Saturday, May 11, 2024

What Matt Walsh Gets Wrong about AI and Work

Matt Walsh
Replacing human labor with AI is nothing to be feared.

by Patrick Carroll, Foundation for Economic Education, May 11, 2024- In a recent viral tweet, conservative pundit Matt Walsh proffered an “unpopular opinion” about AI that deserves some serious scrutiny. Reacting to a video showcasing an AI-powered Wendy’s drive thru, Walsh commented that this kind of technology should probably be illegal.

“Unpopular opinion (among conservatives anyway) but there probably needs to be laws against this,” the Daily Wire pundit observed. “AI is going to wipe out 80 percent of the jobs on the planet if we don’t do something.”

Ashley St. Clair, a conservative author and influencer, was one of many high-profile figures to offer a response. “Call me idealistic but that lends a lot of room for us to get more autonomy back and create beauty again,” she wrote. “There will also be a plethora of new industries created that will hopefully replace the obsolete jobs.”

Walsh’s response to St. Clair is almost more concerning than his original take. “I think experience shows us that humans, on the whole, don’t ‘create beauty’ when they have nothing to do,” he wrote. “We’ve seen what happens as we become less necessary and have less to do. It’s not a pretty picture. A world where AI does everything will be bleak beyond all imagining.”

There’s a lot to unpack in this reply, but let’s start with the original tweet.

What’s So Bad about Technology Replacing Jobs?

Walsh’s concern about jobs being lost due to technological development is nothing new. Ever since the Industrial Revolution, people have been raising concerns that technology would “take jobs” and leave many out of work. One of the earliest groups to raise these concerns was the Luddites, a 19th-century group of English textile workers who opposed the use of machinery in their trade because it was being used to replace workers. The term “Luddite” has since become a pejorative for someone who opposes labor-saving technological advances—one that Walsh has clearly earned with this take.

The issue with Luddism is that it gets in the way of economic progress. Technology is an immensely powerful tool for improving our standard of living, and much of the prosperity we enjoy today is a result of technological advances that replaced human labor with machine labor. If we had refused to adopt any new technology that would have replaced human workers, we wouldn’t be nearly as well-off as we are today. And if we restrict the new technologies of today, such as AI, we would likewise be setting ourselves up for economic stagnation. It would be like insisting workers dig with shovels (or spoons!) instead of modern machinery, because doing so would maintain a high number of digging jobs.

True, technological development means that some jobs are made obsolete. But this is nothing new, and nothing to be afraid of. In 1840, 63 percent of US workers worked in agriculture. Today, that number is 1.4 percent, largely thanks to the development of tractors and other technologies. So, what happened to all the workers who lost their jobs? They found new ones! Entire new occupations and entire economic sectors that never existed before came into being.

As long as people still have desires that are going unmet and that could be satisfied with human labor, there will always be jobs to do. So being replaced by a machine doesn’t mean you can never work again. It just means you might need to start doing a different kind of work.

Too Much, Too Fast?

One common response to this point is that, yes, people will eventually find new jobs, but technological development is taking place on such a massive scale and at such a rapid pace that we won’t be able to adjust fast enough. Technology will wipe out millions of jobs overnight, we are told, and it will take those people years to develop new skills, leading to tremendous hardship in the interim period.

While it’s certainly true that the transition may not be smooth for everyone, these fears seem overblown. There will still be plenty of opportunities to work odd jobs that require minimal skill while people pursue various job-training pathways, so it’s not like millions of people will just be unemployed for years while we wait for the job market to adjust.

Now, to be candid, people who invested in a skillset that is no longer valuable on the market may have to adapt to a lower standard of living for some time. But this is the reality of a market economy. Investing in a skillset is a kind of entrepreneurial venture, and if it turns out that the market doesn’t value your kind of work at the price you were expecting, there comes a point where you simply need to accept that you made a bad investment and adapt.

As the economist Ludwig von Mises wrote in his 1949 economic treatise Human Action, “In training himself the worker becomes a speculator and entrepreneur. The future state of the market will determine whether profit or loss results from his investment.”

