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In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.

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Category archive: Economics

Thursday October 26 2017

Will computer power displace humans, or empower them?  Will computers unleash mass-unemployment or create a world of new jobs for everyone?  Is humanity about to be divided into the indolent masses on the dole, and the lucky few who control the now human-workerless means of production?

Here‘s a guy who is quite optimistic. 

When most people think of robots, they picture an R2-D2-like droid, providing critical information to assist humans and courageously rescuing them from dangerous situations. While we are, in my view, decades away from having robots that can function like a “Star Wars” character due to the limitations of artificial intelligence, a new class of robots that are mobile, dexterous, and capable across multiple operational regimes will soon be available to augment human performance.

This will happen through a combination of human intelligence with machine strength and precision. In this symbiotic relationship, the multi-tasking robots rely on humans for direction while simultaneously safeguarding them from dangerous environments and tasks. These robotic “guardians” are the future of work on Earth and, yes, in space, too.

Peter Thiel also believes that computers and humans will complement one another.

Think power steering, but a hundred times more versatile:

We are at a point in history where decades of research and development coupled with ever-improving technological performance and lower component costs are combining to make yesterday’s science fiction a reality. Imagine a machine that is your personal proxy, controlled by you, leveraging your intelligence, knowledge, instincts, intuition, and judgment while able to physically perform in the same manner as your own body, but safely, and with super-human strength, endurance, and precision.

I’m optimistic about The Robots because every time they make a leap forward, they will do it by doing one particular thing a lot better.  That means that all sorts of new projects make sense that didn’t before, but each new project demands the services of a hoard of humans, to tidy up after, install, mend, and generally look after the robots, in their latest manifestation.

But, humans will have to be adaptable.  Abandon jobs that the robots have learned to do, and get new jobs doing things that the robots will need doing for them. Robots now make much of the world’s stuff, but there are still lots of shelves the stuff gets put on that it makes sense to have humans do, and because of the robots, there are more shelves with more stuff than there used to be.

I look at the world and I do see “technological unemployment”, but I also see people busily doing jobs that didn’t previously exist.

Rob Waller is doing a talk at my place, on the last Friday of November about the robots and all that.  He gave a talk about this earlier, which I was unable to attend.  But the title of that talk, together with the hints he’s already given me, all make me expect him to be optimistic also.

Tomorrow evening, which is the last Friday of this month, Rob Fisher will be speaking chez moi about Fatherhood.  I believe that Rob’s young son will have plenty of choices about how to make a living, especially if he is as smart as his Dad is, but even if he isn’t.

Friday September 15 2017

Friday here at BMdotcom is Cats and Other Creatures Day.  So if I am out and about on a Friday, I always keep an eye out for relevant sights.  Sights like this, which I spotted in Putney this afternoon.

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Potted Horse?  As in: horse meat?

Well, no:

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Spotted Horse, as in: horse with spots.  A pub.

Picture of the entire front of the Spotted Horse:

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I like how it’s than the buildings on each side are bigger.  This being, presumably, because the pub is some kind of preserved building from olden times, and as such impervious to the rising price of land and hence the rising pressure continuously to destroy and replace with something ever taller.

One day, the price of the land upon which the Spotted Horse rests will be such that a skyscraper will be demanded.  At this point, I would like to think that the Spotted Horse will mutate into the lowest two floors of this new skyscraper.  Why not?  The skyscraper will pay for all the confusion involved in contriving this.  Just because amusingly antiquated buildings need to become very tall buildings doesn’t mean they have to be destroyed and replaced entirely by modernity, especially when you consider how tedious modernity can be at ground level, a place where architectural antiquity excels.  No, put the modernity on top of the antiquity, on stilts.

Tuesday September 05 2017

In January of 2016, a year and a half ago now, a friend and I checked out the top of the Walkie Talkie, and we liked it a lot.

