Beware of the Lotos-eaters
In the story of the Odyssey, Ulysses encounters the island of the Lotos-eaters. Depending on the version of the story, they eat Lotos fruits or flowers, which induce a sleepy, contented, apathetic stupor. Ulysses’ crew who ate the Lotos lost interest in returning home, or even back to their ship to report to him.
Nobody’s sure what a Lotos was because the word (and the latinized variation “Lotus”) are used for any of several different plants. My guess is that the story was inspired by several plants amalgamated into one: perhaps the blue waterlily of the Nile, Nymphaea caerulea, which contains psychotropic compounds, the sweet fruit of the Lote tree, and the fruit of Carob.
I don’t read the Guardian; no attention to spare for Trotskyite nonsense, but someone I do follow did the work of sorting through the rubbish to find this, which at least is relevant:
by 2050 a new class of people might emerge – the useless class. People who are not just unemployed, but unemployable.
The same technology that renders humans useless might also make it feasible to feed and support the unemployable masses through some scheme of universal basic income.
One answer might be computer games. Economically redundant people might spend increasing amounts of time within 3D virtual reality worlds, which would provide them with far more excitement and emotional engagement than the “real world” outside.
I don’t think it will take until 2050; we’ve already got a high ratio of unemployed and under-employed college graduates.
I am skeptical of the Universal Basic Income on all counts. It hasn’t shown up yet and I don’t know that it ever will. If it does, it will undoubtedly cause all sorts of problems. Lotos-eaters lost in virtual reality are the least of my worries; I’m more concerned about young adults with no life-purpose, no ethical training, and lots of time on their hands.
I am concerned about the prospects of proliferation of net consumers (versus net producers), that some of them are hostile as is already noticeable in North America and Europe, and that the parasites will turn violent when the handouts run out.
People who have to be taken care of having the right to vote is a moral hazard we already have, and maybe it will get much worse. Someone else suggested that a precondition for receiving UBI is to give up your right to vote. Whether or not they’ll be allowed to vote, they’d still presumably have plenty of free time to donate to political causes, or in other words, make trouble for the rest of us.
Yet one more concern is that those who continue working will feel unrewarded, even abused and taken for granted: they’ll have to work hard to stay employed, will probably be heavily taxed, and will be resented by the Useless Class.
Standards of living are falling even for highly-skilled professionals like computer programmers, engineers, and doctors. The Productive Class won’t enjoy much reward for being productive. But there has to be SOME differential between them and the Useless Class, in order to keep them motivated, so standards of living for the Useless Class will presumably be quite low.
The author missed a much more common option for those wanting to stay employed: a market for personal services. The rich would probably rather get a massage from a human masseur/masseuse than from a machine. Just because it’s possible to automate a task doesn’t always mean it will be automated; there’s a matter of aesthetics. Their gardens will have a maintenance crew even if equipment does most of the real work, because houses and gardens are not standardized enough for pure automation. The really rich might have a real master gardener…maybe one who also takes care of the kitchen-garden so they’re not forced to eat the same over-processed food commodities the Useless Class are fed.
A lot of skilled labor and security-services (specifically, body-guards) will remain in-demand due it being hard to automate tasks that occur in complex, unpredictable environments. Creativity is still hard to automate too.
I’d suggest being good-looking and charming on top of being willing to do the work, to give you an edge on the competition.
For thousands of years, billions of people have found meaning in playing virtual reality games. In the past, we have called these virtual reality games “religions”.
To the best of our scientific knowledge, human life has no meaning. The meaning of life is always a fictional story created by us humans.
The author is confirming what I have mentioned elsewhere about the assumptions of Modernism: Life has no meaning. Religion is a useless delusion. If it doesn’t have mass, it isn’t real. Science is the only way to know anything. Technology will solve all of your problems (even if you are unproductive dead weight).
Why would you try to determine meanings with “Science”? “Meaning” refers to a translation process, like a mathematical function: this maps to that. It takes a subjective observer—a meaning-making Being like a human—to make the mapping and care about it. How do you discover subjective judgments through a supposedly objective process? How do you do an experiment to decide what to have for supper tonight?
This is why Modernists are doomed.
The rest of us are too if we go along with them. Maintain your own functional mindset.
One more warning: it’s quite possible that none of this will ever come to pass. No Lotos-eaters. They might get culled along with anyone smart enough to resist serfdom. No Elysium orbiting earth. More likely, the whole economic system crashes. But, even if it does, you need to be prepared to live by your own wits in a system with high unemployment rates for one reason or the other. The days of someone taking care of you in exchange for obeying them are over.
Maintain multiple skill sets applicable to tasks that are hard to automate, and maintain high testosterone to maintain your drive to compete and to get things done. How precisely to do that is another question…keep reading my blogposts…