The alternative is that we guarantee a disruption-free career to everyone, which in practice means refusing to allow the economy to incorporate new technology and thus majorly stalling economic growth. This is not a better solution, no matter how compassionate it may sound. Overall, we are better off when we let the market do its job, even when that creates some short-term pain for those who made poor job-market forecasts.

As Mises wrote elsewhere in Human Action:

It is certainly true that the necessity to adjust oneself again and again to changing conditions is onerous. But change is the essence of life. In an unhampered market economy the absence of security, i.e. the absence of protection for vested interests, is the principle that makes for a steady improvement in material well-being.

Misreading History

Having said all that, it’s worth noting that Walsh doesn’t seem to be making the rate-of-change argument. But then we come back to the original question: why be concerned about AI wiping out 80 percent of jobs?

One possibility is that he thinks the people who lose their jobs will just be permanently unemployed and thus destitute, but as we’ve seen with agriculture in the past two centuries, that’s just not true.

The other possibility is the one he raises in his reply to St. Clair: keeping people working is important for its own sake.

The thinking would go as follows. Yes, the people who get laid off because of technology will eventually find new jobs, but there will be less work for humans in general. We could have the same standard of living with a lot less expenditure of human labor. This means that, on average, people would likely work far fewer hours, perhaps as low as 10 hours per week instead of 34.4.

This, according to Walsh, would be a dreadful thing. Consider his comment again:

I think experience shows us that humans, on the whole, don’t “create beauty” when they have nothing to do. We’ve seen what happens as we become less necessary and have less to do. It’s not a pretty picture. A world where AI does everything will be bleak beyond all imagining.

Walsh is here preaching one of the most pernicious ideas in all of conservatism, the idea that we shouldn’t make life too easy on ourselves because it’s important for people to be industrious. Make no mistake, Walsh is against significant amounts of economic progress because he believes that working hard is good for you and you’ll mess up your life if you have too much free time. He wants prosperity, but not too much. Or, more accurately, his vision of prosperity is one where people toil at a job for most of their life. (A perspective that is more easily embraced by someone who tweets and makes videos for a living than by a bricklayer or construction worker.)

Oh, and he’s intent on imposing that vision on everyone because realizing his labor-venerating view of society is more important to him than respecting people’s freedom and autonomy.

More to the point, Walsh has human history precisely backwards. Experience shows, overwhelmingly, that material well-being and the leisure time it facilitates are not a hindrance, but a critical prerequisite for creating beauty. We have absolutely seen what happens as human labor becomes less necessary. It’s a stunning picture.

Is there a sense in which idle hands can be the devil’s workshop? Sure. But “on the whole,” having less to do has led to amazing results.

By embracing labor-saving technology, people in the 19th and 20th centuries became much more prosperous, which meant they didn’t have to spend as much time working. They became “less necessary” and had “less to do.” The result was the greatest proliferation of beauty, science, wisdom, and art that mankind has ever seen.

Mises thus comments in Human Action:

The nineteenth century was not only a century of unprecedented improvement in technical methods of production and in the material well-being of the masses. It did much more than extend the average length of human life. Its scientific and artistic accomplishments are imperishable. It was an age of immortal musicians, writers, poets, painters, and sculptors; it revolutionized philosophy, economics, mathematics, physics, chemistry, and biology. And, for the first time in history, it made the great works and the great thoughts accessible to the common man.

The world of toil and struggle that preceded the Industrial Revolution—the world where people were more necessary and had more to do—is what’s truly bleak. As Mises writes:

It is a distortion of facts to say that the factories carried off the housewives from the nurseries and the kitchens and the children from their play. These women had nothing to cook with and to feed their children. These children were destitute and starving. Their only refuge was the factory. It saved them, in the strict sense of the term, from death by starvation.

Matt Walsh thinks too much leisure time is bad for you and for society. He sees AI as a threat precisely because it would relieve us from having to work so much. But the truth is, AI represents a massive opportunity for us to break free from soul-deadening work like never before.

This is not the time to romanticize poverty.

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Murfreesboro and Chattanooga are among the top places retirees move

by Rod Williams, May 11, 2024- A lot of senior citizens move after retirement, often seeking a warmer clime and lower cost of living and taxes. Florida is by far the favorite state for retirement. However, among cities where retirees are moving, Murfreesboro comes in at number 5 and Chattanooga at number six.  

