To UBI or not to UBI?

Spoiler alert: to UBI!
The fact is: sooner or later setting up some sort of Universal Basic Income (i.e.: free money for everyone, working or not) will become cheaper than maintaining social order.

This may happen within just over a decade or take a lot longer, but as the technology advances, it will make automation ubiquitous and lower the costs of goods further and further.

If this sounds like just a crazy socialist-ish utopia without fundament, let’s go through the numbers!

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Top 10 ways in which 2019 will shape the future

Full disclaimer: …any of those “10 things that…” you see around is an attempt to score high on google… however in my defence the reason it is also a clear and itemized framework for ideas that may become full posts in future.
Also, there are some notable missing trends, for example the technological backlash that started in 2018, but that I see more like a phase, than something that will shape decades to come.
Finally: the order is entirely arbitrary.

Here we go!

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Post-Individualism

I wrote recently about how individualism has been a cornerstone of western civilization for over 2 centuries now, and how this may be coming under a little bit of fire.

I do not believe individualism is entirely coming to an end, but I do believe that it is about to be downsized as a value in our society. This is often the case with cultural waves, and subsequent over-reacting counterwaves.

But what would a post-individualistic world be like? Individualism sprung from romanticism together with the exaltation of passion, the seed of anti-conformism, and many aspects of our culture that are deeply interconnected, so it’s not a case of shutting down a single value, but rather the interconnected network of values that we call our current culture.

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Private Debt Apocalypse

I like the title… It’s a little apocalyptic, but it conveys the idea. We all know about public debt, a constant reminder of how many countries have been living beyond their means for decades now. I am not talking about public debt tho, I am considering private debt, and specifically the debt of individuals, as opposed that of companies.

When we say that many people in western countries live beyond their means, at an individual level means that each person has an average debt of several thousand euro / dollars. For many a large portion of it constitutes their mortgage, but also student debt, and even just the credit card debts account in average for several thousand dollars/euro.

If you google today “unemployment rate  2030” you will find wildly ranging estimates, only rarely they are lower than 30% tho.

When you have hundreds of millions of unemployed people being unable to repay their debt, you may as well call that a private debt apocalypse.

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Praise of the grasshopper

What is globalization? A simple agnostic definition on wiktionary suggests very briefly that it is

The process of becoming a more interconnected world.

Following that, a second, more political definition is provided in which globalisation becomes a byproduct of capitalism.

If this was true (we’ll get there), it would be easy for a westerner to nihilistically dismiss our culture and values as a mere race to obtain more money and goods, and just as nihilistically dismiss the globalisation and the expansion of capitalism as something inherently negative, but is it that simple?

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End of an era

Do you remember capitalism? Marx, the law of supply and demand, the requirement for scarcity, a workforce…

I don’t want to make this a technical talk on economics, and I probably don’t have the means, however it seems obvious that when industry builds new machines aimed to goods production, the reason is lowering the cost of production and raising the profit in one of two ways:

  • keeping the price unchanged, and therefore increasing the margin;
  • gaining a competitive advantage by lowering the price, and therefore selling more units

What happens, tho, if robots become capable of doing any physical labour? And no, I am not talking about science fiction…

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