Careers, Industry, Location, AI, and College

“Well, Newsweek says it’s good to change careers, right after they laid off all their editors.” – The Simpsons

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Is it just me or do JFK and GHWB have tiny heads? Are all presidents made of concrete?

There are numerous aspects of your life that you can’t change – height, eye color, favorite flavor of fruit Gushers®, or the amount of backhair that you want to grow long so you can feel the wind blowing on it, wild and free.  Some of these even have a significant impact on your career – taller people make more money (that’s true), and people who like grape Gushers© best are more likely to want to have their career revolve around astrology.  And those with hairy backs should probably avoid employment in a Velcro™ factory.

But there are factors that are entirely within your control, and math provides some pretty good guidance on how to maximize your pay through career selection or a career change if you’ve still got some time between now and when you’re disappointed by your Social Security check and those stupid kids and their fancy Zima® wine coolers.

  1. Characteristics of the Industry

The choice of industry that you work in will have an amazing impact on your net worth during your career.  Ideally, you’ll chose an industry.  Since you’re reading this, I assume you’re smarter and better looking than 98% of the population and have, instead of an odor coming from your armpits when you sweat, a faint piney smell naturally graces the noses of those around you.  But, like I said, you’re smart – even if you don’t first love what you do, you will certainly learn to like it a lot if it gives you great results.

All industries are not alike, since some of them throw off a lot more money than others.  There’s a reason Apple® has a $500,000,000,000 in cash along with a collection of spleens and spare kidneys – it’s insanely profitable.  Your local Mom and Pop café and pest control store?  Not so much, they can’t afford any internal organs.

To be clear, there are great jobs in every field – there are people in retail sales who do wonderfully – there just aren’t a lot of them.  So, first suggestion, if you want to go fishing, don’t start in a puddle.

I went off to Wikipedia (LINK) and found a great summary of industries in the United States.  It dates to 2002, and no one has updated it for a while because all of the Wikipedia Admins are off updating the Justin Bieber page.

 

I took the percentage of people working in the sectors, and then divided it by the percentage of payroll they got, and the results were pretty amazing.  At the bottom, getting only 37% of the average income, were hotels and restaurants.  If you want to make bank instead of beds?  Not the industry for you.  If you want to make beds instead of bank?  Head on over to the Hilton®.

  • The best, earning more than twice (!) the average national payroll, was “Management of Companies.” Over 2.6 million people worked in this category, and it is a Tertiary Sector (last post) part of the economy.  Keep in mind, people that work in, say, the hotel as mangers are called out in that category.  These people are employed as managers as an industry.  Amazing! And also not a surprise – the bosses are pretty good at negotiating their salary up as well as yours down.

 

  • The next best was Utilities, earning 187% of the average income, but there are only a few jobs (660,000) in this industry, so it’s a bit harder to get in. This is a Secondary Sector job, so tends to be much more stable than the Tertiary Sector work.

 

  • Finance and Insurance, are third on the list, with 168% of the average income. This didn’t surprise me at all, since, like the managers, the golden rule of “He who has the gold, makes the rules,” applies, and these folks are the gatekeepers to the gold.  Over 6.5 million people were employed in this sector, living off of your insurance and interest payments.  These are Tertiary Sector jobs.

 

  • The next was a nerd tie: Scientific/Technical/Information, making 152% of the average wage. It is a revenge of the nerds, since they make more money than most of the football linemen that gave them wedgies, but less than the preppy tennis players who dated Buffy.  These are also Tertiary Sector jobs.  Notice the pattern, here?

What’s missing from this list?  Doctors!  The medical field is less than average as far as pay goes.  The four bullet points above account for 19% of the workers in the country, but make 38% of the US payroll.  So, if you’re hunting for a job that pays well, it’s hiding up there.

  1. Location, Location, Location

Cost of living has a huge impact on our ability have spare money to invest and save for our future, or to spend on something nice, like mosquito repellent or Chiclets®.  Living in a high cost area, like LA or New York City?  Yikes!  Sam over at Financial Samurai got a huge number of hits (and me for a reader) when his post about Scraping By On $500,000 A Year (LINK) exploded all over the internet.  In it he created a hypothetical family that was just squeaking by on $500,000 a year.  It was controversial because so many people failed to feel a lot of sympathy for the family and yelled at their computer screens to the fictitious family on how stupid they were.  Not the brightest bunch, right?  Anyhow, I responded with how to Live Large on $50,000 A Year (LINK).

Location matters, and most of the time you don’t get paid city wages to live in the country where you can buy a house (not a great house, but a house) for $10,000 straight up (this is true).  Generally, though, the wages don’t go down as much as the house prices do here in the sticks so you’re net ahead.

There are some great upsides to small town living – there’s less to spend your money on, commutes are generally better, and if you forget to close the garage door ALL NIGHT LONG (thanks, Pugsley) you find that everything is still there in the morning.  (In truth, one night Pugsley forgot to close The Mrs.’ hatchback on the Wildermobile II, and left it open all night.  We found a cat inside, and some spiders, but that’s it – not a thing missing.

The downside of low cost (and high trust!) living is that it is much harder to meet and make connection with high-powered folks who could help your career.  For instance, when I lived in Houston, I knew a guy who is friends with a former President.  He gave me his baseball tickets for one game.  The view is below.  And no, I didn’t bother them.  Generally, you won’t make/meet that kind of people in a small town (though there are exceptions, like Batman – LINK).

