With Unfolded Vision — a Blast From the Past post from 13-2-6

[ Note from 2-17-2014I normally don’t run posts this close together, but someone here mentioned that the left actually believe automation and stuff have made most of the population redundant.  I’ve been coming across this on the left AND right.  The thing is, I remember the seventies and JUST this kind of talk about how we’d outgrown work.  Then Carter was voted out and we had the eighties.

Of course, in the seventies NO ONE became crazy enough to brag that people were being freed from work.  They REALLY believe this.  They believe the economy could just continue trucking on without any humans worked.  It’s stunning in its craziness.  And yet, they believe it.

Maybe it’s true for them. Maybe they can stop working and not suffer for it.  Or maybe they wish they could.  I don’t know.  What I know is that for normal human beings, new technology just brings different ways to work.  Work doesn’t stop.

And I know what butthurt people who drink their own ink and don’t know what to do about the economy but are still so convinced they’re so smart will come up with to justify their own failings.  “We’re not going to need to work anymore” and “people will be freed from work” is the semantic null equivalent of “Americans are ungovernable.”  It should ALWAYS be assumed to be a declaration of incompetence from the current leeches.*

*No impugning of real leeches, like the ones that son keeps in a bell jar, and upon which on receiving the last royalty statement I was NOT allowed to slap a sign saying “Penguin Putnam Accounting Department” — because the guys said that would be mean.]

When we moved to Colorado Springs, the greatest part of choosing our location in town was that there were three bookstores within walking distance.  Practically the only way to insure I get exercise.

Now those three bookstores are gone.  There are a lot of bars and restaurants, but well… we are mini-galting (we need a logo for this) and therefore not eating out much, and bars… If I drank as much as I do NOT at home (or friends’ homes) but pay-per-drink, I’d be even more broke than I am.

The reasons we chose to live where we live are all gone – in less than ten years.

Then there’s my household arrangements.  We have so many books that I started culling into bins for eventual garage sale, about two years ago.  But I never finished the culling, and then act-of-kids intervened, and we bought more books, which means yesterday when I went in search of a book to check on a reference, I found instead that my bookshelves have got completely scrambled.  There’s all sorts of stuff in every bookshelf, nothing is in order, and the bookshelf on the way to the attic has become a convenient place for the guys to unload and/or store stuff they don’t want in their area.  The end result is that nothing is “findable” and everything is a total mess.

Which brings me to – I started reshelving.  And realized about half the mysteries taking up space on my shelves aren’t the sort I keep.  Heck, some of them might never have been read.

You see, every month or so, I’d take a trip to the local used bookstore and get a load of mysteries, read them, put the ones I didn’t care for back in for trade, and keep the ones I was likely to read more than once.  Then, once every six months we went to the BIG mystery bookstore in Denver (first day of a weekend away) and I’d fill three, sometimes four large bags with used paperbacks, read them during that weekend and the month after, then cull.

But sometime – four? – years ago, we got me a kindle, and then the trip to the bookstore wasn’t needed, and I think I forgot to read some of the books from the last one, as well as whatever books I’d got that month.

What do I mean by all this?  I mean that technology is changing the rhythms of how we do things, in ways that aren’t even obvious until we look back.

I did not know that last time we went by the used bookstore at the beginning of a weekend in Denver that it would be the last time.  I still bought the usual books.  I just ended up reading some stuff I had on the kindle, instead.  And when the next vacation came around, I had the kindle, and buying a bunch of used books seemed stupid.  I don’t think I’ve stepped into that bookstore since.

The rhythms change.

When we moved here, I walked downtown a lot, to buy books, or – more often – to browse books.  I used to take a laptop and sit by the fireplace in my favorite bookstore and write, while people watching.

The store is gone.  Downtown’s character has changed too.  There are fewer stores people shop at, so well, during the day it’s office workers and vagrants.  In the less populated area, it’s now a little iffy, if not dangerous (yet.)

