The Six Hour Work Day

Less than four hundred years ago, the trend was to work ten to twelve hours a day, six days a week. This is what was needed to make a living, to afford housing, food, clothes and small luxuries. Most labor was still manual, and slaves were used to do most of the heavy lifting, ardurous work and toil. The discovery and invention of things like fossil fuel, water mills and steam power began changing this fact.

Less than three hundred years ago, people began moving to cities. Industry slowly began to form, and people began reaping the benefits of simple machines. We were able to produce more in less time. People began having more free time - more leisure time - and dependence on manual labor lessened. Slavery was still rampant and people were still beholden to masters and fiefdoms.

Less than two hundred years ago, the Industrial Revolution had changed everything. A third of the population of the Earth had moved from being sustinence farmers to being workers in mills, factories, sweatshops and tanneries. The average Englishman, who had toiled in the fields from morning to evening every day of the year, could now draw a salary from a factory and find time to relax, think, learn and socialize in his or her ample free time. Child protection laws began to emerge once we were no longer dependent on forced manual labor and most countries abolished slavery.

Less than a hundred years ago, trade and specialization had led us to a financial boom across most of the Western world. People could spend a third of the day, five days a week, providing specialzed labor using highly sophisticated machines in order to greatly improve the lives of thousands of others. By being the person who sowed clothes for eight hours a day, you clothed thousands while drawing a salary that allowed you to benefit from the labors of others.

At the same time, our footprint on the world lessened. Thanks to advances in agricultural technology, especially in new grains and artificial fertilizers, we were able to grow twice the amount of food grains in half the space as we would have a hundred years earlier. Fewer people were needed to sustain the population of Earth and urbanization took off.

Less than fifty years ago, more than half the population of Earth lived in a city. More than half of all of us lived on just seven percent of the Earth's surface. That number is still increasing, leaving more nature to the animals and plants of the world. Due to the increased proximity, pollution lessened, welfare increased, free time increased and labor costs went down. Where governments did not meddle in trade and finance, markets bloomed and people got richer.

Today, most people work five days a week, somewhere between seven and a half to eight hours a day, depending on local labor laws. Many believe this to be the pinnacle of mankind, the highest attainable form of success, but it is only another step in mankind's development.

We're still building smarter and better machines, technology and services; allowing fewer people to do more in less time. Average salaries per person per hour are growing and we've never had the same kinds of freedom to enjoy the surplus produced by others as we have today. Only in countries where people have had the misfortune to grow up with corruption or strictly controlled markets have we seen slow or negative growth. Countries like North Korea starve and deteriorate because they have closed their borders to the outside world, refusing to benefit from the surplus the world creates and not adding to it. Even in newer markets, such as China and India, the Western countries have drawn upon cheap labor and enriched the country by dramatically raising the salaries, standards and benefits of the people who work there. We're not seeing a race to the bottom, as so many pessimistic analysts feared in the eighties, but a gradual raising of what the bottom entails.

Within the next hundred years, we'll have technology that far surpasses anything we can dream of today. Machines and software will be able to perform tasks we all believe can only be performed by people today, and countless thousands, if not millions, will be made redundant thanks to technological advances.

This is why the perspective on work and employment needs to change. So many people believe that employment is a vital part of life, that idle hands are up to no good and that people need to work to draw a salary that can sustain them. If historical trends are to be believed, however, this is not the case. We'll have a massive portion of the population whose livelihood can be sustained by machines that do the work for them, machines that invent, produce, deliver and sell goods and services. A human workforce will become far less relevant. 

I believe that we'll see the first all-software corporation, no human employees at all, before the year 2100. Laws need to change to allow for it, of course, but we're coming close to where this is possible, especially with the advent of smart trading algorithms, early success in artificial intelligence and the massive processing power available in computing today. I believe we'll start to see massive profits coming out of automated services, massively reducing the cost of living for humans to the point where we no longer need to work to make a living.

We'll begin to experience a brand new industrial revolution, and - much like in the former revolution - the birth of a new upper middle class defined by their free time and surplus.

