Vin Crosbie's Personal Blog

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The Oncoming Labor Storm

Courtesy: the South China Morning Post.
(Photo courtesy of the South China Morning Post)

The rise of ‘right-wing’ politicians in post-industrial countries — politicians such as Donald Trump of the United States of America, Marie Le Pen of France, the late Jörg Haider and his successors in Austria, and others, and similar movements, such as the Tea Party movement in the U.S. — are only the beginning of what will probably be a 20 to 50 years of reactionary protests as major countries (indeed, all countries eventually) now transition from the Industrial Era into the Informational Era. The 2020’s will likely be a particularly tumultuous decade.

The Informational Era denotes a period in human history when most economies are based upon performing services rather than manufacturing products. The U.S. have now entered that period and become ‘post-industrial’. Part of that transition has involved low-skilled manufacturing and industrial jobs (such as manufacturing thread or clothing, electronic devices, or simple furnitures and supplies)  migrating to other countries where lower wages are paid. That part of the transition has been occuring during the past 40 to 50 years. However, another major and often overlooked part of this transition from Industrial to Informational involves robotics. For examples, very many manufacturing jobs in the U.S. have been replaced by robotics. An industrial robot controlled by someone who has a master’s degree in engineering can replace anywhere from several to a dozen or more manual laborers. These machines pay for themselves in only a few years. This revolution in robotic has transformed manufacturing in many countries. Hundreds of thousands, perhaps more than a million, industrial jobs in the U.S. have been lost due to robotics replacing workers, yet industrial manufacturing output in the U.S. has risen to record levels, exceeding output during the Industrial Era. Another reason why this new era is being called Informational is that technology has developed machines that can now use information (i.e, their programming) to create actual products in ways light years beyond what the simple Industrial Era mechanical loom could do.

Moreover, that robotics revolution has begun to invade those countries were industrial jobs have migrated due to low wages.  Earlier this year, the South China Morning Post of Hong Kong reported that one factory in China’s Jiangsu province used robots to replace 60,000 workers, and that 600 other companies in that province were drafting similar restructuring plans. In Taiwan, Foxconn, which manufacturers computer products for Apple, has spent a total of $500 million on robotics, likewise replacing 60,000 employees with robots. As the pace of technology makes these manufacturing robots more advanced and less expensive, this robotics revolution will continue.

Right-wing politicians in post-industrial countries make the false claim that they can restore manufacturing jobs in their countries. Their claims are false because no employer will willingly rehired industrial workers when robotic equipment can manufacturer the same goods better for less costs. Nevertheless, these false claims by right-wing politicians fan the hopes of now unemployed industrial workers who yearn for the way things used to be, notably their former paychecks.

So, what happens in the world’s countries once more and more industrial workers are unemployed by robotics? For instance, what happens once 50 million to 100 milion Chinese workers become unemployed due to robotics?  Will the Chinese Communist Party be able to continue its control over that many sidelined workers? How much more seductive will the right-wing’s continued false promises of a return to full industrial employment in Western countries be?

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Technology Review examined these issues earlier this year in a series of essays whch are worth reading. The transition from the Agricultural Era into the Industrial Era 250 to 150 years ago (date depending upon country) caused massive societal, civic, political, and labor problems. We’ve again are in such a transition.

Although I won’t belabor you with it, I was recently reading an essay in the London Review of Books in which the term ‘post-capitalist’ society was used. It was remarkable because it didn’t use that term in a a Marxist sense, as it might have been used in the 20th Century. It instead used the term ‘post-capitalist’ to mean post-industrial societies in which the employment problems of this epochal transtion from Industrial Era to Informational Era have been solved. Under pure capitalism, it is unlikely that factory owners will want to pay for retraining the workers who the introduction of robotics has unemployed. Yet no efficient society can nominally have huge numbers of unemployed people or, better put, unpaid people. How nations deal with this transition will be one of the major challenges of the 21st Century.

25 July 2016

Late July and early August are slow times for me. My consulting practices slows down as clients in the northern hemisphere go on holiday plus I’m on summer holiday from teaching my New Media Business course at Syracuse University’s graduate school (although I annually during August update its eight-year old syllabus for the latest changes and developments in media business).  So, in my spare time, I’m doing cooking and drinking (no, not that type of drinking!)

