Friday, August 17, 2018

For Free Thinkers Only: America’s Sexual Shortcoming – III

Spearheaded but hardly originated by New York Times columnist Ross Douthat’s May 2nd issue, we have had more intelligent, if highly controversial, discussion on a real deficiency of the 1960s-and-beyond sexual revolution, the failure of it to extend to most people, than ever.  In Part I, I introduced this problem and showed it to be real.  Part II named nine points on this situation, explaining not only how it fits, or doesn’t, with other needs and giving it a broader base.  This week I recommend the following courses of action.

First, legalize and regulate prostitution nationwide.  That is certain to happen eventually anyway, would bring its prices down, would make it safe, and would be the most important legal change we could have.

Second, allow incest between consenting adults, and between consenting children of similar ages.  After hundreds of years of consideration, we still have no reason why, between people with reasonably equal power in the relationship, it should be banned.  And as with so many forms of sexual activity, teaching people that what they have done is wrong, not the action itself, is what causes most of the problems we have with it. 

Third, nationally permit sexual relationships between those with less than two-year age differences, even if one or both are under 18. 

Fourth, consider legalizing term marriages with full spousal privileges and protections.  They would facilitate sex, and would be consistent with the reality that most, as it is now, end in divorce.

Fifth, promote and subsidize monogamy, especially marriage.  Above all, remove all financial penalties for being married, such as those built into Social Security payments.  That lifestyle provides the most sex and is constructive for a variety of other societal purposes as well.

Sixth, be truthful about the effects of sexually transmitted diseases.  If the likes of gonorrhea can be cured by a routine prescription, say so.  AIDS has not often been in the news, but many still believe that it can be spread as readily through genital-to-genital intercourse as through anal sex and needle sharing.  That is not the case in this country.

Seventh, sponsor more research to further disconnect sex from reproduction.  For one, we can badly use effective chemical means to indefinitely but not permanently block male fertility. 

Eighth, encourage behavior changes among people.  Remove words such as “slut” and “c*nt” from our vocabularies.  Stop instilling shame and guilt about sex.  Give college-age adults, especially women, more privacy from their parents.  Drop the view that sex is zero-sum, and that if it helps one party it must hurt the other.  Tell sexually unsuccessfully people, especially men, truths about how they can be more likely to have such relationships.  Stop jealousy from causing us to be overly harsh or to lie outright.  Encourage younger men and older women to pair up.  Do not disapprove of older adults having such relationships, or try to stop them.  Avoid what might be called “middle-class” thinking, that everyone is entitled to involvement with someone of above average general desirability.  And above all, treat sex as the natural, uplifting, positive activity it should be for everyone.

Up until about fifty years ago, our dominant sexual ethic was “for reproduction and married couples.”  With the advent of the female birth control pill and other changes, we moved on to “for its own sake.”  The next phase will be “someone for everyone,” which promises not only far greater American happiness but other huge gains from the stability it will foster, such as improved health, longer life expectancy, and lower crime rates.  We can get there without coercion – if we think freely.

Friday, August 10, 2018

For Free Thinkers Only: America’s Sexual Shortcoming – II

Two weeks ago, I started a series based on Ross Douthat’s May 2nd New York Times “Redistribution of Sex.”  It considered whether the peak romantic activity should be more universally available, and how, and whether, the right for people to have it might be achieved.  I, as Douthat, considered it both a real problem, unsolved by any sexual revolution so far, and worthy of assessment.  
Accordingly, how does it fit in?

First, while sex may be immensely valuable and a major part of life, it is not truly a need, and cannot be equated with the likes of food, water, or air.  Therefore, it does not need to be government-assured.

Second, this issue is not political – if you disagree, would you consider it conservative or liberal, and why?  Some opinions are bipartisan, and this is one of them.

Third, the world would be a better place if there were more truly consensual sex. 

Fourth, we have no chance of returning to the pre-1965 sexual atmosphere.  It has added too much to life quality, for those having it, to be rolled back.  And, for example, we can no longer give, as Douthat put it, “special respect” to those choosing not to have it, especially when the best-known group of them, Catholic priests, are now known to make that choice from being gay (and, sadly, from being attracted to boys) instead of from being noble. 