This is the reason I believe the current discussion about the six-hour workday is so important. Not because I feel it is relevant yet - at least not in all fields of work - but because we need to remember that the current eight-hour work day is not a final point in our evolution as living, trading, market-reliant human beings.

Your First Million

Making your first million in Sweden is simpler than in The United States; not because we have a stronger business climate, lower taxes, higher salaries or anything like that, but because we have a weaker currency. By the time I reach one million Swedish Kronor, I'm actually just sitting on $146,167. To reach a million dollars, I'd need 6,841,450 Swedish Kronor.

Interestingly enough, the million dollar mark is roughly where I'd need to be to be financially independent and live off of the interest (assuming a market growing about 7% per year).

Assuming I invest 4,500 Swedish Kronor (SEK) a month (roughly $660), reaching that number will take me around 126 years. Even adding more or less my entire tax rebate every year, bringing my total to 69,000 SEK a year (around $10,000), it'll still take about 100 years.

Obviously, something needs to change in this equation. A lot of people look at their own possibility to invest in this way and become disheartened when they realize how long it will take for them to have a sizable chunk of savings. 

This is where the strongest force in the universe kicks in: Compound Interest.

Those 4,500 SEK I invested the first month will be worth 8,852 by year ten. That first year's worth of savings, those 69,000 SEK, would be worth 190,373 by year fifteen. So, despite investing just 1,035,000 SEK during fifteen years, that money has grown to around 1,855,275. The year after, despite adding just 69,000, my sum total has grown to 2,058,974 - a growth of 203,699!

All this math considered, with an average interest rate of 7% per year, those 100 years are cut down to a measly 30 years.

Clean Energy Incentives

I'm in the very early stages of planning a political party. It would be a liberal, right-of-center kind of thing, with lower taxes, smaller government, more incentives for competition and all that goodness we're lacking here in Sweden.

One question that has been bothering me, however, is what stand to take on clean energy. I want Sweden to move even further in the direction of clean, efficient and renewable power sources, removing more and more of our reliance on foreign gas, oil and coal.

The simplest way I can see doing this are by placing incentives on either the producers of clean energy or the consumers of clean energy, and I cannot, for the life of me, figure out which alternative is best.

On the one hand, lowering the tax burden of companies who produce and sell clean energy would improve their margins, allow them to invest further in their business, expand and produce more and better services. However, this wouldn't necessarily lower the price of electricity for the end consumer, lowering their incentive to switch suppliers.

On the other hand, lowering the tax burden of the consumer buying clean energy would make these services far more attractive to the end user, drawing more people to swap to clean suppliers. However, this would just increase the customer base of the power company, not increase their average earnings per customer. Their own incentive to provide better service and prices would only be dependent on competition with other suppliers doing the same thing.

The discussion could be compared to the debate surrounding the manufacture and sale of electric cars. Since we know they're, on average, a cleaner car than diesel-swilling SUV:s, should we reward the maker of the car or the buyer of the car? Essentially, do we want Tesla to earn more money on the sale of every car or do we want the end user of the car to pay less money for the new, clean car they buy?

One could, of course, argue that the best alternative is to ease the tax burden on both sides of the coin, but slightly less than you would have if you just did it for one end of the equation. The problem here is that the net gains for either party would be marginal and the incentive might be lost. Reducing your $200 utility bill to $150 is a great deal, but lowering it to $185 might not be worth the effort to all people who are still undecided when it comes to green power. Similarly, giving the power company a net decrease of 5% in tax costs for every per kilowatt they produce is a very attractive deal and will massively increase their margins - lowering it by 1% would just have them shrug at the additional funds and have a slightly bigger bonus or dividend given out to the board and shareholders that year.

It's a tricky question, and not one that I think has a clear cut answer. Instinctively, I feel like significantly lowering the cost of the consumer is the better way, as it immediately increases the demand for the consumers of clean energy, but it feels like a step that would require far more oversight and administration than the alternative.

Help me out, Internet. What do YOU think is the best way? Comment below and let me know. 