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The guy directly in front is a Secret Service guy.  When Pugsley dropped a cup of ice, his head whipped around like Justin Bieber on a merry-go-round as pushed by The Rock.  He assessed the three year old as “not a threat.”  He doesn’t know Pugsley!

  1. How likely is the job to be outsourced/done by Artificial Intelligence?

Much more likely than you think.  The BBC has a website (LINK) that calculates the likelihood that your job will be automated within the next 20 years.  The internet has already killed formerly lucrative and widely held jobs, like travel agents – used to be one in every little town – now? Gone.  Newspapers are on the way out.  As I mentioned before, truck drivers are “soon,” and then we’ll have a surplus of people who like biscuits and gravy without a job.

 

Trends in information will drive careers, too.  How long until competition from people like hurts traditional publishers?  Already there.  Pewdepie has more reach than the Wall Street Journal (this is true!), and that’s good – this flourishing of media outlets will effectively kill the gatekeeper, allowing us ever greater freedom of information sources.  But the people at CNN won’t like it a bit as they compete against . . . everyone.  Anderson Cooper might have to find a job cleaning pools, or delivering cotton candy to orphanages.

  1. What credentials are required?

Lastly (for this post) when contemplating a career, what credentials are required?  As I’ve mentioned before, only a few college degrees make any sense nowadays.  Anthropology?  French literature?  You’d be better off in a coma for four years – at least you wouldn’t spend $100,000 plus on a degree best suited for working as a barista.

Additionally, the costs for college are heading up much faster than inflation – and have been for years.  The reasons for this are really simple – a goldfish will grow to match the size of his tank, and my butt will grow to the size of my jeans, and a college will grow to consume every possible dollar of federal student aid and student loans that a student/parent combination can take out.  And buy climbing walls, and safe spaces, and pay for new girl’s luge/rifle team uniforms.  Ohhh, and have you seen the latte machine?

For many in the future, I’d suggest you skip college, unless your career demands it.  There are a few jobs that require the credentials you get in college:

  • Doctor – includes all types. Some of them, however, have salaries that don’t justify the cost of medical school.  That’s right – medical school used to be a slam dunk win, let’s buy the Mercedes.  Recently I read of a doctor that had student loans high enough that she would never be able to pay them off.  And student loans cannot be discharged in bankruptcy.  Only release?  Death or moving to Canada, which is like death, but with better food.
  • Lawyer – Used to be a great ticket to the upper middle class. Still is, for some, but the median income of lawyers keeps dropping over time.  A good corporate lawyer will always be needed, but paralegals in Bangladesh can do the work more cheaply than a new associate.    And when Lawbot2000® hits the court room?  Look out!
  • Professor – Overdone – unless you’re politically connected, you’ll die a pauper. But one with leather patches on your tweed jacket.
  • Engineer – Still pays out, but losing its ability to pay out as costs increase. Lots of managers come from here, but automation will pull even more jobs.  Plus, how many trains are there, anyway??
  • Accountant – Required, and a lower tier school will do just fine, if you can avoid the AI rollout that will eliminate most of the jobs.
  • Teacher – Will eventually be replaced by “coaches” who help students after they watch the Led Zepplin of tutors on the web.
  • Veterinarian – Still costs a lot, and probably is dicey as far as payout right now, and soon kittens will be self-repairing.
  • Optometrist – I can see this being automated out of business. See this, get it?
  • Dentist – This profession is eliminating itself through technical advances – fewer dentists are needed now than in the past because they’re so darn good.
  • Psychologist/Psychiatrist – Talking about this field just depresses me.

So, keep in mind it’s all changing, and maybe with stem cell therapy, in ten years you can be taller, too.  Just think the salary that 6’10” tall you (that’s 8 meters tall) will command!

Economic Sectors and Where the Wealth Is

Do you know why all the world hates a Lannister? You think your gold and your lions and your gold lions make you better than everyone. May I tell you a secret? You’re not a golden lion. You’re just a pink little man who is far too slow on the draw. – Game of Thrones

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If only we had Master of the Card back during the conquest of the Americas – they could have gotten rich shipping credit cards back to Spain!

What is wealth?

In our world, wealth is the accumulation of tangible or intangible stuff that makes us better off.

Vague enough for you?  If a nation has of any of the following, that nation has wealth:

  1. Forests – they can make toilet paper. Or toothpicks.  Or Justin Bieber posters.
  2. People – they can make things or do stuff. Like accounting. Or making novelty t-shirts.
  3. Oil – they can make precious carbon dioxide – it’s what plants crave™.
  4. Pez© – they can mine the precious, precious Pez® ore.
  5. Cows – they can make ice cream or jerky (but not at the same time).
  6. Pez™ – Worthy of double inclusion because it’s Pez©. Plus, just say “Pez™ ore” out loud. I dare you.

At some point in history, an unnamed (because I’m too lazy to look it up) economist started thinking.  This is unusual, since economists are not normally prone to actual thought, as they tend to cluster in economist flocks and just repeat the same thing the other economists are saying in a herd behavior learned to prevent any one of them from being proven wrong.  It might be that this economist was being particularly unherdish that day?  Anyway, it was his thought to divide the economy of a nation into sectors.  He chose the term sectors so that he could pretend to be a starship captain and say things like “Chart a course for Sector Three, Mr. Sulu”, because that’s a lot more interesting than being stuck as part of an economist herd for the rest of your life.

Being crazily creative, he named the first sector the “Primary Sector.”

