I wonder how long it will take us, the vast majority of real humans, to remove or recycle these useless parasites that have prevented the evolution of the species since the beginning?
“London is to billionaires what the jungles of Sumatra are to the orangutan. It is their natural habitat”—Boris Johnson, Conservative Party Mayor of London, 2014.
“I welcome the fact that we have got 140-plus billionaires in London. That’s a good thing. I welcome the fact that there are more than 400,000 millionaires. That’s a good thing”—Sadiq Khan, Labour Party Mayor of London, 2016.
London, the centre of grotesque inequality in Britain before the COVID-19 pandemic, has inevitably become an epicentre of the pandemic within the UK. The city is a concentrated example of the class divisions cleaving through the whole of British society.
On the evenings of March 26 and April 2, as millions of Londoners joined a country-wide applause for the self-sacrifice of grossly underequipped NHS staff, where were the super-rich that Johnson and Khan lauded as essential to society’s wellbeing? While the Tory government bailed out big business to the tune of £380 billion, the multi-millionaires and billionaires escaped to secluded islands and safe havens in private jets, climbed aboard luxury yachts for extended vacations, settled into their country retreats, or bunkered down in their mansions and luxury apartments.
A few weeks ago, private jet booking service PrivateFly said it saw a huge increase in bookings as clients evacuated back to the UK from disease-hit countries. Others were arranging private flights out of Britain to avoid planned lockdowns.
Those poorer multi-millionaires who could not afford private jets were using concierge company Quintessentially. The company’s spokesperson said, “Members who are travelling commercially are choosing to book elite services at airports, not your typical first-class lounge. For example, private terminals where guests are greeted and given their own suite. Check-in, customs and security are all done privately, and guests are then taken to the doors of the aircraft. Members can request for the jetty to be cleared so they minimise the interactions with other passengers on their way to their seat.”
Luxury retail agency Quintessentially Estates said that early in the crisis their phones were hot with inquiries about “Scottish castles, mansions with bunkers, Cotswolds manor houses with moats, uninhabited Caribbean islands to buy, superyachts for a long charter and private jets to get clients home from abroad without their having to go near international airports.”
The London rich who could not escape buy designer face masks and attend eye-wateringly expensive Harley Street practices for private testing and expensive intravenous vitamin infusions. Others have moved to country homes or leased them for up to ￡50,000 a month, according to the Daily Mail.
As reports began to emerge that London doctors, hospital workers, bus workers and a 13-year-old child were dying of COVID-19 across the capital in horrific circumstances, the elite had other concerns. One London financier is reported by Forbes to have complained that the lockdown was preventing her showing off her expensive jewellery: “I’m just not sure when my next ball will be.”
While the super-rich complain of being bored in their gated mansions, masses of workers in London have lost their jobs or are forced to work in unsafe conditions with next to no protection from the virus. Every journey on London Underground has turned into a nightmare. Poorly paid workers wrap scarfs and handkerchiefs around their faces and crowd into train carriages. Labour Party Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has closed 40 out of 265 tube stations due to the numbers of staff self-isolating at home with COVID-19 symptoms because no serious safety measures were put in place.
Among those travelling on packed transport systems are tens of thousands of the capital’s construction workers—many on their way to build high-value apartments and houses. Both the Tory government and Mayor Khan have made deliberately vague statements about what constitutes “essential work,” allowing construction firms to decide for themselves. Twitter has been rife with the barbed comments of construction workers questioning why the luxury flats they must build were considered “essential.”
Another thriving industry is private tutoring. Tutors International, which provides elite tutoring services, says it has seen “a massive upswing in requests” since the COVID-19 outbreak.
While the super-rich carry on with their luxurious lifestyles as normal, the situation facing the working class is indicated by the Nightingale field hospital, officially opened on Friday in east London. The effort put in by workers to construct a facility from scratch has been tremendous. But the need for a 4,000-bed facility at such short notice highlights the gutting of the National Health Service (NHS) in London—leaving the population perilously exposed to the pandemic. Two new mortuaries, one in Newham and the other in Hillingdon, are also being built.
In the words of one health chief, a “tsunami” of cases is set to overwhelm London’s hospitals. On March 19, well in advance of the expected peak of cases, Northwick Park hospital in north-west London declared a critical incident after it ran out of ventilator capacity. One senior figure told the Health Service Journal, “Given we’re in the low foothills of this virus, this is f***ing petrifying.”
On Thursday, it was reported that one London hospital had nearly run out of oxygen over the weekend. NHS trusts in England have been given an urgent warning to limit the number of people on mechanical ventilators and continuous positive airway pressure machines.
Health chiefs are warning that an already overstretched London Ambulance Service will be unable to cope with the hundreds of extra patients needing hospital admission. Vehicles used to transport patients to non-urgent visits are being commandeered, but do not have the same medical equipment as an ambulance.
These conditions are putting London’s healthcare workers in danger. The lack of personal protective equipment and testing available to medical staff has become a national scandal. On Sunday, Thomas Harvey, a healthcare assistant at Goodmayes Hospital, London, died after treating a patient with COVID-19 with only gloves for protection. Across the capital, some hospital trusts have staff self-isolation rates of between 30 and 50 percent.
This Monday, a nurse in her 20s at King’s College Hospital, where eight COVID-19 deaths have occurred, committed suicide. Although the investigation into her death has drawn no conclusions, the experience in Italy where several health workers have committed suicide during the pandemic points to a similar trend beginning in the UK. Shortages are forcing medical staff to work incredibly long, harrowing shifts and make the traumatic decision to deny treatment to the most vulnerable.
The World Socialist Web Site reported on the crisis at Kings College Hospital Trust in January this year: “King’s hospital has a vacancy rate of 19.4 percent for nursing posts in cancer care, 15.4 percent in children’s care and 12 percent in operating theatres. At the Princess Royal hospital managed by the King’s Trust, 26.3 percent of nursing posts in acute and emergency care and 12.4 percent in the children’s care unit are vacant.”
The terrible personal consequences of such sharp social inequalities were summed up last weekend by the contrasting fates of Prince Charles, tested and cared for while presenting only mild symptoms of the disease, and Kayla Williams, a 36-year-old mother of three from Peckham, south London. Williams, the wife of Fabian, a refuse worker, died in her flat of suspected COVID-19 a day after calling 999 and being told to look after herself at home.
Fabian said, “I called 999 because my wife was breathless, she was vomiting, and she had pains in her stomach. As I was talking to them, she was getting worse and they told me to put her on the floor and to make her body flat. She [the paramedic] told me the hospital won’t take her, she is not a priority.” Williams was dead the next day.
Twitter erupted as Londoners contrasted the brutal inequality in treatment between Kayla and Britain’s royalty. The lesson has been burned into popular consciousness that we are not “all in this together,” as the government claims. There is the pandemic experienced as an inconvenience by the super-rich, and the pandemic experienced as a catastrophe by the working class. Only a revolutionary overturn can protect the population from the virus and remove from society the cancerous growth of multimillion and billion-pound wealth threatening its very existence.
On this episode of Studio B: Unscripted, award-winning illustrator and writer Molly Crabapple is in conversation with best-selling author and journalist Paul Mason.
Molly Crabapple has chronicled the stories of the marginalised while also shedding light on the darker corners of the United States empire. Crabapple’s artwork was widely used during the Occupy Wall Street protests, and in 2013 she was one of the first artists to gain access to the Guantanamo Bay prison.
She has sketched and written on a range of stories from the consequences of Hurricane Maria and corruption in Puerto Rico, to the lives of refugees in Greece and throughout the Middle East. Her most recent publication in collaboration with Syrian journalist Marwan Hisham, Brothers of the Gun (2018), details Hisham’s harrowing experience living in parts of Syria under ISIL control.
Paul Mason’s career as a journalist covering the financial crisis, international protests from Turkey to Spain, the conflict in Gaza, and the Hurricane Katrina disaster in the US furnished his subsequent books and plays, including Why It’s Kicking Off Everywhere: The New Global Revolutions (2012) and Postcapitalism (2017).
In his latest book, Clear Bright Future: A Radical Defence of the Human Being (2019), Mason argues that the rise and fall of neoliberalism has galvanised the far right as well as global resistance movements. His book makes the case for ethical human control of technology to further global progress.
Mason and Crabapple explore how the events of 2011 transformed the trajectories of their lives and cemented their shared belief that carbon-based capitalism is contributing to social discord. They share the lessons they’ve learned from international movements, their perspectives on the role of art and online networks in both repression and resistance, and how to tackle fascism and prejudice, as well as the impacts of climate change.
The views expressed in this programme are the guests’ own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.
Studio B: Unscripted is a free-flow conversation between two guests and a small audience, with no mediation, no MC, no TV presenter – focusing on what brings us all together and how we can tackle and discuss some of the big issues of our time.
Source: Al Jazeera
The pandemic begins in Asia, rips through the capital cities of Europe and wipes out at least a third of all human beings in its way. When it is all over, revolts begin, cherished institutions fall, and the entire economic system has to be reconfigured.
That is a short history of the Black Death, a bubonic plague pandemic caused by the bacterium, Yersinia pestis, which spread from Mongolia to Western Europe in the 1340s.
Because the economy then was based on local agriculture and crafts, ordinary life bounced back relatively quickly.