 

Liquid Democracy

I've been thinking about the way representative democracies work. Essentially, one person has one vote, which he casts on a party that consists of people who will represent him in government - assuming they get enough votes to be counted.

It's a neat enough system, but it has its flaws. For example; how can you be sure that people are informed enough to be able to cast an intelligent and vote? How can you be sure that people actually turn up and vote? Is the majority voice always the best option or can there be exceptions?

The thing that I've come up with - and I realize others have had this thought before me - is what I'm going to be calling a Liquid Democracy. Others have called it a Delegative Democracy, a title that works just as well.

The idea is basically this: Instead of necessarily having to vote for a specific individual and/or party, you can delegate your vote to another person. That person would then have the voting power of two people. If nine people delegate their votes to another person, that person would have the voting power of ten people. This means that each citizen can choose to either take a passive role as an individual or an active role as a delegate. This lowers the barrier to participation by allowing people who feel uninterested or not informed enough to nominate somebody they trust to speak for them instead.

The system should have checks and balances so that a person can retract their nomination at any point or limit them to which kinds of questions they can vote on for other people - say I nominate somebody to vote for me in municipal elections but not state elections.

One could even imagine this to be a multi-tiered system as well. If people A1, A2, A3 and A4 all nominate person B1 to vote on their behalf; that person could join B2, B3 and B4 (all who have 4 people each nominating them) to give their 20 votes to person C1.

The idea naturally has a number of flaws and weaknesses, one of which being the question of how representative the final vote would be, but it is definitely an interesting question that deserves being talked about as an alternative to the representative democracy most countries use today. 

I Should Get Better at Blogging

I've been blogging in one shape or form for fifteen years now. Most of my older blog entries are gone; erased from the Internet as I outgrew the blog I wrote them on. Removed since I can't relate to the person I was when I wrote them any longer. They're gone, like tears in the rain, and I'll never see them or think of them again.

This blog is supposed to be different. I intentionally launched it as a person who is undergoing change and learning things about myself. I started it especially to be able to find out who I was and who I was becoming, as I saw so many things up in the air for me at the same time. Now, a little over a year later, I find myself with time to think about where I've come, where I thought I was going and where I currently think I'm going.

It's a sobering thought, looking at your life and comparing it to your plans, dreams and ambitions. There are so many things that, a year ago, I would have wanted to achieve at the moment, but so many others that I have achieved that weren't even on the map at the time. Other things just came as a surprise and left me standing there; trying to figure out what's actually happened long after it happened.

  • I've not gotten quite the physical results from my training that I wanted, but I've gotten far further in my career as a podcaster than I thought I would.
  • I've not lived the life of a bachelor, sleeping with twenty young Korean women in strange shoes*, but I've met a girl with whom I get to live out passions that I've repressed so long that I'd almost forgot I had them.
  • I haven't become rich beyond my wildest dreams, but I've made steps towards clearing old debts, growing my money slowly on the stock market and reducing my daily spendings.
  • I haven't stopped drinking energy drinks and consuming massive amounts of chips, but I've cut down in both departments and can see myself quitting within long.
  • I managed to pick up smoking for a while, and didn't tell anybody out of the shame that I would feel if they knew I fell back to my old bad habits.

Failures and successes are just as important, all things considered. They bring you closer and closer to who you're going to end up being. You learn from your failures and grow as a person, just as much as you gain in status, wealth, friendship and love from your successes. I wouldn't be as strong as I am today without my failures. I wouldn't be as happy as I am today without my successes. Hell; many of my successes were made possible simply because I failed so often before.

Fail early, fail often, say the best entrepreneurs, and I cannot find a better way to say it. Have a plan for your future, but don't adhere to it as if it were dogma or law. Iterate all the time, do the best with what life offers you and make sure to come out on top wherever you can. 

... I realize that this entry doesn't feel as intelligent as anything that I wanted to say, but I needed to write something. I'll write more often in the coming months; I have things that I need to unload, and you - my dear audience - are the best place for me to do so.

* This is a throwaway reference to a speech by Merlin Mann.