The primary sector is all about raw materials and extracting them – pumping oil, logging trees, growing quinoa, conjuring pigs from the underworld, and basset hound harvesting.  And you don’t have to extract it for it to count, unextracted resources are part of the base wealth of a nation, but you don’t get any money (most of the time) until you extract the resource.  It’s like picking your nose . . . but I’ll stop there.

Really, the primary economy is the basement of wealth creation.

It’s also trouble.

Nations that depend wholly on raw material production are associated with all sorts of negative outcomes, from being less developed (overall) and being less productive . . . for an example, let’s pick on the Spanish, because, after all, who hasn’t picked on the Spanish?

Spain managed to find tons of gold (more than 150 tons) and silver (more than 7,000 tons) in one century alone.  By find, I mean “take”, but that’s a longer story, and not the one I’m telling now.  The Spanish Conquistadores shipped the loot back to Spain, and the Spanish used the money to . . . be the lazy 16 year old trust fund kid who lived in Daddy’s other mansion.  The vast wealth allowed the Spanish to hire servants for their servants, and, hire people like the Dutch and French to come on over and do work the Spanish wouldn’t do.  (Sound familiar?)  The only things missing from this picture are Facebook®, Twinkies©, and PS4™.

And I don’t blame the Spanish one bit.  If I’m sitting on a billion or so dollars, I’d probably hire the Dutch and French to paint my house instead of making Pugsley and The Boy do it.

Anyway, this vast wealth took a productive, hungry, strong people who had a lot of gold into a people who hadn’t invested in an economy or infrastructure and had spent all of the gold within 200 years.

During the Spanish-American war, new steel American warships took on (by took on I mean “sank”) the Spanish Navy.  The state of the art US Navy with rifled cannon that could strike miles away with accuracy went up against ships that had cannon that were smooth bore and were older than the French Revolution (really).  I was the equivalent of The Rock going up against a six year old with a stick.

The war lasted 10 weeks, and that was because Spain couldn’t Tweet a surrender.

Spain had been weakened by her Primary Sector wealth.

The Secondary Sector

The secondary sector of the economy takes the stuff produced by the Primary Sector and turns it into something of actual use.

Sure, we all love crude oil, but besides bathing our birds in it, what can you do with it besides sell it to someone who will turn it into something useful?  Oh, you could eat it, but, it gets old after a while.

So, we take the Pez© ore we mined in the Primary Sector and smelt it into the Pez® bullion that we all covet so.  We turn cows into steaks and sell them.  We turn wood into boxes for the fidget spinners we have delivered from France.  We turn people into Soylent Green.

To best picture the Secondary Sector, imagine sprawling factories producing steel plate, dishwashers, tanks, computer chips, and canned soup.  To create this industrial giant requires massive construction, investment in roads, bridges, seaports, airports, building of factories and manufacturing equipment.  Beyond that, it requires investment in the people who will run the factories, from the labor on the factory floor to the engineers who design the equipment, to maintenance personnel who fix the equipment, to the manufacturers of the spare parts.

An industrial economy is a learning economy – there is a new problem to be solved every day to make the Pez® ore smelters produce 1% more Pez© per day.  Sure, everyone knows the basic principles of x-ray lithography for producing semiconductors, but how many could produce a single functioning computer chip, even given a week and the ultimate set of repair tools from the 1950s?

I thought so, only 75% or so of you raised your hands.

The secondary sector produces tremendous numbers of jobs for the economy, and those jobs are generally the gateway jobs to the middle class and a means for social mobility upwards.  Solving problems in the Secondary Economy generally often led to great wealth for the inventor involved, unless you were Tesla.  Then you died broke in a hotel room with a pigeon you loved (Wilder True Fact®).

The Secondary Sector took the wealth produced by the Primary Sector and multiplied it.  It took $1 worth of paper and turned it into $100 worth of books.  It took $300 worth of steel and turned it into an engine worth $2000.  That increased wealth flowed to people all up and down the line, including the people making the purchases.  A car made in 1998 is categorically better in almost every respect than one made in 1968.  A Camaro from 1968 has about the same horsepower as a 2018 Ford Taurus SHO, so the wealth increases to both the manufacturer as well as the consumer as competition and constant innovation improved the quality of the product and the efficiency of production.

The Tertiary Sector

The Tertiary Sector are the services that the nation produces.  So, we went from the base wealth in extractable resources to extracting them to turning them into something useful.  Services are . . . everything else.  Technically, trash companies and nurses and teachers and bloggers and hotels and restaurants are tossed into this branch of the economy.  And they do valuable things, especially the bloggers, but they’re not where the money is.  The real money is in FIRE.

What is FIREFinance, Insurance, and Real Estate.

The miner mined Pez®.  The smelter produced precious Pez™ bullion.  FIRE makes more money off of Pez© than anyone:

  1. They make money by selling stock in the Pez© Company.
  2. They make money by selling futures in Pez™, betting on what the price will be a day or week or year in advance.
  3. They make money by selling bonds so the Pez® miner can expand his operations.
  4. They insure the Pez© ore smelter against the all too common Pez™ smelter explosion.
  5. They sell the Pez® miner a house. And loan him the money.  And insure the house and . . .

You can see that the main profits of the economy are pretty well sucked up by FIRE.

In general, it’s also sucked up by a fairly small number of people.  I mean, sure there are millions of people engaged in the above, but when you look at where the money flows, it gets pretty concentrated up top, and no, I’m not a member of Occupy Wall Avenue or whatever it’s called.

The amount of payroll that goes to folks in Finance alone is 1.5 times the amount that goes to manufacturing, on a per person basis.  So where do our best and brightest (who want money) go?  Finance.