But, by radically reducing the number of workers, it gave the survivors increased bargaining power, which soon translated into new concepts of liberty among the population of medieval cities.
That, in turn, started a process of economic change that brought an end to the feudal system and, some argue, triggered the rise of capitalism.
Today, capitalism faces its own plague nightmare. Though the COVID-19 virus may kill between 1 percent and 4 percent of those who catch it, it is about to have an impact on a much more complex economy than the one that existed back in the 1340s – one with a much more fragile geopolitical order, and on a society already gripped with foreboding over climate change.
Let us consider the massive changes the pandemic has already forced.
First, the partial shutdown of daily life in large parts of China, India, most of Europe and numerous states in America.
Second, significant damage to the reputations of governments and political elites who either denied the seriousness of the crisis, or in the initial stages proved incapable of mobilising their healthcare systems to meet it.
Third, an immediate slump in consumer spending across all major economies which is certain to provoke the deepest recession in living memory: share prices have already collapsed and this, in turn, hurts middle-class families whose pension funds have to invest in shares. Meanwhile, the solvency of airlines, airports and hotel chains is in doubt.
In response, states have launched economic rescue packages so massive that most people have not yet got their heads around the implications. The US government will inject two trillion dollars into the economy – through a mixture of direct payments to citizens and loans to business – more than half of what it collects in taxes in a year.
Meanwhile, the central banks have switched to a new and aggressive form of quantitative easing. Just as after the last global financial crisis in 2008, they will create new money to buy up government debt – but this time, it is not going to be gradual, or focused on the safest government bonds. Introduced as a panic measure in 2008, it seems quantitative easing could be with us for decades.
Politicians are busy reassuring voters that it will be a “V-shaped recession” – a sharp slump followed by a bounce-back, because the “real economy”, they claim, is sound.
To understand why that is over-optimistic, let us use the metaphor of a building.
In the 2008 financial crisis, it looked like the “roof” – the finance system – had collapsed onto the main structure which, though it was damaged, stood firm and we eventually rebuilt the roof.
This time, by contrast, it is the foundations that are collapsing – because all economic life in a capitalist system is based on compelling people to go to work and spend their wages.
Since we now have to compel them to stay away from work, and from all the places they usually spend their hard-earned salaries, it does not matter how strong the building itself is.
In fact, the building is not that strong. Much of the growth we have experienced during the 12 years since the last financial crisis has been fuelled by central banks printing money, governments bailing out the banking system and debt.
Instead of paying down debt, we amassed an estimated $72 trillion more of it.
Unlike the time of the bubonic plague, 21st-century trade and finance systems are complex – which, as we learned in 2008, means they are fragile.
Many of the assets circulating in the finance system are – just as in the run-up to the 2008 crisis – complicated bundles of IOUs issued by banks, insurance groups and other financial companies. Their value lies in the fact that they give the holder a claim on future income.
Our gym memberships, our student loan repayments, our rents, our car repayments this year, next year and beyond are already counted as “paid”, with people in the finance system taking sophisticated bets on how much they are worth.
But what happens when we do not go to the gym, do not buy a new car? Some of those IOUs become worthless and the financial system has to be bailed out by the state.
Even though most ordinary people do not understand how dangerous this is, the people in power do. That is why they have persuaded the central banks to effectively nationalise the bond markets.
This means that states are issuing debts to bail out people and companies – as with Trump’s two-trillion-dollar deal – and those debts are being swallowed up by another part of the state itself – the central bank.
Left-wing economists, myself included, have been warning that, in the long term, stagnant growth and high debt were likely to lead to these three policies: States paying citizens a universal income as automation makes well-paid work precarious and scarce; central banks lending directly to the state to keep it afloat; and large-scale public ownership of major corporations to maintain vital services that cannot be run at a profit.
On the rare occasions that such suggestions have ever been put to investors in the past, the response was usually a polite head-shake or, among people who witnessed the collapse of Soviet communism, outrage. It would kill capitalism, they said.
But now, the unthinkable is here – all of it: Universal payments, state bailouts and the funding of state debts by central banks have all been adopted at a speed that has shocked even the usual advocates of these measures.
The question is, are we going to do this enthusiastically, and with a clear vision of the society that emerges on the other side, or reluctantly, with the intent to revive the system that has just broken down?
Let us understand why economists have been so hostile to these crisis measures up to now.
With universal income payments, British conservative politician Iain Duncan Smith pointed out, the problem is they might “discourage people from going to work“.
When it comes to state ownership and attempts to plan production (for example, the current scramble for ventilators), free-market economists believe such attempts at human control get in the way of the market, which, in their opinion, functions as an intelligent machine, bringing order to the world in a way no planning agency or government can ever do.
As for the funding of state debts by central banks, this is seen as an admission of moral defeat by capitalism: It is entrepreneurship and competition that are supposed to drive growth, not the Bank of England or the Fed printing money and lending it to their treasuries. Therefore, a capitalism permanently reliant on these mechanisms is unthinkable to most traditional economists.
For me, these emergency measures have always been thinkable. Since 2015, I have argued we will be forced to adopt a new, and very different, model of capitalism; if not by the economic costs of supporting ageing populations, then by the threat of climate chaos.
But the COVID-19 crisis brings everything into the short term.
The capitalism that emerges from this in the mid-2020s will have already paid out tens of billions of dollars in basic income payments; it will have seen airlines and hotel chains nationalised; and the government debts of the advanced economies, currently averaging 103 percent of their gross domestic product, will be way above that. We do not know how much higher, because we do not know yet how far GDP will fall.
If we are really unlucky, a series of debt defaults and the disintegration of government coherence in some fragile states could seriously damage the multilateral global order. Security planners fear that if states like Venezuela, North Korea or Ukraine were to fall into chaos, the temptation for neighbouring giants like the US, China and Russia to “rescue” them by sending in troops would be strong.
We have seen rapid deglobalisation before, in the early 1930s. It starts with a banking crisis, leads to the break-up of international currency arrangements and ends with the repudiation of treaties and forcible annexations.
Although today’s crisis starts with much stronger institutions – the International Monetary Fund, World Health Organisation, United Nations among others – we face the same basic problem as in the 1930s: the absence of a single powerful country prepared to take the lead, set standards of behaviour and act as a lender of last resort.
If we follow the orthodox economic playbook now, just as after 2008, once the crisis is over, political elites will call for more austerity – healthcare cuts, wage cuts and tax rises for ordinary people to reduce government spending and erode the debt pile.
It is the logic of the free market, but many people will see it as madness.
In the 14th century, once the mass death phase of the plague was over, that is exactly what the feudal elites tried to do: to reimpose their old privileges and traditions and economic logic – on a population that had just lived through the most traumatic event imaginable.
Back then, it led to immediate and bloody revolts – the Peasants’ Revolt in England, the so-called Jacquerie in France and the takeover of cities like Ghent, Paris and Florence by artisans – led by a very feisty group of citizens called, in French, the “bourgeois”.
Though the post-plague revolts failed, writes historian Samuel Kline Cohn in his book, Lust for Liberty, they led to a permanent change of mindset among the masses, “from utter despondency and fear to a new confidence … that they, too, could change the world, fundamentally altering the social and political conditions of their lives”. And that, in turn, paved the way for the bourgeois revolutions that unleashed capitalism.
To understand what we have to do today, we need a wider framework than exists in the minds of most politicians.
To them, both the COVID-19 and the climate crises look like asteroids hitting a planet: external shocks requiring a temporary and reversible response. In fact, they are shocks generated by “planet capitalism” itself – or at least in the form we have adopted it.
We do not know what an industrial capitalism without carbon would look like because our institutions, practices and cultures are all based around fossil fuel extraction.
Likewise, we do not know what globalisation would look like without a billion people living in slums, without deforestation, live animal markets and without widespread diseases of poverty in the developed world – again because these have become fundamental features of capitalism as it really exists.
That is why I have argued that capitalism is unlikely to survive, long term – and in the short term it can only survive by adopting features of “post-capitalism”.
Until the coronavirus hit, that seemed like a cry in the wilderness. Even the relatively mild programmes of state intervention advocated by figures like left-wing politicians such as the UK’s Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, or Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders have been rejected by voters.
So, I was stunned when I saw analysts from the Australian investment group, Macquarie Wealth, one of most capitalist companies in the world, tell investors: “Conventional capitalism is dying, or at least mutating into something closer to a version of communism.”
The Macquarie analysts understood that this is not just because we suddenly need state intervention, but also because ordinary people’s priorities have moved market choices to concepts of fairness and wellbeing.
If the great plague of the 14th century triggered a post-feudal imagination, it is possible – and desirable – that this one triggers a post-capitalist imagination. And fast.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.
Unlike in the 2008 financial crisis when a glut of subprime debt, layered with trillions in CDOs and CDO squareds, sent home prices to stratospheric levels before everything crashed scarring an entire generation of homebuyers, this time the housing sector is facing a far more conventional problem: the sudden and unpredictable inability of mortgage borrowers to make their scheduled monthly payments as the entire economy grinds to a halt due to the coronavirus pandemic.
And unfortunately this time the crisis will be far worse, because as Bloomberg reports mortgage lenders are preparing for the biggest wave of delinquencies in history. And unless the plan to buy time works – and as we reported earlier there is a distinct possibility the Treasury’s plan to provide much needed liquidity to America’s small businesses may be on the verge of collapse – an even worse crisis may be coming: mass foreclosures and mortgage market mayhem.
