You have to work hard to find time to slack off -- everyone and everything around me is always creating more work to do. How does anyone like this? A perfect life to me would be spent goofing off and working on art, but achieving that and maintaining the expected level of success is in itself a lot of work. Press articles always talk about how some new innovation is going to make my life easier, but all I see is how it's going to create more maintenance headaches for me (because I care about how it is going to work -- if you don't care maybe life actually is easier?) and how it is going to create more data for someone else (who isn't me! wtf?!) to monetize. I would happily roll back the last 10-to-20 years of technological innovation if it meant I could make software that didn't shackle me with continuous maintenance again, that I could happily disconnect from society at will again, and that social objectives (like dating, or finding friends) reverted back to a model of local scarcity of options rather than this model of app-driven stacked ranking that enhances the top 10% while leaving everyone else fighting over scraps.
The world would be a better place if so many of these innovators suddenly died of a heart attack or something; because their model of innovation is almost always figuring out how to take money away from incumbents who built a working, human-scale system that allowed for things like slack time and local maximums, as opposed to this brave new world of globalizing everything and forcing everyone into the top 1-10% (and making everyone not in that bracket suffer)
I'm going through a midlife crisis right now where I'm actively rejecting the decisions I made since 2000. I had a falling out with professional programming last year and am looking into the gig economy. I'm not going to buy new anything if I can possibly avoid it. I'm trying to turn my attention from external expectation to what I felt was my life purpose when I graduated college in 1999.
Which will basically amount to finding a way to earn roughly $1000 per month doing whatever it takes and then using the freed up time to work on inventions. I'm hoping to resurrect my blog and write about progress or my thoughts on tech rather than devolving into my usual diatribes about politics and how the world has generally gone the wrong direction. My acquaintances are concerned about me, and rightfully so, but I just don't care to live someone else's life anymore.
I think you're right though, that when basic needs are met, most people want to work on their calling whether it be art or recreation or simply being human. Which looks a bit like how the aristocracy lived in the Gilded Age over a century ago. There's no reason why we can't have that level of affluence today for every single person by letting machines do the labor, or by taxing profits on that labor and providing cash to all via UBI.
If you've spent the last two decades socking away some of that sweet, sweet programmer cash, you may well have enough cushion to live the beach-bum/starving-artist life you're talking about. That's great, and go for it. But a lot of people trying to skate by with the minimum will discover that the minimum isn't quite enough, and then they get caught up in a very bad vicious cycle.
UBI is one plan which would alleviate a lot of that, and I'd be all in favor of trying. Technology means there's so much to go around that not everybody needs to spend a third of their waking life to get the basics. But until then, people should be aware that they have needs outside of basic maintenance that must be taken into account.
After doing this for a few months, I've reached the conclusion that the status quo structures America this way so that we're all locked into the workaday world rat race to bolster corporate profits. The penalties for working less than 40 hours per week are so severe that it's effectively a dream now, out of reach for most. The opportunity cost of that for American innovation is incalculable. We might as well measure it in years instead of dollars. I've lost 20, has anyone else succeeded as a sole proprietor or made a living from patents?
I've already begun to notice the biases against the working poor interwoven through our society. Overdraft fees are crippling, and groveling to get them reversed is demoralizing (luckily my credit union is more understanding than banks ever were). I've begun measuring everything in time again. Eating at a restaurant costs 1-2 hours of income, rent costs at least 30 hours, veterinary bills are out of the question, medical care is a fantasy, I'm at the mercy of my vehicle holding up. I hardly thought about those things on salary, and I grew detached from the chronic daily misery 100 million Americans face just to survive.
Anyway, I want to document all of this as a roadmap for other entrepreneurs that I never had. Reaching $2000 per month, with half coming from self-employment, is the next milestone. Success for me will look like making between $30k and $50k working 20 hours per week by a year or two from now. I figure the odds of that are 90% against, but by working the gig economy, I might be able to get that to 50/50.
Seeing past that realization is incredibly difficult, especially when one isn't motivated to. If you find a way to help make that clearer to people, good on ya.
An important trick I use is to take all fixed living costs out of weekly income. Then divide disposable income left by hours to work out your return on time invested.
For example: one friend gets NZD20 per hour and works 40 hours. She only has $30 left to spend on whatever else she wants after living expenses (carefully budgeted in her case). So 0.75 $/hour is what she actually “earns”.
I use this to help explain to her that we don’t need to put in equal $ when we share activities - instead we put in equal disposable income per working hour.
It also means I don’t feel guilty when a friend who has 5x the disposable income pays more than I do for something we share.