I, of course, photoed photoers, of whom there were, equally of course, an abundance.  And although at the time I collected the best photoer photos together into their own little subdirectory, I never got around to putting the selected photos up here.  But I chanced upon them last night, and I think they deserve the oxygen of publicity.  So, here they are:

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As the years have gone by, I have come to like photoing photoers as much for the places they photo in and the things they photo as for the photoers themselves.  From the above photos you get quite a good idea of what the top of the Walkie Talkie is like and what you can see from it.  The weather that day was rather dull, so the actual views I took were rather humdrum.  These photoer photos were better, I think.

The Walkie Talkie Sky Garden advertises itself as a sky garden, but it is more like an airport lounge with plants, that has itself taken to the air.  Getting access to it is like boarding an airplane, with luggage inspection and a magnetic doorway you have to walk through.  In this respect, as well as the splendour of the views, the Walkie Talkie resembles the Shard, which imposes very similar arrangements on all who wish to sample its views.  But sky garden or not, I liked it.

One of the many things I like about the Walkie Talkie is that its very shape reflects the importance attached by its designer(s?) to making a nice big space at the top for mere people to visit and gaze out of.  As well as, of course, creating lots of office space, just below the top but still way up in the sky, for office drones to enjoy the views from.  Their work may often be drudgery, but at least they get an abundance of visual diversion.

In its own way, the Walkie Talkie is as much an expression of the economic significance of views as those thin New York apartment skyscrapers are. The difference being that in a big office you don’t have to be based right next to a window to be able, from time to time, to stroll over to a window.  So, as the building gets taller and the views get more dramatic, it makes sense to fit more people in.  Hence the shape of the Walkie Talkie.

If one of the jobs of a Walkie Talkie drone happens to be to try to entice clients to come to the Walkie Talkie, to have stuff sold to them, well, those views might make all the difference.

Note that Rafael Vinoly designed the Walkie Talkie, and designed the first of those tall and thin New York apartments.  These two apparently very different buildings have in common that both of them look as they do partly because of the views they both offer.

I also like the Walkie Talkie because so many prim-and-proper architect type people dislike it.

Monday September 04 2017

A few weeks ago, Patrick Crozier and I recorded a conversation about the First World War.  Patrick’s short intro, and the recording, are here.  (It would appear that Croziervision is now back in business.)

The “If only” of my title is because we talk about the question of “what if” WW1 had never started.  What might have happened instead?  The unspoken assumption that has saturated our culture ever since is that it would surely have been far, far better.  But what if something else just as bad had happened instead?  Or even: something worse?

We discuss the reasons for such pessimism.  There was the sense of economic unease that had prevailed since the dawn of the century, resulting in a time not unlike our own.  And, there was the fact that Germany, Austria, Russia and Turkey were all embarked upon their various journeys from monarchy to democracy, and such journeys are always likely to be, says Patrick, bloodbaths.  Whatever happened in twentieth century Europe, it surely would not have been good.

Monday August 28 2017

I like to photo buses with adverts all over them.  I consider the elaborate graphics involved to be of aesthetic interest.

Buses like this one, photoed in Tottenham Court Road on the same afternoon, just over a year ago, that I photoed the dfs Union Jack door that I just added to the posting below:

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Okay very pretty, but do what I did.  Take a closer look:

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What intrigues me about that is how it points up the contrasting reputations of the Gherkin and the Walkie Talkie.  The Gherkin is clearly visible there.  But the Walkie Talkie is deranged by that clutch of ventilation holes, or whatever they are.  The advertising classes don’t do things like this by accident.  They like Lord Foster of Gherkin, but they do not like Rafael Vinoly of Walkie Talkie, and the same probably applies to most other people who know both of these Starchitects.  (I like both of them.) My sense is that Vinoly is reckoned to be too much the entrepreneur, too much the profit maximising businessman, too bothered with making buildings that make money, the way (so I hear it) the Walkie Talkie does and the Gherkin does not.  Vinoly, I surmise, is the Richart Seifert of our time, but on a global scale.

This is not the kind of thing you can prove very easily, and maybe I’m reading too much into a meaningless piece of graphics.

Well, I’m tired, I’ve had a complicated day attempting other things, unsuccessfully, and this is what you are getting.  Also, there’s a really good test match going on.

Monday August 21 2017

Yes, another link that’s been cluttering up my RAM, but which I absolutely don’t want to forget about.

