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Elon Musk Responds!

Posted on December 14, 2017

Jarrett Walker

 

I confess, I’ve sometimes been hard on Elon Musk.

 

When he talks about how he’s going to change the facts of geometry, I point out that no technology has ever done that. And I’ve commented on other things he’s said that express cluelessness about what cities are.  Musk is doing some great things, but he is also using his megaphone to advance the idea that our cities will be great if we can just driver faster through them.  Most of his own home town, Los Angeles, was designed on that very principle, and look how that turned out.

 

Recently, I wrote a very careful piece on elite projection — the universal problem of very fortunate people designing the world around their private needs and tastes.  (Read the piece before you make a judgmental comment based on that summary!)

 

Since then, Musk has really been helping me out.  He keeps uttering more and more lurid quotes that are perfect examples of elite projection. Even the tech boosters of Fast Company noticed that his Los Angeles tunnel project seems engineered for his personal commute.  And he is always saying things like this:

 

[Public transit is] a pain in the ass,” he continued. “That’s why everyone doesn’t like it. And there’s like a bunch of random strangers, one of who might be a serial killer, OK, great. And so that’s why people like individualized transport, that goes where you want, when you want.”

 

Well, the company of “random strangers” is what a city is, and since a city is a lot of people in not much space, there isn’t room for everyone’s car.  So I said the obvious:

 

MORE:

http://humantransit.org/2017/12/elon-musk-responds.html

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Elon Musk Responds!

 

Since then, Musk has really been helping me out.  He keeps uttering more and more lurid quotes that are perfect examples of elite projection. Even the tech boosters of Fast Company noticed that his Los Angeles tunnel project seems engineered for his personal commute.  And he is always saying things like this:

 

[Public transit is] a pain in the ass,” he continued. “That’s why everyone doesn’t like it. And there’s like a bunch of random strangers, one of who might be a serial killer, OK, great. And so that’s why people like individualized transport, that goes where you want, when you want.”

 

 

 

Because a serial killer isn't a serial killer when they are in a car.

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Elon Musk Responds!

 

Since then, Musk has really been helping me out.  He keeps uttering more and more lurid quotes that are perfect examples of elite projection. Even the tech boosters of Fast Company noticed that his Los Angeles tunnel project seems engineered for his personal commute.  And he is always saying things like this:

 

[Public transit is] a pain in the ass,” he continued. “That’s why everyone doesn’t like it. And there’s like a bunch of random strangers, one of who might be a serial killer, OK, great. And so that’s why people like individualized transport, that goes where you want, when you want.”

 

 

 

Because a serial killer isn't a serial killer when they are in a car.

I use the phrase "random strangers" all the time.  Musk is on the autism spectrum supposedly, I would say when someone uses that phrase it's at least even money they are.

 

But the example I would have used would not have been serial killers but child molesters.

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Because child molesters never drive or walk amongst us on the street. Oh, I forgot, Elon Musk doesn't walk amongst us. What if he's the child molester/serial killer?? What an anti-social country we live in....

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Because child molesters never drive or walk amongst us on the street. Oh, I forgot, Elon Musk doesn't walk amongst us. What if he's the child molester/serial killer?? What an anti-social country we live in....

 

Asocial, not anti-social.  Anti-social means lashing out, asocial ignoring. 

 

Child molesters are more of an issue on public transit.  The PeeDee has mentioned them creeping on kids on buses in their recent series on living in the city.

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Elon Musk didn't lash out? He lashed out at people wanting to be social, wanting to be together.

 

What's the context of "creeping on kids"? Is this a real and widespread problem based on data, or just a media ratings draw? If I'm a kid, I'd feel safer on a bus or train than dealing with a nutjob in his car cruising near schools/playgrounds/parks.

 

Fact is, you're less likely to die a violent death in most big cities than you are in the outer suburbs or countrysides. The reason is that most violent deaths to children happen because of cars.

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Elon Musk didn't lash out? He lashed out at people wanting to be social, wanting to be together.

 

What's the context of "creeping on kids"? Is this a real and widespread problem based on data, or just a media ratings draw? If I'm a kid, I'd feel safer on a bus or train than dealing with a nutjob in his car cruising near schools/playgrounds/parks.

 

Fact is, you're less likely to die a violent death in most big cities than you are in the outer suburbs or countrysides. The reason is that most violent deaths to children happen because of cars.

 

More of a potential issue, the Twitter thread made that point a couple times.

 

This is why most people don't like to take their kids onto public transit.

