Jennifer wrote:No, I'm not using code words separating the "useful" from the "un-useful" -- and given my own withdrawal from the child-having game, I'm clearly not worried about some future Idiocracy "OMG only the dumbasses are breeding" scenario, either. But I'm looking at the America I've lived in all my life: the good thing is, there are evermore opportunities for intelligent people. If you're smart you can be far more than a subsistence farmer or hunter/trapper, and that's great. But if you're not smart, then what? There's plenty of jobs available, but they don't pay enough to live on. Productivity has been going up even while wage inequality is growing.
Jennifer, that is the same argument
. Yes, I cast what you and Thoreau said (with his focus on "geniuses" as the sole mechanism of progress) differently than how you're thinking about it and putting it, but your complaint really is "too many people we have no use for".
There are plenty of people doing skilled jobs who are in no way, shape, or form "smarter" than the average human being. Some are absolutely on the low end of the bell curve. They've just put in the time to learn how to do something (and had the chance to learn it). I may be a genius by some absolutely useless measures, but there are plenty of perfectly average people writing software. Some of them even write pretty decent software.
The biggest problem of the average person is an education system that's still aimed at turning out factory workers and low-level office workers. The capitalist serf (
) of tomorrow will need to be a different sort of peon, if we want to be all elitist about it. Again, adaptation and inevitable social stress along the way, certainly.
That said, even now if the usefulness of the poor-dumb-average-person was in such sharp decline, we wouldn't be worrying about "wage inequality" or "insufficient growth in the average wage" or "wage stagnation", we'd be worrying about long-term trends of wages nose-diving
in real dollars.
And that's entirely leaving aside any advances in intelligence augmentation or even just educational enhancement. What's a poor-dumb-average-person when we can make people smarter or make it easier and quicker to learn things? I mean, Hell, for my NaNoWriMo SF novel last year, I was going for a mildly revisionist cyberpunk bit and had one character who'd become a ridiculously good fencer by combining constant practice with a stolen device that put her brain functions in a quasi-Zen/perfect learning state...and then I found an article in Wired
about the US military testing something that works exactly the same way. (Yes, I became Reverse Warren Ellis for a moment!)
Jennifer wrote:The productivity going up shows what I've been already saying: we do NOT need an ever-expanding population to do what needs doing. We do NOT need even a replacement birth rate to keep society functioning.
I never said either was necessary, and I think the population trend can do whatever it likes so long as it's the product of people making decisions based on their own lives without left- or right-wing blowhards making them tie their tubes or pump out babies. And yes, I absolutely respect your being creeped out by the creepy nativists of the latter type.
I'm just objecting to the "what use would more people be?" line of argument. I think once world population stabilizes at roughly ten billion people, infrastructure finishes catching up, and we sort out the inevitable problems, we'll end up with a world that will - in a slew of ways - make all our "gee whiz, we live in the future" remarks of the early 21st century seem terribly cute and quaint. Even along the way, more people with more opportunities will make things better.