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Thread: Automation and our future

  1. #31
    Radical Centrist BigLeRoy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bajisima View Post
    Oh for sure. We are already half way there. Don't believe it? Just go to a grocery store right before a hurricane and watch people literally punch people for bottled water. Even two or three years ago when there was a reported shortage of bacon I remember seeing people shoving and pushing to get the last few packs. Offering to pay more for it even. We revert to animals when survival is at stake.
    "Table manners disappear when food becomes scarce."

    I don't remember who it was that said that, but it has stuck in my mind ever since I first heard it.
    Thanks from bajisima and MaryAnne

  2. #32
    Radical Centrist BigLeRoy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dittohead not! View Post
    The "fake steak" would not only be identical, it would be superior. The 3D printer could be programmed to remove any small defect and produce perfect food.
    Anyway, the little people don't seem to mind eating at McDonald's while the privileged lay out $200 for a fancy dinner.
    I agree with you here. Meat is just molecules, and we are learning how to manipulate matter at the molecular and atomic levels. We WILL figure out how to make synthetic meat that is BOTH healthier AND better-tasting. And this will be an enormous benefit for the environment-----yes, folks, bovine flatulence DOES make a significant contribution to greenhouse gases!-----and will also please the animal rights activists.

    Fifty years from now, eating meat that actually came from a once-living animal just might be seen as BARBARIC and SAVAGE.
    Thanks from Dittohead not!

  3. #33
    RNG
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    Pretty well all the discussion about how to alleviate the potential shortages will require lots of energy. Creating synbeef from various molecules lying around would be a big energy user, as would any method you wish to imagine for making more potable water.

    So back to fusion or an unbelievable jump in green power. And even for green power as we know it now, there is a limit to the amount of land available for solar and wind.
    Thanks from Libertine

  4. #34
    New Member Havelock's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by RNG View Post
    But another comment on China. I find it absolutely fascinating that the Chinese invented gunpowder but only used it for celebrations and fireworks whereas the Europeans instantly invented guns when they came across it.

    A different mindset?
    No, sorryÖ This is a misconception. It may be that the Chinese did indeed first use gunpowder for showy displays, after having stumbled across it in a search for an elixir of immortality. But in any case they weaponized it very quickly, and developed rocket-powered projectiles, bombs, grenades, and guns well in advance of Europeans. It took something like 300 to 500 years after the weaponization of gunpowder for the Chinese to fall behind in weapons technology depending on how one judges such things, and most scholars believe that they fell behind simply because there came a time when all of their local enemies had been effectively vanquished. Simply put, there was no longer any pressure to innovate.

    Cheers.
    Thanks from MaryAnne

  5. #35
    New Member Havelock's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BigLeRoy View Post
    I'm going to take some mild exception to this post. I'm probably one of the few Americans who has read every volume of Joseph Needham's magisterial Science and Civilization in China, which is just as much about Chinese technology as it is about science. I would say that China was the technological leader of the world from ~500 BC to ~1450 AD. At THAT point, the Europeans were already pulling ahead. Gutenberg's printing press was invented in 1453 (the same year that Constantinople fell to the Turks, ending the last vestige of the once-so-mighty Roman Empire).

    The Iron Age didn't arrive in China until about ~500 BC, and the evidence is that iron metallurgy arrived in China via the Silk Road, which was still in its infancy at that time. But almost immediately upon acquiring iron, the Chinese had superior iron technology right away, simply due to the lower phosphorous content of Chinese iron ores. They had cast iron almost 2000 years before the Europeans! And then came paper, and gunpowder, and the compass, and block printing, and the wheelbarrow, and so MANY other inventions. Early China was indeed a technological prodigy.

    But something happened in China in the early to mid 15th century, between the Early Ming dynasty and the Middle Ming. The Early Ming dynasty saw a Chinese Age of Discovery, with the voyages of the Chinese eunuch admiral Cheng Ho (or Zheng He) reaching at LEAST as far as Madagascar. China may have been on the verge of an Industrial Revolution at that point; steel production in southern China was very high at that point (and also was during the earlier Southern Song dynasty). But then a political struggle resulted in a major change of 'party' at the imperial court. And China suddenly turned inward. They BURNED the ocean-going ships! They became isolationist. In the words of one scholar, China 'erected a Great Wall of the mind against the outside world'.

    If you want to explore all the various theories as to what caused this Chinese decline, I would heartily recommend the book The Lever of Riches: Technological Creativity and Economic Progress, by Joel Mokyr, economic historian at Northwestern University (and one of our very BEST economic historians, IMO). He has a whole heady CHAPTER on what caused the rather abrupt Chinese decline.