Borrowers who lost income from the coronavirus, which is already a skyrocketing number as the 10 million new jobless claims in the past two weeks attests, can ask to skip payments for as many as 180 days at a time on federally backed mortgages, and avoid penalties and a hit to their credit scores. But as Bloomberg notes, it’s not a payment holiday and eventually homeowners they’ll have to make it all up.
According to estimates by Moody’s Analytics chief economist Mark Zandi, as many as 30% of Americans with home loans – about 15 million households – could stop paying if the U.S. economy remains closed through the summer or beyond.
“This is an unprecedented event,” said Susan Wachter, professor of real estate and finance at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. She also points out another way the current crisis is different from the 2008 GFC: “The great financial crisis happened over a number of years. This is happening in a matter of months – a matter of weeks.”
Meanwhile lenders – like everyone else – are operating in the dark, with no way of predicting the scope or duration of the pandemic or the damage it will wreak on the economy. If the virus recedes soon and the economy roars back to life, then the plan will help borrowers get back on track quickly. But the greater the fallout, the harder and more expensive it will be to stave off repossessions.
“Nobody has any sense of how long this might last,” said Andrew Jakabovics, a former Department of Housing and Urban Development senior policy adviser who is now at Enterprise Community Partners, a nonprofit affordable housing group. “The forbearance program allows everybody to press pause on their current circumstances and take a deep breath. Then we can look at what the world might look like in six or 12 months from now and plan for that.”
But if the economic turmoil is long-lasting, the government will have to find a way to prevent foreclosures – which could mean forgiving some debt, said Tendayi Kapfidze, Chief Economist at LendingTree. And with the government now stuck in “bailout everyone mode”, the risk of allowing foreclosures to spiral is just too great because it would damage financial markets and that could reinfect the economy, he explained.
“I expect policy makers to do whatever they can to hold the line on a financial crisis,” Kapfidze said hinting at just a trace of a conflict of interest as his firm may well be next to fold if its borrowers declare a payment moratorium. “And that means preventing foreclosures by any means necessary.”
Take for example Laura Habberstad, a bar manager in Washington, D.C., who got a reprieve from her lender but needs time to catch up. The coronavirus snatched away her income, as it has for millions, and replaced it with uncertainty. The restaurant and beer garden where she works was forced to temporarily shut down. Laura has no idea when she’ll get her job back, nor does she have any idea how to look for a new job. After all, how do you search for another hospitality job during a global pandemic? Now she’s living in Oregon with her mother, whose travel agency was also forced to close.
“I don’t know how I’m going to pay my mortgage and my condo dues and still be able to feed myself,” Habberstad said. “I just hope that, once things open up again, we who are impacted by Covid-19 are given consideration and sufficient time to bring all payments current without penalty and in a manner that does not bring us even more financial hardship.”
Borrowers must contact their lenders to get help and avoid black marks on their credit reports, according to provisions in the stimulus package passed by Congress last week. Bank of America said it has so far allowed 50,000 mortgage customers to defer payments. That includes loans that are not federally backed, so they aren’t covered by the government’s program.
Meanwhile, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has convened a task force to deal with the potential liquidity shortfall faced by mortgage servicers, which collect payments and are required to compensate bondholders even if homeowners miss them. The group was supposed to make recommendations by March 30.
“If a large percentage of the servicing book – let’s say 20-30% of clients you take care of – don’t have the ability to make a payment for six months, most servicers will not have the capital needed to cover those payments,” QuickenChief Executive Officer Jay Farner said in an interview. But not Quicken, of course.
Quicken, which serves 1.8 million borrowers, and in 2018 surpassed Wells Fargo as the #1 mortgage lender in the US, has a strong enough balance sheet to serve its borrowers while paying holders of bonds backed by its mortgages, Farner said, although something tells us that in 6-8 weeks his view will change dramatically. Until then, the company plans to almost triple its call center workers by May to field the expected onslaught of borrowers seeking support, he said.
Ironically, as Bloomberg concludes, “if the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s how quickly everything can change. Just weeks ago, mortgage lenders were predicting the biggest spring in years for home sales and mortgage refinances.”
Habberstad, the bar manager, was staffing up for big crowds at the beer garden, which is across from National Park, home of the World Series champions. Then came coronavirus. Now, she’s dependent on her unemployment check of $440 a week.
“Everybody wants to work but we’re being asked not to for the sake of the greater good,” she said.
Ten million Americans declare unemployment in two weeks and all your government does is give you a $1,200 “advance” on your tax return while bailing out corporations with the largest wealth transfer ever, and some of you are still shrieking about Russia and China. Pathetic fucking tools.
Your rights are evaporating, your government has failed to provide the bare minimum social safety nets during a very manageable pandemic, your nation’s billionaire class has been growing wealthier and wealthier while most of you would struggle to pay a $1000 emergency bill, but sure, China is your real enemy.
Many Americans being plunged into debt and destitution. Many young Americans about to start contemplating joining the military. Many Pentagon officials factoring this in to their future calculations. Poverty has long served as a makeshift draft in the dangerous, dying US empire.
Not that it should surprise any American that this crisis has only wound up benefiting massive corporations, debt slave owners, government agencies and the US war machine. These are the real US government, after all.
Keep in mind that virtually everything you hear from conservatives and mainstream liberals right now is basically just an irrational lashing out over their entire ideology faceplanting in front of the entire world.
Governments which prohibit people from providing for themselves without providing for those people do not deserve to exist. There is no legitimate basis for declaring a lockdown in any area without first ensuring that you can adequately provide for everyone whose financial stability is disrupted by this, and if you do it’s perfectly legitimate for the citizenry to resist your lockdown.
I could probably think of dozens of things the drivers of the US government could stand to gain by deliberately letting this pandemic get a lot worse than it needs to in America.
The entire Cuomo family is a corrupt political dynasty and the sooner America flushes them down the toilet the better.
Friendly reminder that more people would trust “authoritative” news outlets about this virus if those outlets didn’t have an extensive history of constantly lying to the public about very important matters. You can’t blame people for being distrustful when you made them that way.
I personally wouldn’t invest a lot of emotional energy in the hope that things will go back to normal. “Normal” is gone forever. Even before the virus the only consistent pattern we’ve been seeing is things getting stranger and stranger. We’re not in Kansas anymore, Toto.
Covid stats paint an unclear picture since governments likely distort their numbers, testing is sparse and many are asymptomatic. To get a clearer picture of our situation, listen to what medical staff are saying where it’s bad, since overwhelmed hospitals are the primary concern.
People: May we please have minimal authoritarian responses to this pandemic and adequate protection from poverty?
Governments: No but you may have the exact opposite of those things.
There isn’t actually any contradiction in the beliefs that (A) the virus is dangerous, (B) mass unemployment is dangerous, and (C) authoritarian government policies are dangerous. There needn’t be any cognitive dissonance holding all three at once; they’re not mutually exclusive.
Contrary to popular belief, Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 was not about an oppressive dictatorship but a society getting exactly what it asked for; people were so dumbed down by television that they voted for books to be burned because they didn’t want to be challenged or offended. Worth remembering as people are demanding more authoritarian lockdown measures and snitching on their neighbors for going on a second run.
Continuing starvation sanctions during a global pandemic is biowarfare.
I don’t remember voting for a paradigm where powerful governments pour the lion’s share of resources into sabotaging, toppling and destroying nations which don’t defer to their interests. Do you?
Start-ups and mom-and-pop shops are going bust all over the place and the US government is helping the big corporations sweep them up for peanuts. Time to stop stanning for billionaires my aspirational, entrepreneurial friends. You are mere fleas to them.
USA: We’re moving more troops to the Middle East.
Middle East: Why?
USA: To protect the troops we already have there.
Middle East: Why were those troops here?
USA: To protect the military bases we have there.
Middle East: And why were those bases here?
USA: Our troops needed somewhere to sleep.
We should be relaxing at home assured of our financial and medical stability while bankers, debt collectors and arms manufacturers stress about their future.
I hope all you couples stuck at home together are getting world-transformingly vulnerable with each other and having world-transformingly awesome sex (in that order).
The post-apocalyptic movies lied to you about human nature. People tend to be more caring and compassionate with each other in a time of great crisis, not less. Please remember this going forward.
Nobody knows what’s going to happen and anyone who says they do is bullshitting.
There’s no reason to feel confident that anything is impossible anymore, because everything’s changing so quickly and unpredictably. Orwellian dystopia? Maybe. World War 3? Maybe. Nuclear war? Maybe. Revolution? Maybe. Mass-scale awakening? Maybe. Create a new world? Maybe.
Thanks for reading! The best way to get around the internet censors and make sure you see the stuff I publish is to subscribe to the mailing list for my website, which will get you an email notification for everything I publish. My work is entirely reader-supported, so if you enjoyed this piece please consider sharing it around, liking me on Facebook, following my antics onTwitter, checking out my podcast on either Youtube, soundcloud, Apple podcasts or Spotify, following me on Steemit, throwing some money into my hat on Patreon or Paypal, purchasing some of my sweet merchandise, buying my books Rogue Nation: Psychonautical Adventures With Caitlin Johnstone and Woke: A Field Guide for Utopia Preppers. For more info on who I am, where I stand, and what I’m trying to do with this platform, click here. Everyone, racist platforms excluded, has my permission to republish, use or translate any part of this work (or anything else I’ve written) in any way they like free of charge.