The conclusion I came to is that I need about $3M to provide a life-long safety net, then I can try just making enough to cover the "basic needs" and not end up homeless if things go wrong.
Do you have any thoughts about taking a year off? I'm considering doing that once my current employment expires, but I'm concerned that if I taste freedom and begin enjoying life, I may not be able to go back to work.
That's just me, of course. I have long enjoyed programming, and am incredibly lucky to be good at a lucrative job. You might find that a year of climbing glaciers or weaving tapestries ruins you for the office job. I personally am well aware that if I were to pursue my passion for theater as a means of living, I'd come to hate it. So I dunno if my experience generalizes, but that's my $.02 for what it's worth.
(I can say that I'd heard a figure of $2M rather than $3M, and God I hope so. That burnout thing cost me over a decade of productive earnings.)
I will agree that around the house, aside from Roomba not much home labor has been saved. Everything has gotten more efficient, but cooking is still cooking, and the washing machine still can't fold. Power tools have become a lot cheaper & better, but in many cases the maintenance overhead is often not worth the labor saved.
At the same time it's become apparent that fewer hours of labor and more benefits with a pay cut is desirable for many, and we're in a "superstar" economy that discourages such. The oft-heard complaint is that we can't enjoy these technological wonders since we have no time.
Beware: are you subconsciously just playing different status games? If you have clocked out to avoid status games (like making-house or making-money or making-job) then substituting other status seeking activities is likely to remain hollow.
Not sure which ecosystem you’re in, but for software maintenance, the Mac App Store / iOS App Store seem to have completely changed the end-user experience.
There are apps that are distributed free outside the App Store and cost money in the App Store, where I pay in order to never again think about updates.
The backup/restore/migration story is pretty remarkable too.
> feel like I’m turning into a Luddite
I find that a fundamental point underneath the iOS vs. Android debate. Android is great for tech geeks, while iOS aims to give ‘normals’ their life back, folks with no desire to endlessly tweak and warily maintain.
I think the future tech wins are those where the developer invests extra toil so the users don’t have to, where the tech recedes into the background, just ambiently working.
The rest of passive income is exploiting an edge (like an install base in desktop software) or rent-seeking, both of which if left to be truly passive will be captured by someone willing to put in slightly more active effort.
> The history of American housework suggests that both sides have a point. Americans tend to use new productivity and technology to buy a better life rather than to enjoy more downtime in inferior conditions.
I think this goes along with an informal idea that downtime is both overrated and possibly undesirable.
Often, the alternative to staying busy is boredom, and the completion of tasks at home is gamified with satisfying results.
Not necessarily because we avoid boredom, it might as well be some kind of a cultural pressure to do something rather than nothing.
This is why I don't believe in "robots taking away our jobs" and leaving us jobless. I'm not worrying for the humanity in this regard. We are a creative type, we'll always find ways to complicate things and create more work for ourselves :)
The 90’s definitely had its fair share of home improvement trends. I remember brass fixtures being a particular 90s staple.
I might suggest that perhaps your own perspective has changed since that time. Maybe you grew up in a rental or basic home and you’re now in or surround by more people living in more upper middle class homes that are updated more frequently.
Looking at building materials, I also think that a lot of material innovation has led to a number of trends that exist today and that these things aren’t necessarily bad. A lot of products out now save money over their predecessors: manufactured wood flooring, faux “wood” tile, and a lot of people don’t realize that the Quartz countertops that are popular now are a manufactured product. I haven’t checked pricing but I imagine they’re cheaper than a solid slab of stone. All of this stuff is better than linoleum and Formica and other ugly, crappy products of the last century. I find that good design is more affordable and accessible than ever before thanks to manufacturing that is far more efficient than it was 30 years ago. When you say “designer Italian” that could mean something from IKEA.
Finally, I have to make the argument that home improvements are a bad example of debt slavery. Home renovations go straight into equity, sometimes the value of the equity even beats the renovation cost since people desire homes that don’t need work. Not only that, a home mortgage is probably the least risky form of debt for Americans: interest rates are close to inflation, it’s tax-advantaged, and disregarding once-in-a-lifetime events like the 2008 housing crisis, it’s basically a guaranteed way to break even as long as you stay in your house for around 5-7 years.
As long as you know you won’t need to move, it’s usually a better deal than renting, in
The United States at least.
The numbers suggest otherwise:
1.- housing - We are outbiding each other for the same houses.
2.- health - The health systems is plain disfunctional. Quality is great but paying for it is a big problem.
3.- College cost inflation.
whatever happened to personal responsibility and accountability?!
