Monday, April 3, 2017

Time Arbitrage, and Three Levels of Skill Potential

As present day production methods gradually become more efficient, mid level skills are beginning to "pay the price". Technology continues to sort divisions of labour in ways which highlight high skill, while "default" low skill levels often remain in use as well. Meanwhile, skills polarization is also reflected in income levels. Is it possible to address this reality, especially since so many have considerable skills aptitude in a moderate range? In some respects, future labour force participation may depend on how society answers this question.

Even though asymmetric compensation is becoming more difficult to maintain at mid level income levels, the symmetric compensation of time arbitrage could provide another option. Since symmetric compensation uses time value on equal terms, it can generate economic growth (via the "cancelled debt" of time based product matching), where asymmetric compensation sometimes faces the limits of a given general equilibrium setting. Today, equilibrium limits are also being exacerbated by monetary tightening, from central bankers who don't appear to have much confidence in the return of higher labour force participation levels.

Time arbitrage would also provide a new nominal income production and consumption range - one which more closely reflects middle class environments before the present limits of productive agglomeration. One important element of this process would be shared skill level matching, in which the participants of local groups would be encouraged to contribute along a full skills spectrum.

Many individuals alternate between a wide range of skill levels in their daily lives. However: for the most part, doing so is often captured (economically) along a single range of spectrum potential. For instance, if one is compensated for high skill sets in the workplace, lower skill levels either tend to be apportioned to others, or else pursued in one's personal life for family and friends on voluntarily terms. Granted, the point would not be to change the voluntary settings individuals prefer. Rather, populations would benefit from a range of economic skills match options, so as to eventually reduce the need for today's struggling welfare states.

Consider for instance, how the time based product that welfare states came to rely on in the 20th century, exists along a full range of skills utilization. Yet it has became increasingly difficult for all concerned, to coordinate these activities - either through money or variance in skill level. I've little doubt how today's school environments invoke fear, since students quickly recognize how the skills sorting process begins early in life, via one's grades and the judgments of others. Had I understood at a young age, how workplace skills options and challenges could economically devolve to lower levels across the course of one's life, I would have been afraid as well. Indeed, I may not have had the audacity to engage in the extensive life "sampling" and challenges my restless nature still craved, before health concerns intervened.

When the "losers" lose access to knowledge based challenges in the workplace, the default remaining low skill positions can sometimes wear down one's physical stamina, a full decade or more before the retirement age in the U.S. Does anyone wonder why some refuse to accept low skill work positions - which leave insufficient room for the medical circumstance they may exacerbate - as a matter of self preservation? These thoughts were on my mind earlier in the day when I took a walk and passed someone along the path I didn't know. He may have been an "early retiree" like me. At any rate, he must have suspected I wouldn't judge him too harshly for he smiled and said, "You look like you're working as hard as I am. Hey, I'm trying."

Yet if these low skill default positions were shared by high skill work providers, low skill work would gain much more respect than it presently commands in society. Equally important, is that low skill work allows one's mind to concentrate on the challenges of high skill work, via regular routines. Shane Parrish highlights a Scientific America interview quote from Alex Soojung-Kim Pang which touches on this subject:
The critical thing to recognize is that when we are letting our minds wander, when our minds don't have any particular thing they have to focus on, our brains are pretty darn active. When you do things like go for a long walk, your subconscious mind keeps working on problems. The experience of having the mind slightly relaxed allows it to explore different combinations of ideas, to test out different solutions. And then once it has arrived at one that looks promising, that is what pops into your head as an aha! moment. The people I looked at are able to construct daily schedules that allow them to draw on that process in little increments.
It's those daily schedules that allow moments for reflective thinking, that time arbitrage would especially seek to encourage through the ongoing matching of varying levels of skill. While it would not always be necessary to match the same skills level each time, skills level balance could nonetheless be achieved by educational planning which makes certain that education contributes to actual supply side formation of time based product.

Imagine how relieved the average high school student might be, to discover that the process of skills selection would not have to devolve early on, to hard judgment re one's eventual potential to take part in knowledge based challenges. Indeed, school systems sometimes feel like an inevitable process of arbitrary decision making. It is unfortunate that low skill work has become associated with a form of societal punishment, instead of something worthy of the respect it deserves.

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