The War on Normal People — Andrew Yang

Amazon link

Basically Yang's fully fleshed out campaign manifesto, or the rationale behind it (oh yeah, he's running for President 2020, The best part is that it's more data-driven than anecdotal, and the anecdotes he does include come from his experience as an entrepreneur — he started Venture for America, but realized it wouldn't create enough jobs. Perhaps tech-pessimist in terms of the conclusions he comes to, Yang's tone is nevertheless pragmatic. Indeed, this is the startling, clarion call to overhaul the US that the country needs, not irrational backlash against threats unknown.

Problem: the people who need this book most won't find the time/interest to read it. 

Basically tech is coming for our jobs, but mostly normal people jobs, and it's not going to be creating enough jobs to replace them as the optimists claim.

Some things/stats (that I've heard on his campaign too, which doesn't dilute their significance in any way)

  • Most Americans can't cover a $500 expense

  • Fast food and trucking are going to be hardest hit by automation — that's 7 million jobs total

  • Retraining displaced workers is going to be near impossible, especially if the displaced are older and the only job opportunities are tech-related and highly competitive — think of all the new college grads

  • Unemployment rate understates low labor force participation, U-6 which includes those discouraged, quit looking, and part-time is ~2x the stated unemployment rate

  • Disability incentives are mis-aligned… if you work you'll lose your benefits

  • Video games; according to the Census, young men without college degrees have replaced 75% time spent working with video games

  • UNIVERSAL BASIC INCOME, or Yang’s Freedom Dividend: $1000/m for all Americans >18

    • US nearly had it during Nixon, passed HoR but not Senate

      • Bregman in Utopia For Realists does a good job covering how close we really were, link, and how misguided the "facts" that ended up killing the proposal were

    • Where there is data, Alaska's Oil dividend especially, people don’t use the money on drugs/alcohol, they save it

    • The idea that free money would obviate work runs counter to the conservative idea that work is "the core of human existence;" see Arthur Brook's The Conservative Heart, link


There are two completely oppositional ideas that many people seem to hold simultaneously: First, work is vital and the core of the human experience. Second, no one will want to work if they don’t have to.

By definition, none of the money would be wasted because it goes to citizens. It’s analogous to a company giving dividends or moneys to its shareholders. No one regards that as a waste of money, because the shareholders theoretically are the owners of the company. Are we not, as the citizens of the United States, the owners of this country?


Yuval Harari, the Israeli scholar, suggests that “the way we treat stupid people in the future will be the way we treat animals today.” 

One of the things that has struck me about the age of the Internet is that having the world’s information at our disposal does not seem to have made us any smarter. If anything, it’s kind of the opposite. Most of us find ourselves struggling with scarcity of time, money, empathy, attention, or bandwidth in some combination. It is one of the great perversions of automation that just when advancing technology should be creating more of a feeling of abundance for us all, it is instead activating economic insecurity in most of the population. It’s quite plausible that as steady and predictable work and income become more and more rare, our culture is becoming dumber, more impulsive, and even more racist and misogynist due to an increased bandwidth tax as people jump from island to island trying to stay one step ahead of the economic tide.

Notebook Export
The War on Normal People: The Truth about America’s Disappearing Jobs and Why Universal Basic Income Is Our Future
Andrew Yang