The financial sector creates (in some cases) wealth out of nothing – so when people buying stock get spooked, the stock market can drop in value an amazing amount in a short period of time (remember 2008-2009?) and cause the wealth to just vanish.  The farm is still there, producing basset hounds, the trees are still there, converting sweet carbon dioxide into oxygen and wood, yet the markets collapse.

As we move up the economic ladder we move progressively from the tangible (a hunk of coal) to the intangible (computer storage that says you have a million dollars, not even a real million Susan B. Anthony coins to back it up).  And the intangible multiplies the profits.  When you turned $1 of paper into $100 of books?  You had physical assets.  In stock, the price is based on how many books the investing public thinks you can make and sell over the next few years, and what sort of profit that might generate.  Tertiary wealth, in many instances, exists only because we all agree it does, and we stop believing?  It disappears as fast as George R. R. Martin’s ability to write a coherent sentence (that man is NEVER going to finish).

The economy in the United States continues to move from a Secondary Sector economy to a Tertiary Sector, which has broad individual implications, which I’ll discuss in the next post.

Diets Don’t Work, Systems Do

The goal is getting from Point A to Point B as creatively as possible, so, technically, they are doing parkour as long as Point A is “delusion” and Point B is “the hospital.” – The Office

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The view out of the back of Stately Wilder Manor. We’re horrible neighbors to those poor people. 

“Such as are your habitual thoughts, such will also be the character of our mind.” – Marcus Aurelius

I’ve been a person who has used goals as a motivator and scorecard all of my life, and then comes Dilbert creator Scott Adams to tell me I’m doing it all wrong.  Adams writes about systems, and how they’re preferable to goals, and I’ve written about him writing about systems before (LINK).

But, you’re thinking, “Friday is a day for Health topics, John Wilder, and you’re blathering on about systems versus goals.  Have you lost the plot, man?”

Well, no.  This week I read something that was pretty eye opening:

Most Diets Fail.

The data shows a stark wasteland:  somewhere between 65% and 95% of dieters regain all of their weight (and most get a bonus of an even higher weight rebound) within three years.  All of their weight.

Wow.

One researcher noted (LINK to Traci Mann) the reason that diets failed is because the entire biology of the person losing weight fights against them like a rabid Rottweiler tugging on a crate of Slim Jims®.  The body responds with things like a slower metabolism, and significantly higher hunger pangs, since after you start losing weight, your body starts fighting back with more signals that you’re starving, even as you are still 20 pounds more than you weighed in college.

And that makes sense.  Your body is made to survive.  All of the people who were losing chunks of body weight and thought, “Oh, this is fine,” died.  No kids.  And those most likely to live through a famine?  People who can slow their metabolism and get really focused on finding chow.

So, you’re hungry, and your metabolism slows.  You need willpower to fight, right, and you’ll win?

Seriously, do you think Oprah Winfrey, a self-made billionaire and likely one of the smartest 0.001% of Americans, is lacking in willpower?

No, she isn’t.

Further, the willpower of dieters is subject to distraction in ways that non-dieters can’t imagine.  Somebody brings donuts to work?  You don’t have to just resist them the first time someone says, “Hey, John Wilder, would you love a nearly perfect mixture of fats and sugars, covered in powdered sugar and filled with lemon pudding?”

YES I DO!

But I say no.

And when the donuts go onto the counter in the break room near the precious, precious coffee?  I have to sit and deal with their lemon-stares all day long.

To successfully resist, I have to say “no” the first time, and again, “no” every time the temptation is available.

(Once coping method I use to reduce desire for the wonderful thing that is donuts?  I imagine someone was picking their nose and then putting their sweaty fingers on all of the donuts.  Then they don’t look so pretty anymore.)

Again, unless I say “no” every single time that temptation raises its pretty donut face, I lose, but I also understand that, regardless of all of the physical facts associated with hormones, metabolism, and hunger, the person holding the fork is still . . . me.

Some dieters succeed.  Why?

We previously talked about change (LINK) the emotions that drive it, but changing a lifestyle is like changing a habit.

The successful dieters transition from diets being a goal, and making it a system or a value and no longer a goal.  Let’s say your goal is to weigh 120 pounds.  And you get there.  Now what?  Eat whatever you want?  That’s what caused the problem in the first place.

To win, you have to have a system.

And that’s why I hate cheat days.  I mean I hate them because they destroy entirely the results that I’m looking for in a diet.  It undermines the habit I’m creating by saying, “Hey, John Wilder, it’s cool if you want to put a gallon of pudding in your armpits, and eat another gallon.  It’s a cheat day.”

For me, a cheat meal on Saturday turned into a cheat meal plus a cheat lunch, plus a cheat lunch on Sunday, and, well, why not a cheat Sunday dinner.  It legitimized the concept that I could eat ANYTHING at that time and, well, another meal couldn’t hurt that much more, right?

No, a cheat meal is a planned failure for a system, because it idolizes the exact habits you’re trying to eradicate.  Moderation is not my fried, and, looking at the people who actually have lost and kept the weight off?  There’s nothing moderate about them.  They’re fanatical, and driven by the burning desire to change.

So they develop a system, or at least the winners do.  For the rest of us?  Pudding, anyone?

Making Less Than You’re Worth and Value Creation

“And so then Skeletor told Terminator he wanted a divorce, and apparently it’s all going to be finalized soon!” – South Park

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As it’s a short post, here’s a link to the story about the vole above.

