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Published: January 1, 2019 (5 years 3 months ago.)
Tags:  Oligarchy · Psyop

designates my notes. / designates important.


I found this book interesting if not insightful. My Yang claims to be of the elite class. While I can’t say for sure, I would doubt this greatly. Does he have substation, read: millions, in the bank? Possibly, probably even, but he is in no way a true elite in the string-pulling-oligarchical-deep-state sense. At best I’d say he is a welcome water-carrier for the real elite in promoting what boils down to communism. Still, his opinions do give a glimpse into some of the upper classes’ view on the future of things like jobs and currency.

The continually book espouses, not unjustly, the merits of artificial intelligence. All in all I would say his view is reasonable. While A.I. isn’t going to take over, ala Mr. Musk’s terminators, it is going to slowly phase out workers and be a continually growing stress on our modern economic systems. One example he gives of how far A.I. has come is the A.I. symphony “Adsum” by Iamus.

Overall I agree with the problems put forth in the book, but all in all there are no solutions proposed. Worse, there are outright contradictions. We need people that can take care of themselves, Yang says. Then the next sentence: we need to government to step in and take care of the people. Which is it? Clearly I would say the former, but I suspect the author would prefer the latter.

The silver lining is that Yang at least sees opioid addiction, suicide, divorce, reduced childbirth, etc as economically driven. I’ll give him that. His ‘solution’? Wealth redistribution, if not outright communism, and more socially appropriate technology.

There is no consideration of the fact that when people don’t have money, no matter how much tech and AI there is, business will go under. This will (as I personally hope) lead to a death spiral and essentially force first: an nation/global conversation between what adults may be left and second: some sort of solutions.

Yang talks about social credits, digital even, that can create a parallel economy. This seems to be nothing more than digital dollars, read: bitcoin, but the big change is that they will be called social and people will be expected to brag about how many they have. Somehow this new economy will work better than the dollar based one, even though it will essentially function isomorphically.

One of the more “interesting” proclamations in the book is that there has been no inflation for the last 10 years and no nominal change in car prices since the 70s!

The average wage in 1970s USA was a bit over $9,000. Rent? $108. A gallon of gasoline? $0.36.

Car prices?

Overall the entire book seems woo-woo to me. He makes claims like, we need to change xyz, but gives no real path to get there. Actually there is one path he like, more government intervention.

He claims (and I agree here) that our school system is failing us. He points out that the top universities are essentially hedge funds that happen to have schools attached (much like GM is a now bank with a car manufacturer attached). This I also agree with. His solution: tax them! Actually I don’t completely disagree with this. These schools, like many of the modern churches, should not be tax exempt. Still, I don’t think taxing these relatively few universities (and a possibly large amount of churches) are what the solution would really look like. Where is the mention of anything like a consumption tax?

He claims that doctors are the reason for out of control health care, but fails to even mention insurance companies (another name for a bank). It is hard to take him seriously when he misses such obvious (not necessarily root) causes.

At least he admits that, after the jobs start getting seriously reduced, we can’t all be coders.

What I find almost infuriating is that there is no mention of a simple life. Underneath each argument is always an undefined, implied material based that is the foundation of a ‘better’ life. How many people would be quite willing to live on a smaller, but regular, income provided they would have more time to spend with loved one? Why do we insist on the 40 hour work week? Why do we equate merit to hours worked or dollars gained? While I don’t claim to have answers, these, and more, are probably questions that should be asked before we start mucking around with solutions to problems we don’t even understand. At the risk of sounding hippy-dippy, shouldn’t we work out what we want before we even think about how we’ll get it?

Oh, and another, seemingly obvious thing, the most insane idea ever(TM), is never mentioned: cut spending.

Exceptional Excerpts

We tend to use the stock market’s performance as a shorthand indicator of national well-being. However, the median level of stock market investment is close to zero. Only 52 percent of Americans own any stock through a stock mutual fund or a self-directed 401(k) or IRA, and the bottom 80 percent of Americans own only 8 percent of all stocks. Yes, the top 20 percent own 92 percent of stock market holdings.

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.

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 anddeference 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.

A Pew research study showed that many men are foregoing or delaying marriage because they do not feel financially secure. The same study said that, for women, having a steady job was the single biggest factor they were looking for in a spouse.

In 2015, husband-and-wife economic researchers Anne Case and Angus Deaton found that mortality rates had increased sharply and steadily for middle-aged white Americans after 1999, going up 0.5 percent per year. They figured they must have made a mistake—it’s more or less unheard of in a developed country to have life expectancy go down for any group for more than a momentary blip. Said Deaton: “[W]e thought it must be wrong… we just couldn’t believe that this could have happened, or that if it had, someone else must have already noticed.”

As it turns out, yes, it had happened, and yes, no one had noticed. As Case and Deaton found, suicides were way up. Overdoses from prescription drugs were much higher. Alcoholic liver disease was commonplace.

Case and Deaton point the finger at jobs. Deaton explained, “[J]obs have slowly crumbled away and many more men are finding themselves in a much more hostile labor market with lower wages, lower quality and less permanent jobs. That’s made it harder for them to get married. They don’t get to know their own kids. There’s a lot of social dysfunction building up over time. There’s a sense that these people have lost this sense of status and belonging… these are classic preconditions for suicide.” They noted that the higher mortality rates and deaths of despair applied equally to middle-aged men and women in their study, though men experience these at much higher levels.

People need to take care of themselves = The government should take care of the people.

economist Simon Kuznets, upon introducing the concept of GDP to Congress in 1934, remarked that “economic welfare cannot be adequately measured unless the personal distribution of income is known. And no income measurement undertakes to estimate the reverse side of income, that is, the intensity and unpleasantness of effort going into the earning of income. The welfare of a nation can, therefore, scarcely be inferred from a measurement of national income as defined above.” It’s almost like he saw income inequality and bad jobs coming.

At the high end, universities are spending a lot of money on making more money. In 2015, a law professor pointed out that Yale spent more the previous year on private equity managers managing its endowment $480 million—than it spent on tuition assistance, fellowships, and prizes for students—$170 million. This led Malcolm Gladwell to joke that Yale was a $24 billion hedge fund with a university attached to it, and that it should dump its legacy business.

Table of Contents

· Introduction

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Part 1: What’s Happening to Jobs?

· 01: My Journey

· 02: How We Got Here

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· 03: Who is Normal in America

page 31:

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· 04: What We Do For a Living

page 43:

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· 05: Factory Workers and Truck Drivers

· 06: White-Collar Jobs Will Disappear, Too

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· 07: On Humanity and Work

page 68:

· 08: The Usual Objections

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Part 2: What’s Happening to Us?

· 09: Life in the Bubble

page 90:

page 97:

· 10: Mindsets of Scarcity and Abundance

page 103:

· 11: Geography is Destiny

page 108:

· 12: Men, Women, and Children

page 115:

· 13: The Permanent Shadow Class: What Displacement Looks Like

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· 14: Video Games and the (Male) Meaning of Life

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· 15: The Shape We’re In / Disintegration

Part 3: Solutions and Human Capital

· 16: The Freedom Dividend

page 147:

· 17: Universal Basic Income in the Real World

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· 18: Time as the New Money

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· 19: Human Capitalism

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· 20: The Strong State and the New Citizenship

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· 21: Health Care in a World Without Jobs

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· 22: Building People

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· Conclusion