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Ignoring people is one thing, reshaping society to avoid interactions is something else.  On the whole that's not a healthy direction for humanity to go... Earth isn't getting any bigger.  I believe in privacy and I believe people need it, but like most things it can't be absolute.  Taking it too far consumes disproportionate resources. 

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Ignoring people is one thing, reshaping society to avoid interactions is something else. 

 

However, it's definitely something that's seen as generally desirable.  The vast majority of changes that have eliminated the need for extraneous interaction have succeeded.  For example, how many people park and walk into stores or banks when drive throughs are available?  How many shop online/

 

Interaction isn't being phased out, but it's being changed and one of the big changes is de-emphasizing the "real time" aspects.  I would guess that during the last couple years, a majority of people spend more time texting than talking.

 

" Earth isn't getting any bigger. "

 

Keep in mind that Musk seeks to expand humanity beyond Earth.

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I'm not sure wiping out sectors of the economy qualifies as success.  The people advancing these changes need to own the consequences as much as they enjoy (what they consider to be) the benefits.  I don't think we even grasp the full scope of the consequences yet.  That's a job for future historians.  But some of them are obvious now and people want to brush them aside. 

 

Ironically enough, privacy has taken a beating from all this.  But now the privacy threat isn't your neighbors, it's corporations and malevolent hackers worldwide.  And pretty soon it's AI.  Who watches those watchers?  I'm all for Star Trek but not Terminator.

 

ETA: I recently discussed this with a random millennial who said he doesn't care who reads his texts-- as long as the content isn't used against him.  But how likely is that?  Police, for example, will absolutely use it against you.  It's their job.  And you can bet corporations will too.  My point is that people can't be off the grid at the same time they're dependent on that grid to avoid human contact.  It's not a cost-free advance, it's a tradeoff.

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I'm not sure wiping out sectors of the economy qualifies as success.  These changes, and those advancing them, need to own the consequences as much as they enjoy (what they consider to be) the benefits.  I don't think we even grasp the full scope of these consequences.  That's a job for future historians.  But some of them are obvious now and people want to brush them aside. 

 

Ironically enough, privacy has taken a beating from all this.  But now the privacy threat isn't your neighbors, it's corporations and malevolent hackers worldwide.  And pretty soon it's AI.  Who watches those watchers?  I'm all for Star Trek but not Terminator.

 

Transformational success inevitably wipes out sectors of the economy.  Seen any buggy whip manufacturers lately?  Carburetor plants?  The VCR business isn't what it used to be.  There aren't many record stores or second run movie theaters left either.

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Ignoring people is one thing, reshaping society to avoid interactions is something else. 

 

However, it's definitely something that's seen as generally desirable.  The vast majority of changes that have eliminated the need for extraneous interaction have succeeded.  For example, how many people park and walk into stores or banks when drive throughs are available?  How many shop online/

 

Interaction isn't being phased out, but it's being changed and one of the big changes is de-emphasizing the "real time" aspects.  I would guess that during the last couple years, a majority of people spend more time texting than talking.

 

" Earth isn't getting any bigger. "

 

Keep in mind that Musk seeks to expand humanity beyond Earth.

 

Then why are restaurants, taprooms and other experience-based things doing so well while "stuff" is doing poorly? Rural areas continue to empty out. Sprawl has slowed down significantly while urban areas thrive. The video game business is doing poorly while Magic The Gathering, other card games and tabletop gaming only get bigger. We had to change our business model significantly because of this.

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I'm not sure wiping out sectors of the economy qualifies as success.  These changes, and those advancing them, need to own the consequences as much as they enjoy (what they consider to be) the benefits.  I don't think we even grasp the full scope of these consequences.  That's a job for future historians.  But some of them are obvious now and people want to brush them aside. 

 

Ironically enough, privacy has taken a beating from all this.  But now the privacy threat isn't your neighbors, it's corporations and malevolent hackers worldwide.  And pretty soon it's AI.  Who watches those watchers?  I'm all for Star Trek but not Terminator.

 

Transformational success inevitably wipes out sectors of the economy.  Seen any buggy whip manufacturers lately?  Carburetor plants?  The VCR business isn't what it used to be.  There aren't many record stores or second run movie theaters left either.

 

It's different when there's no auto industry for the buggy people to run to.  That transformation eliminated horses from the economy and repurposed the humans, now we're eliminating the humans.

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I do think that people generally do want to avoid human interaction, or perhaps more pointedly- small talk. I always preferred to use the self check outs at the grocery store, though those don't seem to exist in CA. Even in spaces that are inherently communal, such as public transportation, most people these days wear headphones and have their heads in their phones. At the same time, people do seem interested in more communal settings when it comes to social activities. I think the latter trend is more of a push back to the overall trend of isolation and minimization of human interaction.