We do the things that benefit us (in my case ordering more from Amazon) and other people do the things that benefit them.  And the entire landscape changes.

I’m not arguing otherwise.  I’m convinced things like “Save the indies” for keeping bookstores alive are in the end doomed and in the short term counterproductive.  They’ll either find a value-add to give people, or they will ultimately fail.  (I’d pay for a sort of in-person book café, with knowledgeable owners who can recommend books I might like, and who have space for writers’ and readers’ groups to meet, but I don’t know how practical it is, unless in a very large city.)

I’m just saying no one can see the future, even as it’s barreling down towards us.  Which is why any centralized planning tends to fail and any push-down (as opposed to pull down at will) business model tends to fail, and the bigger and more impersonal it is, the faster it fails.  And why the government subsidizing innovation usually means subsidizing things that real life ebbs and flows around.

I read, I don’t remember where, that the reason our government (to an extent both parties) is pushing for a welfare state that controls everything is that they believe in a future where humans really have nothing to do – where robots do it all.  They all – apparently – read “With Folded Hands” and thought it was inevitable.

But even we, science fiction authors, infallible though we are (of course) get things wrong.  Heinlein never saw computers barreling down the pipe.  Well, not in the form they came.  Which means my kids get to chuckle at slide rules in spaceships.

And the thing about robots doing everything for humans, and therefore there being no work for people, and therefore the government must step in and give people a raison d’etre and, if possible thin down the population.

This would be like someone in the nineteenth century seeing our civilization and going “We must create a vast welfare state for all the scullery maids put out of work by dishwashers and all the drivers put out of work by the horseless carriages.  And that’s not talking about the people who shoe horses and the crossing sweepers.  Doom, gloom, most of humanity will be useless and only the state can save us.”

It’s a serious under-rating of humanity.  We are clever monkeys.  We’ll find new things to do when the old drudgery is lifted.

Yes, some people will end up doing nothing – but I think that has more to do with learned helplessness and does not need to be subsidized.

I’m laying you a bet that a hundred years from now there will be jobs we don’t even imagine, and they’ll be all across the IQ and aptitude spectrum.  (We don’t need drivers, or maids, but I pay money for people to haul stuff to the dump.  And we still need gardeners and sidewalk sweepers.)  I’m also betting you that the jobs will in general be less onerous/filled with drudgery and far more interesting.

Am I sure – well, no.  And I’m unlikely (though it’s not impossible) to be alive 100 years from now (unless there’s really reincarnation) to pay or collect.

But I’ve seen where we’ve come from, and I know the trend.  I know the way to bet.

I don’t think robots will stop us inventing new work to do, or new ways of making a living.

The government, on the other hand, might – by killing incentive and curiosity and draining away the capital (human and financial) that could go towards innovation.

Refuse to live with folded hands.  Trust humanity.  Embrace the future.

72 responses to “With Unfolded Vision — a Blast From the Past post from 13-2-6

  1. Martin L. Shoemaker

    I really believe that with the help of automation, the crazy 5% or so (probably higher around here) who would work even if nobody paid them could support the 95% in the lap of luxury.

    “The lap of luxury” as it would be seen in 1920. Or most of human history. Or many parts of the world today.

    But people don’t want 1920 luxury, they want 2020 luxury. And they want it now. And to get that, they’re gonna have to work. The 5% can’t make that happen.

    The 5% also can’t support the 95% AND the armed forces we need to defend ourselves from hostile powers who would find such a thin shell of a society to be easy pickings — especially since the 5% are disproportionately found in the military. They can’t support and defend the 95% at the same time. As necessary as defense is, it’s a cost, not a production.

  2. The thing is, even if a machine frees you from arduous labor, the money goes to the owner of the machine, not the /d/i/s/p/l/a/c/e/d/ freed worker. So . . . Big Daddy Government taxes the robotic factories and everyone’s on the dole?

    Yeah, how’s that working out for the inner cities? Drug gangs, welfare queens, fatherless children growing up feral?