I’m reading this, but I’m a really slow reader, and am also reading other things, like: books.  But, like I say, don’t want to forget about this.

Here.

This feels like one of those seminal ideas, to rank alongside the seminal idea that it contests the truth of.

I am hoping (he hasn’t confirmed it by email but we have spoken about it) that Rob Waller will be giving a talk chez moi, last Friday of November (24th), along the lines of: Will The Robots Take Our Jobs?  He doesn’t reckon so either.

Tuesday August 08 2017

Earlier this evening I went to the Two Chairmen to hear my friend Tom Burroughes speak, to Libertarian Home, about the idea of a Universal Basic Income.

I took this photo of Tom in action:

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It troubles me how much Photoshop(clone)ping I had to do to make this photo look good, taken as it was with my new camera.  But I think it now does look okay.  I particularly like how I used a nearby beer glass to smudge out most of the head of the man in the foreground.

At Samizdata, Tom goes by the name of Johnathan Pearce.  Here is a recent piece he did there, about the very subject he was speaking about this evening.  And Tom will give this subject another airing at my home, on September 29th.  It’s an important subject, I think.

Monday August 07 2017

On the same day that I took these photos of a spiral shopping trolley sculpture, I also took this photo:

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One of many other nice photos I took that day.  I chose this one partly because the Shard is the big Big Thing here, just now.

The reason for a quota photo is that I have spent most of my discretionary time today solving ridiculous problems.  But I did actually solve both of them, so I am now ridiculously happy.

Problem one was that my bedside radio had suddenly taken to breaking off its playing of mp2 files on the 2GB SD card I had inserted into it, after about twenty minutes, every time.  Was this the 2GB SD card?  Or (the horror) the radio?  Turned out it was the 2GB SD card.  My guess: the 2GB SD card, obtained because very ancient and hence ancient enough to fit into my ancient radio and be used both to make and to play recordings, was nevertheless insufficiently ancient.  It had the word “Integral” on it.  This suggests excessive speed to me.  At the very least, an air of impatience.  Anyway, my radio couldn’t be doing with it.  So, I tried a different and more ancient-looking 2GB SD card, and that worked.  Hurrah.

Problem two was that my debit card had stopped working, and I had a vague - but only vague - recollection of having received a letter from my bank with a new debit card in it.  But where was it?  There followed two hours of searching, but in a manner which made things more tidy rather than less tidy, which is not always the way when you are searching for something.  Key fact: I was not in too much of a hurry.  It is searching for something in a hurry that really makes chaos.  Anyway, I eventually found the new debit card, in the last place I looked.  Hurrah times two, making three hurrahs in all.

A good day.  And, I hope you agree, a good quota photo.