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I do think that people generally do want to avoid human interaction, or perhaps more pointedly- small talk. I always preferred to use the self check outs at the grocery store, though those don't seem to exist in CA. Even in spaces that are inherently communal, such as public transportation, most people these days wear headphones and have their heads in their phones. At the same time, people do seem interested in more communal settings when it comes to social activities. I think the latter trend is more of a push back to the overall trend of isolation and minimization of human interaction.

 

Where are you doing your shopping in LA?  Every Ralphs, Target, Von's, etc has self-checkout.  Trader Joe's is practically the only place that doesn't. I was just at the Ralph's on Wilshire today and used the self-checkout to avoid conversation because I was in a hurry.  I love it.

 

 

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People have the guard up in cities because people who are approach you are usually trying to sell something, ask for money, or hit on you. I love cities, I love all the people all around, but that is the reality about how people are in them compared to in small towns and that is where all that Mayberry BS comes from.

 

I myself suck at making small talk with cashiers, bus drivers, and so on. I see other people practically making friends with them all the time but when I say hi I barely get a response. Must be the way I carry myself, idk.

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This is why most people don't like to take their kids onto public transit.

 

Are you referring to a survey or poll?

 

In a world that has rapidly surpassed 7 billion human population (regardless of its significant environmental challenges), mass transit is only growing in demand and necessity. There are fewer places that meet your image of a suburban paradise, not more.

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I always nod or say high to bus drivers and people like that.  I talked to a guy driving a Uhaul at the gas station this week because it had the most ridiculous design I've ever seen on the side and we both cracked up at it. 

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Personally, I don't want to live in the world that Elon has planned. Even when I am feeling antisocial, asocial, or whatever we are calling it, I enjoy the small human interactions that public transit provides.

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I'm not sure wiping out sectors of the economy qualifies as success.  These changes, and those advancing them, need to own the consequences as much as they enjoy (what they consider to be) the benefits.  I don't think we even grasp the full scope of these consequences.  That's a job for future historians.  But some of them are obvious now and people want to brush them aside. 

 

Ironically enough, privacy has taken a beating from all this.  But now the privacy threat isn't your neighbors, it's corporations and malevolent hackers worldwide.  And pretty soon it's AI.  Who watches those watchers?  I'm all for Star Trek but not Terminator.

 

Transformational success inevitably wipes out sectors of the economy.  Seen any buggy whip manufacturers lately?  Carburetor plants?  The VCR business isn't what it used to be.  There aren't many record stores or second run movie theaters left either.

 

Mark Cuban predicted that within the next ten years, AI/machine learning will be advanced enough to write/update its own code and that liberal arts degrees will be worth more than a programming-related degree. I think he said that a couple years ago, too. If that level of automation is achieved, we'll experience a swift wiping out of sectors on a level far beyond anything we've ever seen in the past. I'm just a little bit skeptical of that but a lot of people do have that perception (and believe anything Cuban says.)

 

The cost of social unrest when a large portion of the population are out of jobs, can't get by and have no meaning left in their life far outweighs the economic benefits of automation. The good news is that there are dozens of competing countries like China who face the exact same issue.

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I do think that people generally do want to avoid human interaction, or perhaps more pointedly- small talk. I always preferred to use the self check outs at the grocery store, though those don't seem to exist in CA. Even in spaces that are inherently communal, such as public transportation, most people these days wear headphones and have their heads in their phones. At the same time, people do seem interested in more communal settings when it comes to social activities. I think the latter trend is more of a push back to the overall trend of isolation and minimization of human interaction.

 

As I said, "extraneous interaction".  When it's part of the activity that's different, it's on your own terms.  The same with online stuff. 

 

I've said for awhile, there are three types of people regarding "small talk": those who will start random conversations, those who will not but will reply and respond, and those who avoid and ignore them.  I'm decidedly the third type, and so are some others I know that will post a lot of stuff online.

 

You might be surprised how many of type 1 get offended and miffed when encountering a type 3.

 

 

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I'm not sure wiping out sectors of the economy qualifies as success.  These changes, and those advancing them, need to own the consequences as much as they enjoy (what they consider to be) the benefits.  I don't think we even grasp the full scope of these consequences.  That's a job for future historians.  But some of them are obvious now and people want to brush them aside. 