    Work give one a sense of being worthwhile. Even volunteerism that pays nothing, beats doing _nothing_. Because we won’t do “nothing.” We won’t sit with folded hands, we’ll drink too much, fight too much, f**k too much with people we don’t give a s**t about, because they’re worthless s**ts just like we are.

    My fear is that government is not killing incentive, just blocking all the worthwhile, empowering, useful ways it could be expressed.

    • Yup, that’s the problem. Those who doubt should try Life At The Bottom

    • And the unions. Because they have their best to ensure lots of all kinds of nice benefits for us the firm I work for does not allow me to work more than 7 and a half hours per day, or to work on both of my free days (have to take at least one off), even temporarily, which has led to situations where I work on something which is available for four days only three days because I had the bad luck that my off days happened to be in the middle of that week. Even though my regular weekly hours are less than 20, and I would really need every extra bit I could get.

  3. The funny thing is, at least in computer game universes, the more automation, the more valuable the individual players are, simply because you need thinking minds to point all that automation at something.

    It will be interesting to see if that holds in the physical world, too.

  4. My favorite indie bookstore (in Hollywood no less) is gone. I used to pick up a lot of rare and semi-rare books on VFX and production there, along with printed screenplays.

    Ironically, they were originally supposed to close two years before their eventual closing. What kept them open for two years? In addition to their normal business, they were used as a location for several episodes of Angel.

  5. I think you’re spot-on about new jobs being created by the folks displaced by technology and other factors. The elites won’t see the need for them and will be surprised when people closest to the problems see the new solutions.

    The Good Thing about economic inequality is that when you have very-rich people in a society, they have extra loot to pay for silly things like dog-walkers, pet groomers, personal trainers, and event planners. These are jobs no central planner would ever consider, even while his wife is lamenting how you can’t find good help nowadays.

    In 3rd world countries, they hire people (in addition to sales staff) to just stand around to help customers and keep the shelves tidy. The big-box store model reflects the fact that gubmint makes this prohibitively expensive. Get the government out of the way and we’ll be surprised at what happens.

    • It is not that such things are silly, per se, just that they are economically unproductive. If you have a choice between walking your dog for an hour or paying somebody $25 while you work at a bill rate of $500 an hour, it isn’t silly to hire the dog walker.

      • Depends on how much you like walking the dog.

        I confess, I detest walking mine. Because the walking trail is frequented by numerous walkers, joggers, their animals, and assorted wildlife. The dogs want to do nothing but sniffsniffsniffsniffsniffdashsniffsniffsniffsniffsniffdash and it’s hard on both my patience and my knees. Oh, and Suki the Sausage Dog likes to get about half a mile out and then decide she’s tired and I need to carry her home in my arms.

        And there was the time I was walking one of the dogs and noticed a lot of cars slowing to a crawl on the road next to the walking trail. Across the road is completely undeveloped pinon scrub forest, and there was a large herd of elk, with the bulls standing guard on the road side of the herd. Elk are mean and dangerous, not like Bambi, and I was deeply grateful that Laci the Dachshund-Who-Has-No-Concept-Of-Her-Own-Smallness did not notice the herd and start barking.

        Was out walking with Thing #1 one evening and a huge elk bull came charging across the trail in front of us and on in to town. He was missing one rack and my son and I spent the rest of the walk scaring each other with talk about the Evil One-Racked Huge Animal with the Glowing Red Evil Eyes.

        I really like living here.

  6. I think we haven’t seen all the ramifications filter down from the invention of the automobile – much less the telecommunications revolution that started with the telegraph, continued to TV and has continued to smartphones and the internet.

    It’s going to take generations for all the effects to work out and be recognized. (Which is sometimes the hardest thing – how do you recognize something that you haven’t seen before, and link it back to a technology change that occurred before you were born?)