    And then China SLEPT. Napoleon said China was "a sleeping giant", remember? They were. They woke up in the late 1980's, when Deng replaced Mao.
    Okay, fair enough. Youíre quite right, I oversimplified the matter considerably. Mea culpa. So, can we agree that in, say, 1450, during the early Ming, the Chinese were the most advanced civilization in the world by almost any measure? And arguably had been so more or less continuously since around 200 BCE at leastÖ? I expect we do agree that by, say, 1800 that was no longer true. By that time Europeans were ahead in almost every aspect of technology, military and civil, yes? So, pick a date sometime between 1450 and 1800 when China lost itís lead.

    Itís basically a truism that the later Ming dynasty years were a time of insularity, ossification, stagnation, and ultimately decline. When we see the Great Wall as it is typically depicted, weíre seeing Ming fortifications. Then again, when the Manchus invaded and established the Qing dynasty in the 1640s, they were anything but inward-focused. Within 100 years they nearly doubled the size of the Ming state, establishing an empire larger than any before it Ė unless you want to quibble about the Mongol Yuan Dynasty Ė and creating more or less the modern state of China as we know it today. I think itís fair to say that the Qing military, up until at least the early to mid 1700s, was equal to if not better than any the world had ever known and certainly a match for any European force on the open battlefield.

    But that changed pretty quickly, of course. Why? Conventional wisdom, as youíve alluded to, is that after their successful conquests the Chinese state simply didnít have any challenges that would drive innovation and improvement. As the Ming had, the Qing saw themselves as the center of the world and the only civilization of any real import or consequence. By the time they were confronted with proof to the contrary, they were too rigid and self-absorbed to react quickly enough to avert catastrophe.

    Of course the Taiping Rebellion Ė the mid-19th century conflict that dwarfed any in the West; the rebellion may have claimed as many Chinese lives as WWII took around the world Ė might have played a role in Chinaís failure to respond to the challenge of the West.

    Lots of possibilities, noÖ? In any case, I donít see anything in this larger discussion that necessarily contradicts the hypothesis that one reason why China lost its technological edge was that they had an abundance of manpower and didnít need or benefit from labor-saving technology to the same extent that European countries did.

    I confess I havenít read the book that you recommended, though. So maybe thatíll enlighten me further. Thanks for the recommendation. Iíll put it on my list.

    Cheers.
    Thanks from BigLeRoy

  6. #36
    Radical Centrist BigLeRoy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Havelock View Post
    Okay, fair enough. You’re quite right, I oversimplified the matter considerably. Mea culpa. So, can we agree that in, say, 1450, during the early Ming, the Chinese were the most advanced civilization in the world by almost any measure? And arguably had been so more or less continuously since around 200 BCE at least…? I expect we do agree that by, say, 1800 that was no longer true. By that time Europeans were ahead in almost every aspect of technology, military and civil, yes? So, pick a date sometime between 1450 and 1800 when China lost it’s lead.

    It’s basically a truism that the later Ming dynasty years were a time of insularity, ossification, stagnation, and ultimately decline. When we see the Great Wall as it is typically depicted, we’re seeing Ming fortifications. Then again, when the Manchus invaded and established the Qing dynasty in the 1640s, they were anything but inward-focused. Within 100 years they nearly doubled the size of the Ming state, establishing an empire larger than any before it – unless you want to quibble about the Mongol Yuan Dynasty – and creating more or less the modern state of China as we know it today. I think it’s fair to say that the Qing military, up until at least the early to mid 1700s, was equal to if not better than any the world had ever known and certainly a match for any European force on the open battlefield.

    But that changed pretty quickly, of course. Why? Conventional wisdom, as you’ve alluded to, is that after their successful conquests the Chinese state simply didn’t have any challenges that would drive innovation and improvement. As the Ming had, the Qing saw themselves as the center of the world and the only civilization of any real import or consequence. By the time they were confronted with proof to the contrary, they were too rigid and self-absorbed to react quickly enough to avert catastrophe.

    Of course the Taiping Rebellion – the mid-19th century conflict that dwarfed any in the West; the rebellion may have claimed as many Chinese lives as WWII took around the world – might have played a role in China’s failure to respond to the challenge of the West.