The website Smartasset examined census data for 185 cities. To read the article and see the data, follow this link

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Friday, May 10, 2024

Gov. DeSantis on Banning lab-grown Meat. Another Example of Republicans devoid of Conservative Principles.

by Rod Williams, May 10, 2024- It seems not a day goes by that a Republican official or candidate somewhere does not take an action or advocate a position that would have been anathema to a pre-Trump Republican. Not that such did not happen prior to Trump (don't forget Richard Nixon and wage and price controls), but pre-Trump Republicans at least were embarrassed by it or at least were aware that their out-of-character actions or positions were, out of character. Not so much anymore.

Recently Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida signed a bill that prohibits the production and sale of lab-grown meat. Why? No one was forcing anyone to eat lab-grown meat. DeSantis couched his action in the populist language of the day. Here is a portion of his press release.

Today, Governor Ron DeSantis signed SB 1084 to prohibit the sale of lab-grown meat in the state of Florida. Florida is taking action to stop the World Economic Forum’s goal of forcing the world to eat lab-grown meat and insects, “an overlooked source of protein.” While the World Economic Forum is telling the world to forgo meat consumption, Florida is increasing meat production, and encouraging residents to continue to consume and enjoy 100% real Florida beef.

“Today, Florida is fighting back against the global elite’s plan to force the world to eat meat grown in a petri dish or bugs to achieve their authoritarian goals,” said Governor Ron DeSantis. “Our administration will continue to focus on investing in our local farmers and ranchers, and we will save our beef.”

“Florida is taking a tremendous step in the right direction by signing first-in-the-nation legislation banning lab-grown meat. We must protect our incredible farmers and the integrity of American agriculture. Lab-grown meat is a disgraceful attempt to undermine our proud traditions and prosperity, and is in direct opposition to authentic agriculture,” said Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Wilton Simpson. “I applaud Governor DeSantis, Senate President Kathleen Passidomo, House Speaker Paul Renner, Senator Jay Collins, and Representative Danny Alvarez for standing up for Florida’s farmers and consumers. Together, we will keep Florida’s agricultural industry strong and thriving.”

This is similar to New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's attempt to ban Big Gulp soft drinks a few years ago or the recent attempt to ban menthol cigarettes. It may even be worse. Those bans were to protect people from making unhealthy choices. This ban has a protectionist element. This is done to protect farmers from competition. 

This is Republican-style nanny-state big government. If the government expansion is to resist "global elites" then it is okay. If the government overreach is to foil some big "plan" of the "insiders" or the "elites" then Republican are all in. I am just surprised that DeSantis did not say this was standing up to a "George Soros backed secret plan."  Couched in the language of conspiracy theory paranoia and protecting the little guy and any authoritarian enactment is now acceptable to Republican voters.  


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Lawsuits allowed for damages due to Tennessee road blockages starting July 1

By Jon Styf, The Center Square, May 10, 2024 – Those who illegally block a roadway in Tennessee can now be sued for any damages they cause.

The wide array of damages can include anything from a FedEx truck being stopped on a bridge and missing a delivery due to a protest or someone suffering a flat tire or vehicle damage due to a road blockage.

Now a lawsuit can be filed for damages if a “person or company suffers a loss because a “defendant intentionally obstructed a highway, street, or other place used for the passage of vehicles or conveyances.”

The bill will go into effect July 1 after Gov. Bill Lee signed it into law Thursday.

Rep. Jody Barrett, R-Dickson, said during House discussion of the bill that blocking a roadway is already a criminal misdemeanor, stating that some prosecutors have refused to prosecute the crime.

The bill does not require someone to be convicted of the misdemeanor of blocking a roadway before being subject to a lawsuit for damages.

“Folks that are citizens of this state are injured by these actions,” Barrett said. “There are people who can’t get to the hospital because the only bridge across the river that gets them to the access to the hospitals that they need … if there was an intentional blocking of that bridge, it would put thousands of people in my district at risk of harm. At risk of loss of life. There is a limit of that First Amendment right.”

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NewsChannel 5 honored with coveted Peabody Award for Gabrielle Hanson investigation. It is an honor well-deserved.

