X-Message-Number: 18413
From: "Mark Plus" <>
Subject: postindustrial economic incentives
Date: Fri, 25 Jan 2002 14:00:18 -0800

John de Rivaz wrote,

>Message #18402
From: "John de Rivaz" <>
Subject: 1901
Date: Thu, 24 Jan 2002 12:54:56 -0000

>>A competent accountant could expect to earn $2000 per year, a dentist
>$2500 per year, a veterinarian between $1500 and $4000 per year and a
>mechanical engineer about $5000 per year.

>What would be interesting is to know whether these ratios have changed now,
ie does the engineer still earn more than twice as much as an accountant. If
society is placing a different value on various occupations it may make a
substantial effect on the rate of the future progress over the next century
upon which we all rely for cryopreservation to be effective.

This sort of trend is probably inevitable in a "service" economy.  
Sociologist Daniel Bell back in the 1970's pointed out that traditionally 
most people have had to extract their living either from dealing with 
nature, or else from dealing with tools and things.  This was certainly true 
in the U.S. at the beginning of the 20th Century, and probably explains the 
relatively higher salaries for engineers over that of other professionals 
during America's rapid industrialization.  But with a declining percentage 
of people in developed societies needed to produce physical life support 
(how many farmers, miners or factory workers do you know?), now we have 
created a world largely defined by social reality, a "game between persons." 
  And in such a world, people with an aptitude for nonproductive social 
games like law, politics,  entertainment and the like are going to be making 
a lot more money on average than people who are better at dealing with 
unsexy, refractory realities like designing faster computer chips, 
discovering new drugs and things of that sort.  Engineers just don't attract 
the sort of prestige that socially acceptable parasites get.

Of course, the structure of economic incentives could be changing.  There 
have been some semi-serious articles lately suggesting that the "New 
Economy" is selecting in favor of men with a sort of high-functioning autism 
called Asperger's Syndrome, which seems characterized by single-minded 
obsessions with scientific, mathematical and technical problems, along with 
significant social retardation.  (Insert your own joke about cryonicists 
here!)  Looking at popular culture lately, I have to wonder if 
Asperger's-type sensibilities are starting to become mainstream.  It 
wouldn't surprise me if genuine progress in conquering aging and death comes 
from people who display Asperger's-like behavior.

>Don't forget Carl Sagan's observation in the old TV series "Cosmos" that
classical Mediterranean civilisations once had an interest in both
experimental science and philosophy, and the latter won out and got all the
good people. Had it been the other way round, he said, humanity could have
been building star ships by our current era.

Historians generally attribute the classical world's stagnation to the 
widespread practice of slavery, which freed up a small elite to explore and 
find patterns in their subjective white noise, at first called  philosophy, 
and then in late antiquity, Christian theology.  It's no coincidence that 
the ruling class in a more recent slave society, the American South, made 
the effort to pick up some classical book learning (e.g., Thomas Jefferson), 
precisely because it is useless and consistent with a lifestyle supported by 
the labor of a degraded class of people.

Mark Plus

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