    Interesting times… you know, it’d be very interesting to see an American history book covering from this time to 2114…

    • I’d personally put the radio (and its follower, the television) up there with the telegraph as important, because it created a homogenization of culture not previously possible. In countries created when horse was the advanced travel mode, accents vary wildly within fifty miles. In our much-more-mobile culture, with its early exposure to a broadcaster’s accent, actor’s screen accents, and music, we only have very broad regional accents. (Not that the accent from Deep South can’t be very confusing to Small New England Town, and vice versa, but overall people from Birmingham won’t have a problem communicating with the folks who moved with Beretta’s new expansion.) It also brings a sense of knowing what’s going on in the world, and an awareness that there is an entire world out there. The internet – the internet took this idea, and gave it steroids and jet engines. But first, there was a radio.

      Add in the automobile and the interstates, and you have an American culture that has very few barriers to picking up and voting when their particular spot in the fifty little laboratories of liberty doesn’t offer enough opportunity.

      • “Add in the automobile and the interstates, and you have an American culture that has very few barriers to picking up and voting when their particular spot in the fifty little laboratories of liberty doesn’t offer enough opportunity.”

        Which makes me wonder just how long it will be before the People’s States start restricting emigration, or the folks in Washington decide we need ‘internal passports’ for security reasons. Can’t have all those lovely little taxpayers pack up and move to someplace like Texas, taking their revenue with them, after all…

        (/sarc, kinda.)

      • Dorothy, I am told that when Western Oregon started getting programs aired from the East coast in the early 50’s, there was a decline in membership in, specifically, the local Masonic lodge, and this was echoed in the Elks, although they also had a bar and they only started really slipping when the mills closed locally. The shared culture is very important and people seek it out. Right now, broadcast entertainment is shrinking from a variety of reasons, but mostly because what it offers in entertainment and news is found better on the internet and on cable. This means that the shared culture may be fragmenting, and one of three things may happen: Sports will become the new centers of shared culture (I have a two coworkers who are focused on sports to the point that they don’t read anything else for example) that can be shared even if done through multiple carriers and formats, that shared culture may be found on the internet though quite dispersed in real life, or there may be a resurgence of community groups like fraternal organizations and church groups. I think the last two are most likely, and the fraternals will be essential because most people also need face-to-face contact as well

        • The Other Sean

          The start of television broadcasting in the Pittsburgh area in the early 1950’s was the final nail in the coffin of the West Penn Railways, an electric interurban railway. So many people stayed home to watch TV instead of riding the trolley to to local evening activities (lodges, clubs, amusement parks, etc.) that the company finally slipped into the red.

        • Leave us not neglect the role of internet blogs and forums as a locus for community.

          And yeah, certain not-to-be-named blogs are the internet equivalent of biker bars or klan meeting halls.

      • Interestingly, Alabama seems to be doing quite well in the ongoing migration of firearms related business from anti gun to more gun friendly states. Remington just yesterday officially announced their intent to open a new R&D facility in Huntsville AL rather than an expansion of the current Illion NY plant. 2,000 jobs lost to New York and gained by Alabama. Officially it’s being touted as an expansion due to increased demand, but I personally think that if New York doesn’t get its sh!t together the Illion plant may very well close its doors in the not too distant future. Of course with the current politics of New York state they may very well consider that good riddance.

    • “Interesting times… you know, it’d be very interesting to see an American history book covering from this time to 2114…”

      That’s why we write science fiction. All the possibilities can be explored. It’ll be interesting to see who comes closest.

    • I want to see it now – write it.

      🙂

      • Lol… Nobody can write stuff that’s crazy as reality. I think we’ve been living in a cheap Tom Clancy knockoff ever since 9/11, where the heroes are reviled and the villains seen as the good guys until everything’s totally pear shaped.

        Besides, I’m busy rewriting the ’50s, right now… 😉

        • Actually, Tom Clancy said it best: “The difference between truth and fiction is that fiction has to make sense.” I doubt even he would come up with anything like the last ten years and try to publish it. It’s just too nuts.