The March 25 Times Colonist editorial on the COVID-19 pandemic states: “Worldwide, the economic impact will be devastating. We’re talking a re-run of the Dirty ’30s and damage that lasts for years.” Elsewhere, it refers to “killing the economy” and “measures that of a certainty will wreck the world economy for many years to come.”
This concern with the need to protect and restore the economy plays into a narrative about resilience, usually framed as the ability of people and communities to recover, to bounce back to where they were before the event ever happened.
But there are obvious flaws in that approach. For example, if your community is built in a flood plain and climate change results in more frequent and more severe flooding, does it really make sense to rebuild in the same place, to bounce back to the previous situation?
Much the same can be said about the current economic slowdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It is helping us see just how much harm our current economic system causes, both to the environment and to people and communities.
So if the current economic system is devastating the planet and harming health, as it is, do we really want to bounce back to the way things were before: Revving up the economy to speed up global warming, increase air pollution and the associated diseases and deaths, hasten resource depletion and species extinctions?
To rephrase the editorial: “Worldwide, the environmental and health impact will be devastating. We’re talking a re-run of the booming mid-20th and early 21st centuries and damage that lasts for years” — except that this is damage that lasts for decades, even centuries.
On Friday evening, as the clock strikes eleven, Britain will leave the European Union.
More than three and a half years since the EU referendum, during which the country has seen two general elections and much political wrangling, the wishes of 17.4 million Britons will be realized.
But do not expect an end to the drama. January 31 marks a single page-turn in the Brexit odyssey and the next chapter could be just as fraught.
Unpicking 40 years of integration promises to be a testing process and there is skepticism on both sides of the English Channel.
Many are simply wondering: What next?
Here are five things to know:
Little will change immediately. The UK will enter the transition period and it will be out of EU political institutions but still – for at least the next 11 months – ruled by EU laws.
Britons and EU nationals will continue to benefit from free movement and live in their countries under the rules and regulations they are used to.
When the divorce is finalized, free movement for British immigrants in EU countries will end, according to the Withdrawal Agreement, but they will be afforded rights.
EU nationals living in the UK are being urged to apply now for the UK’s EU Settlement Scheme, but they can wait until the deadline – June 30, 2021, if a deal is reached, or December 31, 2020, if the conclusion is a no-deal Brexit.
A trade deal is likely but not certain.
A comprehensive trade deal with the EU, the UK’s largest trading partner, is the British government’s ultimate goal. But negotiating one will not be easy, especially in the UK-mandated 11-month timeframe.
Before talks can begin, both sides need to publish their negotiating objectives. The EU’s chief Brexit figure, Michel Barnier, must also obtain a formal negotiating mandate from the bloc’s leadership. This is unlikely to happen before the end of February.
At that point, talks can start in earnest.
Reports have said discussions will begin early March.
If industry really creates a fuss about loss of market access, extending might look nicer to Mr Johnson than slogging it out.
ALAN WINTERS, ECONOMICS PROFESSOR AND HEAD OF THE UK TRADE POLICY OBSERVATORY AT THE UNIVERSITY OF SUSSEX
Johnson is pushing for a “Canada-style” agreement, one modeled on the EU’s arrangement with Ottawa. CETA, as the deal is known, removes 98 percent of tariffs on traded goods, though sizeable restrictions remain. Despite being less ambitious than the proposed UK-EU pact, it still took seven years to be finalized.
Johnson has also ruled out alignment with European regulations.
Barrier-free trade is an aim Brussels shares with London, but only if a level playing field can be agreed – code for convergence on the likes of labor, taxes, the environment, and state aid.
Having already removed former Prime Minister Theresa May‘s promise to safeguard workers’ rights in line with EU standards, Johnson faces a fight.
Alan Winters, an economics professor and head of the UK Trade Policy Observatory at the University of Sussex, said the sticking point is one of enforcement.
Brussels will demand the invocation of EU law when solving commercial disputes, but the UK has been unwavering: No European Court of Justice (ECJ) involvement post-Brexit.
It is a contentious area that will “require a unique solution, and therefore time”, said Winters.
If no compromise can be reached, the UK will leave without an agreement. That would mean regulatory barriers, tariffs, and quotas.
In all likelihood, the UK will strive for at least a bare-bones deal that covers the trade of goods – and perhaps some services – by December.
That is unless Johnson backs down on extending the transition period. This is unlikely but not inconceivable, said Winters.
“If industry really creates a fuss about the loss of market access, extending might look nicer to Mr. Johnson than slogging it out,” he said.
The argument to bolster Britain’s borders was crucial in the Leave campaign’s victory.
In terms of migration, little will change on January 31. A member of Europe’s single market for the duration of the transition period, Britain must keep its frontiers open to EU citizens. No passport impediments, no visa requirements – complete freedom of movement.
But Brexit’s chronic uncertainty will likely see EU arrivals continue to fall, said Sophie Barrett-Brown, a London-based immigration lawyer.
“The general trend of dwindling numbers will continue for the majority of the year due to uncertainty and also lack of awareness of the relevant EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS) deadlines.
“Unless the government agrees to an extension of the transition period, there is likely to be a significant drop in the number of arrivals from January 2021 onwards,” she said.
In 2019, net migration from Europe fell to its lowest level since 2003. Fewer than 50,000 EU nationals moved to Britain last year – a fraction of the 200,000 that arrived in the run-up to the 2016 referendum.
The shortfall is cause for concern for the British industry. There are deficits at every level of the UK job market, business groups have said, caused in part by the decline in EU arrivals.
Johnson’s plan for the post-transition period immigration has been met with equal unease from rights groups and some businesses. A three-tier points-based system is in the works: Exceptional talent, skilled workers, and temporary staff.
The government says it will be fair, but not all are convinced.
Johnson “should waste no time” in providing thorough details, according to the British Chambers of Commerce, which has warned of costly delays for businesses anxious to plan their post-2020 employment program.
During the transition period, the UK will continue to obey EU rules, for example, employment regulations, consumer standards, and competition legislation.
On areas of EU law, the European Court of Justice will continue to exercise its jurisdiction – though the UK will have no say in the creation of new laws, nor will the ECJ feature a British judge.
In time, Brexit will see the repatriation of laws governed by Brussels to London. But not in the short term – and in some cases, not for years.
Beyond the transition period, Johnson is adamant that the Luxembourg-based body holds no further sway over the UK.
Michael Dougan, a professor of European law, said the prime minister’s Withdrawal Agreement allows for continued EU oversight on specific policy areas.
“After the transitional period, the Withdrawal Agreement provides for the ECJ to continue to exercise certain forms of jurisdiction in relation to the UK, for example as regards interpretation of the provisions on citizens’ rights [and] the Protocol dealing with Northern Ireland.”
Likewise, for up to four years after the end of the transition period, the European Commission will be able to bring infringement cases against the UK for breaches of EU law prior to December 2020.
On Saturday morning, the UK will share a 483-kilometer (300-mile) land border with the EU: The frontier between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic. It will remain open and free-flowing for the duration of the transition period.
Soon after Brexit day, special committees of British and EU representatives will meet to thrash out a future settlement. The Northern Ireland Protocol – the arrangement designed to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland – will be fleshed out and, all going well, agreed without delay.
But the talks promise to be tough. The Protocol seeks to keep Northern Ireland in the UK’s customs territory while simultaneously applying EU rules on agricultural and manufactured goods.
This will remove the need for a customs border on the island, a politically tense proposition given Ireland’s history of sectarian violence, but means a de facto regulatory frontier emerging in the Irish Sea.
Northern Ireland could suffer financially in this scenario, said Katy Hayward, an author and reader in sociology at Queen’s University Belfast.
“We can expect to see a rise in paperwork and thus in costs for the movement of goods across the Irish Sea, and consequently a rise in prices for consumers in Northern Ireland, plus the risk of a disruption to supply chains,” she said.
“It will require new levels of political maturity among elected representatives here to ensure that this period of flux does not give rise to growing polarisation and recriminations,” she added.
Softbank-funded unicorn Zume ran out of dough
Who among us could have seen this coming?
“In a little over a year, pizza-making robot startup Zume has gone from getting $375 million from SoftBank, to pivoting to food packaging through an acquisition, to raising at a reported $4 billion valuation, to its latest: laying off 80 percent of its employees,” writes Natasha Mascarenhas at news.crunchbase.com.
Her comments follow today’s earlier Business Insider scoop on Zume’s flop.
Bottom line: Zume, one of the biggest capital-backed companies in the pizza startup space, was raising money at a $4 billion dollar valuation in November. Now, two months later, it’s facing cuts. No matter how you slice it, it looks like 2020’s reckoning has begun.
SoftBank-Funded Zume Reportedly Lays Off 80% Of Staff [news.crunchbase.com]
The year 2019 will go down in the history books as the year when Donald J. Trump suffered not only the non-stop trials and tribulations of the Mueller Report, which cleared the 45th POTUS of collusion with the Russians, but impeachment as well. However, there are many other upcoming events in the New Year that have – believe it or not – nothing to do with impeaching Trump.
