Rethinking the Safety Net: Why UBI is a Promising Response to the Threat of AI-Induced Job Loss

March 28, 2023

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has revolutionized the way we live and work. While it presents tremendous opportunities for growth and efficiency, it also poses a significant challenge to employment as jobs become automated. The prospect of job loss from AI is a real and significant concern, with estimates suggesting that up to 47% of US jobs could be at risk of automation in the coming years.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is a well-known theory in psychology that describes the different levels of needs that humans have. At the base of the pyramid are physiological needs, followed by safety needs. Above these are needs for love and belonging, esteem, and self-actualization. Maslow’s theory suggests that people cannot fulfill higher-level needs until their basic needs are met.

The government has a responsibility to provide for the basic needs of its residents, including food, shelter, and healthcare. These needs fall under the first two levels of Maslow’s hierarchy, and without them, people cannot progress to higher levels. Providing for these basic needs is an essential function of government and is necessary to ensure that all people living in the community have the opportunity to reach their full potential. In addition to the government’s responsibility to provide for basic needs, there is also a basic sense of compassion that suggests we should help those in need. No one should have to go without food, shelter, or healthcare. Providing for these needs is not only a moral obligation but also a practical one, as people who are struggling to meet their basic needs are unlikely to be able to contribute fully to society.

Recognizing the importance of basic needs is essential for creating a just and equitable society. While the specifics of Maslow’s hierarchy may be debated, the fundamental concept remains the same: without meeting our most basic physiological and safety needs, it is difficult if not impossible to pursue higher-level needs. Providing for these needs is not only a moral imperative but also a practical one, as people who are struggling to meet their basic needs are unlikely to be able to contribute fully to society. By ensuring that everyone has access to a minimum standard of living, we can create a foundation of support that allows individuals to thrive and reach their full potential. This is the basis for UBI and other social welfare programs that seek to create a more just and equitable society for all.

Our economy relies on consumers to drive growth and create jobs. If people do not have money to spend, businesses will not have customers, and the economy will stagnate. Universal Basic Income (UBI) can be an effective way to ensure that people have enough money to spend, even if they are not working. This, in turn, can help to stimulate economic growth and create new jobs.

UBI provides a way to address the potential job loss from AI while also ensuring that people have their basic needs met. By providing a guaranteed income to all residents, UBI can help to alleviate the stress and uncertainty of job loss, allowing people to focus on finding new opportunities or pursuing education or training. At the same time, UBI can help to stimulate the economy by ensuring that people have money to spend, creating a virtuous cycle of growth and job creation.

Critics of UBI argue that it would be too expensive and discourage people from working. However, research suggests that a well-designed UBI program can actually encourage people to work by providing a safety net that allows them to take risks and pursue their passions without the fear of poverty. Moreover, UBI can be funded through a variety of mechanisms, including taxes on high earners and wealth, which can help to reduce inequality and ensure that everyone benefits from economic growth.

In conclusion, AI is transforming the way we work, and the potential job loss from AI is a significant challenge for our society. However, UBI offers a promising solution that can help to address the issue while also ensuring that people have their basic needs met. By providing a guaranteed income to all residents, UBI can help to alleviate the stress and uncertainty of job loss, stimulate the economy, and create new opportunities for growth and innovation. As we confront the challenges of the future, it is time for us to seriously consider UBI as a way to ensure a better future for all.

Written by Ron Ziroby Romero with assistance from ChatGPT

Image credit: Maslow’s_Hierarchy_of_Needs.svg User:Factoryjoe, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Programming Without Fear: Embracing Risk and Innovation

March 21, 2023

As a child, I was introduced to programming on a Commodore 64, a machine that had a reputation for being nearly indestructible. The Programmers Reference Guide even noted that software alone couldn’t break the machine–it might freeze up or require a reboot, but it would always bounce back. This knowledge had a significant impact on my approach to programming, instilling in me a sense of bravery and a willingness to experiment. Although modern computers are far more vulnerable to software-based damage, I find that the lessons I learned as a young programmer continue to inform my coding habits. Programming on the Commodore 64 helped shape my fearless approach to coding.

In the early to mid-eighties, when I began my programming journey, the fear of breaking a computer with software was not a common concern. I learned to program on the Commodore 64, a computer that was nearly impossible to break with software. This allowed me to approach programming with a sense of curiosity and bravery. I was not afraid to experiment and push the boundaries of what I could do with code.

However, it’s important to note that computers today are much more fragile and prone to breaking with software than the Commodore 64 was. It is very possible to brick a computer, making it worthless, just through software and commands. Additionally, as a programmer or user of a modern computer, it is possible to break the law, intentionally or unintentionally, through actions such as hacking, data theft, or the spread of malware. Therefore, it is important to approach programming and computer use today with caution and to take steps to protect yourself and your computer from harm.

