Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Ironic: Garbage - those who don't need it, want it!

Today's news: "Oslo has a problem: Shortage of garbage to generate power"

Norway has oil and gas as well. We have very little oil and gas but a lot of garbage and few plants to process the garbage! On warm days, I can smell the garbage in Chandigarh when we go for a walk. The odour is definitely stronger than that of roses in Rose Garden :(

I suppose no one wants a garbage disposal plant in their neighbourhood just as they don't want a nuclear plant in their neighbourhood. I wouldn't want to live downstream a hydroelectric dam either.

So, until we have fewer people so that we have space, we may need to find a way to send the garbage to Oslo in exchange for some barrels of oil :)

Some more news of robots making the rich in US richer! A big emotional advantage will be that the consumers won't have to feel guilty about cheap clothes from Bangladesh where people have to work in high risk environment.

Hope Danes do not dismantle their welfare state but others learn from it

I read this news about the welfare state of Denmark with a lot of interest. The tone of the report was distinctly negative. It implies that something is wrong - the state is discouraging people from working.

It seems to me that the Danes are well off because they have hit upon the solution for the modern predicament - jobless growth! I may agree with Erik Brynjolfsson: The key to growth? Race with the machines; however, I find it hard to believe that all or even most human beings can be productively employed in a robotic future.

People may be able to spend their time, exactly as I am doing - writing a blog, reading and sharing news, spending some time on Google+ and, even, Facebook. But I am not earning anything from these activities. I have earned this 'right' to do nothing by 'retiring'. Society may have to face up to the reality that a fair fraction of the population will never be employed as appears to be happening in Spain.

I have to admit that anyone can do well in the new economy - what else can one say about Honey Boo Boo. Logic, though, tells us that anyone can does not imply everyone will. The best anti-dote for optimism remains A Cool Million!

New industries like Google, Facebook need an audience and content creators - an audience who are in a position to spend money making it worthwhile for advertiser to pay these companies.  We may have trouble doing so in India but the richer countries should be able to pay people to spend time on social media instead of working just like they pay farmers to not grow food. If the option boils down to dying or paying higher corporate taxes, the latter is bound to win.

I was surprised to find that the concept of negative income tax has been around so long and even more surprised that one of its first proponents was Milton Friedman.

Negative income tax may interesting side effects, e.g. better services. People may work in a coffee shop or a bar not to earn money but to interact with people. Many jobs may move from their lowly economic status to a higher socially conscious status. I recall reading that a prominent author worked as a nightwatchman so that he could work on his novel in peace!

For Indians in India, the future does not look rosy. We need to accept that robots are cheaper even in China! This news confirms the absurdity of the idea of demographic dividend. We have a large unemployed and unemployable population, unfit even for blogging or creating YouTube videos. It seems absurd to brag about it rather than working frantically to reduce population growth and move towards Danish style welfare state when each of us becomes a socially conscious rag-picker.