EdgeWise 12.1.2004


More on Prions

Kind of a creepy article on Prions, and various horrible Prion diseases, like Mad Cow. Interesting bit about how a mouse engineered to not have any Prions is incapable of getting Prion diseases, but was otherwise normal. We don't know if Prions have a useful function, although there's some evidence linking them to memory formation.
posted at 22:33:20    #    comment []    trackback []

Pure Comedy Gold

Via the IRC log Chump:
Young woman survives rare allergic reaction resulting in complete loss of all skin
posted by coderman at 2004-01-12 18:21

Ash: quit whining
Ash: like losing all your skin is some big deal
Ash: geez
posted at 17:45:20    #    comment []    trackback []

The Iron Law of Wages

[Via Sideshow]David Ricardo had a theory called the "Iron Law of Wages." It says that wages will tend to stabilize at or about subsistence level. If workers are necessary, they must be kept alive, but if they are infintely available, replaceable, and generally interchangeable, then subsitence is as much as they can expect.

During the industrial revolution, this actually happened domestically, but unions and increasing skill requirements boosted wages in the 50's, 60's, and 70's.

Now, we have cheap telecommunications and shipping. Unions are weak (making up only 13% of the population) outside of a few industries, and training skilled labor overseas is readily accomplished. Foreign skill training has proven acceptable for many positions. This means the Iron Law is back on the books.

Depending on the difficulty in imparting the skillset, and how easily exportable it is, each job will come to rest at a different domestic wage and population (how many of the job).

The overhead in bulk importing clothes is minimal, which means unskilled domestic textile workers will make minimally more than subsistence. A company can replace domestic union workers with cheaper foreign ones, that's why unions are withering away in these industries.

Retail jobs can't be shipped overseas, since you need to be physically present where the customers are. That's why unions are viable there (e.g. the recent Borders' strike) and why companies bother with the expense and trouble of automating things like grocery checkout, product inventory (RFID "smart" shelves), and eventually restocking (robots).

In software engineering, those skills required for reproducing something are easily transferred overseas. The skills for innovative design are transferrable (although more expensively), but language and culture barriers increase the difficulty (and expense) beyond what applies to well-understood examples. In order to remain a viable domestic software engineer you need to be creative, adaptable, and constantly acquiring new skills before they become common overseas.

So in a world that is experimenting with remotely performed, robotic assisted surgery, what's a safe and secure job? Something that is easier (or only possible) locally, but is highly skilled, yet cannot be replaced with a computer or remotely controlled robot. That's tough to think of.
posted at 14:56:48    #    comment []    trackback []
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