I mention new media, which is all technology-based, and cooking because even the later subject is being changed by technology. I’m not talking about molecular cooking or other esoteric cuisines, but about even such things as simple as outdoor grilling.  Consider the robotic BratWurst Bot, presented at the Stallwächter Party 2016 summer political festival in Berlin where it perfectly cooked more than 200 sausages autonomously. People grilling meats outdoors is neolithic, which you might says means somewhat traditional. On a nice, sunny, summer day, however, I wouldn’t mind having one of these contraption—provided it came with an option that also automatically serves German beers!

While on the subject of drinking, the BBC has collected nine famous drinking quotes from Ernest Hemingway.

Beans, I say. This past weekend, The New York Times published an excellent guide to cooking beans.

By the way, if you get a chance, check out how Humanitas, a retirement home in Deventer, the Netherlands, provides the elderly with the care and social interaction that they need to remain physically and psychologically healthy, by providing free lodging in the retirement home for six students who spend at least 30 hours a month with the 160 elderly residents living there, helping the elderly whether prepare their meals, shopping with them, or teaching them to use computers or even paint street art! Great video about it at this website.

Am listening today, via YouTube, to ElectroHouseBangers‘ 



Bucolic Connecticut

Weir Farm Historic Site

My native state of Connecticut lacks high mountains and grand canyons, but its scenic wealth is its lush and gently rolling forests and small farms. That is what attracted most of the American Impressionist landscape painters to it a century ago. The tiny state has been one national park, the Weir Farm National Historic Site in the town of Wilton. It’s the 60-acre former home of artist J. Alden Weir (1852-1919), formerly of New York City, who owned homes here and 90 miles (145 km) east across Connecticut in my native town of Windham. Other late 19th Century and early 20th Century American Impressionists, such as  Childe Hassam, Albert Pinkham Ryder, John Singer Sargent, and John Twachtman, also visited Weir and painted here. Weir’s landscapes hang in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., and many other museums. My sister-in-law and I’m are fortunate to have inherited two Weir landscapes, one of which the artist apparently gave to my great-grandfather a century ago. Earlier this month while visiting Weir Farm, about 45 minutes from where I now live in Connecticut, I decided to ‘channel’ Weir’s vision through my digital single-lense reflex camera.

Where The Sun Doesn’t Rise In The East Nor Set In the West


Propagandists frequently fool people by focusing them on a point of data that doesn’t represent the whole of the data and claiming that this exceptional point of represent the whole of the data.

The graphic at left is an example. The graphic states that the state of Vermont, which does not require the licensing of its citizens’ firearms, has the third-lowest crime rate in the United States.

That statement is largely true: Vermont does not require the licensing of its citizen’s firearms. And Vermont has a low crime rate compared to the other 49 U.S. states (for example, it had the 15th lowest gun homicide rate during 2013).

The graphic attempts to convince people that not requiring permits or licenses to own firearms—in other words, looser laws about gun control—results in fewer crimes. It infers that looser gun laws anywhere equal less crimes of any kind.

The rural state of Vermont (largest city: 42,417 people; second largest city: 17,904 people) does indeed have a low crime rate. However, the whole data about crime in the U.S.—in other words, the data for all 50 U.S. states—shows the opposite correlation between gun laws and crime. That data shows that Vermont is a rare exception to what’s overall true.

The table below list each U.S. state, it’s rate of gun-related deaths, and how strict (blue) or loose (grey) its gun laws are. This overall data shows a direct correlation—more strict gun control laws equal less gun-related deaths and safer citizens. (For another example of such overall data, see Harvard University’s conclusions about multiple scientific studies by it and other universities that study public health and crime—neutral studies that weren’t funded by either the gun lobby or by anti-gun advocates.)

It’s easy for propagandists to cherry-pick an outlying data point—something that is actually an exception to the overall rule (such the low crime rate in Vermont, an exceptionally rural and sparsely populated state)—from which they will then attempt to infer a false conclusion. Such propaganda will probably fool people who don’t think to look at the overall data or who simply want the false overall conclusion to be true.

Such exceptions can be found in almost any set of data, even data in which most people would never expect there to be any exceptions. For example, everyone knows and understands that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west. However, there are actually two places on Earth where that is not true (see beneath the table below for the answers where). Yet does the existence of those two exceptional places mean that people can’t rely on the sun rising in the east and setting in the west? Of course not. Don’t be fooled by propagandists cherry-picking data.


By the way, where are the two places on Earth where the sun doesn’t rise in the east nor set in the west? The North Pole (where the sun is always exactly south, rising due south and setting due south) and the South Pole (where the sun is always exactly north, rising due north and setting due the north).