The introduction of test-driven development (TDD) further reinforced my confidence in programming. By writing tests first and then developing code to meet those tests, I knew that I had a safety net to catch any mistakes or errors. This allowed me to continue experimenting and trying new things with the knowledge that I could always revert to a working version of my code.

While I have broken my operating system and caused software bugs in my career, I have found that my childhood experience has helped me to approach these challenges with a sense of calm and confidence. I know that mistakes will happen, but I also know that they can be fixed. Additionally, I have learned that it is important to take responsibility for any mistakes and work to prevent them from happening again in the future.

Learning to program on a Commodore 64 without fear of breaking the computer with software had a profound impact on my approach to programming. Today, I continue to experiment and push the boundaries of what I can do with code, confident in my abilities and my safety nets. While computers today are more fragile and prone to breaking with software, I believe that my childhood experience has helped me to be a more courageous and responsible programmer. By taking precautions and approaching programming with care and responsibility, we can all strive to be confident and brave programmers in the modern age.

By Ron Ziroby Romero with assistance from ChatGPT


The Nihilistic Fatalism of Housework

March 7, 2023

I’m developing a nihilistic fatalism of housework. All housework is fundamentally pointless because everything cleaned will get dirty again. However, we are fated to do this pointless housework over and over again, or our houses will decline into a horrible mess.

The philosophy can be illustrated by:

No matter how many dishes I do, the next day all the dishes we’ve used are dirty again.

Therefore, we can either choose to accept the futility of housework and do it anyway or let our living spaces fall into disarray. This philosophy can be seen as a metaphor for life itself; we are all fated to do things that seem meaningless in the grand scheme of things, but we do them anyway to maintain some sense of order and control in our lives.

This philosophy can also be applied to larger societal issues like climate change. Despite our best efforts to reduce our carbon footprint or protect the environment, the planet will continue to be affected by human activity. However, we are still fated to take action and do what we can, even if it seems futile in the grand scheme of things. Accepting the nihilistic fatalism of housework can help us find meaning in the mundane tasks we must do in order to maintain our homes and our world.

Written by Ron “Ziroby” Romero with assistance from Notion’s AI

Image by, CC BY

The Pomodoro Technique as an ADHD Support Tool

February 28, 2023

As someone with ADHD, finding effective strategies and tools to manage symptoms can be a challenge. In a previous blog post, I shared my experience using Spotify as an ADHD support tool. In this second post of my series on ADHD tools, I’m excited to share how I’ve been using the Pomodoro Technique to help me stay focused, organized, and productive. This technique has provided structure, reduced boredom, and improved productivity, making it an essential tool for managing my ADHD.

The Pomodoro Technique involves breaking work into 25-minute intervals, followed by five-minute breaks, with a longer break of 15-30 minutes after four intervals. This technique provides structure, reduces boredom, manages distractions, and improves productivity.

For me, the Pomodoro Technique has been especially helpful for my work as a programmer, as well as for chores around the house and even video games. When working on programming projects, I can work intensely for 25 minutes, then take a five-minute break to stretch or grab a snack. I find that this approach helps me stay focused and energized, and I’m able to accomplish more in a shorter amount of time.

Similarly, when doing household chores, the Pomodoro Technique helps me stay focused and motivated. Rather than getting distracted by other tasks or losing steam, I can work for 25 minutes, then take a break before starting the next task.

When it comes to video games, the Pomodoro Technique is a bit different for me. While I love playing games, I often find myself getting lost in them for hours on end. But using the Pomodoro Technique, I can set a timer for 25 minutes, then take a break to evaluate whether I want to keep playing or switch to another task.

While the Pomodoro Technique can be implemented with any timer, I’ve found that using an app like Brain Focus or a web-enabled timer like Kukoo Timer can be especially helpful. These tools make it easy to keep track of intervals and ensure that I’m staying on track.

Overall, the Pomodoro Technique has been a valuable tool in helping me stay on task and manage my ADHD symptoms. But as I continue to explore different strategies and tools for ADHD management, I’m excited to share my experiences and insights with you in my next blog post. Stay tuned to learn about another powerful tool that has helped me navigate the challenges of ADHD.

By Ron “Ziroby” Romero with assistance from ChatGPT

Image credit Michael Mayer

How I Use Spotify as an ADHD Support Tool

February 23, 2023

Living with ADHD can be challenging, especially when it comes to doing chores and other tasks that require sustained focus. However, I’ve discovered a simple yet effective way to make these tasks more manageable: using Spotify as a support tool.

The idea is simple: by playing music that engages my brain, I’m able to distract myself from the distractions around me and focus on the task at hand. I’ve found that this works especially well for chores like doing the dishes or folding laundry, which can be tedious and monotonous.