Fifth, there has been in recent years great hostility from many toward the male sex drive.  That is not an appropriate feminist attitude, let alone a worthwhile mainstream one, and is not only sexist but destructive.

Sixth, there are several reasons for what Douthat called the “social and political chasms opening between” males and females.  We are at a historical juncture between women and girls being specially protected (the past), having full equal rights (the present in the law), and drawing expectations consistent with those of boys and men (the future), with different people advocating only one, one and parts of the others, and, even, all three.  Automation has hit men’s jobs, long necessary for sexual success as well as financial survival and prosperity, far harder than women’s.  We steadily get reports on how, over all careers and personal choices, women’s averaging lower pay is indication of discrimination.  There is, overall, a mixture of the past, the present, and the future, causing problems with what males and females expect from each other and, ultimately, with everything else between them.

Seventh, largely because of electronics and overattentive parents, sex between people under 18 is indeed falling.

Eighth, adding up the above, contrary to Douthat, we are hardly consistently “Hefnerian.”  Though guilt is only a tiny fraction of what it was over 50 years ago, too many people’s lives are way out of synch with what was once called “free love.” 

Ninth, pornography, sex robots, and other erotic machines have thus far caused no fundamental change.  Could developing technologies help here?  And what should we do about this overall situation?  See Part III next week.

Friday, August 3, 2018

July Employment Data: AJSN Down 100,000-Plus to 16.8 Million Latent Demand as Jobs Situation Improves Slightly

Not much happened with this morning’s Bureau of Labor Statistics Employment Situation Summary, and not much was supposed to.

We gained 157,000 net new nonfarm payroll positions, less than one 190,000 estimate but still in the more-than-population-growth-can-absorb-but-undistinguished category.  The headline unemployment rate, also seasonally adjusted, dropped 0.1% to 3.9%, and other numbers mostly improved.  Total joblessness fell 300,000 to 6.3 million, the count of those working part-time for economic reasons or wanting full-time hours without finding them shed 100,000 to 1.4 million, and hourly nonfarm payroll earnings came in at a tad above inflation, gaining 7 cents per hour to reach $27.05.  Unadjusted unemployment also improved 0.1%, to 4.1%.  The two metrics best showing how common it is for Americans to have jobs, the labor force participation rate and the employment-population ratio, broke even at 62.9% and gained 0.1% to 60.5% respectively. 

The American Job Shortage Number or AJSN, the Royal Flush Press statistic showing in one figure how many more positions could be absorbed if all new that getting one would be easy, lost 131,000 from June, as follows:

About half of the AJSN’s monthly improvement was from the number of officially unemployed, down 82,000.  The rest came from lower counts of those not looking for a year or more and those in school or training, offset mostly by more people reporting as discouraged.  Latent demand from those officially jobless now accounts for 36.1% of the total, down 0.1% from last month.

Compared with a year before, the AJSN looks much better, down 845,000 from July 2017.  Three-fourths of that was from lower official unemployment, with a surprising 139,000 from fewer people in the armed services, in institutions, or off the grid.  Word of more work opportunities does reach these segments.

So how good was July’s data?  I give it a thumbs up.  It’s not a massive gainer, but with so many numbers improving, more net new positions than our growing populace itself needs, and continued strong year-over-year AJSN improvements, it was on the right side.  The turtle is still a turtle, but he did take another small step forward.   

Friday, July 27, 2018

For Free Thinkers Only: America’s Sexual Shortcoming – I

Almost three months ago, New York Times columnist Ross Douthat came out with “The Redistribution of Sex,” in which he, oddly one of the few social conservatives writing for a generally liberal source, considered some recently published offbeat ideas, catalyzed, also strangely, by the Toronto terrorist group calling themselves “incels” or “involuntary celibates.”  Douthat suggested that radical thoughts, as put forward by “brilliant weirdo” and George Mason economics professor Robin Hanson and Oxford philosophy professor Amia Srinivasan, could point us to improvements on what has been a largely undiscussed failing of the 1960s sexual revolution – that its bounty has been distributed excessively unequally. 

