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July 07, 2008


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I'm expecting a rough sort of equilibrium, actually, and here's why: Given that 30% of Africa is currently terminally ill, China is looking at a huge population drop in a generation or so, and the rest of us are one virus with a bad attitude and a CFR of 6% away from a real crisis...

...plus add in declining birth/maternal and neonatal death rates in a lot of the world, women's increased education and participation in the paid labour force...

...and your numbers might be entirely speculative after all.

China is a particularly worrying situation in itself, since the neofascist government there has systematically gutted the healthcare infrastructure the Communists put in that actually worked, so now you have an entire class of rural people whose options are 1) incur healthcare-related debt they can't pay, or 2) die. They're not going to be able to clamp down on the next SARS; they won't have the reporting apparatus or their disappeared legions of "barefoot doctors." H5N1? I'd rather not think about it, given where SARS landed first in North America...


Oh, I don't doubt that disease will shift these numbers considerably. But not only am I reluctant to take that on, I'm trying to stick to addressing one phenomenon (in this case, the net effect of technology on jobs-per-consumer) per essay. I have included mentions of a few other factors but by and large I sacrificed precision for readability. As for barefoot doctors, most of them are still there in China (and Cuba, for that matter), just off the payroll and, hence, off the chain of command. I suspect that in some ways, this may turn out to be a net positive since they'll able to take on patients for far lower pay than conventional ones without so closely heeding the Party line about what is and is not going on. (For those of you unfamiliar with this concept, the Wikipedia article is here:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barefoot_doctor )

As for my basic point about robots, a huge part of this is their increasing ability to handle complexity. Another aspect is their increasing ability to handle moving object in realtime. Both of these phenomena can be seen here:
And trust me folks, just because it only works for now in two axes of motion with a clearly delineated target doesn't mean that it won't soon be able to handle many kinds of three axis problems with less optimized targets.

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