A quota photo of the Shard with foliage and two ridiculous problems solved
Digital photography has made trophy views more valuable and New York skyscrapers taller and thinner
Three dead screens
Food photoing
On the popularity of high-rise living: People in high-rises like to look at other high-rises
Mark Pennington at the ASI
Signs
And Africa’s rivers don’t help
Industrial predictions from Peter Laurie in 1980
London rules the Premier League
Arthur Seldon Centenary photos
Scum?
Smith versus Marx
Beersheba footbridge
Brilliant Brian’s Last Friday talk
Introducing Mark Littlewood
Deirdre McCloskey - The Great Enrichment – Using a smartphone as a mirror
Benevolent Laissez-Faire photos
Some pyjama blogging
Today I am checking out the Big Olympic Thing
Brexit as a clash of pessimisms
YAAI3DP
Matt Ridley on the Chinese economic miracle
How things like 3D printed blood vessels may be improving education in rich countries
Matt Ridley on Epicurus and Lucretius
New chairs
Peter Foster on Robert Owen
Moving speaker – unmoving listeners, video holder and books
Ed Smith on sporting maturity – Burns and Henriques collide – Secretariat and his jockey
Tim Worstall on “reserves”
Paul Johnson on what the young Mozart was up against
Amazon review of Inflation Matters
Why quota photos?
I said it twelve years ago
Pete Comley talking about inflation on Friday February 27th
Cheap long-haul flights coming soon
Scandinavia comes out on top according to the HDI …
Thoughts on habits and on changing incentives with the passing of time
Dominic Frisby on the Hype Cycle
How the internet is cheering up Art
Marginal Eurostar economics
At the Libertarian Home cost of living debate
Bill Bryson on the miracle of crop rotation
Bond car
ASI Boat Trip 4: Groups of posing people
ASI Boat Trip 3: Drink!
Cashing a cheque by photoing it
I need a new passport but just now passports are a problem
Ubernomics
Compact Cats buried under London’s poshest homes
How much does it cost to power up a mobile phone?
Anton Howes – James Lawson – Will Hamilton
Nothing from me here today
Well that’s a relief
Green screen blue screen
Sam Bowman on Bleeding Heart Libertarianism
Detlev Schlichter talking about Von Mises (and being videoed)
Big Things happening in the City
Happiness is still Gold Blend at only £3 instead of £4.50
Happiness is Gold Blend at only £3 instead of £4.50
Anton Howes at the Rose and Crown
Corrie Chipps pictures the Zimbabwe inflation
The next four Brian’s Last Fridays (including December 27)
Amazon pricing puzzle
The Times of May 24th 1940
Bad and good in bad weather
Views from Kings College
Craig Willy on Emmanuel Todd
The mystery of the one good photo
Better a year late than never
Photoing people who are photoing food
Click to see the big picture
And on my other personal blog …
Meow
Talk by Frank Braun about Bitcoin at my home on Aug 3rd
Why I do not share Johnathan Pearce’s admiration for Bjorn Lomborg
Steve Baker MP
Occupy St Paul’s pictures
Street social services management integrated command sub-centres
James Tooley discovers private schools for the poor in the slums of Hyderabad
Matt Ridley’s demolition of CAGW
Go Gary Johnson!
Freedom Tower and Gary Johnson at Samizdata
A review of Detlev Schlichter’s new book (multiplied by 4)
Kevin Dowd last night
Thrashing India
David Friedman on the similarity between fractional reserve banking and insurance
My personal Fixed Quantity of Blogging unfallacy
Empty tables and empty chairs
Words for bloggers to live by
No fruit juice
Bitcoin etc.?
Five pictures of me
Science can relax about the harm done to it by Climategate
Rally Against Debt signs
Gordon Brown curses the United Kingdom
Nil scrap value
BrianMicklethwaitDotCom not threatened by the end of the Big Thing Boom
Pictures of Detlev Schlichter
Everything competes with everything
The Big Dig and some smaller digging
Quota choke?
Cat news
Let us now trash infamous men
Why I prefer blogging to writing for a magazine
Wot inflationz?
Climate science as make-work for former Cold Warriors
Potential dental interruption
Me and Patrick Crozier talk about the banking crisis and its possible consequences
Thoughts on England not just keeping the Ashes but winning the series 3-1 (with asterisks)
Emmanuel Todd quoted and Instalanched
Dawkins does better sound than God ever did
Obamanomics dod not work
Talk at Christian Michel’s
The joy of error correction
Those cameras are getting cheaper
“I was banished to a separate room …”
Help with Audacity please
Mmmmmm … Asian skyscrapers!
The curse of interchangeable lenses and how I want my category killer
K Street - metonym - synecdoche
Which just goes to show that stuff gets around
Happy hundredth
Andy Flower urges England fans not to punish cricket for being corrupt