Douthat’s column, available at, had a lot to say.  Starting with “one lesson to be drawn from recent Western history might be this:  Sometimes the extremists and radicals and weirdos see the world more clearly than the respectable and moderate and sane” (italics his), he applied that metathought to this issue, showing that it was wrong to think that “the desire for some sort of sexual redistribution is inherently ridiculous.”  As happens with unusual opinions – for example, some years ago I looked at the Nazi and Communist Party websites and found that both groups were against the Iraq war – this one was shared by rather different thinkers, in this case libertarian Hanson and apparent radical feminist Srinivasan.  As he put it, “intellectual eccentrics – like socialists and populists in politics – can surface issues and problems that lurk beneath the surface of more mainstream debates.”  That is exactly what we have here. 

Douthat’s commentary, which did not advocate such redistribution itself but only discussing and considering it, stemmed from his Roman Catholic views and his conviction that such a thing would someday come to pass, as provided by “sex workers and sex robots.”  He called “the idea… entirely responsive to the logic of late-modern sexual life,” and pointed out that “the sexual revolution created new winners and losers” by “privileging the beautiful and rich and socially adept in new ways and relegating others to new forms of loneliness and frustration.”  He tied in, though briefly, related issues such as “the sexes… struggling generally to relate with one another… and not only marriage and family but also sexual activity itself in recent decline.”  He in effect proposed, as an alternative to “the culture’s dominant message about sex” which he described as “still essentially Hefnerian,” the possibility of “reviving or adapting older ideas about the virtues of monogamy and chastity and permanence and the special respect owed to the celibate.”  He foresaw the problem eventually addressed by, as well as workers and robots, “some combination of changed laws, new technologies and evolved mores to fulfill it.”

As expected, Internet reaction was extensive, sharp, and severe, generally showing more than disagreement but hostility.  Often, it is hard for conservatives and liberals to even contemplate something that does not fit their worldview, especially something as controversial as deep societal changes.  The responses revealed a long-standing situation preventing serious discussions in many areas, the failure of otherwise intelligent people to understand that others’ backgrounds, views, and life experiences are completely different.  (I have long considered well-educated East Coast female liberals, with their snobbishness or outright naivete about the likes of Oklahoma waitresses, the worst offenders, but conservatives, who often do not realize that patriotism can take many forms, are hardly exempt.) 

And yes, the problem is real.  Neither millions of drugstores stocked with birth-control pills nor the massively increased amount of sex help those unhappily without sexual relationships, those ranging from what Douthat described as Srinivasan’s “overweight and disabled, minority groups treated as unattractive by the majority” and “trans women unable to find partners” to the oceans of men under 25 and women over 50 who, from some combination of appearance, rejection tolerance, fear, logistical barriers, and inability to implement, are romantically alone.  If, as common knowledge holds, males’ sex drives peak when they are younger and females when they are older, too many of us are doing the equivalent of spending our peak baseball playing years in the minors.

How can we sort out this issue and put it in its proper place?  Expect that in two weeks.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Driverless Vehicles and Driving Jobs: Our Third Annual Forecast

Many factors in the self-driving industry have happened as I anticipated.  Consortia have formed, solidified, and dissolved.  Lawsuits have popped up.  A great bull market for technicians and managers with top knowledge has materialized.  And technical progress, along with investment and business effort, has marched forward.  So, when looking at updating our employment and technology-saturation projections, what less-expected events from the past year need to be incorporated?

First, the crashes, especially the fatal one, received more negative reaction than I would have thought.  They were not that disturbing, given the extreme situation with the pedestrian in the dark and most others owing little or nothing to the vehicle’s driverlessness.  Yet it was worthwhile for companies to see how people would react, as they were certain to occur sometime.

Second, Uber, with its business recklessness, has muddied the autonomous waters.  The Arizona crash was just one example of why it does not seem to have enough due diligence for this field, and it is too easy for people to conflate its mistakes with the work of far more reliable firms. 

Third, it is possible, though it is hard for me to assess from outside the field, that technical progress has been a shade slower than estimated.