Gabrielle Handson
 by Rod Williams, May 10, 2024- In the era of Trump, we are seeing more and more Republican, or "conservative" candidates run for office who are charlatans, hypocrites, con-artist, conspiracy theorist, and fellow travelers with white supremist run for office. In the city of Franklin Tennessee, one who fit that mold was Gabrielle Handson, who ran for mayor challenging incumbent Ken Moore.

This campaign was so bizarre that if it was a work of fiction, it would have been dismissed as unbelievable. Thankfully Ken Moore won in a landslide. It not for the reporting of NewsChannel 5, that might not have been the case. In a series of more than 20 reports, Phil Williams exposed Handson for what she was. NewsChannel 5 has been honored for this reporting, an award well deserved. 

Below is a summary of some of the reporting that exposed Handson: 

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Monday, May 06, 2024

More Weird stuff at the Arts Commission. New Interim Director job offered while Director is still Sick from Racism and cannot Defend himself Because that would be Work.

by Rod Williams, May 6, 2024- The Metro Arts Commission should be a case study in the folly of wokeness and government ineptitude. You would think that after years of chaos, they would have to bend the curve and things would have to start to get better as some point, but they don't. Mayor Freddie O'Connell tried to turn the corner by appointing new high-profile commissioners in April 2023, including patron of the arts and wealthy Democrat donor Will Cheek, and former Davidson County Chancelor Carol McCoy and others. It hasn't helped. Will Cheek resigned after getting death threats and intimidations and before a resolution calling for his removal could be acting upon in the Metro Council. Carol McCoy is still there but recently had to defend herself against an unfounded ethics charge. Who would want to serve on the Commission in that environment? 

The most recent development at the Metro Arts Commission is that last week the Commission offered the position of interim director to Paulette Coleman, a former chair of the Arts Commission. Usually, an organization does not have and interim director while having a director but if Coleman accepts the job that will be the case.

The current director, Daniel Singh, is on sick leave. At last week's meeting he was also placed on administrative leave. He is obviously on his way out. Singh has been on sick leave since February 23rd. No, he doesn't have cancer or a heart condition or some other serious injury or illness. He is sick from racism. He says, “The racist behavior of the Metro Government has affected my health." 

The position of Executive Director pays $165,000 dollars a year and the Director has been on sick leave for 14 weeks. That is a lot of money. That is about $25,000 for not working.  Also, I wonder how one knows when they are no longer sick from racism. He has no plans to return to work or resign.  As reported in The Nashville Banner last week, the Commission is considering termination of Singh but is moving cautiously. At last week's meeting a motion to terminate Singh was made but failed.  “I am uncomfortable making a decision about someone’s livelihood without hearing from them,” said Commission Chair Leah Love.

There is a problem in hearing from Singh, however. To hear from him would be considered "work."  Metro legal says he cannot work while on sick leave. 

For more on chaos at the Arts Commission see the following: 

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AFP Tennessee is Hiring


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Sunday, May 05, 2024

You can be a Republican without having to say the election was stolen

A group of Republicans has united to defend the legitimacy of US elections and those who run them

 ATLANTA (AP), May 5, 2024 — It was Election Day last November, and one of Georgia’s top election officials saw that reports of a voting machine problem in an eastern Pennsylvania county were gaining traction online.

So Gabriel Sterling, a Republican who had defended the 2020 election in Georgia amid an onslaught of threats, posted a message to his nearly 71,000 followers on the social platform X explaining what had happened and saying that all votes would be counted correctly.

He faced immediate criticism from one commenter about why he was weighing in on another state’s election while other responses reiterated false claims about widespread fraud in the 2020 presidential election.

“It’s still the right thing to do,” Sterling told a gathering the following day, stressing the importance of Republican officials speaking up to defend elections. “We have to be prepared to say over and over again -- other states are doing it different than us, but they are not cheating.”

Sterling, the chief operating officer for the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office, is part of an effort begun after the last presidential election that seeks to bring together Republican officials who are willing to defend the country’s election systems and the people who run them. ... Just 22% of Republicans expressed high confidence that votes will be counted accurately in November, according to an Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll last year.  (read it all)

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GOP Nashville Summer Picnic


Purchase tickets.

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