If it’s Not One Thing, it’s Ten Thousand Others

Is it just me, or is it just a thing that right when you think calm in life is right around the corner life comes up and smacks you upside the head?

Cuz that prettymuch sums up my life. And it can never wait until you are actually done. The snack always comes when you are close enough to completion that you are looking forward to the after party. You are starting to consider what the next thing you need to tackle is on your to-do list that is as long as your phone can handle a list to be, and a few extras that you keep forgetting every time you try to write them down.

So this time… my mom was working on the the finishing touches for the catalog of my grandfather’s paintings and other art works. I was working on fixing the glass at the front of the gallery. (More on that when I get it done.) Suffice to say say I was only one day away, the next project was lined up, and that one had a deadline.

Big had a fever overnight for a few nights, but was fine during the day. I was gonna send him to school and pull him out for his dentist appointment, but something told me not to send him in at all. His fever had made him a little more restless the night before, so I let him stay. We went to the dentist, everything went fine, and was so fast that that we had time to get to reading time at the library, so we did. I let the kids play for awhile after as usual. When we got into the car, Little was protesting the seatbelt, and I happened to see Big’s hands.

Sorry it’s such a bad picture, but he had little blisters all over his hands and feet. I figured it was chicken pox. He has had the shot, but sometimes kids can still get it, but it’s not as bad. I decided to postpone any other errands, and head home. I did have to stop at the school to pick up his folder. I called the school to see if someone could bring it out so he didn’t have to go inside. But the they couldn’t. I’m glad I stopped by. The secretary had told the nurse, and she was able to look at him. I was told that it looked like hand foot and mouth disease. I had never heard of that, but was very glad to have the information. I called the library and let them know so they could clean the toys he was playing with.

Long story short, that’s what the doctor said it was when we went in the next day. Since then we have been scrambling trying to get the kids to limit the things they touch around the house.

And my grandmother is 84. My two kids an and I had been sitting on her bed the day before the sores appeared. My kids have not been in the gallery since. We cannot have her get sick.

This has been an extra challenge because that next project I mentioned earlier was cleaning out the yard at the gallery. The yard had gotten out of control due to long term health problems taking precedence for several years. The urgent things were being dealt with, but anything that could be put off was.

So my mother and I brought the kids down and had them play in a clean area while we gathered scrap metal and garbage. This weekend was the one time when our community had set aside to collect these things and had provided dumpsters and scheduled someone to collect the scrap metal. So even though the kids are going through this thing, we had to deal with the yard this weekend. Yesterday we spent most of the day organising. We did take one load down which included a broken washing machine we had just replaced and a big water heater.

Getting the washing machine into the truck involved a hand truck (that needed the tires refilled), ramps, blocking a side road with a truck that is a challenge to drive as it was purchased with the power steering removed, chocks under the wheels since the road goes up a mountain, and a good dose of “I can’t see where I’m going as I back up this bear of a truck down the mountain.

Getting the water heater into the truck involved getting help from a passing family friend who soon felt superfluous when he realised that the women could do it by themselves. My mom let him feel helpful by going away and doing something else whilehe and I lifted the thing into the bed of the truck.

Getting the things off the truck was a whole lot more fun. Out of four trips we eventually took to drop stuff off, three of them involved me shoving giant appliances off the back of the truck with a very satisfying crash.

This has been a crazy, unpredictable week, but luckily, even though my kids are sick, they don’t seem to feel it. They are behaving like normal healthy kids, they just happen to have blisters on their hands and feet. I can complain about the crazy all day long, but at the end of the day, all that matters is that my family is doing well. Having a little fun throwing things of trucks is just bonus!

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.

Education in Finland

Much has been said of late about the amazing success of Finnish schools. In many ways they are the antithesis of U.S. schools. Everything that we have done in an effort to improve our educational system, Finland has done the opposite. To many Americans the system would seem to be counter-intuitive, but the results are a proof of concept.

Recess – In Finland students spend around one third of the day at recess. This may sound like a lot, but when you consider that this is broken up into many small breaks, it can sound more manageable. These frequent breaks make the day less monotonous for students. After each 45 minute lesson, students go outside for a 15 minute recess. This success of this routine is backed up by the science. When the human body sits for too long, the brain begins to shut down. Obviously students need their brains working at their best in order to make the time in class as effective as possible. Allowing students time to move and play gives them a chance for their brain to stay engaged in the class work.

This has also allowed the school day to be shorter. Students spend only around 4 1/2 hours in school a day. They also start school later; while publicly funded day cares are available at younger ages, mandatory school does not begin until age 7. Despite what many people might think, less class time has not had an adverse effect on education, but may be contributing to its success.

One surprise however, is that even with so much outside time, Finnish students are not getting that much more physical activity. While free play is of more value to getting students less distracted in the classroom than teacher directed play, it may be necessary to integrate some structure to prevent kids from spending this time in sedentary activities.

Testing – In Finland, student assessment is left up to individual teachers until graduation, when a single, comprehensive test is administered. This saves class time for instruction. Testing would also conflict with the intention of getting students more active. Formal testing is a stressful activity. Students free of this stress are able to get more enjoyment out of school. When you enjoy something, you are more likely to prize it, remember it, and value it.

Teaching – In Finland, being a teacher is such a lucrative career that only 1 in 10 graduate applicants are accepted for the required master’s degree program. Incomes for teachers are on par with other professionals. Teachers are a highly valued resource, and given far more respect. Teachers also have more freedom to make their own decisions for their classroom. While they are given a generalized curriculum, they are free to tailor the lessons to their students. Teachers are trusted to keep their students on track and find ways to give them the assistance and attention that they need. Students are not held back for poor performance, but are instead given special attention. This way they are not stigmatized by their peers. They are able to avoid repeating the same information, which would make anyone bored.

Administrators – Those who are in charge of making decisions about school policy are recruited from within the educational system, instead of from the outside. This means that they are largely former teachers. They understand the struggles, and they understand the students. This means that they are better equipped to make decisions that will be beneficial.

Public Funding – Rather than having funds drained into private schools, and allowing vast disparities between the education of the haves and the have-nots, Finland had only publicly funded schools. This means that anyone who has an idea has only one place to enact it, so that everyone receives the benefits. Schools do not have to compete with one another, but are encouraged to work together, as are teachers. This team mentality allows everyone to succeed, rather than only those on the winning side.

Finland has a lot that they can teach the world. The experiments that they have undertaken prove that more is not necessarily better. Having a balance is the best way to achieve success.