“No, John Wilder, I said I want to make less thank I’m worth,” said my friend, who I will call Spock.

I was surprised.  I took it as an axiom, a truthticle (John Wilder Definition:  A quantum truth particle), that the old adage was right – you want to get paid what you’re worth.

Spock continued, “Yeah, if I’m worth what I’m paid, I’m not a bargain.  If I’m worth more than I’m paid?  That’s the guy you keep around – he makes you money.”

And Spock was right, his argument as logical as his Vulcan blood is green.

If I go to work and don’t create more value than the amount I’m paid, unless I work at the Department of Motor Vehicles in the Customer Hostility Division, I’m going to get fired.  This isn’t a moral judgement, it’s just that companies can’t survive hauling around with comatose employees that don’t make it money.

To put it simply:  If I don’t make (much) more money for the company than they pay me?  They’ll find a way to make sure I work for the competition.  And if someone (or a cool robot) can do the job for less than they’re paying me?  I’m probably going to be doing a lot more blogging in all the free time that I’ll have.  I will have been Terminated.

Not killed, though at one company I worked at:

HR told the story of a gentleman that worked there who was fired.  The HR Personbot2000™ told them that they were going to be terminated.  Having been a recent transplant (with correspondingly iffy English skills) from a country where the voters regularly re-elected the dictator with a 99.9% majority, the employee panicked, and barricaded himself in his office.  The standoff lasted until the Personbot2000® got another employee to translate to the fired employee that he wasn’t going to be killed, he just didn’t have a job there anymore.

No one in the world has been happier to find out he was “only” fired.

I digress.

One way to make sure that you’re creating value is to be where the value is created.  I know that sounds circular, but understand that more than just working hard is required to create value.  Another example:

I was living in Alaska, and loving it.  I had a great job, loved the weather, friends, and the family loved the place.  One day the phone at work rang.  It was an old boss.  Come to Houston, he said.  He wanted me to work on a project that would impact the lives of (literally) millions of consumers, and be the biggest project of my life so far.  We didn’t want to move, really, but the opportunity to work in the hottest (at the time) sector of the economy on a huge project was too much to turn down.  Plus it was hard to breathe with all the money they were forcing down my throat.  So we went.

In this instance, a small team was working on an investment of billions of dollars.  The revenue per employee was massive.  The team worked unconscionably long hours for years to put the project together and bring it to completion.  I can count multiple days where my savings to the company was over a million dollars.  And multiple days where I had to ignore huge problems to go work on even bigger problems.

Creating value was easy in such a target-rich environment, as was working 14 hour days and not exercising.  But the food was awesome and the houses were cheap because Houston is as hot as the surface of the Sun.

In the end?  The projects were finished.  And me, too.  I moved on to another economic sector, but my big lesson was:  If you want to find an easy way create value, go to where the big money is changing hands.

Makes logical sense, as Spock might have said . . .

Another short post – the notes for the second half of this post will show up in Monday’s post, since they are broader in nature, and provide a better understanding of the workings of the world economy and didn’t really fit well with the above stuff. But enough shop talk . . .

Seneca’s Cliff and You

My heart attack didn’t kill me, so why act like it did? See, Tim, it was the Roman philosopher Seneca who said “if we let things terrify us, then life is not worth living.” – Home Improvement

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There is nothing that says “I’m never giving up” like a stop sign duct taped to a lamp post.

Back in 2011, I was reading Italian chemistry professor Ugo Bardi’s blog (LINK) and was struck by his quoting of the dead Roman, Seneca, who wrote that “increases are of sluggish growth, but the way to ruin is rapid.”  I know it sounds like he’s writing about Adam Sandler’s acting career, but in reality, Seneca’s talking about everything, and it struck me as a universally applicable truth:

Everything that can be built, is built relatively slowly fighting entropy all the way.

And when it’s built?

The greater the effort, the higher it has risen, the faster it falls.

This is especially true when it comes to organizations – large companies that have been in business for decades close up in an afternoon.  Sears was founded in 1893, 114 years ago.  It became larger and larger over time until in the 1980’s it encompassed not only its department store business (the last remaining bits today) but also the Discover Card, Allstate Insurance, Land’s End, among other brands.

Today?  It’s (possibly) worth less than a handful of magic beans.  Nearly certainly by 2020 Sears will be just an answer to a trivia question.

And if you look at life, you see the same pattern again and again, that progress in your own life is built up only slowly, mainly over the course of years.  And losing it?  It’s a precarious balance, and (sadly) in the end all of our Jenga™ blocks fall down.

That was one of Seneca’s other lessons – you absolutely know that your blocks are going to fall over, and, most importantly, the blocks don’t care.  There will be a time when you will lose.  A business venture might fail, a book might not end well, or a blog post might be much shorter than you’d usually expect (this is foreshadowing).

In my personal life, I’ve seen this happen again and again – when I was first out of college and working for a big company, I put in 80 hour weeks for nine months to build a project – the biggest that company had ever built up to that time.  They bulldozed it fifteen years later – and I assure you it was done in a month and a half – it came down a lot quicker than it went up.

After I got my Master’s I put all the notes, all the disks, and everything associated with my thesis in the fireplace.  It was May, but I still put a match to it, willing to pay for the air conditioning just to give my academic career a Viking funeral.  It was over.  The months of research, the months of writing, all up in a matter of 20 minutes.

But, perhaps, Seneca might have been a bit wrong.  He spent his life building his ideas.  And we’re still talking about them today.  Perhaps there is a force that defies entropy – that can withstand ages.