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I am writing from inside the tech bubble to let you know that we are coming for your jobs.
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Normal people. Seventy percent of Americans consider themselves part of the middle class. Chances are, you do, too. Right now some of the smartest people in the country are trying to figure out how to replace you with an overseas worker, a cheaper version of you, or, increasingly, a widget, software program, or robot. There’s no malice in it. The market rewards business leaders for making things more efficient. Efficiency doesn’t love normal people. It loves getting things done in the most cost-effective way possible.
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The Obama White House published a report in December 2016 that predicted 83 percent of jobs where people make less than $20 per hour will be subject to automation or replacement. Between 2.2 and 3.1 million car, bus, and truck driving jobs in the United States will be eliminated by the advent of self-driving vehicles. Read that last sentence again: we are confident that between 2 and 3 million Americans who drive vehicles for a living will lose their jobs in the next 10 to 15 years. Driving a truck is the most common occupation in 29 states.
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We must do all we can to reduce the worst effects of the Great Displacement—it should be the driving priority of corporations, government, and nonprofits for the foreseeable future. We should invest in education, job training and placement, apprenticeships, relocation, entrepreneurship, and tax incentives—anything to help make hiring and retaining workers appealing. And then we should acknowledge that, for millions of people, it’s not going to work.
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In the United States we want to believe that the market will resolve most situations. In this case, the market will not solve the problem—quite the opposite. The market is driven to reduce costs. It will look to find the cheapest way to perform tasks. The market doesn’t want to provide for unemployed truck drivers or cashiers. Uber is going to get rid of its drivers as soon as it can. Its job isn’t to hire lots of people—its job is to move customers around as efficiently as possible.
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There is really only one entity—the federal government—that can realistically reformat society in ways that will prevent large swaths of the country from becoming jobless zones of derelict buildings and broken people. Nonprofits will be at the front lines of fighting the decline, but most of their activities will be like bandages on top of an infected wound. State governments are generally hamstrung with balanced budget requirements and limited resources.
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We need to establish an updated form of capitalism—I call it Human-Centered Capitalism, or Human Capitalism for short—to amend our current version of institutional capitalism that will lead us toward ever-increasing automation accompanied by social ruin. We must make the market serve humanity rather than have humanity continue to serve the market.
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The logic of the meritocracy is leading us to ruin, because we are collectively primed to ignore the voices of the millions getting pushed into economic distress by the grinding wheels of automation and innovation. We figure they’re complaining or suffering because they’re losers. We need to break free of this logic of the marketplace before it’s too late. We must reshape and accelerate society to bring us all to higher ground. We must find new ways to organize ourselves independent of the values that the marketplace assigns to each and every one of us. We are more than the numbers on our paychecks—and we are going to have to prove it very quickly.
1. My Journey
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I remember the moment it finally sank in completely. I was reading a CNN article that detailed how automation had eliminated millions of manufacturing jobs between 2000 and 2015, four times more than globalization.
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I spent the past six years trying to address these problems by helping growth companies create jobs in different regions and training entrepreneurs. It has been my job for the past six years to create jobs. I’m about to lose—we’re all about to lose—on an epic scale. I’m now certain that the wave—the Great Displacement—is already here and is having effects bigger and faster than most anyone believes. The most pernicious thing about this wave is that you can’t really tell who it has hit as it grinds up people and communities.
2. How We Got Here
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3. Who Is Normal in America
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Take education for instance—if you are reading this, you are probably a college graduate or student and most of the people you know also graduated from college. That puts you, your friends, and your family in approximately the top third of the U.S. population.
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Think of your five best friends. The odds of them all being college graduates if you took a random sampling of Americans would be about one-third of 1 percent, or 0.0036.
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So what’s normal? The normal American did not graduate from college and doesn’t have an associate’s degree. He or she perhaps attended college for one year or graduated from high school. She or he has a net worth of approximately $36K—about $6K excluding home and vehicle equity—and lives paycheck to paycheck. She or he has less than $500 in flexible savings and minimal assets invested in the stock market. These are median statistics, with 50 percent of Americans below these levels. If you’re reading this, this probably doesn’t describe your life or those of your friends and family. It may be shocking to you that this is statistically totally normal. It’s only somewhat less surprising to me because of my travel and work these past years. When jobs start to disappear in large numbers due to technological advances, the normal American won’t have much to fall back on.