 

Ironically enough, privacy has taken a beating from all this.  But now the privacy threat isn't your neighbors, it's corporations and malevolent hackers worldwide.  And pretty soon it's AI.  Who watches those watchers?  I'm all for Star Trek but not Terminator.

 

Transformational success inevitably wipes out sectors of the economy.  Seen any buggy whip manufacturers lately?  Carburetor plants?  The VCR business isn't what it used to be.  There aren't many record stores or second run movie theaters left either.

 

Mark Cuban predicted that within the next ten years, AI/machine learning will be advanced enough to write/update its own code and that liberal arts degrees will be worth more than a programming-related degree. I think he said that a couple years ago, too. If that level of automation is achieved, we'll experience a swift wiping out of sectors on a level far beyond anything we've ever seen in the past. I'm just a little bit skeptical of that but a lot of people do have that perception (and believe anything Cuban says.)

 

The cost of social unrest when a large portion of the population are out of jobs, can't get by and have no meaning left in their life far outweighs the economic benefits of automation. The good news is that there are dozens of competing countries like China who face the exact same issue.

 

The Luddites put forth a similar argument.  But seriously, how many people's jobs define the meaning of their lives?

 

Machines can write their own code but are not innovative.  That's where people still come in.

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We are currently in the midst of something akin to the industrial revolution - a complete restructuring of the economy driven by technological change. Just like last time, there's going to be some growing pains before we figure out exactly how we are going to deal with it.

 

Capital, labor, and natural resources were thought of as the three ingredients of production in pretty much all economic theories from Adam Smith to Marx. When labor is no longer needed (or needed 99% less than currently) that's going to have some pretty profound impacts on human life. Science fiction writers saw this coming fifty years ago, now more and more people are catching on, but most voters and politicians still don't see it.

 

There's been a lot of ballyhooing recently about the working class, but the ultimate goal of society really should be to lift everyone out of it, not come up with more menial jobs. A humanity where everybody is educated and working creatively would advance at a far faster rate than we even are now. In the long run, humanity either overcomes scarcity or destroys itself.

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Except not everyone wants to be educated or can work creatively. Some people like a job that involves more brawn than brains. If they don't sweat on the job, they don't feel like they've worked.

 

And so we return to the subject...

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Everyone said computers and robots were going to take over in the 80s.  Didn't happen.  Isn't going to happen this time.  When your dollar can buy more stuff, you tend to buy more stuff, which creates more jobs, even if that one physical worker is 10x as productive as they would have in the past. 

 

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Everyone said computers and robots were going to take over in the 80s.  Didn't happen.  Isn't going to happen this time.  When your dollar can buy more stuff, you tend to buy more stuff, which creates more jobs, even if that one physical worker is 10x as productive as they would have in the past. 

 

 

They're not going to take over, but they save time and do things people don't want to do, while giving them the opportunity to do things they do want to do.  Less technically astute older people complain about more tech oriented older people and most younger people being on their screens all the time, but don't realize that the screens are compressing time more than they are taking away from it.  Tasks that used to take hours now take minutes or even happen automatically.  I despise brick-and-mortar shopping during crowded times, and just finished most of it for a seven year old girl plus her cousins in about the time it would take to get from the road, parked, and into a store/mall.

 

Some may not want to learn these things, but in the past some didn't want to learn to read.  Being technologically incapable stands to be as big a handicap tomorrow as being illiterate is today.

 

Getting back onto topic, I suspect Musk's attitudes to a large degree reflect those of the people spearheading these changes.  Simply telling them they are wrong won't cut it they need to be persuaded.

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Getting back onto topic, I suspect Musk's attitudes to a large degree reflect those of the people spearheading these changes.  Simply telling them they are wrong won't cut it they need to be persuaded.[/color]

 

If some people are afraid of being around other people, especially poor/minority/disabled persons, what can you do for them? If someone wants a higher quality of transit service, with amenities like more legroom, more comfortable seats, onboard food/beverage service, WiFi, etc., that's one thing. You charge extra for that. But if you merely want to avoid people who look/sound/smell different than you, the last thing I want to do is legitimize someone's fear/ignorance by providing them an isolation chamber on a transit vehicle. Screw them. Let them drive alone to work in their hermitmobiles.

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Everyone said computers and robots were going to take over in the 80s.  Didn't happen.  Isn't going to happen this time.  When your dollar can buy more stuff, you tend to buy more stuff, which creates more jobs, even if that one physical worker is 10x as productive as they would have in the past. 

 

Automation won't take every job, but it certainly can affect a significant number.