Perhaps it is those very ideas.

And Adam Sandler’s hair.

Paleo vs. Primal vs. Atkins, Thermodynamics and A Calorie Is Not a Calorie

“In this house, we obey the laws of thermodynamics!” – The Simpsons

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The Boy during a Primal phase.  Brains are Primal, right?

What does a diet do?  There are thousands (if not millions) of different diet books in print, each with a new diet, and they appear nearly hourly.  Diet books, perhaps, due to sheer number density, might form an information black hole that sucks in all other books.  Even Dilbert (LINK).  Then I would be sad.

The purpose of a diet should be twofold – to produce optimal nutrition at a healthy weight.  And make no mistake, those shiftless British (LINK) have done a study of British medical records and determined that . . . it sucks for your health to be overweight.  Being fit and fat?  Probably (according to the Portuguese guy I accosted on the street while yelling about these results in a threatening monotone) a pretty little lie we tell ourselves.

Out of this vast galaxy of diets, I’m picking out five for further discussion and follow up with a description of what thermodynamics says about them.  I pick these because they seem to be the main pattern of diets today:

  1. Vegetarian/Vegan: No one actually does this, but there are millions of people professing to like tofu instead of ribeye, and wanting you to have a meat-substitute brisket in the smoker.  And a vegan?  They will change any discussion that’s occurring in order to bring up the fact that they’re a vegan.

John Wilder:  “I hear that there might be life on Mars.”

Vegan:  “I hope it’s a vegetable, because I’m a vegan.”

It is my prediction that veganism/vegetarianism will catch on like wildfire when rare filet mignon and bratwurst are declared vegetables.  Sweet, meaty, fatty vegetables.

 

  1. Low Fat: Very popular in 1977 when your Mom took up smoking to impress that guy who had the cool Camaro®.  Still popular with the makers of sugar!, high-fructose corn syrup©, breakfast cereal®, and Pop Tarts™.

 

Oh, and turkeys!  Turkey bacon, turkey burgers, turkey cheese, turkey sour cream, and turkey mint julips.  Everything that’s come in about this diet indicates that it’s wrong on every possible level, including being responsible for Angela Merkel’s haircut.

 

  1. Paleo: The basic theory is that the human digestive system has simply not caught up to agricultural life, unlimited Twinkies®, unlimited couch time with Halo 47©, and unlimited calories.  Since our digestive system hasn’t come under significant evolutionary pressure, we’d be better off drinking elk blood in the forest.

The Paleo diet allows no: grains, sugar, beans, dairy, potatoes, processed food (I’ll miss you, dear bacon), refined vegetable oils, salt, alcohol, and good heavens, coffee.

That’s unnecessarily cruel!  No coffee?  What would I do for a personality?

A good website on Paleo is here (LINK).

Real short version?

2-0-1-7 tomorrow, out of time, so tonight we’re going to eat like it’s 10,099.

BC.

  1. Primal: A lot like Paleo, but recognizes the central role of coffee to my central nervous system.  Additionally, in comparison to Paleo, it’s more of a complete lifestyle, including exercising and having relationships like a Neolithic tribal dude.

The Primal diet is a lot like the Paleo diet, but you can have dairy, coffee, some potato, coffee, beans are okay-ish, coffee, and wisely chosen dietary supplements.  Did I mention coffee is okay?

The definitive website for Primal is here.  (This is also the definitive post.)

  1. Atkins® (or “keto”): Nuke the carbs from orbit, it’s the only way to be sure.  Lifestyle?  Who cares.    THE.  CARBS.  20 grams or less of carbohydrates in some phases of the diet.  Bonus?  Eat all the bacon.  And drink all the coffee.

How does a diet work to help attain or maintain a healthy weight?

First:  What’s a Calorie?

In nutrition, a Calorie is a measure of the chemical energy stored in food.  It has a specific scientific definition as being “the amount of energy required to raise the temperature of one kilogram of water by 1˚Centigrade.”  So, if you weighed 750 kilograms (more than 1,500 pounds), you just have to walk into a fridge and reduce your body temperature by one degree, and when you warm yourself up, presto, a cheeseburger vanishes from your thigh!

In reality, there’s enough thermal energy in 10 plain chocolate M&M’s® to raise a big cup of coffee from room temperature to a pleasantly hot 130˚F.  When I tried this experiment at home, the coffee stayed cold, but got chocolatey after a day or so.  Then moldy.  Then The Mrs. yelled at The Boy and blamed him for the mess.  Whew!  It’s great having folks who’ll take the fall for a fiver.

The way they determine the Calorie content of your food is (I’m not making this up) by burning it in a really sensitive oven and measuring how much heat it gives off.

But your body doesn’t spontaneously combust, no matter how many pancakes you eat, so I’m thinking that the body may have a tiny lit furnace someplace south of your stomach, except for Pugsley, since sometimes he smells like burning tires.

So, food is used differently than that, as I started to discuss in a previous (LINK) post.

One rule of thermodynamics (thermo, from the Greek, meaning “a class in college” and dynamics, also from the Greek, meaning “that came from Hell”) is that you lose efficiency every time you convert energy from one form to another.  In the conversion of food from chemical energy to useful human energy, fat (as in yum!) and carbohydrates (as in sugar, also, yum!) are about the same, requiring about 5% to 15% of the energy consumed to digest and use.  In the world outside of squishy human bodies, that’s exceptional!  A human body is 85% efficient when running on Ding-Dongs®.  A car is only 20% efficient when running on gasoline.  You’re super efficient!