The biggest story of the New Year will be the incumbent Donald Trump successfully defending his presidency against Hillary Clinton, who announces her candidacy in January to dethrone the populist. Her decision, aside from a thirst for vengeance, is based on poll results that show her ahead of all Democratic nominees by a wide margin. In late 2019, Clinton began testing the political waters, appearing on a number of talk shows, including Howard Stern, where the prospect of another shot at the White House dominated the conversations.
A merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night! pic.twitter.com/FOcMKZM87x
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) 24 декабря 2019 г.
Even before the 2020 presidential election, the United States will witness violence on its streets across the country, as the excitement and tensions ahead of the 2020 election bring out the worst in people on both sides of the political aisle. Simple exuberance, however, is not the only reason for political passions spilling over. The Republicans provoke Liberal hostility with their own court proceedings against top Democrats.
In March 2020, federal prosecutor John Durham – famous for going after the Genovese and Gambino crime families in the 1980s – will release the findings of the long-anticipated Attorney General report, which examined the origins of the Russian inquiry that led to spying on Trump campaign aid Carter Page. The report will be followed up with indictments against dozens of high-ranking officials from the Obama administration, including former FBI Director James Comey, former CIA Director John Brenna and even Hillary Clinton herself. Barack Obama will be called to testify in the high-profile trials, which will push the political situation in the United States to the breaking point.
— Tom Fitton (@TomFitton) 28 декабря 2019 г.
In late 2020, following Trump’s reelection, Moscow and Washington will begin the slow process of rebuilding their bilateral relations, severely weakened for years by domestic acrimony in the United States. With the Democratic Party largely sidelined, and the 2020 elections behind him, Trump will no longer feel compelled to take a tough approach towards Russia. He will move to ease sanctions against Moscow, a move that is reciprocated by Vladimir Putin. Suspicions, however, will remain between the two nuclear powers with NATO continuing its militarization on the Russian border and Moscow responding with the research and development of powerful weapons to maintain the strategic balance.
Following months of heated rhetoric between Ankara and Washington as Turkey attempts to exert some degree of independence in its foreign policy, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warns the Trump administration that it is reconsidering Turkey’s membership in the Western military bloc. For many the announcement will come as no surprise. At the end of December, Erdogan threatened to close two strategic military bases used by the United States in Turkey – Incirlik and Kurecik – in the event that Washington imposed sanctions on Ankara for buying the Russian-made S-400 missile system. Such a move would deprive the US of nuclear weapons in the secular state, which sits on the doorstep to the turbulent Middle East. The war of words between Trump and Erdogan ratcheted up a notch when the Trump administration said it would retaliate by denying Turkey participation in the F-35 fighter jet program.
Faster than anyone could have predicted, Russia has unveiled a hypersonic glide missile, the ‘Avangard,’ which is capable of reaching Mach 27, which is many times the speed of sound. The new weapon, which was put on display for US inspectors in late 2019, renders the US missile defense system in Eastern Europe effectively obsolete. This places Moscow in a very good position for keeping alive the New START Treaty, which was signed between Russia and the US in April 2010 and designed to reduce number of strategic nuclear missile launchers by 50 percent. New START is the last major arms deal between the US and Russia after Washington walked away from both the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces treaty (INF). With New START set to expire shortly after the next US presidential inauguration in 2021, it could mark a turning point in bilateral relations, presently hampered by the US domestic political scene.
— Salahudeen M Illyas (@zalahu) 27 декабря 2019 г.
Have you ever criticized the government, dabbled in ‘conspiracy theories,’ or expressed your dislike of left-wing progressive ideology, like the transgender movement, for example? Then you may very well find yourself shut off from the Internet in 2020. Plans for draconian control over the flow of communication and information are already in the works. At the end of December, with much of the world’s attention on the holidays and shopping, the United Nations approved a bid that seeks to create a new convention on ‘cybercrime’, a term that could be applied to everything from political dissidence to conspiracy theories, stoking fear that a full-blown effort to restrict online freedom is underway. However, with major IT companies, like Google, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter already acting as the Internet chokepoints and gatekeepers on information, perhaps the UN is already too late with its initiative.
One of the greatly downplayed stories of 2019 has been the unprecedented number of UFO sightings reported around the world. Does this mark the beginning of a full-scale invasion of planet Earth by some distant alien-inhabited galaxy? Or is this just a case of ‘mistaken identity’ and the supposed UFOs are in reality super-advanced weapon systems getting a test-drive by the Pentagon? Whatever the case may be, public interest in the extraterrestrial hit such a feverish pitch in 2019 that a calling over Facebook to “storm Area 51,” a US Air Force complex Nevada Test and Training range, attracted the attention of some 2 million users (just 150 people, however, showed up for the event). I’m guessing that with public enthusiasm over UFOs at an all-time high, combined with advanced technology not publicly known, earthlings are set for an ‘encounter of the third kind’ sometime in 2020.
— HashTopiX (@HashTopiX) 23 декабря 2019 г.
During the 2020 presidential debates, the question of transgender ideology, which says that a biological male can become a female just by willing it so, will take center stage. Trump, in true conservative fashion, will pledge to banish transgender education from public schools, while defunding any college or university that pushes the unproven pseudo-science on its campuses. Clinton will take the opposite stance, promising to protect the message and those who accept its central tenets. Following reports that many people who have ‘gender reassignment surgery’ are attempting to reverse the radical procedure, the issue will start to grab international headlines.
I hear heartbreaking stories like these on the regular. The misery out there is beyond awful. The relative ease with which women can now acquire testosterone, a controlled substance, is horrifying. https://t.co/DRjSx9u1AM
— Brandon M Showalter (@BrandonMShow) 18 декабря 2019 г.
Although the global economy appears to be smooth sailing at the moment, there are some warning signs that could spell danger down the road. In the United States, where Wall Street has witnessed a record-breaking year of profit-taking, the third quarter gross domestic product (GDP) slowed to 1.9 percent. This is worrying considering that manufacturing is slumping. The Institute for Supply Management said its manufacturing index dropped to 48.1 percent in November from 48.3 percent in October, almost a full percentage point below expectations from some economists. It is the fourth straight reading below the 50 percent red line. Readings below 50 percent show business conditions worsening. Currently, it seems the only thing preventing the US economy from falling into recession, possibly dragging the rest of the world down with it, is the overspent American consumer, who is in debt to the tune of over $13 trillion. How long will US consumer spending help keep the US economy afloat? That may turn out to be the big question of 2020.
December 10th, 2019
According to Roey Tzezana, a future studies researcher at Israel’s Tel Aviv University, technology will continue to advance, and therefore, so will automation. As this happens, the gap between the wealthy and the poor will increase as the middle class fades into nonexistence.
According to Haaretz, this is the grim reality Tzezana sees for our future: one without jobs or purpose. He argues that the jobs that will survive automation will be lower-paying, unskilled laboring jobs. And since machines won’t need to be paid, companies can profit without having the overhead costs of labor. But what most of the futurists fail to mention, is that without jobs and some sort of income, people won’t have the money to help corporations profit anymore. It’s a double-edged sword, but worth mentioning.
Recently the Boston Consulting Group released a report on global trends in future jobs and found that the jobs of the future are ones such as waiting on tables, cleaning, child care, and nursing care – and the groups of job skills with the highest rate of growth after digital skills is social services and education. –Haaretz
“This figure is the end of the world for the average people,” Tzezana said, speaking about the growing gap between labor productivity and wages. “It reflects a rather depressing picture: The state and the economy are advancing by storm — but the workers are almost not benefitting from this progress and are left behind. It is almost a catastrophe.”
This will all happen faster than we think too, says Tzezana. “The deeper and more interesting questions are not whether new jobs will be created, but what is the pace that old jobs disappear and new jobs open up, or what is the pace at which the tasks the jobs require change and create a demand for new expertise, specializations, and skills. The speed of closing tasks and opening new tasks is changing, and it is overwhelming,” he says. “All the reports of the McKinsey consulting firm talk about technological progress requiring ‘up skills’ and the ability to adapt; a view that is possible to develop, learn and grow and a way of thinking of an entrepreneur – all the time looking for opportunities. All these are wonderful slogans that the large international consulting companies spread and there is a reason for it – the profile of the employees in these organizations is that of young workers who learn all the time,” says Tzezana.
Tzezana added that currently, we are seeing people moving from the middle class, for example manufacturing workers whose factories closed down because the work moved to China. Now factories are returning to the United States, and this doesn’t help anyone because those jobs are not back; they are now automated, he says.
Technology has advanced to the point that many Americans have artificial intelligence devices in their homes. But what the majority of the sleeping masses don’t realize, is that AI is watching us and judging us.
This should concern everyone because it isn’t just tyrannies like China that are employing AI as a way to control and further enslave the population. The United States government is doing it also – and for the same reasons – complete domination over everyone.
Artificial intelligence has tremendous power to enhance spying, and both authoritarian governments and democracies are adopting the technology as a tool of political and social control.
The potential of AI surveillance is the subject of the third installment of the Sleepwalkers podcast. The episode examines how AI consolidates power and control and asks if we can limit this troubling trend.