It’s like we are assuming that most people act like reality television stars on My Super Sweet 16.
It doesn’t really line up with the data, which tells us that younger people spend less on things like cars and homes. I’d argue that depictions of “influential” lifestyles are not taken so seriously, they’re usually forms of entertainment. Watching a YouTuber unbox a $10,000 Mac Pro doesn’t mean the typical viewer will go into debt to buy one.
US: "Consumer debt was approaching $14-trillion after the second quarter of 2019, according to the New York Federal Reserve. It was the 20th consecutive quarter for an increase."
Canada: "Total credit market debt amounted to $2.25 trillion in the second quarter including nearly $1.47 trillion in mortgage debt and $782.9 billion in consumer credit and non-mortgage loans."
AU: "Hovering around 120 per cent of GDP — that is everything the nation produces in a year — Australia's household debt is second only to Switzerland, and we're not too far behind the Swiss. It wasn't always like this, with that debt burden almost trebling in the 28 years since Australia's last recession in the early 1990s."
UK: "Britain’s household debt mountain has reached a new peak, with UK homes now owing an average of £15,385 to credit card firms, banks and other lenders, according to the TUC."
The concept of inflation alone means that consumer debt would logically be at its highest at any given time. All your numbers besides the average credit card debt per person would also need to account for population increase - and having consumer debt of 120% GDP debt doesn’t sound bad at all when you consider home mortgages.
Compared to a boat, or snowmobiles, it's downright cheap.
You should consider whether you've got a sample bias.
I don't agree. We have as much time as we ever did, but modern technology has vastly improved the value of our time.
In particular, we don't get bored as easily as we used to. As a consequence, a lot of non-important tasks that used to offer sort of a refreshing break from monotony look now as a hassle because we have funnier/worthier things to do.
You mean we have more distractions. The experience of boredom is subjective. We therefore require more distraction to remain non bored.
> funnier/worthier things to do
No we don't. The "things" have no intrinsic value. Our feelings about them determine their funniness and their worthiness.
People used to listen to 2 hour church sermons and find them massively uplifting, entertaining and emotionally charged.
When I was in college I used to sit chatting with a friend for 8 hours in a cafe and I was never bored. No phones. No books. Not even a newspaper.
Few people could entertain themselves like that any more.
Sure, there’s a “Protestant Work Ethic” that still underpins a lot of consumer behavior in America, amplified by a marginal theory of economics that says you are what you earn — but most people can’t work less, even if they wanted to.
This became especially true after the 2008 financial collapse, wherein people who managed to keep their jobs were expected to take on the responsibilities of the people who were layed-off. And as the economy recovered, top earners took a larger share, and the majority of workers continued to carry a heavier load.
Contrast this with the 1950s where single earners could provide a relatively comfortable middle class lifestyle. (Also, coincidentally, the generation that dreamed-up a lot of the Jetsons-age inventions they imagined would provide a life of leisure by century’s end.)
With humans it is better to watch what they do, not what they say.
If you don't live in the better school districts, then your children will have less chance of success. How much are you willing to stretch yourself to give them as much of a leg up as possible?
This is the reality of a society that's had a widening wealth gap for decades now, and it's becoming more and more visible. And since wealth compounds, it's ever more important to not get left behind.
A baby on a gold level insurance plan in a high cost of living area recently cost me $5.5k, but that’s only because everything went well and we’re lucky to have a family oop max of $5.5k due to generosity of employer. If the oop max was higher, it probably would have cost around $8k or so.
I can luckily comfortably afford it, but I have no idea how others with household income in the $70k to $150k range can afford to budget for it. They must be giving up niceties such as vacation funds or skimping on essential savings, handicapping the growth of their retirement funds.
I don't disagree that there is a widening wealth gap but I think that is defined by a shrinking middle class, stagnant wages and the funneling of wealth to a smaller and smaller elite.
The stable income (that keeps up with inflation) in a smaller city (or town) is what doesn’t exist anymore, hence the flight to larger cities.
I have no educational background in this area and it is all speculation.
Edit: meaning technology does play a role
We don't have time because we are bidding against each other for a small pool of resources with respect to housing (and to a lesser extent, education and healthcare).
The formula is pretty simple:
* Restrict the amount of housing near good jobs (thanks Nimybs!)
* Make large amounts of debt available to purchase said housing
* Watch as everyone soaks up the debt in the pursuit of housing!
If 10 households live in a town with 5 houses, those 5 houses go to the people most willing to work themselves to the bone and take on a huge mortgage. The other 5 are screwed (in reality they just have gigantic commutes, share a home when they'd rather not, etc.)