          • I honestly am SAD he died. I wanted more Ryanverse! And at least in the Ryanverse things made sense.

            And I would like to say I would have loved to strangle Kealty. Clinton, Kennedy, a sprinkling of Obama-esque arrogance and blindness to what was going on… GAH. An amalgamation of ALL the bad, selfish traits of the Progressives, in one character!

          • Larry Correia might.

  7. I did the same thing, almost, although with me it was mostly new books. I was working at an office that I could walk to a Barnes and Noble at lunch. I did so, every Tuesday, to see whatever the new things were. I had a handful of authors that i’d buy everything they wrote in hardback, but mostly I’d see things I wanted to read when they came out in hardback and take a mental note to buy them when the paperback came out in a year or so.

    The publishers had me trained well – if I saw something in paperback that was interesting or from one of my authors I bought it then, even if I wasn’t planning on reading it immediately, because in six weeks I’d probably never see it again.

    Then I got my Kindle. And I probably have 30 or 40 books in dead tree from my ‘to be read’ pile that I literally never got around to reading, and may never. I still buy hardbacks from a few authors, but only for series where I have all of the other books in hardback, and in the last few years I’ve only added two series to that list.

  8. The comments note that the government is not aiding people surviving without work but actually obstructing it. Poor people are an asset to government. Welfare and food-stamp and unfortunately law enforcement need poor people to keep their budgets up.
    In Detroit right one of the biggest things keeping people from working is lack of public transportation. Taxis don’t come on time even if called hours ahead. They are ridiculously expensive. Buses don’t run on time. They blow right by you when you are standing at the bus stop. A good number of buses don’t run. The wheel chair lifts don’t work. The city hires mechanics and then won’t buy parts to fix them.
    There are several companies facilitating private cars share riding and working to pick people up when they get off work and take them the direction they are going anyway.
    Do you think government will encourage this??? Heck no, they threaten fines and jail for not buying a $1,000 a year hack license, not getting a state permit, more expensive insurance, a regular schedule of inspections, putting a partition and meter in, etc etc etc…
    Once something is institutionalized government is only good at protecting it to get their cut. As Detroit shows they don’t give a damn if the city literally falls down around their ears as long as they get their cut from whatever is left.
    If they really get to the point they don’t need as many people I’ll tell you something.
    They will get rid of them. Right now they are stuffing them in prison on very flimsy excuses. They make money at running prisons. They may decide a REAL war is needed to cull the herd. But even if they have to go the – stuff them in cattle cars and up a smokestack route they will get rid of them.

  9. My day job is writing software to automate testing. People like me are *very* much in demand, especially now in bad times. Software needs testing, and testers cost money. In one sense yes, I do replace several testers. However in good times, those testers are still hired because there is NEVER “too much testing” and my automation merely frees them from the boring drudge work–they get to do more complicated, interesting things, and the software gets even better.

    90% of the population will never stop working because 90% of the population will still Want Stuff and somebody has to make, distribute, and *get a profit from* Stuff. As Venezuela is finding out good and hard, you can’t redistribute something that isn’t there.

    • My ‘writing ‘ currently consists of reviewing workstation-class PCs and creating the benchmarks I use on said machines.

    • I had commented to Beloved Spouse just t’other day about how Amazon has pumped up business for UPS (as well as FedEx and USPS) — those brown trucks now ubiquitous in neighborhoods were only a decade or so ago known primarily for fostering porn fantasies for secretaries. Whenever I say one nowadays the soundtrack in the back of my brain sends out “The Wells Fargo Wagon.”

  10. What’s happening is the true rate of unemployment is now somewhere in the 20’s or even 30’s percent (it’s only in single digits if we agree to pretend that people who have given up on finding work are no longer “unemployed,” which is a nonsense-definition but the one the government uses). Since the primary axiom of the Left is that the Left is brilliant, yet a Leftist government has accomplished mass unemployment on a scale not seen since the Great Depression, this result must therefore logically now be a “good” thing.