Data collected from apps and websites already help optimize ads and social feeds. The same data can also reveal someone’s personal life and political leanings to the authorities. The trend is advancing thanks to smartphones, smart cameras, and more advanced AI. -Wired
In fact, a 2017 algorithm developed at Stanford claimed to be able to tell if a person was gay. Even if it’s inaccurate, it will eventually be used by governments as a tool of persecution. Imagine being told AI could tell you political affiliation and whether or not you approve of the current or future regime. The outcome would be complete authoritarianism and enslavement regardless of which government chooses to use it. And we are NOT safe from it here in the U.S. Sadly, most Americans are embracing AI with open arms.
“Take this type of technology, feed it to a citywide CCTV surveillance system, and go to a place like Saudi Arabia where being gay is considered a crime,” says Lisa Talia Moretti, a digital sociologist.
“Suddenly you’re pulling people off the street and arresting them because you’re gay because the computer said so.”
Even if China’s AI capabilities are exaggerated, the AI boom there is having a chilling effect on personal freedom, says Ian Bremmer, an expert on global political risk and founder of the Eurasia Group. “You just need a government that is starting to get that capacity and make it known, and have a few people that are sort of strung up as examples, and suddenly everyone is scared,” he says. -Wired
Law enforcement in the U.S. is embracing AI. The podcast concludes with the New York Police Department testing technologies including facial recognition. Although AI promises to make the department more effective and even more accountable, whether we accept this troubling trend may determine whether the West sleepwalks towards its own form of technological tyranny, reported Wired. “In America, the liberty we take for granted is hard-won and fragile,” says Oz Woloshyn, the host of Sleepwalkers. “So much hangs in the balance, and the decisions we take will affect our lives profoundly, and echo through the lives of our children.”
By B.N. Frank
Most disruption predicted in San Jose, Seattle, Salt Lake City, Boulder, Detroit, Huntsville, Louisville, and more…
Proponents insist we’ll all be okay though – we just need UBI (Universal Basic Income). $1000/month might be okay for some, but not everyone could live off that. For those who manage to keep their jobs – they’ll still be more “exposed” to AI. They also may be forced to “merge” with it. Oh the humanity – or inhumanity.
White-collar jobs (better-paid professionals with bachelor’s degrees) along with production workers may be most susceptible to AI’s spread into the economy
AI could affect work in virtually every occupational group. However, whereas research on automation’s robotics and software continues to show that less-educated, lower-wage workers may be most exposed to displacement, the present analysis suggests that better-educated, better-paid workers (along with manufacturing and production workers) will be the most affected by the new AI technologies, with some exceptions.
Our analysis shows that workers with graduate or professional degrees will be almost four times as exposed to AI as workers with just a high school degree. Holders of bachelor’s degrees will be the most exposed by education level, more than five times as exposed to AI than workers with just a high school degree.
Our analysis shows that AI will be a significant factor in the future work lives of relatively well-paid managers, supervisors, and analysts. Also exposed are factory workers, who are increasingly well-educated in many occupations as well as heavily involved with AI on the shop floor. AI may be much less of a factor in the work of most lower-paid service workers.
Men, prime-age workers, and white and Asian American workers may be the most affected by AI
Men, who are overrepresented in both analytic-technical and professional roles (as well as production), work in occupations with much higher AI exposure scores. Meanwhile, women’s heavy involvement in “interpersonal” education, health care support, and personal care services appears to shelter them. This both tracks with and accentuates the finding from our earlier automation analysis.
Bigger, higher-tech metro areas and communities heavily involved in manufacturing are likely to experience the most AI-related disruption
See the full report HERE.
Activist Post reports regularly about AI and other unsafe technology. For more information, visit our archives and the following websites.
Top image credit: Pixabay
“The impact of automation in manufacturing and service sectors will increase income inequality from already high levels to crisis levels.
Middle- and low-income families in the country will be wiped out, depressing consumer spending and economic growth.”
The collision of demographics and automation will potentially reshape South Korea’s economy by 2030.
A new analysis via Bloomberg shows the collision of these forces could trigger economic disruptions that might lead to a decade of financial volatility.
South Korea has one of the fastest aging populations in the world, and to counter these upcoming demographic challenges, corporations and the government are investing billions of dollars into building “smart factories” where automation and artificial intelligence will replace human workers.
Already South Korea has embraced robots in its manufacturing sector. About 3 million people, or about two-thirds of the workers in manufacturing, are at serious risk of losing their jobs to robots in the next decade.
A new wave of investments in automation, artificial intelligence, and fifth-generation wireless networks could expedite the transition of robots replacing workers in smart factories.
The collision of automation in the workplace isn’t just going to reshape factories in South Korea — it will also lead to massive job losses in the service sector.
Services account for 70% of the South Korea economy, and this means job losses could be double or triple of what is expected in the manufacturing sector by 2030.
The most impacted service jobs are likely to be retailing, food services, and transportation.
The impact on the workforce is going to be so high that the government has already started creating “learning factories,” where about 50,000 people by 2022 will be reskilled to work on robots.
— Harold Sinnott 🇺🇸 (@HaroldSinnott) November 4, 2019
Jeong Jong-pil, a professor teaching factory automation at South Korea’s Sungkyunkwan University, told Bloomberg that the country’s demographic challenges are some of the drivers behind the rush to automate factories. “There’s no way to meet productivity targets without automation…That’s why more and more robots are coming.”
The impact of automation in manufacturing and service sectors will increase income inequality from already high levels to crisis levels.
Middle- and low-income families in the country will be wiped out, depressing consumer spending and economic growth.
South Korea is about to usher in a period of radical change, which will be one of the most important trends across the world that will reshape developed and emerging market economies by 2030.
Competition drives innovation, but monopolies manifest the need for robotic automation, leaving people and their jobs behind. Taking advantage of the eCommerce boom, Amazon.com has become a monopolistic force, exerting the greatest leverage over the shipping sector of the U.S. economy. Now shipping 48 percent of its own packages in 2019, Amazon is saving billions of dollars annually, while starving the United States Postal Service and other shipping companies of crucial revenue. Because Amazon has so much leverage, the USPS, FedEx, and the United Parcel Service (UPS) must seek out automation in order to keep up.
As Amazon continues to automate its processes and cut shipping costs, the other shipping companies have no choice but to automate their processes, or perish. Two new automated unloaders that can work “as fast as people” are now being unveiled for the first time. These heavy-duty machines can unload a truck in one sixth the time it takes a human worker, without all the back-bending labor. These machines will forever change the shipping industry.
Two new automated unloaders, manufactured by Siemens AG and Honeywell International Inc., were recently unveiled at an automation conference in Chicago. These machines can enter the trucks, recognize package size and weight, and pull the parcels using an array of suction cups. The packages, directed to the machine’s conveyor belts, are quickly moved out so they can be sorted.
The Honeywell Robotic unloader is rather large. Warehouses and logistic hubs, already packed with equipment, will have to make room for the giant robot, but it requires no modification in order to enter trucks. The Siemens robotic unloader is more sophisticated and requires an operator to modify the truck’s trailer in order for the robot to do its work. The Siemens model requires a rolling belt to be permanently installed on the floor of the truck’s trailer. When the trailer arrives at the loading dock, operators must attach the robot to the rolling belt. The robot pulls the packages out in about ten minutes. Both robots use machine learning to identify packages.
Automation continues to replace human workers. The UPS is investing $20 billion in automation over the next three years to keep up with growing eCommerce shipping demands. The vice president of product development for Honeywell is passionate about developing this kind of automation because he’s been in the miserable, back-bending position of unloading trucks. He believes employees are better off managing the machines from the dock.
“For distribution center workers, unloading packages is labor-intensive, physically demanding and injury-prone work that is often subject to extreme temperatures,” said Matt Wicks, vice president of product development at Honeywell Integrated. “Getting people out of the trailer and on the dock side managing several of these machines is a huge factor as it relates to employee satisfaction and retention.”
Retaining happy employees is a noble goal, but over time, will the efficiencies of automation allow companies to retain employees at all?
Using robots to perform labor-intensive tasks may improve employee satisfaction in the short term; however, AI and other forms of automation are predicted to take over the workforce altogether, leaving millions of people on the sidelines. By 2022, the World Economic Forum projects that automation will displace approximately 75 million jobs. At least fifty percent of companies are expected to cut workers in order to accommodate robots. The report also finds that automation will create 133 million jobs initially, requiring a large part of the workforce to learn new skills in order to remain competitive in the job market. This means millions of laborers will have to adapt and learn how to control robots or else be put out of work.
A new report by Wells Fargo & Co., warns that nearly 200,000 US banking jobs are at risk of being displaced by robots.
As we’ve explained in the past, accelerating technological advances in automation, artificial intelligence, and machine learning have the potential to reshape the world in the 2020s through 2030. The collision of these forces could trigger economic disruption far greater than what was seen in the early 20th century.
Across the financial industry, a new wave of investment, somewhere in the tune of $150 billion per year, is being spent on technology, that will “lead to lower costs, with employee compensation accounting for half of all bank expenses,” said Mike Mayo, a senior analyst at Wells Fargo Securities LLC.
The Wells Fargo study, which was first reported by Bloomberg, indicates 20% to 33% of banking jobs will be slashed by 2030. Most affected will be back office, bank branch, call center, and corporate employees. Jobs related to tech sales, advising and consulting will be less affected, according to the study.