When I’m not feeling motivated to do a particular chore, I’ll put on a playlist on Spotify, and within a few minutes, I’m engrossed in my task and jamming to the music. I think this is because the music gives my brain something to focus on that’s upbeat and distracting, so my mind wanders less while I’m doing the relatively mindless task.

To make this work, I’ve created a playlist of my favourite songs. I call it “I love this song” because it’s all the songs that, when I hear them, I go, “I love this song!” I’ve found that this playlist is the best at getting me to do chores because I’m excited to listen to the music while I work.

Here are a few tips for using Spotify as an ADHD support tool:

  • Create a playlist of your favourite songs: This will help you get excited about listening to the music while you work.
  • Choose upbeat and engaging music: Avoid slow or mellow music, as it may make you feel lethargic.
  • Use headphones: This can help you block out external distractions and focus on the music.
  • Experiment with different genres: Different types of music may work better for different tasks, so try out a few different genres to see what works best for you.

In conclusion, using Spotify as an ADHD support tool has been a game-changer for me. It’s a simple yet effective way to make tasks like doing chores more manageable and even enjoyable. I hope this post has inspired you to give it a try, and stay tuned for more posts in this series about my favourite ADHD tools!

Written by Ron “Ziroby” Romero with assistance from ChatGPT

Unleashing the Universe: The Infinite Possibilities of Interstellar Travel

February 21, 2023

I was on the brink of a discovery that would change the course of history. My heart raced as I realized I had unlocked the secret to interstellar travel. The simplicity of it was astonishing, and I couldn’t believe that no one had thought of it before. I was on fire with excitement, envisioning the endless possibilities this breakthrough could bring. The economic, sociological, and scientific implications were staggering. I was filled with a sense of awe as I began to consider the boundless potential of this breakthrough

As I pondered over the implications of my discovery, I couldn’t help but get swept away by the potential benefits it could bring to society. It was an exciting time, and I could see the possibilities before me.

The possibilities for economic growth were mind-boggling. Interstellar travel would open up new markets, making trade and commerce between planets possible. The development of new technologies and resources from other planets could lead to tremendous wealth and prosperity. However, as I delved deeper into the economic implications, I realized that there would also be new challenges. The unequal distribution of resources, both between and within planets, could lead to greater economic instability, social unrest, and even war. The cost of interstellar travel and colonizing new planets would also be enormous, which would likely only benefit the already wealthy, further exacerbating existing economic inequalities.

The sociological impact of interstellar travel was equally complex. The chance to start fresh, with a new society free of the problems and prejudices of Earth, was tantalizing. On the other hand, the potential for discrimination, cultural conflict, and loss of identity was daunting. New social structures would have to be developed to accommodate life on other planets, which could bring about new forms of inequality. The consequences of interbreeding between different species and the psychological impact of long-term space travel on human physiology were also significant unknowns.

The scientific benefits of interstellar travel were undeniable. The discovery of new life forms, the study of other planets and their environments, and the advancement of technology were some of the most exciting possibilities. However, the potential dangers of scientific exploration were also significant. The destruction of other ecosystems, the spread of harmful bacteria and viruses, and the exploitation of other planets for their resources without regard for the consequences were all significant risks. Additionally, the temptation to use advanced technologies for unethical purposes could lead to disastrous consequences.

In the end, the simplicity of the secret to interstellar travel was astonishing. But I was sure that others had thought of it before. I couldn’t be the only one to see the potential benefits and the potential dangers, and weigh them against each other. I was certain that others had come to the same conclusion as I did, that the risks were just too great. And so, I made the difficult decision not to share the secret with anyone. It was not worth the potential harm, and I knew that others who had thought of it before must have come to the same conclusion. The secret would remain a secret, and the mysteries of the cosmos would remain unsolved, for the greater good.

Written by Ron ‘Ziroby’ Romero with assistance from ChatGPT

Image source:

AI Won’t Take Over Programming; It’ll Morph Programming 

February 4, 2023

Despite ChatGPT raising the spectre of AI replacing programmers, an experiment I did implies a shift of the role of programmers rather than replacement. Programmers will not be irrelevant in the AI-powered future. They will just “program” in a very different way.

The Screen for the ChatGPT-generated todo app.

Society will always need people to translate raw ideas into something that makes sense to a computer. The form that communication takes may change over time, as it has in the past. Today, no one programs directly in machine code. Everyone works in a higher-level language. Even compilers themselves are now written in a higher-level language, usually C (Rust may take over that privilege, but that’s another blog post). 

In the same way, in the future, no programmers will write imperative code. At some point, languages like C, Rust, and Java won’t be used by humans. I used to think that we would develop declarative languages to program in, but now that I’ve been playing with ChatGPT, I wonder if programmers in the future will use natural language to describe what they want the computer to do.