Fourth, already have emerged some super-strong players, particularly Waymo and Aptiv.  They could still end up Stanley Steamers to someone else’s Toyotas, but the chances are edging down.

Fifth, remote human control, which two years ago I made a stage of my own set of automation levels, is now getting press mention.  In the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Society of Automotive Engineers scheme, which I continue to use as below, it would fit in well as an option for level 4, or high but not full automation, or near the end of level 3, which still requires a driver to be available.

Sixth, publicity, toward understandings of how many kinds of autonomous vehicles and their interiors there will be and on how wide a range of life-changing possibilities they will end up having, has started.  Fall’s New York Times magazine section was especially effective. 

Seventh, it now looks likely that there will be real regional differences in driverless-vehicle acceptance within the United States.  That will be a phase lasting as long as ten years and will for that time cut into overall proliferation acceptances.

Eighth, some other countries, particularly Russia and China, have done their own autonomous research and development, but their closed communication styles and lack of vetted progress make it difficult to consider their efforts world-class.
With all these things considered, here are our new projections:

For definitions of the levels, see the original NHSTA document at

Stay with the Work’s New Age blog for at least quarterly updates on the progress of driverless vehicles and its effect on jobs.  We will publish our fourth forecast next summer.

Friday, July 6, 2018

Here Comes the Latent Demand for Employment: With June’s Data, AJSN Jumps 980,000 to 16.9 Million

This was quite a Bureau of Labor Statistics jobs report this morning.  It wasn’t clearly bad, but in some ways the brakes of ever-better reports slammed on.  

With 213,000 net new nonfarm payroll positions, we exceeded the publicized projections of 180,000 and 200,000.  However, people hoping for a new unemployment-rate low were beyond disappointed, as the marquee seasonally-adjusted figure jumped 0.2% to 4.0% and the unadjusted rate, reflecting more than the considerable usual difference between May and June, soared from 3.6% to 4.2%.  Those officially jobless for 27 weeks or longer went from 1.2 million to 1.5 million, a huge amount for one good-times month, and the two measures best showing how common it is for Americans to be working, the labor force participation rate and the employment-population ratio, split excellent and neutral outcomes, with the former up 0.2% to 62.9% and the latter holding at 60.4%.  Private nonfarm payroll wages disappointed as well, with a below-inflation 5 cent hourly gain to $26.98.

The American Job Shortage Number or AJSN, the metric showing concisely how many more positions could be quickly filled if people consistently knew they were very easy to get, gained almost one million – a great deal, even with employment regularly dropping from the first month to the second – as follows:

Compared with May, essentially the entire difference came from official joblessness’s rise from 5.76 million.  The second largest contributor was from those wanting work but not looking for it for 12 months or longer, which added 188,000 to the AJSN, and nothing else was significant.  Part of these gains in latent demand were offset by another large drop in those claiming no interest in jobs, down 1.3 million, and those temporarily unavailable, which fell 259,000.  The share of the AJSN from unemployment sharply reversed its recent course, from 32.5% in May to 36.2% here.

It is clear to see much of what happened.  The deservedly well-publicized improvement in available work drew in people in categories some might think reflected permanent disinclinations, mostly those saying they did not want a job at all, which has now fallen 2.3 million since April.  That is why so much of American employment demand is latent – when people hold out hope, their interest picks up, and they move to categories with higher likelihoods of working.  That is also one reason why our prosperity is more tenuous than it looks, and why we cannot ignore these almost 17 million.  If we have a recession, which with the trade war now underway has become more likely, the count of those claiming they will not work will go way over 90 million, but their inherent awareness will not vanish.  In the meantime, while it may not be repeated next month, the turtle, thinking of those 213,000 net new positions and labor-force participation increase, did take a rather modest forward step.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Autonomous Vehicles: The Past Three Months

In less than two weeks I will post my current projected numbers of taxi and truck driving jobs, with expected driverless car saturation dates.  To clear the way, here is what has happened since mid-March.