“It will be a dramatic change in contact centers, and these are both internal and external,” Michael Tang, a Deloitte partner who leads the consulting firm’s global financial-services innovation practice, said in the Wells Fargo report. “We’re already seeing signs of it with chatbots, and some people don’t even know that they’re chatting with an A.I. engine because they’re just answering questions.”
Wells Fargo joins a handful of other major banks that have already detailed plans to cut a majority of their workforce by 2030 amid the rapid adoption of automation and artificial intelligence.
According to Coalition Development Ltd. data. R. Martin Chavez, an architect of Goldman Sachs’ push to automate its workforce, said last month, front-office headcount for investment banking and trading declined for the fifth consecutive year in 2018.
In an earlier piece, we described how tens of millions of jobs across the world, and across various industries, would be lost because of robots by 2030.
The 2020s will be known as the great transformation period where corporate America abandons its workforce for automation. The coming job losses, due to automation, will be on par with the automation revolution of agriculture (the transition of farm workers into the industrial sector) from 1900 to 1940.
Robots have so far increased three-fold since the Dot-Com bust. Momentum in automation trends suggests robots will multiply even quicker through the 2020s. The collision of automation in the economy will lead to more volatility, economic swings, and social unrest.
Technology, like natural selection, has no goal.
When it comes to the impact of automation (robots, AI, etc.) on jobs, there are two schools of thought:
In either case, we’ll get richer: if technology generates more high-quality jobs, replacing lower-quality jobs lost to automation, we’ll collectively get richer, and if technology destroys jobs but creates immense profits that can be distributed to everyone as Universal Basic Income (UBI), then we’ll get richer via distributing profits to everyone.
But what if neither option is realistic? What if the jobs that are created in the wake of automation are lower-quality, lower pay and far more insecure? And what if automation leads to much lower profits rather than much higher profits? What if there’s nowhere near enough profits to distribute to everyone as Universal Basic Income? If that’s the case, we’re collectively becoming poorer, even if a small percentage of the population is reaping wealth from automation.
Consider this first-hand account from a reader on Facebook (used with permission):
“With almost 40 years in the pipeline business I have seen detecting and locating leaks in pipelines go from 6-8 men, 2-3 trucks, maybe an airplane and take days. With three pieces of equipment (Laser methane detector and a Optical Gas Imaging camera), $300 drone and a 4 X 4 pickup, one person can cover in a few hours what could take days to weeks to find years ago.
The work I do has displaced at least 6 if not more workers plus the capital cost of the equipment. The total cost of all my equipment is less than $200K and labor cost of less than $2K.
A ‘Smart Pig’ can detect, measure and locate a corrosion indication within mm’s. The fixed cost of the equipment is high but the incremental cost per use is low. Manpower and equipment has gone from 12 workers to 4-5 depending on size. The information found can prevent loss resulting in environmental damage and economic loss to the pipeline owner.
Less people doing more work to find problems. Using technology instead of manpower.”
Between half and two-thirds of this workforce has been obsoleted by these technologies. If there is any competition in the manufacture of the equipment, it’s likely prices will fall as components become commoditized and decline in price.
Sectors of the economy many hope will create more jobs are seeing the same dynamics. A friend recently described the technologies being deployed to increase the yields and reduce labor in organic sustainable farming: drones that monitor the water and nutrient needs of crops with sensors and relay the data to drip-irrigation systems.
As for training students to code/program: many of these tasks are being automated as well.
Even as we wring our hands over the potential for individually-targeted advertising to sway elections, we also have to ask: why should any advertiser pay marketing firms to distribute bulk emails and mailers, buy TV/radio/print adverts, etc. when an essentially automated technology can craft a data-driven micro-targeted pitch to individuals?
My point here is that it’s not just blue-collar jobs that are being obsoleted, but well-paying white-collar jobs are increasingly being automated as well.
The jobs that are being created are low-pay, contingent, insecure service jobs that cannot support a middle-class life or accumulation of capital.
If we look at the gig economy that’s arisen to staff on-demand services (Uber, Lyft, GrubHub, etc.), we find low earnings, no benefits and the costs and risks of auto ownership being offloaded from the corporation to individual owners.
These jobs may be “new” (although they look very similar to “old” jobs such as delivering milk) due to the interface of smartphone technology, they lack the security and compensation needed to afford a middle class lifestyle in most U.S. urban areas. In other words, they are not replacing jobs lost with equivalent jobs.
The idea that profits will pay for Universal Basic Income is simply not realistic. Even we taxed all the Big Tech corporations at a rate of 75% (a rate that’s politically unrealistic), that would yield up $100 billion, one-tenth of UBI’s minimum cost.
As I’ve discussed in my books, there’s another crisis of work that UBI doesn’t solve: the majority of people want and need the purpose, meaning and structure of a job–a positive social role, a way to gain self-respect, an avenue of control of one’s life, a source of dignity and a means of getting ahead.
Technology, like natural selection, has no goal. Technology doesn’t have a teleological drive to employ humans, save the planet or any other goal we might choose. In the current socio-political-economic system, technology is mostly aimed at maximizing profits. The surest way to reduce costs is to replace costly humans with automated tools.
If we want technology to help us create gainful work, we’ll have to set that goal, and create incentives other than maximizing short-term profits. Perhaps one first step might be to broaden our definition of “profit” from the purely financial to one that includes “utility” and “value” for local and global communities. That’s the goal of my work.
* * *
Pathfinding our Destiny: Preventing the Final Fall of Our Democratic Republic ($6.95 ebook, $12 print, $13.08 audiobook): Read the first section for free in PDF format. My new mystery The Adventures of the Consulting Philosopher: The Disappearance of Drake is a ridiculously affordable $1.29 (Kindle) or $8.95 (print); read the first chapters for free (PDF). My book Money and Work Unchained is now $6.95 for the Kindle ebook and $15 for the print edition. Read the first section for free in PDF format. If you found value in this content, please join me in seeking solutions by becoming a $1/month patron of my work via patreon.com. New benefit for subscribers/patrons: a monthly Q&A where I respond to your questions/topics.
In an interview with The Telegraph, Brad Smith, president of Microsoft, said the use of ‘lethal autonomous weapon systems’ poses a host of new ethical questions which need to be considered by governments as a matter of urgency.
He said the rapidly advancing technology, in which flying, swimming or walking drones can be equipped with lethal weapons systems – missiles, bombs or guns – which could be programmed to operate entirely or partially autonomously, “ultimately will spread… to many countries”.
The US, China, Israel, South Korea, Russia and the UK are all developing weapon systems with a significant degree of autonomy in the critical functions of selecting and attacking targets.
The technology is a growing focus for many militaries because replacing troops with machines can make the decision to go to war easier.
But it remains unclear who is responsible for deaths or injuries caused by a machine – the developer, manufacturer, commander or the device itself.
“The safety of civilians is at risk today. We need more urgent action, and we need it in the form of a digital Geneva Convention, rules that will protect civilians and soldiers.”
Speaking at the launch of his new book, Tools and Weapons, at the Microsoft store in London’s Oxford Circus, Smith said there was also a need for stricter international rules over the use of facial recognition technology and other emerging forms of artificial intelligence.
“There needs to be there needs to be a new law in this space, we need regulation in the world of facial recognition in order to protect against potential abuse.”
“They not gonna be like us, they’re gonna be aliens…they’re gonna be way smarter than every single person in this room in ways that we can’t even comprehend,” said Rose.
He then mentioned Elon Musk’s concerns about artificial intelligence taking over humanity, but cautioned that the word “demons” doesn’t even capture the true scope of what will happen.
The CEO of Kindred AI (worth $100 million) who currently sell the only quantum computers available, talks about how they’re summoning entities that are indifferent, much like The Great Old One’s in H.P Lovecraft’s fiction novels
Sounds like they’re trying to bring Shayateen pic.twitter.com/JBvgl1Ircv
— Yunis (@Wayfaring_farer) September 15, 2019
Rose then cited H.P Lovecraft’s concept of “cosmic indifference,” where the universe is occupied by entities who “don’t give a shit about you even in the slightest.”
“The same way that you don’t care about an ant is the same way they’re not gonna care about you,” said Rose.
He went on to say that “these things we’re summoning into the world right now…are more like the Lovecraftian The Great Old Ones, they’re entities that are not necessarily going to be aligned with what we want.”
Rose said that this massive transformation was happening in the background while people were distracted bickering about politics.
As we have exhaustively explained, the elite plans to fuse with AI to create the singularity while the masses will be left behind as a slave class or, according to some, exterminated completely.
Caitlin Johnstone discards the high-flown dogma around space colonization and challenges readers to accept themselves and life on planet Earth.
It’s rare to get a billionaire to share their grand plans for the future, which is weird because billionaires pretty much rule the world. Whenever they do, though, it’s always something incredibly sociopathic, like replacing all jobs with billionaire-owned automation/AI and giving people a Universal Basic Income set by the billionaire-owned government. Or loading all the humans onto rocket ships and sending them to live on Amazon Space Dildos.
Billionaire Elon Musk, who hates unions and wants to implant AI into human brains, has been continuing this trend of idiotic plutocratic futurology with a new campaign to detonate nuclear weapons on the planet Mars. This is not because Musk hates Mars, but because he wants to colonize it; the idea is to vaporize the red planet’s polar ice caps and throw carbon dioxide into the air to ultimately make the planet more habitable.
