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Moore, Amdahl, Malthus and the vanishing "middle" of everything

Understanding Moore's law is essential for those who live and work with High Tech and information economy - that includes pretty much all of us who are reading this. Moore's observation was that the cost of the same amount of commodity building blocks of electronics (transistors) halves every 18 months or so. Put it another way, if bread or vegetables were like transistors, the same amount of nutritious food will become 50% cheaper every 18 months.

This has been true for over 50 years. Roughly, that is. It means that, for example, your computer will get about 100 times beefier every 10 years.

That is very nice for those who need the technology. 

Amdahl's law is equally powerful and limits the reach of Moore's law. Amdahl's law says that there is a limit to how fast you can make things work, even if Moore's law makes them infinitely faster in short order.

Although things can get cheaper, the amount of real usefulness is limited by the amount of things you cannot outsource to these devices. That is to say, if you cannot do something with machines, you cannot speed it up beyond what individual humans (or animals or plants) can do by themselves. 

This is also good for those who do uniquely human work - art, science, and the deep end of pretty much every field of human endeavor that involves people working directly with people. The art of human connection is really priceless.

Malthus' law says that any exponential growth (like population) will flatten out if it depends on a resource which cannot grow equally fast. This is one of the fundamental facts of life  -- the struggle for existence is a consequence of resource limits meeting exponential growth through imperfect replication.

Let's put it all together with a few more observations.

Humans have somehow been able to increase the population dramatically,  an exception to how almost every other living being's population behaves. 

Chalk that up to human ingenuity - of increasing the availability of resources (food, clothing, shelter) that makes human population grow and grow and..... grow. 

Now there is a different limit now to growth and it is not resources: the very need for humans to do work for humans is slowly going away!

Thus, if you consider 'jobs' as the thing that multiples and grows, the machines have decoupled it from human headcount, and jobs have been eaten up by the machines that replaced humans. As a result, 98% of jobs are going to machines, and only 2% to humans. This was good for agriculture - it freed up the rest of us to do things that did not require us to hunt/forage.

Thinking along the same lines, robots and machines automate most of what we do . We constantly keep innovating ourselves out of automated work because the machines are creeping up on most of our work - from travel agents to wine dispensers to empathetic care, robots and machines are doing away with jobs.

This is not ending, as you see from here and the prognosis is counter-intuitive, as you can see from here : jobs are going away, and if you are jobless for 6 months or more, you can say goodbye to it all.


You can now see what's coming.

The hollowing out of the middle is not a conspiracy by the rich, nor any inability of the poor or the lower middle (they are more honest and hardworking than the top-2% in a lot of ways). The hollowing out is accelerated by the very same thing that made the middle class - freedom to automate, innovate and make resources free for everyone to buy, use and throw away.

Expect robots and machines to take over most of what we think of as "jobs", and expect our children to get out of the "knowledge farming" jobs. A few of us will free up rest of humanity for things that are more than knowledge, more than agriculture, more that industry.


There is no vanishing middle as much as a potential inflection point for humans to leap into something even more dramatic than we were able to.

Empathy, trust, cooperation, giving - these things that define a part of us, may one day be even more critical part of what it is to be uniquely human.

There is only one ladder that can help us make humans human 
  • even more deeper education
  • even more social skills
  • even more justice (there's more resources to give than take)
And there are a few steps we can climb, that can make this happen:
  • Even more sharing
  • Even more face to face interactions
  • Even more accountable work - there's never enough supply to cater to this demand :)

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