Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Enjoyable Employment

Remember that the genetic grand transition is the biggest and most revolutionary one in the sequence of them. Many, many changes to society happen during this one. Since it is so revolutionary, what gets done during it often sets some routes that the alien civilization will follow for the next millennia. Just like the founder of a long-lived company dictates the traditions of the company, the more influential aliens who are taking actions during the genetic transition set the stage for the entire civilization’s future. They set the memes in motion.

This means that thinking about the times between the genetic grand transition and the prior ones may shed some more light on how those memes are created, and why. Instead of focusing on meme creation, however, some more preliminary thinking needs to be done on the social environment during that interval. It may be short, but it must be important.

In another post, it was realized that there would be no niches of employment that were immune to being replaced during the robotics grand transition. An orderly development of robotics would gradually step through each of the crafts, professions, services and other categories of employment, and find ways to automate them. Some would disappear earlier, as they were easier to automate, and others would disappear later. Nothing would be immune, not governance positions, not hierarchy slots, not anything. Individuals with power or guilds with great influence could slow down the transition to automation, but the cost advantage is inexorable. If it doesn’t replace an employment type as a whole, it chips away at the tasks within that employment type, meaning the numbers of those employed go down. Then their bargaining power does as well. So by and large, every alien citizen during the last stages of the robotics grand transition cannot find work that has to be done by an alien. The question was raised, what do they do?

Taste and appreciation
was one bin that can absorb a great deal of the time of individual members of the alien civilization. But it was only one of several. Employment was another, but discretionary.

If no aliens have to work to keep the civilization’s production up, what would be the grounds for choosing to work? It becomes a push situation rather than a pull situation. The industrial infrastructure of the civilization, and all other infrastructures, such as governance, don’t reach out and look for particular individuals with specific skills or attributes to come in and work in some slot. Instead, the individual has to push his way into a work slot, displacing a more efficient robotic solution. When would this be allowed, and why would any alien want to?

Let’s deal with the second question first, as if there were possible job slots that nobody would want to do, there isn’t much point in finding out how it would be possible to squeeze someone into one. What would make work enjoyable enough that an alien would try and arrange so he could do it? Resource allocation is long gone. The alien is not going to get paid for doing this job. He/She/It works at an economic disadvantage. It costs the society more to have the alien working than not working, and that cost has to come out of the overall city consumption budget. To say that a different way, if an individual alien can’t be as productive, in a production/cost ratio sense, somebody is going to have to pay to have him/her/it do the work. It could be thought of as negative wages, but the individual might not be the one paying. It could come from any other source of funding, and this would depend on how the allocation of resources scheme was implemented on their planet or in their city.

And note we are talking about productive work here. It would be possible for the civilization to come up with totally useless jobs and allow aliens to do them, to keep them occupied. Since this is before the increase in intelligence that accompanies the genetic grand transition, perhaps the civilization would want to do that. But that type of employment is not the topic of this post.

What forms of productive activity would an alien in this era of their history want to be involved in? Enjoyment comes from different things, all implemented by the same neurological mechanism: familiarity via association and novelty. At this point in the history of the alien civilization, training and education have not yet been figured out, so each alien is getting a random collection of associations during their youth. Different aliens are going to be enjoying different things.

Let’s make some high-level categories and see what happens. Tasks that aliens in this era might still like:
1) Sorting, meaning processing large numbers of things, recognizing some attributes and dividing the stream. Happens in innumerable cases on Earth, from sorting apples to judging legal disputes, and it is easy to automate. It would probably be very numerous in any alien society at the advent of the robotics revolution.
2) Moving things, meaning taking some object from one place to another, without altering the object. Possibly the most numerous on Earth, including warehouse operations, package delivery, retail sales, waitressing, street-cleaning, pharmacy, mining, shipping, piloting, legal service, and many more. It would have to be common on any alien planet pre-robotics.
3) Extracting information from the environment. Geology and many other specialties in science, forensics, diagnostic medicine, quality control, process control, weather forecasting, and many others. Again, easy to automate once some recognition tools are incorporated in robotics, and common.
4) Exchanging information with other aliens. Sales assistance in any field, psychiatry, interrogation, negotiation, and so on.

There are many more, but these might be the most common functional tasks that aliens would do before the robotics revolution and which would be automated during it. From a functional point of view, what would there be in any of these that would cause an alien to want to continue to do them? They may have sorted things for years, and so individual continuity would be one potential justification. But the environment is going to be much different. Instead of having colleagues doing the same work or associated tasks, there would be robotic machinery doing most of these tasks. Is it imaginable that an individual would want to be thrust into such an environment, solely because the nature of the task is similar to what they did before?

So, perhaps the clue to enjoyable work is not the specific functionality of the work, but the environment in which the work is performed. This means that if the alien civilization is going to allow its citizens to amuse themselves performing some work tasks which would otherwise be relegated to automatons, they would not just have to make the opportunity exist by funding it, but they would also have to create an environment in which it could take place. This likely would mean the presence of other aliens.

So, work would not be done on an individual basis, but a group of aliens would have to form themselves or somehow be selected, and then some large block of automation would have to be turned back to alien use. Out of a hundred assembly lines, one is left for aliens who want to do something like that. For every hundred surgeries done, one is left for an alien surgeon. For every hundred accounting projects, one is done by an alien and the rest by AI.

Does this make sense?

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