4. What We Do for a Living
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Ghost malls are an example of what I call negative infrastructure. The physical structure of a mall has immense value if there is commerce and activity within. If there isn’t, it can very quickly become a blight on a community.
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A New York Times op-ed by the economic historian Louis Hyman detailed the plight of towns in upstate New York and other places that have seen their retail sectors decline and offered some recommendations for how workers could readjust to the new economic reality: Main Street… exists, but only as a luxury consumer experience… If the answer to rural downward mobility is to turn everyone into software engineers, there is no hope… Today, for the first time, thanks to the internet, small-town America can pull back money from Wall Street (and big cities more generally). Through global freelancing platforms like Upwork, for example, rural and small-town Americans can find jobs anywhere in the world, using abilities and talents they already have. A receptionist can welcome office visitors in San Francisco from her home in New York’s Finger Lakes. Through an e-commerce website like Etsy, an Appalachian woodworker can create custom pieces and sell them anywhere in the world. This op-ed is a great summary of the general constructive thinking. It recognizes that the retail sector will shrink and happily debunks the ridiculous “let’s turn everyone into coders” idea, which is realistic for only a tiny proportion of displaced workers. If you dig into the author’s alternative suggestions for workers though, they’re equally unrealistic and could only be offered by someone who hadn’t tried any of them. Upwork primarily finds work for developers, designers, and creatives on a global scale. Asking a retail worker from small-town America to log on and get work assumes they have a skill to offer. These global platforms have people offering their services from abroad, who can price their time at as little as $4 an hour even for a college graduate. Getting work on these platforms is highly competitive, doesn’t pay very well, and carries no benefits.
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Some workers will be easier to replace than others. For instance, we all like fast food drive-thru restaurants for their efficiency and do not mind the limited human interaction. In fact, 50 to 70 percent of fast food sales take place at drive-thru windows in the United States—McDonald’s being the one that most of us know and (used to) love. There are 1–2 workers per location who take the order through the speaker—they wear those cool headsets. These workers will be replaced by software in many locations in the next five years. Publicly traded fast food chains will be among the most aggressive adopters of increased efficiencies because they have the scale, resources, and quarterly earnings pressures to maximize shareholder returns. McDonald’s just announced an “Experience of the Future” initiative that will replace cashiers in 2,500 locations to start. The former CEO of McDonald’s suggested that large-scale automation is around the corner. “It’s cheaper to buy a $35,000 robotic arm than it is to hire an employee who’s inefficient making $15 an hour bagging French fries,” he said while defending the current prevailing fast food wage of $8.90. The robot arm is only going to get cheaper and more efficient, while the fast food wage has no place to go but up. Approximately 4 million workers work in fast food.
5. Factory Workers and Truck Drivers
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More than 5 million manufacturing workers lost their jobs after 2000. More than 80 percent of the jobs lost—or 4 million jobs—were due to automation. Men make up 73 percent of manufacturing workers, so this hit working-class men particularly hard. About one in six working-age men in America is now out of the workforce, one of the highest rates among developed countries.
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Driving a truck is the most popular job in 29 states—there are 3.5 million truck drivers nationwide. Trucks that drive themselves are already rolling out around the world. Self-driving trucks successfully made deliveries in Nevada and Colorado in 2017. Rio Tinto has 73 autonomous mining trucks hauling iron ore 24 hours a day in Australia.
6. White-Collar Jobs Will Disappear, Too
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A company called Narrative Science produces thousands of earnings previews and stock updates for Forbes and recaps of sports stories for fantasy sports sites in real time. The company’s bots won’t be winning any Pulitzers in investigative reporting, but in the coming years, the quality of AI-produced writing will go from acceptable to very good—and those journalists who write routine stories like this will find their jobs increasingly at risk.
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There is a lot of repetitive functioning in what we consider high-end professional jobs—what I call intellectual manual labor. A doctor, lawyer, accountant, dentist, or pharmacist will go through years of training and then do the same thing over and over again in slightly different variations. Much of the training is to socialize us into people who can sit still for long periods and behave and operate consistently and reliably. We wear uniforms—either white coats or business suits. We are highly rewarded by the market—paid a lot—and treated with respect and deference for accruing our expertise and practice. Basically, we are trained and prepped to become more like machines. But we’ll never be as good as the real thing.