    I disagree with you in that I do think it would be possible for there to be, with sufficient technology, a society in which most humans did very little work. We, after all, live in such a society today, compared to our pre-Industrial ancestors. (I think that even in a highly-atutomated society, those who actually bothered to work would be the wealthiest and happiest, however).

    But we do not yet have sufficient technology. This mass unemployment we have today is not the product of automation, it is the product of the Federal Government standing directly between employers and employees and inserting an economic wedge between them, preventing employment.

    If you read books from the 1930’s you will also find arguments that the rampant unemployment was caused by automation. Oddly enough, from the 1940’s through 1960’s, when automation had progressed further, close to full employment had returned (one can never get true “full employment” in a free society, since some people will finish one job and then take some time to find the next, possibly by choice). We only got a return to high unemployment in the 1970’s — when we had again attempted to impose leftist principles — which vanished in the 1980’s – 2000’s when Carter’s successor Reagan freed up the economy again. And here we are in 2010 … apparently having learned nothing from our own history so recent that most of us lived through at least part of what I just described.

    And people wonder why I prefer to write about the damned technicolor Ponies?

  11. As a robotics engineer- 20 years in the industry- I can tell you that not only will robots NOT take over, they cannot. There are things they will do and can do, and the more robots doing them the better- and there are things that only humans will ever be able to do.

    Think of it this way: At a certain time, a lot of the computer companies outsourced their tech support offshore. This was possible because the work that was required could be done anywhere, and the technology to allow the communications was inexpensive. Furnace repair will never be sent offshore because of the impracticality of shipping a furnace to Singapore. Auto repair same same. Roofing, siding, plumbing, wiring,mowing lawns, foundation repair. Some jobs will never go away, and those jobs are going begging now because everyone is spending big cash on going to school for six years to get a degree in 14th century tapestries or Womyns studies.

    • The Other Sean

      Don’t be so sure on the lawn mowing part. I’ve seen a lawn mowing robot going about its business, and it seemed quite effective.

      • Well, for a specific value of “Effective” sure. And there are mowbots that use GPS and vision to do the job, and it is much less expensive than before, but it doesn’t trim bushes or plant flowers or prune trees and probably never will, because aesthetics are not easily definable, etc. etc. etc. So maybe I should have said ‘landscape maintenance” instead of mowing, but I’m just spitballing here.I wasn’t talking about robots taking mowing over anyway, I was talking about jobs that cannot be done from overseas. Mr Patel will not have your turf shipped to him to mow and then sent back to be reinstalled.

        • Mr Patel will not have your turf shipped to him to mow and then sent back to be reinstalled.

          Hmmm, I sense an open market niche. Remote-controlled lawn maintenance equipment! Mow the yard from the comfort of your own home! Earn $$$ mowing lawns in air-conditioned comfort! Equipment to be delivered by quad-rotor drone!

        • “Mr Patel will not have your turf shipped to him to mow and then sent back to be reinstalled.” I’m willing. Actually I’d just like SOME turf in my front yard 😛

          • “So long as you have children, you will probably never have grass” -some guy.

            I have stickers. “Go mow the stickers” my wife says. I’m happy they’re green. And it keeps the kids from running barefoot through there.

          • OTOH, Mr. Patel will happily use a satellite link-up to access your remote-operated lawn mower.

            Maybe what we need is a video-game system for running the lawn mower. Kids think they’re chopping down Cadmus’ army but are actually cutting the grass.

            Hmmm, somebody might do a Poul Anderson on Cadmus’s story, resetting it in a SF storyline. The Dragon’s Teeth could be nanobot von Neumans’ devices …

            • Maybe what we need is a video-game system for running the lawn mower. Kids think they’re chopping down Cadmus’ army but are actually cutting the grass.

              I can just see it: lawsuits because someone decided to Leeroy Jenkins!

              • *grin* Do you know the ‘More DoTs’ Onyxia raid wipe? Another hilariously fun one.

