Monthly Archives: December 2010

Articles like this really annoy me

Using data by the U.S. BLS, the average productivity per American worker has increased 400% since 1950. One way to look at that is that it should only take one-quarter the work hours, or 11 hours per week, to afford the same standard of living as a worker in 1950 (or our standard of living should be 4 times higher). Is that the case? Obviously not. Someone is profiting, it’s just not the average American worker.

I’ve seen many like this. First off, the article’s title is “The U.S. is the Most Overworked Developed Nation in the World.” That isn’t even true; South Korean workers put in the most hours, by a large margin. Second, simply stating that our standard of living is “obviously” not four times higher ignores the many things we have today that were unimaginable in 1950.

How do you measure the impact of being able to communicate with just about anyone, anywhere, anytime, when that was science fiction in the late 1960s?

How do you measure the impact of the polio vaccine, the eradication of smallpox, and the myriad other medical advances since 1950?

How do you measure the impact of the internet?

If you measure standard of living simply by income, then sure, the standard of living hasn’t gone up anything like four times. Some argue that it has declined in terms of non-inflationary dollars. That discloses the ludicrous nature of such standards in the information era. My parents were roughly equivalent to me in societal standards. Higher perhaps; my step-father managed teams of fifty or more developers. There is no way I would go back to their no-internet, single phone-line, 25 cents-a-minute for long distance, 15 MPG car, three TV network, LP record-playing, no GPS, smog-alert, microwave ovens are a mystery, cancer kills everyone, heart attack kills everyone, living-in-the-dark-ages past.

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Welcome to the Future Indeed

This is insane tech. It would have absolutely fit in at Q’s lab in a James Bond film circa 1990, and now we have it. Now I’m crossing my fingers for a George Jetson-style fold-up flying car.

On a serious note, this is a clear indication that in the not-too-distant future we will have access to things that seem impossible today. It’s hard to predict which impossible things will happen when, but don’t bet against the future.