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I asked if doctors could potentially perform surgeries from remote locations. He responded, “Eventually. Right now doctors want to be nearby, and the latency of long-distance data transmission still could cause delays or lags.” Still, he agreed that robo-assisted surgery will soon open up the ability for a top surgeon to perform surgeries around the world.
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7. On Humanity and Work
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Yuval Harari in Homo Deus makes the point that our cab driver can look into the sky, contemplate the meaning of life, tear up at the sounds of an opera, and generally do a million things that a robot driver cannot. But most of those things don’t matter to us when we get into the back of the cab. Oftentimes, we’d prefer to be left alone rather than make conversation. I know I’m occasionally guilty of this.
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Are most forms of work ideal for humans? That is, if we’re not good for work, is work good for us? Voltaire wrote that “Work keeps at bay three great evils: boredom, vice, and need.” The total absence of work is demonstrably a bad thing for most people. Long-term unemployment is presently one of the most destructive things that can happen to a person—happiness levels tank and never recover. One 2010 study by a group of German researchers suggests that it’s worse over time for life satisfaction than the death of a spouse or permanent injury. “There is a loss of status, a general malaise and demoralization, which appears somatically or psychologically” with prolonged unemployment, said Ralph Catalano, a public health professor at UC Berkeley. On the other hand, most people don’t actually like their jobs. According to Gallup, only 13 percent of workers worldwide report being engaged with their jobs. The numbers are a little better in America, with 32 percent saying they were engaged with their work in 2015. Still, that means that more than two-thirds of Americans aren’t exactly skipping on their way to and from the office each day.
8. The Usual Objections
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The test is not “Will there be new jobs we haven’t predicted yet that appear?” Of course there will be. The real test is “Will there be millions of new jobs for middle-aged people with low skills and levels of education near the places they currently reside?”
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Successfully retraining large numbers of displaced workers would require a heroic number of assumptions to prove true. The government needs to be able to identify displaced workers over a range of industries and have both the resources to pay for mass retraining and the flexibility to accommodate individual situations. Each person needs to have the capacity and will to be retrained in an in-demand field. The government needs to be an effective disseminator of information to thousands of individuals in real time. The worker needs to actually learn new marketable skills from the course or school in question. Last, there need to be new employers in the region that want to hire large numbers of newly trained middle-aged workers as opposed to, say, younger workers. All of the above will hold true for some proportion of the displaced, but not for most of them. The reality is more often displaced workers spending government funds or racking up debt at the University of Phoenix or another for-profit institution in desperate bids to stay relevant and marketable.
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The U-6 unemployment rate was 8.4 percent in May 2017, almost twice the headline number. The U-6 rate is a much more revealing measurement and has ranged between 9 percent and 16 percent for the past 10 years. The unemployment rate is a terribly misleading number that we should stop relying on unless it’s accompanied by a discussion of both the rate of underemployment and the labor force participation rate.
9. Life in the Bubble
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Our national universities are effectively a talent drain on 75 percent of the country. If you’re a high achiever from, say, Wisconsin or Vermont or New Mexico and you go to Penn or Duke or Johns Hopkins, the odds are that you’ll move to New York or California or DC and your home state will never see you again.
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In his book Excellent Sheep, William Deresiewicz describes the current generation of strivers as “driven to achieve without knowing why.” And then they become paralyzed when they’re not sure how to proceed.
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You might be thinking, “Who cares if the coddled college kids are depressed?” One reason to care is that private company ownership is down more than 60 percent among 18-to 30-year-olds since 1989. The Wall Street Journal ran an article titled “Endangered Species: Young U.S. Entrepreneurs,” and millennials are on track to be the least entrepreneurial generation in modern history in terms of business formation. It turns out that depressed, indebted, risk-averse young people generally don’t start companies. This will have effects for decades to come.
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We say success in America is about hard work and character. It’s not really. Most of success today is about how good you are at certain tests and what kind of family background you have, with some exceptions sprinkled in to try to make it all seem fair. Intellect as narrowly defined by academics and test scores is now the proxy for human worth. Efficiency is close behind. Our system rewards specific talents more than anything. I got pushed forward for having certain capacities. Others had their horizons systematically lowered for having capacities that our academic system had no use for. I’ve seen countless people lose heart and feel like they should settle for less, that they don’t deserve abundance.