Thanks to the large debt you took on, losing your income means losing the roof over your (and far worse, your kids') heads. So you check Slack at 11 PM, stay in the office until 8, go on pointless BS work trips that exist to serve the boss' ego and get 16 hour days out of you, and generally structure your entire life around income maximization so you can outbid your peers.
There is no reason you shouldn't be able to get a home for under 100k. Not a fancy one, but a home. If you run out of land, demolish the parking garages and put in more homes. If you run out of homes, demolish the townhouses and put in apartment blocks. If you run out of homes, demolish the 4 story apartments and put in 12 store ones. Also, let new cities grow instead of strangling them with NIMBYs, parking minimums, and zoning restrictions.
The above is how I wound up trying really, really hard (and succeeding) to find a dirt-cheap house I could own in cash - and it was only because no bank would be crazy enough to lend on a thatched cottage (oh, we moved to Europe too which helps with health care). Having no mortgage, and no rent, is AMAZING for your personal agency. Taking 6 months off to write a novel, fart around, whatever no longer is terrifying.
> feeling or showing satisfaction with one's possessions, status, or situation
How much if this is because so many lack contentment? Even when many people here or who fell this are in the top 10 or 1% of the things compared to all people through history.
How much of this is just a state of mind?
We need to get our education on par with the technology.
People need to level up faster, there are new jobs that are yet to be discovered. More taxes to be paid so the ones that aren't lucky don't have to live at a bare minimum.
To clarify: I didn't mean more taxes per person, but more absolute taxes from the working population.
Too much relaxing and doing nothing wears on you too.
The old saying, "too much of a good thing" can apply to both.
> Better technology means higher expectations—and higher expectations create more work.
> A lot of modern overwork is class and status maintenance—for this generation and the next.
> Technology only frees people from work if the boss—or the government, or the economic system—allows it.
It seems high expectations and class and status maintenance are just capitalism masquerading as culture. In France, the slogan we hear is "Work more to earn more," to which people reply in complaint, "I'm working more and earning the same!" But why can't we do "work less, earn less and have more time?"
I don't think those parties are they only ones who have something to say about leisure. Some would argue work is virtuous and you don't need less of it.
> Everybody is busy, burned out, swamped, overwhelmed.
Because money has been depreciating in value by 2-3% every year since the 70s while wages have stayed the same and the value they produce has increased.
This is fairly simple maths, the rich are enslaving the working class with debt through inflation.
Rather than face this cold reality some people would rather blame that new fangled technology, "things where better when there was no technology and I was a naive kid".
It's easy to blame technology as it gives you a simple solution to your problems, get rid of it, but you can never get back your naivety and that truth is much harder to accept.
Some other bad takes
> Better technology means higher expectations
Does it? based on what? I have higher expectations for a coffee made by a hipster barista than a coffee machine.
> A lot of modern overwork is class and status maintenance
> structural forces makes it so hard for Americans to find more time, even in an economy that is becoming ever more rich
The rich may becoming ever more rich, but the average American in the working class is getting poorer.
> Americans tend to use new productivity and technology to buy a better life rather than to enjoy more downtime in inferior conditions.
This may be true of some tech like phones and tv, tech focused on entertainment, but most technology is focused on freeing up time and reducing effort like lights, washing machines, dish washers, cookers, microwaves, cars, power tools the list goes on you don't need me to list them as most people take them for granted, I think the author is too.
If you think this federal reserve data is false, tell me more about why and how.
I don't think it's false, I just don't think it reflects anything realistic. My critique is with how they measure inflation, which is calculated in a way that ignores anything remotely volatile (meaning anything that has its prices adjusted to reflect reality) and was designed by someone who had incentives to make sure inflation was always low.
There is no need for me to re-write what is already written so I'll just link Investopedia's summary: https://www.investopedia.com/articles/07/consumerpriceindex....
Alternative measures of inflation put us anywhere from 6% to 8%, which seems to reflect reality much more than the official number. The concern about this is that high inflation is usually met with social unrest, political extremism, and declining standards of living. If inflation truly is understated, we should know because we'll begin seeing these things in the next couple of years. It will metaphorically be a case of bankers and policy makers saying "but inflation is below 2% - you guys should be happy" as a raging mob assembles a guillotine.
The GDP deflator is the most solid alternative measure of inflation I am aware of. It uses the whole GDP as the basket https://fred.stlouisfed.org/graph/?g=nNsE and is nowhere near 6%.
See also https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GDP_deflator
Just a note: graph does not start from zero, so growth is exaggerated.
