So many things to say and they all must pass through these tiny fingers.
As technology begins to automate more and more of the tasks we feel are so crucial to our lives, people are beginning to notice the kinds of things that folks like Bucky Fuller were pointing out decades ago: automation is obsolescing jobs.
This is happening.
Now what to do with all these "left over" people?
But first, before traipsing any further down this merry and utterly tragically hallucinatory path, let's pause and examine some of the typically unspoken underpinnings of this sort of thinking.
Let me start by asking you, in all seriousness, "Do you feel superfluous to yourself?"
I don't mean to inquire about your estimation of your value to some theoretical employer or to "the Economy", I mean are you valuable to yourself?
All estimations of value must perforce carry or imply (or have imputed to them) some criteria or measurement of some kind of utility, and that utility is perforce tied to some agent's goals!
Insensate inanimate Nature has no person and so can have no goals and so provides no basis from which to evaluate (assign a value to) any given phenomenon, such as a human person.
To speak of the value of a human always and automatically implies that some agency is evaluating that human according to its metric(s) of utility.
In discussions of "What to do with the surplus population?" it is very very typical for the people discussing to omit entirely the examination and analysis of the agent or entity doing the evaluation.
I always find it disturbing when people assume the stance of having the right to decide matters of life and death for other people. I especially hate it when folks unconsciously adopt the stance.
I recognize no human authority as having the right to decide matters of life and death. The fact that historically abrogation of that power has been an all too common past-time of "power-possessing beings" has no bearing on the fact that it is utterly and obviously wrong to kill.
One of the grossest manifestations of this mental and emotional error is in the worship of a nominalization called "the Economy". This purely imaginary deity is useful but when people forget that it's just a made-up phantom and start making decisions based on such a logical error we tend to find absurdities.
Unlike philosophical absurdities these bite.
So we find people saying things like "part of why so many people can't get jobs -- their costs do not exceed the value they deliver." [comment on http://www.aeonmagazine.com/living-together/james-somers-web-developer-money/]
This is an extraordinary statement. It is logically meaningless, just noises, but infected minds will treat such statements as though they convey meaning that is valid in the "real world".
Really I can't blame people, the hallucinations run deep and are bound up with how people have learned to get their needs met, but it certainly time for those who don't know what they are talking about to heartily shut the fuck up and start hearing the new hottness.
So, to begin with, what is your value to yourself? How much money would you accept to die? (And I don't mean that you get to give it to your kids or charity or something. I will give you money and then you die, the money reverts to whoever finds it next to your corpse or something.)
Would you take that deal?
You don't get to keep or spend or give away the money, just have it for a moment before you drop dead. How much? A million? Ten million? A trillion dollars!?
It is absurd, right?
Your life has infinite value (to YOU) according to this simple thought experiment. (And, conversely, when "pressed up to it" money is valueless no matter how much you pile up.)
This has been established over and over again.
So, if some bastard were to come along and tell you that your "costs exceed your value" and so climb into this oven here we don't need you, you can suddenly see the error in the stance taken, yes?
Who are you costing? These "costs", what are they exactly? How are they accounted? And by whom?
If I am going to be murdered or left to rot and starve in the street because I "cost" too much I would like to understand the situation a little better, y'know, before I go quietly to the reclamation plant.
Because, see, the necessities of life are free (if you don't fuck it up too badly.) The sun and the rain and the air and the land will naturally and of their own natures bring forth plants and animals that can supply all my needs.
I am a Permaculturist and I know that any spot on earth not ice-locked can be made to bear the necessities of life quite easily (I don't mean to disrespect the farmers, it's not their fault, but normal agriculture is actually about the stupidest way to try to grow food that is possible. If agriculture were any stupider it would actually degrade the land it is practiced on, which, in fact, as practiced today it generally does. Stupid beyond understanding or belief. But that's a different rant...)
So if I can be dropped on a patch of barren desert with a few tools, a water source, seeds, and a flock of chickens, and live comfortably the rest of my life, who am I "costing" and how?