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People in the bubble think that the world is more orderly than it is. They overplan. They mistake smarts for judgment. They mistake smarts for character. They overvalue credentials. Head not heart. They need status and reassurance. They see risk as a bad thing. They optimize for the wrong things. They think in two years, not 20. They need other bubble people around. They get pissed off when others succeed. They think their smarts should determine their place in the world. They think ideas supersede action. They get agitated if they’re not making clear progress. They’re unhappy. They fear being wrong and looking silly. They don’t like to sell. They talk themselves out of having guts. They worship the market. They worry too much. Bubble people have their pluses and minuses like anyone else.
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Yuval Harari, the Israeli scholar, suggests that “the way we treat stupid people in the future will be the way we treat animals today.”
10. Mindsets of Scarcity and Abundance
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There’s a substantial correlation between one’s socioeconomic background and starting a successful company. A UK study found that the most common shared trait across entrepreneurs is access to money via family, an inheritance, pedigree, and/or connections. A U.S. survey found that in 2014 over 80 percent of startups were initially self-funded—that is, the founders had money and invested directly. A recent demographic study in the United States found that the majority of high-growth entrepreneurs were white (84 percent) males (72 percent) with strong educational backgrounds and high self-esteem.
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One of the things that has struck me about the age of the Internet is that having the world’s information at our disposal does not seem to have made us any smarter. If anything, it’s kind of the opposite. Most of us find ourselves struggling with scarcity of time, money, empathy, attention, or bandwidth in some combination. It is one of the great perversions of automation that just when advancing technology should be creating more of a feeling of abundance for us all, it is instead activating economic insecurity in most of the population. It’s quite plausible that as steady and predictable work and income become more and more rare, our culture is becoming dumber, more impulsive, and even more racist and misogynist due to an increased bandwidth tax as people jump from island to island trying to stay one step ahead of the economic tide.
11. Geography Is Destiny
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It may come as a surprise that Americans are now less likely to start a business, move to another region of the country, or even switch jobs now than at any time in modern history. The most apt description of our economy is the opposite of dynamic—it’s stagnant and declining.
12. Men, Women, and Children
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Young men without college degrees have replaced 75 percent of the time they used to spend working with time on the computer, mostly playing video games, according to a recent study based on the Census Bureau’s time-use surveys.
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J. D. Vance made the same observation about school being something boys were supposed to ignore: “As a child, I associated accomplishments in school with femininity. Manliness meant strength, courage, a willingness to fight, and later, success with girls. Boys who got good grades were ‘sissies’… studies now show that working-class boys like me do much worse in school because they view schoolwork as a feminine endeavor.”
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Unintended consequence of rising trend of single parent households
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13. The Permanent Shadow Class: What Displacement Looks Like
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Some of the increasing rates of disability reflect an aging population and changing demographics. But many of them represent what one expert called “economic disability.” The biggest growth categories of disability category are “mental disorders” and “musculoskeletal and connective tissue,” which together now comprise about 50 percent of disability claims, nearly double what they were 20 years ago. These diagnoses are also the hardest to independently verify for a doctor. The number of people who applied for disability benefits in 2014 was 2,485,077. On any given business day, there are 9,500 applicants. There are 1,500 disability judges around the country who administer the decisions, often without seeing the claimants. The waiting period to get a hearing is now more than 18 months in most states. To apply for disability, applicants must gather evidence from medical professionals. They compile notes from doctors, send in the information, and wait to hear back. No lawyer representing the government cross-examines them. No government doctor examines them. About 40 percent of claims are ultimately approved, either initially or on appeal. The lifetime value of a disability award is about $300K for the average recipient.
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After someone is on disability, there’s a massive disincentive to work, because if you work and show that you’re able-bodied, you lose benefits. As a result, virtually no one recovers from disability. The churn rate nationally is less than 1 percent.
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After one gets on disability, one enters a permanent shadow class of beneficiaries. Even if you start feeling better, you’re not going to risk a lifetime of benefits for a tenuous job that could disappear at any moment. And it’s likely easier to think of yourself as genuinely disabled than as someone cheating society for a monthly draw.
14. Video Games and the (Male) Meaning of Life