 

https://gizmodo.com/robots-are-already-replacing-human-workers-at-an-alarmi-1793718198

https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2017/03/work-automation/521364/

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Hospitals and retirement homes are hiring like crazy.  Real people.  Restaurants are growing like crazy.  Real people. 

 

Some guy out in silicon valley has dropped tens of millions trying to develop a machine that can make custom pizzas.  Turns out it's really tough for a robot to place objects as varied as pepperoni and mushrooms and shredded cheese on a dough disc. 

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Anything which requires creative thought and/or fine controlled movements of the hands is a long way off for automation. There's a lot of things that don't require either, however.

 

When you said "it didn't happen in the 80s and won't happen this time" I disagree with the idea that there is a "this time" and "last time." It's been happening gradually since the 80s and it's going to keep happening. Take a look at how many people it takes to build an F-150 now vs 1980.

 

Is there an automation thread?

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Hospitals and retirement homes are hiring like crazy.  Real people.  Restaurants are growing like crazy.  Real people. 

 

Some guy out in silicon valley has dropped tens of millions trying to develop a machine that can make custom pizzas.  Turns out it's really tough for a robot to place objects as varied as pepperoni and mushrooms and shredded cheese on a dough disc. 

 

As of now, that is. 

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Recessions destroy jobs, not technology.  Technology can render a profession obsolete but it can't destroy jobs. 

 

The U.S. had approximately 60 million jobs in 1950.  Now we have 160 million.  Tons of stuff has been automated since then. 

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I'm pretty sure there is an automation thread, or perhaps several, actually.  However, "automation" is an enormous topic and it inevitably bleeds into a lot of other topics.  It's one step shy of asking if there is a "cities" thread here or an "economy" thread here.

 

I think it's well within the realm of possibility to imagine public transit and ridesharing both becoming automated themselves.  Uber is well known to be working on an automated ridesharing fleet, and while we probably won't see it next year, that technology is growing extremely rapidly.  To the extent that Elon Musk doesn't want to be part of that revolution, that's totally fine, he doesn't need to be.  He's got plenty on his plate already.  But Tesla's autopilot technology is some of the best in the business and of course the company is still investing heavily in developing it further.  That same technology will likely form the basis of self-driving buses and trains as much as it does self-driving cars.

 

As for human interaction, I'd be plenty fine with a bus or train that offered different parts of the carriage as "social seats" and "silent seats."  Some days I'm up for random conversation, and some days I wish everyone could just see that I've wrapped myself in invisible bubble wrap studded with a forest of invisible outward-facing poisoned spikes, and draw the appropriate conclusion from that about my current desire for a conversation with a stranger.

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Last year or early this year Musk claimed they were going to send a Tesla car on autopilot from LA to NYC but it hasn't happened.  Highway driving is the easiest thing for driverless cars to do and they still aren't there, 10 years into this.  Yet it's always "just about to happen".  I'm skeptical at this point that it's ever going to work. 

 

We have thousands of engineers working on this all around the world and they can't get it working.  We got to the moon in a lot less time with less men and way less tech.  Because there isn't anything in between the Earth and the moon.  A driverless car is driving through a continuous, unending asteroid belt.  All the king's horses and men can get the cars to drive by themselves. 

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Last year or early this year Musk claimed they were going to send a Tesla car on autopilot from LA to NYC but it hasn't happened.  Highway driving is the easiest thing for driverless cars to do and they still aren't there, 10 years into this.  Yet it's always "just about to happen".  I'm skeptical at this point that it's ever going to work. 

 

We have thousands of engineers working on this all around the world and they can't get it working.  We got to the moon in a lot less time with less men and way less tech.  Because there isn't anything in between the Earth and the moon.  A driverless car is driving through a continuous, unending asteroid belt.  All the king's horses and men can get the cars to drive by themselves. 

 

Not 10 years in, 80 years in. GM said autonomous cares would rule the road by 1960 at the 1939 World's Fair.

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STNAs and restaurant workers barely get by.  Many of those jobs don't involve full time hours but require a lot of flexibility, so they don't play well with other jobs.  And while there may always be a certain amount of employment for HVAC and plumbers and what have you, those professions can't absorb everyone.

 

Not very long ago, my law practice would have employed at least one assistant maybe two.  Instead I do their work with software and I spend the savings on debt service.  At the big firms, discovery work that used to employ associates at 6 figures is now done by a combo of software and cheap temps.  Ten years ago it was mostly temps, but that ratio has reversed.  The software is so much cheaper that clients insist on it.  These are big chunks getting ripped out of the middle class, both ends of it.  It would take an impossible number of electrician jobs to fill the gap.

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