    Lots of possibilities, no…? In any case, I don’t see anything in this larger discussion that necessarily contradicts the hypothesis that one reason why China lost its technological edge was that they had an abundance of manpower and didn’t need or benefit from labor-saving technology to the same extent that European countries did.

    I confess I haven’t read the book that you recommended, though. So maybe that’ll enlighten me further. Thanks for the recommendation. I’ll put it on my list.

    Cheers.
    You're certainly right that the Manchus were "anything but inward-focused". But their focus was mostly on the Asian INTERIOR. Were the Manchus interested in becoming a great naval power? No. Already in the 17th century, they were FAR behind the Dutch in terms of the quality of their ships and their sailors. It's also true that the Western powers did not really achieve DECISIVE military superiority over China (and Japan) until the Industrial Revolution.

    I'm posting from home and don't have my Mokyr book handy, but he notes that the Manchus didn't have much interest in internal economic improvement, and even stopped providing the very basic kinds of public goods/services that states are generally expected to provide, such as maintaining a standardized system of weights and measures----the private sector in China had to step in and do that, albeit poorly.

    Some of those early rockets the Chinese developed were mostly used to OVERAWE the northern barbarians, rather than being really effective weapons. Psychological weapons: that's what they were. How effective they were at that, I'm not really sure.

    Thanks for the interesting discussion----several steps above the usual conversations here at PH!
    Thanks from MaryAnne

  7. #37
    Junior Member zaangalewa's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Spookycolt View Post
    If we ever hit the point where we have more people than the earth can support
    This was point was reached when Hitler came.

    then nature will take care of it.
    The living nature dies just simple under the brutality of their machine minded murderers.

    Not much we have to do about it.
    We are the leading species on this planet and we lead the other species in their extinction. We are the evil might. And if we do nothing then we will stay to be the evil might.

    You also are not going to stop tech advances no matter how much you want to, or anyone for that matter.
    Says an ancestor of the Borg?

    Someone invents a better mousetrap it will catch on.
    Do you speak about the mice with two arms, two legs and a head on the shoulder and freaky automiced drones?

    Its also this very technology that will get us into space where are all of the problems you described will no longer exist.
    We can not flee from a murdered planet and hide ourselves in the death of the space. We can bring gods light of life to the universe - but we are not able to create life on our own. Machines are machines - not living structures. The intelligence of machines is a myth.

    Last edited by zaangalewa; 1st July 2017 at 08:12 PM.

  8. #38
    Master political analyst Dittohead not!'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BigLeRoy View Post
    I agree with you here. Meat is just molecules, and we are learning how to manipulate matter at the molecular and atomic levels. We WILL figure out how to make synthetic meat that is BOTH healthier AND better-tasting. And this will be an enormous benefit for the environment-----yes, folks, bovine flatulence DOES make a significant contribution to greenhouse gases!-----and will also please the animal rights activists.

    Fifty years from now, eating meat that actually came from a once-living animal just might be seen as BARBARIC and SAVAGE.
    and a huge waste of water, which is getting scarcer already and is likely to get even more so in the future.
    Thanks from BigLeRoy and MaryAnne

  9. #39
    Veteran Member MaryAnne's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BigLeRoy View Post
    I am a long-time subscriber to the British journal New Scientist, and a few months ago they had a VERY interesting article that suggested that automation will lead to an era of mega-cities because, paradoxically, the jobs MOST resistant to automation will be in the mega-cities. So people will gravitate to those concentrated urban centers. It may be much of the work in the RURAL areas that gets automated first. In 20 years, we could very well have totally automated wheat and corn farms across the Midwest.

    If I was at my office, I could find the article and link to it. But I'm posting from home today.
    Please post it when you can.

    I find it almost comical that we still have those around us who mourn for a return to the old days that never existed but in their minds.

    After spending a great day with the younger members of the family I find myself gravitating to those who are discussing new systems and inventions.

    Even the 93 year old Grandma has a new laptop. She just sent me a long email.

    Automation has been going on long before Henry Ford invented the assembled line.

    You see Farmers out in the field with laptops that do everything from how much fertilizer to use,on their huge machines that do everything,replacing millions of back breaking jobs. The small farm is really obsolete. Unles they expand,can afford the equipment they are gone.

    Trump has fed those who are too ignorant,or do not want to face the facts of this new world. The business community are not paying any attention to Trump and his backers.

    Coal mines,indeed,ain't gonna happen. And I am just happy to watch it happen. Smart people adjust,educate themselves,move on.

    But,our moribund leaders need to catch up.
    Thanks from Dittohead not! and BigLeRoy

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