the line loss. There are other possibilities too.

Or you could just use your clear windows! There are many projects out there, big and small.

In fact keeping energy production closer to home can solve lots of problems. As far as I can tell the main reason that we are currently using large wind and solar farms rather than investing more in at-home systems is because the power companies still get their cut this way.

Ok, what about those job losses we hear so much about? Renewables create more jobs than it replaces.

A few more arguments that are worth discussing.

Ok, so this is more like a list of outside info than a real post, but seriously, the information is out there. I don’t need to repeat it.

Kindness

I am a kind person, I do my best. In the face of the evils of the world I genuinely believe that we need more kind people. There are so many people in the world who need that kindness.

At other hotels, where less than once a year someone would come in just to be indoors, I would let them spend some time in the lobby to warm up, maybe have some coffee. It wasn’t a problem. I met some very interesting people doing this, but not once was I frightened by them, or felt like I was being scammed.

More so at my current job than at any other I have people coming in and asking for help with things. Since it is a hotel, it’s usually a room. I am willing to work with them as much as possible within regulations. I have called over a dozen churches in the area to see if any one of them could help a homeless woman get out of the cold for a night. None of them serve that function.

I let people use the computer to make a reservation, but the other day it was on a bad card and they had an elaborate facade of getting someone else to pay for the room. I know they are locals and I have to add them to my mental list of people I cannot trust. *Since initially writing this, one of the women returned and did have someone to pay for the room. I was obviously skeptical, and made her wait outside, but everything is sorted out. I kinda needed that to restore a bit of faith in humanity*

People come in and try to eat the condiments that are left out for breakfast and drink the coffee. I know that if they need to do this there is a reason, but I also know that if I let them, not only will they be back, but so will others. Once a year for someone passing through town is very different than every day for several locals.

Over and over again I am reminded of why people are unkind to others. We have had people use counterfeit money. People smoke in the rooms several times a week, even though we are a non-smoking hotel. We charge $250 cleaning fee, and the same people return, thinking they will get away with it this time. I have had many people use elaborate stories to buy time in the lobby for different reasons. Many of these stories end up screwing the hotel. I have had many people try to scam us.

While I am kind, I am not stupid. One woman stayed in the lobby for more than 8 hours trying to get hotels.com to get her reservation straight. I did what I could to help her, but of course I could not let her into a room without payment. When I left, I told the next shift to make sure that the hotel received payment before giving her a key. The next day I found out that the girl had just checked in the woman with no payment. At the time I thought that the woman was genuine and had gotten lucky with the other girl. A few months later the same woman came back with the same story.

I find myself more and more skeptical of people, and it hurts. I do find that my instincts are usually right, but I often choose to be kind until I know for sure. I probably end up with more problems as a result, but I hope that by doing so, I can help more people who truly need it. I know that when people see my kindness they know that they can push the limits more, and that is not good for me, or the business I represent.maxresdefault

I do my best to thin out those who are up to no good from those who are genuine. For every bogus story that I hear, I have heard the story in truth once before. I know that there is a fine line between doing things because they need to be done and needing something done and using excuses. Even the people who try these simple scams do it for a reason. Something about the world has made them think that either they need to lie to get what they need or that lying gets them better results. I will tell you that lying is not serving them better than telling the truth. These people get kicked out of here and other businesses a lot. They need a way to get what they need without the lies. I need a legitimate place to send people who are in this predicament. I hate having no recourse but sending them back on the street. I hate that being kind means being taken advantage of. I hate that the media has made these people into monsters.

I have lots of ideas that might help, but they all need a source of funding. Most are the thoughts of an idealist that rely on the idea of ‘Pay it Forward’ actually working. I know that it has worked in some industries, but I am still skeptical about it working as an economic model on a large scale or over the long-term.

In the end, I am more willing to do what I can to find someone a job than to give them money. I could provide the homeless with an address, a haircut, a shower, photo id, and a reference. I would even like to provide temporary housing until they could get on their feet again, maybe job training too. The job market does not look kindly on long-term unemployment and this would likely by where my idea falls apart. In theory, once the person was able to move out they would, and would re-pay us over time. I do think that treating it as credit would result in more of these people disappearing before we were able to collect anything from them, whereas allowing them to donate to us to help another person in the future would work better.

give-a-man-a-fish-and

Fear & Trust

Once upon a time people knew everyone they came into contact with on a regular basis. When a stranger came to town everyone knew about it and was full of curiosity. That stranger was alienated by a sense of otherness, and could cause problems, but they were so outnumbered by the locals that it was not likely.

As cities grew larger people grew into small groups of trust, and people who were up to no good had the ability to blend in and hide. Bandits could come into town, work their mischief and leave as quickly as they had arrived. On the other side, locals could scam people, but if they tried to scam other locals they would probably be caught, and so most choose to prey on people passing through town or skip the scam and go the sneakier burglary  /pickpocket route.