That’s also why you’re fat.  I’m willing to bet the human body developed a craving for sugar and fat because it was so efficiently converted to “keeping you alive” that when you could expect to find very little food, you were drawn to the best stuff.

When you convert protein (also yum, as in the rest of the steak!) to energy, the pathway is much less efficient, converting 65% of the energy to useful activities, like typing and drinking scotch.  Still this is three times better than a typical gasoline powered car.

Like Justin Beiber, sugar has a much darker side – it spikes insulin output, which is required to get sugar into cells so it can get to work.   But insulin is also the hormone that, in abundance, tells your body, “Hey, back up the truck with all the energy you can’t use right now.  We’ll just turn it into fat.”

A recent JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association, or Jamaican Ancestral Music Annual, I forget which) article says that people on ultra-low carbohydrate diets burn 100-300 more Calories per day than those same people on other diets.

I think Dr. Atkins just dropped his microphone and walked off the stage.

My conclusion is this:  The Paleo and Primal diets both restrict carbohydrates very effectively, but not as well as the Atkins diet, which is as single minded as a puppy on a pork roast in elimination of carbohydrates.

A potential optimum?  Use Akins to get to a healthy weight, then transition to Primal as a lifestyle.  Atkins is the journey, but Primal is the habit, and, of course, the lovely, lovely coffee.

Comments?  Your mileage?

Reminder:  JOHN WILDER IS NOT A DOCTOR.  Consult yours before following the patently absurd advice offered above.

AI and Future of Work

“Since when did AI Stand for artificial insanity?” – Andromeda

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A machine for making Pez!  Or the back side of an Airline Departure board.  I forget.

The Middle Class Apocalypse is Coming!  The Middle Class Apocalypse is Coming!

Today is Wealthy Wednesday, so this post is about Wealth, and the future patterns associated with wealth and work based on the trends we can all see today.  On Monday, the Weekly Wisdom post talked about significance and the importance of work, and that post is here.

I’ll give you the TL;DR version – Work is important for health and well-being.  A great job has certain attributes that tie to the significance of the work, which lead directly to health and well-being.  Humans were made to work.  We actually like working when it makes a difference, when we make a difference to the world.

But what about that Apocalypse thing you mentioned up above?  It seems like that just might be important?

The economy is changing now at the most rapid pace, well, ever.  What we’ve seen over the past few years has been an economic recovery that’s been rough, especially for the middle class.  Most jobs that have been created appear to not be as good, not pay as much as the ones that have disappeared.

This trend is not over.  It’s actually just starting.

And, like Star Wars: The Force Awakens®, it has all happened before, though Han Solo didn’t die the first time they blew up the Death Star.  Or the second time.  Third time was the charm.

Four hundred years ago on the planet Earth, workers who felt their livelihood threatened by automation flung their wooden shoes called sabots into the machines to stop them.
Hence the word sabotage. – Star Trek, The Undiscovered Country

Not the last use of Sabotage in Star Trek

The Last Time We Were Here

The industrial revolution was an extraordinary dislocation among the working class in the Western world.  Extraordinary advances in power (steam engines) and mechanical devices (looms, tools) made standardized manufacturing of a consistent product on a grand scale possible.  Spoiler alert!  In the long run, this led to much greater prosperity and a constantly rising standard of living that created the greatest wealth machine in the history of mankind – Europe and the USA.

But along the way?  Lots of people were displaced.  If you were a knitter, you now no longer need knit knickers neatly, because a machine was massively manufacturing many muumuus.  To put it gently, you no longer had a knitting job.  Take your needles and shove off.  And the machine is better at knitting than you.  And you suck at running knitting machines because you have ADHD.

Being faced with this type of situation, the average person in at the time reacted calmly and happily watched as the trade or craft that they had engaged in their entire lives was extinguished like M&Ms® at a Weight Watcher® relapse?  No.  Inspired by (potentially fictional) leader Ned Ludd (the origin of the term “Luddite”) they rioted.  They raided the countryside, molested the cattle, and inspired really bad art:

Ned Ludd

Via Wikipedia – This image is in the public domain in the United States. 

Oh, my!  When I go down in history, I’d like to have a much better picture of me, not one where I’m wearing a polka-dotted Muumuu while my gigantic form looms over my tiny minions as the Alamo burns in the background.  And what AM I wearing on my head.  Is that a beaver??

I guess it’s an understatement to say that the change was difficult, but it did lead to mass producing important things, like nails, sewing machines, scarves, and, eventually, Pez®.

And it led, finally, to the creation of the middle class.  The factories had to have managers.  Engineers.  Equipment manufacturers.  HR.  Accountants.  Payroll clerks . . . and these factories finally allowed the concentrated application of experience and knowledge to the problems of industry.  Some owners of factories became extraordinarily wealthy.  Some geniuses, like Lord Kelvin?  He basically invented thermodynamics and spent his summers on his massive yacht wandering around the Mediterranean with the Kardashians.  Not the ancestors of the Kardashians, but the same ones we see on magazines all of the time.  I am convinced that the Kardashians are:

  1. Evil, and
  2. Immortal.

But I digress.  The middle class is stunningly important to economic and governmental stability.  It’s a place for middling to high IQ people to go and strive, to go and find meaning in their work and in creating civic organizations and clubs and golf.  All that brainpower tends to go toward helping people in all of society get wealthier over time, and makes society better as they get wealthier – a truly virtuous cycle.

If they weren’t doing this?