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As of last year, 22 percent of men between the ages of 21 and 30 with less than a bachelor’s degree reported not working at all in the previous year—up from only 9.5 percent in 2000. And there’s evidence that video games are a big reason why. According to a recent study based on the Census Bureau’s time-use surveys, young men without college degrees have replaced 75 percent of the time they used to spend working with time on the computer, mostly playing video games. From 2004 to 2007, young, unemployed men without college degrees were spending 3.4 hours per week playing video games. By 2011 to 2014, the average time spent per week had more than doubled to 8.6 hours.
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Many men have within us the man-child who’s still in that basement. The fortunate among us have left him behind, but we understand his appeal all too well. He’s still there waiting—ready to take over in case our lives fall apart.
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State paternalism? China mandating age checks
15. The Shape We’re in/Disintegration
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In his book Ages of Discord, the scholar Peter Turchin proposes a structural-demographic theory of political instability based on societies throughout history. He suggests that there are three main preconditions to revolution: (1) elite oversupply and disunity, (2) popular misery based on falling living standards, and (3) a state in fiscal crisis. He uses a host of variables to measure these conditions, including real wages, marital trends, proportion of children in two-parent households, minimum wage, wealth distribution, college tuition, average height, oversupply of lawyers, political polarization, income tax on the wealthy, visits to national monuments, trust in government, and other factors. Turchin points out that societies generally experience extended periods of integration and prosperity followed by periods of inequity, increasing misery and political instability that lead to disintegration, and that we’re in the midst of the latter. Most of the variables that he measures began trending negatively between 1965 and 1980 and are now reaching near-crisis levels. By his analysis, “the US right now has much in common with the Antebellum 1850s [before the Civil War] and, more surprisingly, with… France on the eve of the French Revolution.” He projects increased turmoil through 2020 and warns that “we are rapidly approaching a historical cusp at which American society will be particularly vulnerable to violent upheaval.”
16. The Freedom Dividend
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Today, people tend to associate universal basic income with technology utopians. But a form of UBI almost became law in the United States in 1970 and 1971, passing the House of Representatives twice before stalling in the Senate.
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A VAT would result in slightly higher prices. But technological advancement would continue to drive down the cost of most things. And with the backdrop of a universal basic income of $12,000, the only way a VAT of 10 percent makes you worse off is if you consume more than $120,000 in goods and services per year, which means you’re doing fine and are likely at the top of the income distribution.
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The hedge fund billionaire who spends $10 million a year on private jets and fancy cars will pay $1 million into the system and receive $12,000. The single mom will pay about $2,500 and receive $12,000, and will also have the peace of mind that her child will start receiving $1,000 a month when he or she graduates from high school.
17. Universal Basic Income in the Real World
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In 1995, a group of researchers began tracking the personalities of 1,420 low-income children in North Carolina. Then, something unexpected happened—25 percent of their families started receiving $4,000 per person. They were Cherokee Indians, and a casino had just been built nearby, with earnings flowing to tribal members. This development turned into a research treasure trove. “It would be almost impossible to replicate this kind of longitudinal study,” said Randall Akee, an economics professor at UCLA. Akee found that the impact of the extra cash actually impacted the children’s personalities over the years. Behavioral and emotional disorders went down. Two personality traits became more pronounced—conscientiousness and agreeableness. Both correlate strongly with holding a job and maintaining a steady relationship. These changes were most significant among children who started out the most deficient.
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By definition, none of the money would be wasted because it goes to citizens. It’s analogous to a company giving dividends or moneys to its shareholders. No one regards that as a waste of money, because the shareholders theoretically are the owners of the company. Are we not, as the citizens of the United States, the owners of this country?
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There are two completely oppositional ideas that many people seem to hold simultaneously: First, work is vital and the core of the human experience. Second, no one will want to work if they don’t have to.
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“People will spend the money on stupid things, like drugs and alcohol.” The data doesn’t show this. In every basic income study, there has been no increase in drug and alcohol use. If anything, an improved sense of the future motivates people to figure out a plan for how to improve their lot. For example, many people in Alaska save a significant chunk of their oil dividend each year.
18. Time as the New Money
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Perhaps most crucially, endless new businesses would form. If you are in a town of 5,000 people in Missouri and everyone is struggling to get by, starting, say, a bakery may not be that attractive. But with a UBI, there will be an additional $60 million being spent in that town next year. You personally will have an income to fall back on if the bakery doesn’t work out. Now, the bakery may strike you as a great idea. Getting your friends and family excited about it would be a lot easier, too. This would play out over and over again throughout the economy, resulting in millions of new jobs—4.7 million according to the Roosevelt Institute’s analysis.