Is it possible to incapacitate an autonomous vehicle with only a bag of flour?  Derrick Rossignol, writing in (“Trapping a Self-Driving Car is Surprisingly Easy”) on March 21st, shows how it just might be.  Required is a solid white circle made around the car, with a dotted-line circle just outside it.  
That emphasizes possible problems with software inflexibility, and reminds me of the words of one of my mid-1980s technical school teachers: “debugging never stops.”

For anyone who might have doubted it, autonomous mobility does not preclude accidents caused by others, with one well described in “Google self-driving van involved in crash in Arizona, driver injured” (Elizabeth Weise and Adrian Marsh, USA Today, May 4th).  Here “a car being driven by a human swerved to avoid another human-driven car and crashed into it.”  The van’s driverless status contributed zero percent. 

Better, though, you don’t agree with that blame assessment than, per “NASA and Uber are getting serious about flying cars” (Fox News, May 11th), trust the latter company with your safety in a tiny craft up in the air.  However, as Kirsten Korosec put it in the May 22nd Yahoo Finance “Consumer Trust in Self-Driving Car Technology Has Made a Sudden U-Turn,” people may be losing confidence in autonomous technology in general, with research finding that the April share of “U.S. drivers… afraid to ride in a fully self-driving vehicle” was 73%.  That may be up a bit since the deadly March accident, though with its changed wording and framing of the question in the immediate present it should not be discouraging.  We also saw that “Uber ends self-driving program in Arizona after fatal crash” (Michael Liedtke, Fox Business, May 24th), a strange decision even for them – what’s the matter with that state, which otherwise has led the way in embracing this technology, in particular?

So what do driverless cars need to achieve to be generally accepted?  Last week I alluded to one answer, per Risk Analysis research, that “Study:  Self-Driving Vehicles Must Be 4 times as Safe as Human Drivers” (Alexa Lardieri, U.S. News & World Report, May 31st).  Per the article, “autonomous vehicles present their own set of risks, making a “perfectly safe” self-driving vehicle “both technologically and economically infeasible,” but the level named is both reasonable and attainable – not to mention one at which almost 30,000 American lives per year would be saved.  A fine working objective. 

I’m not sure I agree that “Self-Driving Cars Likely Won’t Steal Your Job (Until 2040),” (Aarian Marshall, Wired, June 13th), but that’s what a “new report” from Securing America’s Future Energy pointed to, and it’s in the ballpark.  Points Marshall made were that “robo-cars won’t disappear the jobs all at once,” but that “it’s time to prep for fewer truckers and cab drivers, right now,” and, conservatively it seems to me, “the economists estimate (driverless technology) might reduce crash costs by $118 billion annually by 2050.”  It’s fitting, then, that the long-time most safety-oriented carmaker has become the first to announce, though perforce tentatively, “Volvo’s 2021 autopilot to lets (sic) drivers eat, sleep and work” (Chris Mills, New York Post, June 25th), the first production Level 4, per the Society of Automotive Engineers and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration “capable of performing all driving functions under certain conditions” and in which “the driver may have the option to control the vehicle.”  Will they deliver?

We end with two Motley Fool pieces, “Driverless Tech Will Impact These 5 Industries” (Jeremy Bowman, June 11th) and “3 Top Driverless Car Stocks” (Chris Neiger, June 20th.)  I take seriously this company’s recommendations for investment, especially for general information, since the Watergate logic of following the money, and the effort and true progress behind it, well clarifies situations rife with vaporware and overrepresentations.  As often, both pieces are rich with supporting commentary and information; these two printed out to 15 and 14 pages and do not waste that length.  The business areas Bowman identified – auto manufacturers themselves, auto insurance, ridesharing and taxis, gas stations and convenience stores, and hotels and airlines – hardly form an exhaustive list, but are the largest and most obvious from analysis.  He thought that the first and third will prosper in new ways, and the other three might take a beating.  Neiger’s three stocks were General Motors, Alphabet, and Aptiv – an automaker and two gunrunners.  They also are high-quality choices, though nobody knows if they will even make it, let alone be the best. 

For the July 11th issue, I look at what major things have changed the path of the autonomous-vehicle industry in the past year – along with the estimates above.