Ten thoughts about the Pakistan cricket corruption story
Toby Baxendale on what went wrong and what to do about it
A picture I want to remember
Reading various bits of Roger Kimball
Snappy quote from Victor Davis Hanson that may or may not actually be true
Exploitation?
Tim Evans looking happy
Sneezing chat
At the launch of Alchemists of Loss
Spare A3 paper
Big box computers versus laptops
As strong and sweet as the free market itself
BrianMicklethwaitDotCom twitter of the day before the day before yesterday
Darling and Darling cat
Watching IPL cricket beats watching England play rugby
SAY NO TO GOVERNMENT MOTORS
Happy New Year and how to save seventy thousand quid
Burj Dubai looking semi-sane
The Shard is definitely being built!
Picture of an aftershock of the credit crunch rippling around the world
Talking with Toby Baxendale
Apple mobile phones are very profitable but Nokia mobile phones are not very profitable
Wuhan railway station under construction - with sunset behind
Pictures of Anthony Evans
Going global
Scrounging Englishmen and stories too good to check
Paul Marks on the financial crisis and on the badness of Obama
Under a hundred copies
Environmental
Why I vote against AGW
Quotes dump
Great speech by Kevin Dowd in Paris which should be available to listen to soon
Slumponomics
Another London lump?
Laptop for emails
Minimum Wage flatvert at Guido’s and Iain Dale’s
Indy Flatverts and a Guido Q&A
IPL continues to literally trump proper cricket
Croziervision of default
Fantasy budgets
My opinion of yesterday’s budget
The Vita-Mix 5000 at the Veggie Show
At Samizdata: cricket - crime - Kevin Dowd quote
James Tyler’s speech at Policy Exchange
Lawrence H. White on the Scottish experience of free banking
My confusion about free banking
Daniel Hannan and the shape of the media to come
Kevid Dowd video now up and watchable
Work begins on the Shard of Glass
Don’t blame banking
Paul Marks on the financial crisis
Work photos
TARP stuff - and a trip to Sheffield
Do nothing?
Meme for the New Depression
Kevin Dowd says what should be done
Commenting about the Dowd lecture at Samizdata
London continues to build big
Kevin Dowd
Michael Jennings on shoring up the bad old economy versus building a good new one
What-iffing
Is the contemporary art bubble bursting?
P. J. O’Rourke confuses the average with the significant
The Official Story and the Most Confident Alternative
I have not been living beyond my means
Why Willem Buiter blogs and why I do
Cheap CDs and sopranos I’ve never heard of
It’s over
Ruminating about politics and ideology
Another pendulum theory
Metaphor muddle alert
Guido Fawkes conflates the Monetarists and the Austrians – needs to chat with Antoine Clarke
Reasons to be a bit more cheerful
Antoine and Michael on what to do now
Antoine Clarke on the financial turmoil and the US election
Gordon Brown to guarantee everything
Tom Burroughes on the banking crisis
Not the book I want to read right now - maybe later
Chinese Friday?
Profundity and silliness
Banks
It only takes One Rich Lunatic
On classical music voice addiction
Armed is less dangerous
The British Public continues to dislike too-high-and-rising taxes
Voice of God journalism
Eurovision sense from Squander Two
IPL-lag
To let – one Ark
Paul Marks told us so
Big, Bigger, Biggest - starring Heathrow Terminal 5
Flat pictures for flat screens
Cuba before Communism
The petty cash effect cuts in for Linux
Linux versus Windows - the bigger tiny laptop breakout
The economics of Jonathan Ross
Has global warming stopped?
Another don’t-get-it-right-get-it-written Samizdata posting
A bog standard (but rippling and therefore ultra-cool) tower soon to be built in Chicago
Billion Monkeys and a Real Photographer at the Golden Umbrellas
When the penny drops
The bridge that was going to make Westminster a fine city and London a desert
Eurostar says goodbye Waterloo hello St Pancras
Aid rewards low growth
Will China fail?
Filthy rich
The double thank-you moment
Antoine Clarke on Sarkozy
Free trade explains the success of the Swedish Model
Serious tax cutting
Darrin M. McMahon and me and George Orwell on the pursuit of happiness
Emmanuel Todd (4): From ideology to economic progress
The visitor
Jott
Leon Louw talks about the habits of highly effective countries
Geek girl I like your thinkings - are nice - I want have sex with it
It only takes two idiots
Should blogs - this one in particular - specialise?
Remembering the Alternative Bookshop experience
Two Red Bull pictures
The Wealth of Networks
That’s it
Pauses - Indian accents - English names
To be controlled in our economic pursuits means to be dot dot dot controlled in everything
Some economics
“The basis is economic development”
Thoughts on habits and on killer apps