Scientists are voicing skepticism that such a plan could even work, before even opening up the “Just because you can doesn’t mean that you should” debate. Sending nuclear weapons into space for any reason whatsoever should receive an outright rejection from all of humanity, since getting nukes into earth’s orbit has been the wet dream of war machine engineers for decades and pretending they went to Mars would serve as an ideal cover story to circumvent international space treaties until it’s too late to prevent it.
Musk claims he wants to colonize Mars because a new dark age ensuing from a third world war appears “likely,” and he wants to ensure that there will be humans living off of the planet to re-populate it after we wipe ourselves out here. Rather than pouring wealth, brainpower and resources into pushing for a change in the status quo which has set the world’s nuclear-armed powers on a collision course for a world military confrontation that will destroy our biosphere, this billionaire has decided it’s better to nuke Mars so that a back bench of reserve humans can live on a desert space rock.
This is the class of people who are calling the shots in our world. These are the minds who are choosing our fate for us. I wouldn’t trust them to run a gas station.
And Elon Musk is one of the saner billionaires.
I’m going to take a lot of flak for saying this, but I honestly believe that the impulse to colonize space is one of the more pernicious cultural mind viruses in our society. I mean, think about it: we’ve got a planet right here for which we are perfectly adapted, and we’re burning it to the ground while looking up at a red dot in the sky going “You know I bet if I nuked that bitch I could build a hermetically sealed house on it someday.” How much more insane could you possibly get?
I’m pushing against a cultural dogma that’s been mainstream doctrine for generations, but I really find all this blather about adventure and the indomitable human spirit of exploration quite tedious and idiotic when it comes to space colonization. We’ve got creatures swimming in our own oceans with brains many times larger than our own, and we’re killing them all off before we’ve even developed any kind of real theory about what they’re doing with all that extra gray matter. There are parts of the moon that are better explored than vast expanses of our own seas. We don’t even know what consciousness is, and science is largely uninterested in answering this question. I don’t believe the spirit of exploration and adventure is what’s driving our longing to break for the stars. I think it’s nothing but garden variety escapism.
We’ve all got that one friend or family member who’s completely miserable and is always quitting jobs and relationships and moving house and changing their diet in a desperate attempt to find happiness. They rearrange their lifestyle for the umpteenth time and they’re barely settled in before their gaze lands on some other aspect of their life and they think, “That’s the source of my unhappiness right there. If I can only escape from that, I’ll be happy.”
Such people are exasperating to be around, because you can see what they’re doing and you just want to sit them down and go “The problem is in you, babe. Moving won’t help; your inner demons will follow you every time. You’ve got to stay put and deal with your issues.”
Looking for Escape Routes
Our species reminds me of that type of personality right now. So many of us are looking forward to some escape route coming from outside of us to rescue us from ourselves; some are looking forward to the second coming of Jesus, some are looking forward to the aliens coming in to save the day, some are looking forward to the Democrats or the Republicans finally capturing the whole entire government and setting things right with the world, and some are looking forward to billionaires setting up a space colonization program so we can get off this accursed blue orb before we destroy it. But there is no deus ex machina here. No one’s going to save us from ourselves. Even if we do succeed in running away from home, we’ll inevitably bring the same inner demons with us that got us into this mess in the first place.
We’ve got to turn inward and evolve beyond our self-destructive impulses. The only way out is through. The mind virus of celestial escapism stops us from doing this, because it offers us yet another false promise of deus ex machina. It lets us run away from doing the hard but necessary real inner work, just like doing drugs or binging on Netflix or any other kind of escapism.
Bezos Reveals His Ugly Vision For The World He’s Trying To Rule
“Bezos then went on to discuss his plan to ship humans off of the best planet in the solar system and send them to live in floating cylinders in space.”https://medium.com/@caityjohnstone/bezos-reveals-his-ugly-vision-for-the-world-hes-trying-to-rule-5bb9d117b819 …
Bezos Reveals His Ugly Vision For The World He’s Trying To Rule
“Guess what the best planet is in this solar system?” asked Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos at a recent media event on his Blue Origin space program.
Can you try a little thought experiment for me? Imagine, just for a moment, if we took space colonization off the table. Completely. Forever. We just decided that it’s never going to happen and we all moved to accept that. Really imagine it. Really put yourself there for a minute.
What does that change in you? What does that change about your attitude toward our future? If we’re honest with ourselves, I think it would change quite a bit. For me, when I take space conquest off the table, it takes me in a direction that just so happens to look extremely healthy. It makes me say, “Oh, okay, so we’ll obviously have to get rid of the status quo of endless war and ecocide, since those will ruin this place, and that will mean radically changing our relationship with each other and with our ecosystem. It will mean getting women around the world full reproductive sovereignty and education since that’s proven to reverse population growth. It will mean ceasing to think like a cancer, believing that endless growth is a virtue. It will mean ceasing to believe that the existence of trillions of humans is the best our species can hope for, when we have yet to even scratch the surface of our own potential on a large scale. And I suppose it will mean getting together and figuring out how to detect and neutralize the threat of apocalyptic meteor strikes, too.”
Imagine that. Imagine if instead of trying to figure out how to fill the sky with trillions of mediocre humans we turned inward, healed our inner demons, and realized our full potential. Such a world would be a paradise. I know from my own experience that humans are capable of so very, very much more than what we have attained so far; we really haven’t scratched the surface at all. If we’re going to explore, the direction of that exploration ought to be inward.
I really think the mainstream idea that we can always make a mad dash for the black emptiness in the sky if things go to shit here keeps us from truly confronting our urgent need to preserve the ecosystemic context in which we evolved, and which there’s no evidence that we can live without.
I mean, we don’t even know that space colonization is possible. As of yet we have no evidence at all that humans are sufficiently separate and separable from Earth’s biosphere for survival apart from our ecosystem to be a real thing. Humans aren’t really separate “things;” they’re a symbiotic collaboration of organisms with ecosystems of their own, all of which as far as we know are entirely dependent on the greater ecosystem from which we blossomed. So far all our attempts at creating independent biospheres have failed miserably, and the closest we’ve come to living in space has consisted of nothing but glorified scuba excursions: visits to space stations fully dependent on a lifeline of terrestrial supplies. That’s the difference between flying and jumping. It might be as delusional as our brains thinking they can hop out of our skulls and live independently of our bodies, or some river eddies saying they’re moving to dry land.
Elon Musk’s Neuralink is developing a brain implant to connect people’s minds directly to a computer. These mind-reading systems could affect our privacy, security, identity, equality, and personal safety. https://www.rappler.com/technology/features/237931-privacy-concerns-elon-musk-neuralink-brain-implant?utm_term=Autofeed&utm_medium=Social&utm_source=Twitter#Echobox=1566024168 …
Silicon Valley wants to read your mind – here’s why you should be worried
Elon Musk’s Neuralink is developing a brain implant to connect people’s minds directly to a computer. These mind-reading systems could affect our privacy, security, identity, equality, and personal…
And even if it is possible, why would you want it? Do people not know what space is? Are they aware that it’s nothing but boring desert wasteland that’s really, really, hard to get to and survive on? Have you ever been trapped for a long time surrounded by nothing but man-made things, like on an airplane or a cruise ship? Picture that, but way worse and for much longer. It would be a sterile, artificial existence; even if you managed to bring in plants and animals it would be ordered in a man-made way that is no more natural than the saplings grown on traffic islands. At best it would be like being in a mall your entire life. You’d be cut off from the primordial thrum of your home world. There’d be no real life there. No real soul.
Imagine never feeling the starry spatter of a shower of rain on your face. Imagine never ever again hearing the roar of wind on a wintry night or experiencing the thunder of the ocean on a big surf day. Imagine never again being blown away by the brightness of a rainbow or the thrilling crack of lightning or the astonishing beauty of a sunset or the first rays of springtime sunshine fondly warming the back of your neck. Imagine never again coming across a friendly squirrel or a shy possum or a little feast of wild blackberries. Imagine never again lying in the dappled light filtered through a magnificent tree. I don’t know about you but I would just miss the breeze playing in my hair too terribly to ever leave. I love it here and it loves me like a mother loves her child. This is not just my home, I grew from the earth as surely as a mushroom or a seahorse. I am a part of the earth and the earth is a part of me. We belong together.
It’s easy to feel helpless. The wise ones do not have any money and therefore any power. We are being run by a handful of coddled man-children and it seems like they might have the last word. But I have been thinking about Rupert Sheldrake’s ideas on morphic resonance a lot lately and I’m increasingly convinced that even just one of us bringing consciousness to an aspect of our collective darkness is enough to wordlessly and instantly inform the herd. So, do me a favor if you are willing. Go and run one more experiment for me. Go outside now and place your hand on the ground and say to the Earth these words — “I’m sorry, please forgive me, thank you, I love you.” Say it as many times as you feel like. Say it, and mean it.
And then let’s see what happens next.
Caitlin Johnstone is a rogue journalist, poet, and utopia prepper who publishes regularly at Medium. Follow her work on Facebook, Twitter, or her website. She has a podcast and a new book “Woke: A Field Guide for Utopia Preppers.”
This article was re-published with permission.