Reading the endless (sometimes valid) commentary about AI and lost skills, remembered that I had hit the subject from an unconventional angle in 2014. This probably belongs in the Thiel Question category. It certainly deserves a reprint.
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Heard a PSA from a union-based group trying to restore full time work to retail and other areas where corporations have been ruthlessly ‘temping’.
The ad uses Henry Ford’s famous idea that a worker should earn enough to buy the product he makes. Seems odd for unions to cite Henry, since he turned into a literal union-basher later in life … but his original idea is still wonderfully valid.
Historically, Henry wasn’t the first exponent of this notion, but he was the biggest, so I’ll use his name for convenience here. As Polistra has often noted, Social Economics was a full-scale movement. Some companies may have picked up the idea as a way to deter unions, but they soon found out that it was better for everyone. Unions couldn’t move in when workers were satisfied, and profits increased when workers felt secure.
My first thought in response to the ad: Henry figured out that you could use a man like a machine by treating him like a man. Other employers were treating men like machines, which simply doesn’t work. Didn’t work then, doesn’t work now.
Second thought: No, wait. The analogy is backwards. When you have a useful machine, how do you actually treat it? You don’t kick it out the door at the end of the day and assume that it will maintain itself. You don’t loan it out to others. You don’t throw it away the first time it makes an odd noise.
Instead, you keep it carefully in proper storage when it’s not being used. You oil it and repair it and protect it from thieves and hackers of various sorts. You want it to remain useful as long as possible.
This is the Ford secret. Treat men more like machines, and they will serve you well.
We have been bamboozled by the corporatists into seeing this form of employment as “slavery”.
In fact this form of employment is the only form that has ever worked. Maintaining your servants, feeding them, housing them, caring for them when they’re old or sick. THIS IS NORMAL through nearly all of human history, and it’s still normal in many parts of the world.
Through nearly all of human history, we’ve had two simultaneous work systems:
(1) The independent trader or craftsman, offering his wares or services. At least nominally, he has control of his life and soul and work. Before the evil invention of anti-discrimination “laws”, he could choose not to sell his wares to people who made him uncomfortable, or people who required him to sell his soul along with his work. Now, in the Age of Holder, Satan reigns supreme and you are required to sell your soul if you want to survive.
(2) Servitude. If you preferred security, or your skills weren’t appropriate for an individual craft, you became part of someone else’s household or manor. You plowed his fields or cooked his food or swept his floors, and in return he cared for you like a machine.
Employment solely for money, with no maintenance or other permanent connection, is an extremely recent invention. Sola pecunia infested Western Europe and America from 1700 to 1880. After 1880 the Ford style began to pull us back toward NORMAL employment. From 1880 to 1970 the Ford style and the Morgan style competed. (Morgan wasn’t the inventor of sola pecunia, as Ford wasn’t the inventor of Social Economics; but through this period Morgan and similar pirates bought and smashed every company that succeeded by the Ford method. So his name is also a convenient icon.)
Since 1970 the Morgan style is universal and unchallenged in the West. The Japs and Koreans picked up the Ford style when we dropped it, and unsurprisingly their employees are more loyal and effective than ours.
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Time for Polistra’s prime question.
What does Nature think?
Nature has two forms of work and payment.
(1) The souk or marketplace, with plants as the sellers and animals as the buyers. Plants advertise their wares with color and smell and flashing digital reader boards. Their wares provide real nutrition and addictive chemicals to keep the customers loyal. Animals pay by helping plants complete their sex acts, and by spreading the plant species to new locations. (It’s a bit like prostitution with the incentives reversed!)
(2) Servitude or symbiosis. In a few situations like beehives or ants keeping aphids, Nature’s servitude is identical to human servitude. More often it’s metaphorical, with microbe symbiosis like our gut bacteria or the luminous bacteria used by fish and pyrosomes.
Does nature have employment at will, with disposable employees? Nope. Not at all.
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Well then. If the Ford style means treating men like machines, what does the Morgan style mean?
Treating men like numbers.
When you use a number, you don’t keep it around. It serves you briefly as a written or imagined or digital symbol, and then it’s gone.
Not surprising that the modern Morgan-owned corporation with its infinite drive toward infinite abstraction and infinite greed prefers abstract employees. If wetware workers are unavoidable because they’re the cheapest alternative, they must be kept on the other side of the world where we don’t have to look at them. Ideally we’ll just replace them all with pure software that doesn’t need to be paid at all.
Purely unnatural. Purely evil. Purely Satan.
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