Well, if smart, capable people aren’t doing great stuff to make society better?  They get all Emo and Occupy.

Imagine if Rage Against The Machine actually had a job down at Dad’s hardware store? Would they be singing barbershop quartet instead?

Michael Lewis has written several books, like Liar’s Poker and Moneyball.  He’s talented.  But his first degree was in Art History.  Admittedly it was from Princeton, but it was . . . ART . . . HISTORY.  He ended up being a bond trader after getting a degree in economics from the London School of Economics before landing the bond trading gig, but, really, these sorts of opportunities don’t exist for current liberal arts grads.  And, like Ned Ludd, current liberal arts majors all dress up in polka-dotted muumuus and put a beaver in their dreadlocks and protest.

They’re protesting against a global labor market.  They might have the best degree that you can get, but legal aides are now competing against actual lawyers (and smart ones, too) in India who’ll do 250 hours of legal and case research for some pita bread and half of a Coke®.  The first part of this wave of globalization was the outsourcing of labor that went into manufacturing.  For the last 15-20 years mid-level engineering and legal research has joined the globalization push.  It’s had the effect of making the world more average, and if you’re talking pay, I assure you that you don’t want to work for the world’s average wage, which for some types of work is a cot and a promise not to play any music by Bob Segar®.  If you’re bad?  You have to listen to “Turn the Page.” Again and again.

A significant trend in jobs is to make them so anyone can do them.  If you’re reading this blog, I’m certain that your IQ is much higher than the average, and you’ve probably got bones made out of titanium, and might be able to bend steel bars with your mind.  Many jobs that remain are standardized by procedures to the point that very little IQ is needed.  The job is made to suit the lowest common denominator that might show up to be hired.  And these jobs will actively discriminate against your middle class employee template – they don’t want smart people in these jobs.  Smart people think, and if you think?  You might be wrong.  And in this world of hyper litigation?  They might have to settle a lawsuit because you started thinking that cooking oil was a lot like floor wax, and fifty old people slipped and fell on Crisco© oil in the produce section.  Many employers don’t want thinking.  Bad for business.

New forms of work are showing up as well – the “Gig” economy, where people get paid for doing things like hanging your pictures or walking your dog or by driving you around in their own car for Uber©.  The job market is fundamentally changing now, and we all can’t support ourselves by just Ubering® each other around.  Nor will we be able to – Artificialish Intelligence will eventually replace all the Uber™ drivers.

And that’s the big kahuna.  The large enchilada.  The massive Pez®.  Global low wages, procedural jobs that kill the soul?  Those are nothing compared to Artificialish Intelligence.

(According to Google, I, John Wilder, am the one who has coined this term!  Huzzah, me!)

What is Artificialish Intelligence?  My definition is that, really you don’t need a full-blown sentient intelligence for the vast majority of tasks you’ll automate, you just need the bare minimum of subroutines, rules, and algorithms to get the job done.  For most things, that isn’t really all that much.  We’ve had cars that can drive themselves for a while.  And soon, they’ll be everywhere.  Who needs truck drivers when the trucks drive themselves?  Who needs Uber© drivers when Uber™ has a fleet of cars that don’t complain, and, more importantly, don’t get paid?  As soon as competent Artificialish Intelligence appears in a field, there’s no point in a human ever doing that task again, unless they like doing it.  Unfortunately, if you’re one of the 1,500,000 to 3,000,000 people who drive for a living?  Yeah, 90% of them will lose their jobs.  Not an if.  A “will.”

If you count the sheer number of accountants and tax preparers that have lost work due to TurboTax®?  Yeah, lots, and TurboTax™ probably does a better job than many tax preparers, with a lower error rate.  This trend of Artificialish Intelligence destroying jobs is not new.

Ever feel like your job is to pass the butter?  And it’s actually not at all required to add too much intelligence to most of our devices.  Who needs an automatic vacuum or smart cell phone that has a mood?

I’m not sure of the new jobs that will be created due to the changes I’ve noted above, but I do have suggestions if you’re starting out in your career that might help . . .

  1. Be born rich.
  2. Be a friend to billionaires.

Really, the jobs that are very hard to automate or turn global are things that have a barrier, like the following categories:

  1. Government Jobs. The barrier is pretty obvious to this one – Congressmen don’t have to go home to their constituents and explain that they’ve outsourced the Department of Commerce to Uzbekistan.
  2. Distance Barriers. Some things have to be done locally – most construction, plumbing, tree services, and these are jobs that will be a bit harder to automate, though they will change significantly.
  3. Regulatory Barriers. Plumber, Electrician, Pharmacist, Doctor, Lawyer . . . each of these have barriers that are require credentials and licensing.  I would add Teacher to this list, but distance learning won’t be kind to that profession after a decade or so.
  4. Extreme Knowledge. It can be done, being a specialist in a very narrow field.
  5. Be a Creator. You can’t outsource a Steve Jobs from Sebastopol, nor a Bill Gates from Bratislava.  Nor a Scott Adams from Albania.  These are unique talents due to their ability to create.  Can everyone be a Creator?    But the good news is that there are still Government Jobs!

I have only a limited understanding of what the world of work will look like in twenty years, but the changes will be very drastic, and I’ll be posting more about this in the future.  In the past, if you were making copper pots by hand, when the machine took your job and started pressing them out of sheet copper, you had no real way to see that a world of thermodynamics, engineering, and advanced wealthy complex society could form out that stupid job-stealing machine.

But you could see the beaver clearly.  That’s why you kept it in your hair.