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Maybe you smirked in disbelief at my concept of Social Credits, but this scenario is based on a system currently in use in about 200 communities around the United States called time banking. Time banking is a system through which people trade time and build credits within communities by performing various helpful tasks—transporting an item, walking a dog, cleaning up a yard, cooking a meal, providing a ride to the doctor, and so on. The idea was championed in the mid-1990s in the United States by Edgar Cahn, a law professor and antipoverty activist as a way to strengthen communities. For example, in Brattleboro, Vermont, today, 315 members of the local time bank have exchanged 64,000 hours of mutual work over the past eight years.
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Some might ask, “Why create a new digital currency instead of just using dollars?” First, people will respond to points in a different way than they would if they were paid very low monetary amounts. If you tell me I’m getting $2 to do something, I may ignore it. But if it’s 200 points, I’ll find it strangely compelling. People right now spend countless hours becoming Yelp Elite, King Wazers, Mayors on Foursquare, Google Local Guides, and other online equivalents based upon points and social rewards. Second, everyone will feel much more open and comfortable sharing balances if it’s a new social currency. You want people to advertise and reinforce their behavior. Behavior is much more likely to be reinforced if it’s social and recognized. That’s one reason why people are more likely to lose weight or achieve fitness goals when they are part of a group effort. Third, by creating a new currency, the government could essentially induce billions of dollars of positive social activity without having to spend nearly that amount.
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Heck, DSCs could become cooler than dollars, because you could advertise how much you have and it’s socially acceptable. If you wanted to spur adoption, you could target various rewards and campaigns toward particular demographics and areas; things done for people with lower levels of DSCs could count for extra.
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Tech for good
21. Health Care in a World without Jobs
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Though some schools say they are trying to identify applicants who display various personal traits, we’re still talking about 21,030 people per year who studied science and did well on the MCAT attending med school, which is a very restricted group of people. Martin Ford, the author of Rise of the Robots, suggests that we create a new class of health care provider armed with AI—college graduates or master’s students unburdened by additional years of costly specialization, who would nonetheless be equipped to head out to rural areas. They could help people monitor chronic conditions like obesity and diabetes and refer particularly hairy problems to more experienced doctors. Call them primary care specialists. AI will soon be at a point where technology, in conjunction with a non-doctor, could offer the same quality of care as a doctor in the vast majority of cases. In one study, IBM’s Watson made the same recommendation as human doctors did in 99 percent of 1,000 medical cases and made suggestions human doctors missed in 30 percent of them.
22. Building People
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The United States is one of only four out of 196 countries in the world—and the only industrialized country—that does not have federally mandated time off from work for new mothers. The other three are Lesotho, Swaziland, and Papua New Guinea—not exactly a list of world beaters.
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It’s not that professors are getting paid more. It’s not even all the new buildings and facilities. It’s that universities have become more bureaucratic and added layers of administrators. According to the Department of Education and Bloomberg, administrative positions at colleges and universities grew by 60 percent between 1993 and 2009, 10 times the rate of tenured faculty positions during the same period. An analysis of a university system in California showed a 221 percent increase in administrators over a multiyear period even as the number of full-time faculty members only grew 5 percent. One report observed that “America’s universities now have more full-time employees devoted to administration than to instruction, research and service combined.”
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Podcast ?
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Brit Kirwan, the former chancellor of the University of Maryland, said, “If some foreign power wanted to diminish higher education in America, they would have created the U.S. News and World Report rankings. You need both more college graduates in the economy and you need many more low-income students getting the benefit of higher education—and U.S. News and World Report has metrics that work directly in opposition to accomplishing those two things.” It’s insane that the rankings of a single publication shape the behavior and policies of dozens of billion-dollar organizations against the public interest.
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Perhaps the most interesting application of technology in college education is the Minerva Project, a startup university now entering its fifth year.
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There’s a very popular notion out there that ideas change the world. That’s wrong. People change the world. People making commitments and sacrifices and doing something about the forces that are tearing our society apart. Whom do we serve, Humanity or the Market? Are we the opiated masses, the elites in our enclaves, careening toward a conjoined bleak destiny that we are powerless to stop?