                Quite honestly, I’d like a video game system for the freaking lawnmowing. We just had it done a week ago. Thanks to the downpour, IT’S BAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAACK!!!!!!!! Housemate is allergic to the pollen like WOAH, I’m too tiny to wrestle the ‘mower, that leaves poor Rhys. The game system would make it easier for me to do the lawn if Rhys isn’t around / too tired.

                OTOH I quietly fantasize about miniature ride on mowers.

                • My husband quotes it.

                • Dunno how much you could afford to lay out for one, but they DO make “self-propelled push mowers”. They have a drive shaft that you engage with a handle like a hand brake on a bicycle, and it drives the mower forward. All you have to do is steer. Our neighbor was using one way up into his 70s.

    • It may be that our experience is not representative, but I’m seeing computer work coming back to the states. I’m talking about programming, not phone centers. What I’ve heard is that the cultural differences can be so much more of an issue than anyone realized, even when there is a common language, that it impedes getting projects done. And management styles/expectations can be enormous land mines in a project team of one culture with management from the other culture. The one exception to this experience that I’m familiar with is that the Eastern European programmers are oftentimes superstars … they know more and work harder than the average American … although they can be personally off-putting as well. Maybe it’s something about having a taste of free enterprise and liking it?

      • The most obnoxious programmer I ever met was American.

        The most pleasant programmer I’ve ever worked with was also American.

        But then, there may be reasons why my experiences with eastern Europeans are limited. Mostly limited to defectors, and ones who tended towards theory of numerical methods rather than hands-on programming. But very, very good at it.

        • I wasn’t meaning that E. Europeans are obnoxious, necessarily; I meant something more like … intense … maybe? And their math skills are to die for.

      • Indeed! I am increasingly finding tech support based in the US, and it does please me- though, I have had offshore phone support that was very very good.

        • I HOPE to lose overseas phone support too. Yes, because I’m a hatey mchater.
          Okay, no. because I’ve mid range hearing loss AND an accent. Most of the time I listen to two words, look helpless and hand the phone to my husband.

          • …as a former call center worker, I’d have gladly taken you over the guy with the heavy MBLBLMBMBHMBM African enunciation affecting an incredibly snooty Australian accent. Insisting that he be called by his ‘Doctor’ title and his unpronounceable full name every time instead of ‘sir.’ Most of that hour long call was me trying to get him to allow me to call him sir, because he would get mad if I mispronounced his name.

            I also promise you, I would have been patient, as I’ve been with some very old folks who either were 1) not great English speakers 2) constantly apologized for being old and a bother for being slow/3/4 deaf, or unable to see the screen easily 3) or all of the above. I loved these customers. Made me wanna hug them.

      • My brother tells me that programming is coming back to the states (and has been for 10 years or so) because other countries simply don’t understand the psychology of the American computer user, so their software is always frustrating to the user, because they don’t work the way we think. I tend to agree with his assessment.

  12. I think that one of the three bookstores in downtown Colorado Springs you’re referring to here is Poor Richard’s, which is still there, it just looks like a generic gift shop from the outside. Whenever the owner gets an idea for a new restaraunt or whatever, he takes space for it out of Poor Richard’s.

  13. Yeah, I know what you mean. He just can’t bring himself to actually close the bookstore.

  14. I think progressives are hoping to be liberated from the “curse” of work — although I doubt they will be successful. (In the Garden of Eden, Adam was supposed to work even before he was cursed.)

    I have the theory that much of what progressives want is to bring in “utopia” by undoing the Biblical curses — hey, let’s get rid of the pain of childbirth by having no children! And let’s figure out how to all speak the same language, thus negating what happened at the Tower of Babel! And so on.

  15. “Of course, in the seventies NO ONE became crazy enough to brag that people were being freed from work.”

    How about Phil Farmer’s Riders of the Purple Wage? Did he feel that a society in which most people did no work was a good thing? (It’s been decades since I read the story and really don’t remember.)