This line of thought led to me doing an experiment to see what it was like to write a real program with ChatGPT. I started simple. I asked ChatGPT to write a To-Do App in React Redux. I typed the code in and asked follow-up questions to solve the errors I got. After a great deal of back and forth with ChatGPT, I finally got a complete, working project that implements a To-Do App in React Redux. You can look at the code at in the v1-react-redux directory.

So what was it like working with ChatGPT to produce real code? It felt like I was talking to an errant child with more confidence than ability. ChatGPT always responded to my questions, but the code wasn’t a coherent whole. The first bit of code it gave me had an error in it that caused a blank page to display and an error in the console. I had to ask it to solve each error, and it didn’t always respond with the corrected original code. Instead, it would answer how to fix it in general, rather than for the specific code it generated.

Whenever a person originally learns programming, one of the things they learn is how to use the error messages received to learn how to program better. Deciphering error messages is very much a core skill for programmers. I feel like ChatGPT was lacking that ability.

I wonder what would happen if you gave ChatGPT access to a complete development environment and had it try to work out how to generate a complete project under different constraints. It seems like there’s a possibility of unsupervised learning. Or maybe it needs partially supervised learning, where a human gives it a task and it learns how to create a complete program to solve that task.

Back to the original question, will AI take over programming? My experiment showed that ChatGPT and similar programs will not take over programming. However, they will morph programming into something different. I see a future where “programmers” will talk to humans to find out what they want to be built, then talk to AIs to describe the program in terms the AI can understand. This will be a process, as the human asks the AI to refine each iteration of the program to add more to it. 

I allude to this today when people ask me to describe my job. I respond that my job is to write a task in terms that are so simple, even a computer can understand it. The future will just have the computer able to understand a task in more complex terms, but it will still need a human in the loop.

Our Castles

November 15, 2022

A man’s house is his castle,
And we build the ramparts tall.
Only by royal decree
May you enter in these walls.

We scurry home from work,
And lock ourselves in our towers.
We plug ourselves in
To burn the evening hours.

Once upon a time there were:
Porches with rocking chairs and swings,
Front doors kept unbarred,
“Come in” called to the doorbell’s ring.

How many neighbors do you know?
How many locks on your door?
How many people just stop by?
Interkingdom relations seem to be very poor.

My castle keeps me distant
From all kings, near and remote.
A man’s house is his castle.
How wide is your moat?

Thanks Prometheus

November 10, 2022

Prometheus is the name of an open source tool used for gathering metrics. I’m amazed at how appropriate the name is. 

Prometheus is the Greek god who gave fire to humankind. But there’s a lot more to that story. “Prometheus” literally means forethought, as in thinking about something and planning before you act. His brother is Epimethius, which literally means afterthought, as in doing things before you think about it and then thinking about it afterwards and going, “oops!”  Epimethius gave humankind Pandora and her box. Oops.

To the ancient Greeks, pretty much every abstract noun was a god. But they also retained their aspect as that abstract noun. That’s why when Discord wasn’t invited to a party, she sent an apple that she knew would start a fight, and when it did, there was discord, and so Discord really did attend the party.

So when we say that Prometheus gave fire to humankind, we’re also saying that the way you make a fire is through forethought. Forethought is crucial to making a fire. You need dry wood, kindling, a safe place for the fire, and the all illusive spark to start the fire, whether that spark is a flint and steel, two sticks, or a lighter that hasn’t run out of lighter fluid. To assemble these ingredients, you need to think about it before you act. You need to exercise forethought. 

That’s why it makes sense to call a metric gathering system Prometheus. To collect metrics on your system, you have to instrument the different parts. You have to instrument it before the failure that you want to analyse. 

Many applications, like your database or messaging system, have instrumentation built in. (Thank you, app developers, for your forethought). But you still have to wire it in and get it collected and sent to Prometheus. Your application code needs instrumentation added. You have to add something to expose system metrics, and for application specific metrics, you have to add the code to count and log what you’re interested in capturing. And then you need to make sure it gets to Prometheus.

Getting an application instrumented is an intricate process. And above all, it requires forethought. Thank you, Prometheus.

No dying of treatable illnesses

June 14, 2022

I was talking to a neighbor, and he was complaining about people who got NHS healthcare without paying in to NHS. I thought about it, and I think everyone should get healthcare, regards of whether they’re contributing “their fair share”. But if you’re saying a person or group of people shouldn’t get healthcare, then you’re saying they should die of treatable illnesses. I believe no one should die of a treatable illness. I believe everyone should have access to healthcare. If someone is getting healthcare without contributing, I don’t care. They are human beings. Our society has science and medicine. They should get healthcare.

I guess this means I’m in favor of worldwide universal healthcare. We’re far away from that. I believe we can reach that, but we won’t get there in a year or even a decade. Can we please move in that direction? Our society should be working out how to expand the reach of healthcare to include more people. Because no one on the planet should die of a treatable illness.

#universalhealthcare #notreatableillnessdeaths