Must-read via Michael Simmons on EXPONENTIAL CHANGE (Gerd’s excerpts)

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Read his piece here

Futurists from the 20th century predicted that labor saving devices would make leisure abundant. According to the great economist John Maynard Keynes, the big challenge would be that…

“For the first time since his creation man will be faced with his real, his permanent problem — how to use his freedom from pressing economic cares, how to occupy the leisure, which science and compound interest will have won for him, to live wisely and agreeably and well.”

- John Maynard Keynes (1930)

Fast forward almost a century later. Things didn’t quite go as expected. This quote from a modern researcher captures the current ethos:

“Rather than being bored to death, our actual challenge is to avoid anxiety attacks, psychotic breakdowns, heart attacks, and strokes resulting from being accelerated to death.”

- Geoffrey West

Rather than inhabiting a world of time wealth, we’re inhabiting a world of time poverty. Rather than feeling the luxury of time freedom, we’re feeling the burden of constant hurry.

….

Let me put it in context. For many, 2020 felt like five years packed into one…

  • Historic pandemic
  • Historic social movement (Black Lives Matter)
  • Historic stimulus
  • Historic wildfires
  • Historic election
  • Historic stock market high
  • Historic technology breakthroughs (Alphafold / GPT-3 / Quantum Supremacy, etc)

As I mentioned, the rapid evolution of human culture, ideas, strategies, and technology is a double-edged sword. On one hand, innovations increase efficiency. On the other hand, it also increases competition.

This happens on three levels:

  • Race against people. People and companies are using their efficiency gains to double down and gain further advantage thus increasing the competition even more. For example, in Silicon Valley, the epicenter of the tech, many of the smartest and wealthiest people in the world are working 60–80 hours per week and making sacrifices in their families, health and sleep in order to do so. Large salaries are put toward nannies, drivers, cleaners, and everything such that time at work can be maximized.
  • Race against machines. To compete on costs, companies are using robots and AI to eliminate jobs. In the economics literature, this is known as the race against machines. Many technologies automate old jobs and create the opportunities for new jobs. But, to take advantage of these opportunities, individuals must be able to “race” faster than machines by learning new skills. We see the harbingers of automation with cashierless stores (3.6M jobs in US) and autonomous vehicles (2M truck drivers in US) and robofactories (12M+ manufacturing jobs in US). These three job categories alone account for over 10% of the US workforce, and they’re almost guaranteed to precipitously downsize in the next 10 years.
  • Race against the world. Digitization has taken extreme competition to a whole other level. Rather than competing against the best in your local area, you’re competing against the best in the world. In other words, rather than competing against a small number of people, you’re competing against 1,000x the number of people. The result of global competition is that competition is exponentially more fierce and winner-take-all.

Originally published at https://medium.com on February 16, 2021.

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