As transportation has become easier, strangers are more common, and are largely ignored. In large cities no-one even knows who is local and who is not. Small towns seem to exist largely due to the tourism industry, and so strangers are just a part of everyday life.

Most people have just accepted this status quo of not knowing who is nearby. We routinely lock our homes and automobiles, women carry pepper spray to protect themselves, and we choose to live under the watchful eye of video surveillance systems to keep others in check.

Why do we, especially Americans, do this? We have been told so many times that the world is out to get us that we believe it. On the news we hear stories about people who were trusted with something taking advantage of, or just generally not deserving that trust. We hear stories of the time that a child was left in the day care’s van after a field trip and left to die, we hear stories of people’s lives being torn apart as the result of a burglary, and we hear about people being massacred on a public street. These are terrible things, and we should be aware of them.

The problem is that these are the only stories we hear. We do not get to hear the stories about a nurse who spends her time off the clock reading to coma patients, we do not hear the stories about the homeless man who picks up garbage in the neighborhood for free every day, or the bank manager who knowingly sets his own wages less than his employees and sets raises based on personal situations rather than work ethic.

We have been conditioned to think the worst of everyone around us. Fear is used for advertising everything from mouth wash to legal policies. It is also perpetuated by laws that hold the homeowner responsible for injuries on their property, even when the person is not supposed to be there. Many tales have been told of robbers who successfully sued the homeowner for injury, even if the robber themselves broke the window that injured them. In some countries homeowners insurance covers break-ins even if the front door was unlocked.

So how can we trust anyone? The short answer is we can’t. But as social beings who need human interaction, we balance risk and reward. We go to school, work, shopping malls, etc even though we know about the massacres that have happened in these places. Our experience tells us that these are very rare, and we take that risk. In fact we scorn the people unwilling to take that risk as insane.

As we meet people and make new friends we do develop a level of trust, but deep down we know that there is no way to know what they do behind our backs. This is part of what causes so many paternity suits and why we have structures built up to keep businesses accountable.

Today a movement known as the ‘sharing economy’ has been making an appearance. This is still largely a fringe movement, but some things have become mainstream, like eBay. In the beginning this was a very risky way to purchase or sell things. The product might not be what was advertised, or even exist at all. The payment may never arrive, and the seller had no recourse. Policies have been enacted since then that hold both parties responsible and protect them from the possibility of things going wrong.

Craigslist is still very basic. When using craigslist the risk is still a part of the user experience and something to be wary of. The company has published tips on how each party can protect themselves, but does not vet participants in any way, no reviews, or much in the way of account creation. They have chosen to welcome newcomers as equals rather than to embrace those who are in it for the long haul.

Both of these examples are largely just a way to facilitate a single transaction. Craigslist encourages in person exchanges, while eBay requires no face-to-face interaction. Other examples of this ‘sharing economy’ are just coming into the market. These range from renting out rooms in your home to hooking up for the evening or going out to eat at an aspiring chef’s home. These examples have followed eBay’s example to assist the users in trusting the other party. This allows participants a way to engage in activities that would normally be considered very risky with less fear. That is good thing, but some have also been accused of deleting negative reviews in the hopes of creating a positive public perception. There is also the issue of being held accountable for those reviews and not wanting to criticize a nice person.

I see this movement as a good thing as a whole. We need to find a way to trust again. Even if that trust is supported by a business structure. Anyone who has walked down a public street in New York knows that of the thousands of people we may come into contact with on a given day, we avoid 99% of them. Even those we do interact with, like cashiers, we cannot fully trust.

This is also a great way for people with similar interests to meet up and make friends. Even something as mundane as ride-sharing can lead to a lifelong friendship, especially if both parties are put at ease enough to open up.

As someone who works in customer service, I also see the potential, if this type of economy really took off, of the weeding out of the bad apples leading to public businesses, who have no way to review guests, having to deal with only those left out of the sharing economy. This means that since businesses are the only ones held accountable , they are forced to stretch themselves more and more to accommodate, and keep happy, worse and worse customers.

But is that really a bad thing? I could replace my income by renting out rooms and giving people rides, so long as I was a trustworthy person. I could use those services from other trustworthy people, creating a parallel, better, more transparent, economy. This would encourage people to be trustworthy, and so able to use this economy where people share the things that they value, adding value to the economy as a whole, without the need for more products. The economy of those who are deemed unworthy would be unsustainable, and self-punish those forced to use it. I honestly believe that most people are good. Even more so when being bad is not rewarded.

By supporting people who share only what they personally have, rather than those who have more than they need, this also creates a more equitable system. It could return the balance of power to the individual instead of the corporation, but only if you trust the corporation to properly vet the individuals.