Current value compared to worst: 360$ (2019) versus 309$ (1981) - 16.5% increase in 38 years. Taking first value of the graph in 1979 of 335$ gives - 7.5% increase in 40 years. IMHO it's abysmal result.
I hope this positive trend will continue, because if there will be some kind of downward correction - we will be back in 1979.
Median doesn't tell enough of the story for what most of the population is experiencing.
Household size has been decreasing over the last 50 years (less people per family unit), and household income is therefore growing more slowly than per capita income. It's still growing though.
All this is available from FRED data.
To use figurative numbers, if a couple earns $30k each, then they split but both get a raise of $20k, the household average drops from $60k to $50k despite the large salary raises.
You still have to worry about hedonic adjustments, though.
Gives the median salary in 1970 as $9,870 accounting for inflation the median salary should be $67,662.84 but currently its $56,516. So median wages have not tracked inflation since 1970.
But thats only half the battle the other side of the problem is runaway inflation.
In 1970 the median for a house is $23,400 accounting for inflation that should be $160,416.45 today, but the median price is $300,000. So the inflation reported by banks is not real.
It's important to separate value from $$$ as inflation generates $$$ but does not generate value.
A house is a good metric for real inflation, as it is a good store of value, every one needs a house or they will die from exposure so every one values a house, once the house is built the value does not increase.
In other words a house built in 1970 has the same value today as it did in 1970, but the price has increased a lot more than the reported inflation or the inflation of wages. Like I said this is fairly simple maths but it adds up for most other stores of value like gold.
Look at the fraction of GDP that goes to labour, capital and land at any point in time. No need to adjust for inflation this way.
Or viewed another way: you are adjusting for inflation, but your basket is the entire GDP, which you arbitrarily set to 1.
A more representative view of the same data is shown here: https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2018/08/07/for-most-us...
I often wonder where this baloney comes from. The notion does seem pretty tightly coupled to the rise of Bitcoin hubbub, which spawned a small army of armchair economists. Inflation primarily benefits the non-rich in two main ways:
1. It inflates away savings, which the rich definitionally have more of than the poor.
2. It inflates away debts, which the poor definitionally have more of than the rich.
Inflation is one of a small set of tools that protects an economy from rampant inequality. Another tool is progressive taxation, which has its own astroturfed opposition in "taxation is theft" and "flat tax" enthusiasts who aggressively call for the removal of things that directly protect them.
No, they don't. Generally, the more wealthy you are, the more debt you have.
The reason why this is should be easy to understand: Rich people have a lot of assets that can be used to secure loans, and are generally safer investements to the lenders, so they pay less interest, and can take on more debt to use as leverage for investment.
Anything that reduces debt helps the wealthiest segments of population way more than they help the poorer ones, and monetary policy where rates are held below inflation is a wealth transfer from the poor to the rich.
(Yes, there are asset classes that're historically good at being protected against inflation. But they typically represent a small part of a portfolio)
There is no conspiracy here. The implication that the Fed works to enrich the richest is a really dangerous and ignorant thing to perpetuate. The Fed is one of the very few things that offers some protection from unrelenting wealth inequality. It's hardly perfect, or immune from criticism. But attacking inflation itself as some conspiracy to enrich the already-wealthy is absolutely ludicrous.
Isn't it the other way round? If you invest in shares, real estate or even gold, you don't need to care about inflation? Only fixed income like bonds is bothered by inflation.
(By moderate amounts of inflation. If the country you invest in descends into eg hyperinflation, the whole economy is going down, so shares won't hold up to well either.)
The amount of money those assets are worth becomes inflated, and increased not lowered.
The rich do not have savings they have assets that generate income thats not taxed the poor have savings like pensions as they need money to support them if they are unable to work.
> It inflates away debts, which the poor definitionally have more of than the rich.
This is baseless inflation increases debt as the value of the debt has not increased but the amount of money you have to pay back does, because of inflation.
20th century went from near zero consumer technology to chokeful of it.
- no fridge
- no phone
- no television
- no computing
- no kitchen appliance
Most new technologies are justified by highly statistical research and never ending p-rating tricks to make you want more. But at one point, only ignorants/immature will run for it.
What's not nice is collapsing total spending (equal to collapsing nominal GDP). In practice, a collapse in total spending often comes with a depression of the price level.
As long as nominal GDP is stable (or alternatively, total nominal wages), prices can drop all they want. We see that eg in the computer sector. Total spending on computers increases, while prices drop thanks to better technology and greater productivity.
See eg https://mises.org/library/less-zero-case-falling-price-level... for some more background.