Beta Technicians

South Africa, I’m told, is the paradigm case of handing the keys to a 1st World nation to the Marching Morons.  Rolling power outages — once inconceivable — are now routine.  Medical care, once first rate, is now 3rd World standard.  Roads are impassable, crime is out of control, and the whole place is Beyond Thunderdome… In short, as Old Hands always say with a shrug, “Africa wins again.”

You know, the same thing that happens everywhere in the wake of “decolonization.”  See also Rhodesia, from which we can hypothesize that the longer the “colonizers” hold on, the worse the inevitable crash will be.  Since we’re going to end up with a Brave New World-style competency caste system anyway, it might behoove us to start prepping now.  

I’d start by studying the military.  They won’t tell you this (because it be rayciss) but the ASVAB is your basic old-school IQ test, with some general competency questions thrown in.  War is the ultimate right-answer discipline, so the Army knows better than anyone what the word “average” means.  Everything they do — all training, all maintenance, all systems, everywhere — is of necessity oriented around the lowest common denominator, and they know to the fraction of an IQ point just which soldiers are capable of handling what tasks.

What’s the low end of the motor pool, IQ-wise?  South Africa’s rolling blackouts, I’m told, are largely due to the fact that low-IQ types can’t handle preventive maintenance.  Is this because they’re too stupid to lube a ball bearing, or because they can’t be made to see the need for preventive maintenance?  It matters — is it just IQ, or is it low IQ plus low future time orientation?  Do you need, in other words, just one maintenance man, properly instructed, or a maintenance man plus a slightly higher IQ supervisor?  One private… or a platoon of privates, plus an NCO, a lieutenant, and the whole military bureaucracy?

Or can the whole process be automated?  Since we still live in a 100 average IQ society, we tend to assume that people are cheaper than machines.  McDonald’s, for example, still finds it cheaper to pay order takers, burger flippers, fry guys, etc. than to automate the whole shebang.  But it can be automated, as the geniuses in Seattle have proved.  Right now it’s just ordering, but skim the linked article — “Flippy” the burger-flipping robot already exists; it’s only the perceived prohibitively high cost of rolling them out nationwide that keeps everyone but cashiers employed.

When the risks of human labor outweigh the costs of automation — say, burger flippers immolating an entire restaurant because they’re too stupid to run the griddle — labor will be automated.  Plus, capitalism being what it is, automation will get cheaper as demand skyrockets.  So apply that across the board.  Right now it’s much, much cheaper to pay a somewhat intelligent human technician to do the PM on the ball bearings at the power station… but, as South Africa shows, that particular cost-benefit curve is about to go negative.  I suspect a lot of mission-critical tasks could be automated, even now — Lubey the ball bearing maintenance robot might cost a few million per, but long term you only need to employ one on-call Lubey technician, not a small army of human maintenance guys… that you can’t trust not to blow the whole plant up anyway.

Let’s call that guy — the on-call technician that services Lubey the maintenance robot — your Beta Technician.  How smart does he have to be?  We might have an analogous case for that, too, in the petroleum industry.  In extreme conditions — Alaska, the North Sea — automation is cheaper than paying all but the most mission-critical humans.  A North Sea oil rig is a marvel of engineering, but it still takes a few humans to make it go.  Are these roughnecks, or roughnecks-with-PhDs?  As these are multi-million dollar investments, you can be sure that Exxon et al know to the fraction of the IQ point just how smart their rig jockeys have to be.  Maybe they’d be kind enough to share that info with us….

Any polity that takes HBD at all seriously has to start thinking these things through.  We won’t, of course, because our polity is little better than a nuclear-armed cargo cult, but we should.  If nothing else, I know some of y’all are STEM types.  Any process engineers out there?  There’s gonna be one hell of a market for idiot-proof service systems here real soon.  Let’s start an investment club.

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10 thoughts on “Beta Technicians

  1. MBlanc46

    Interesting analysis, but it does assume that the West won’t have gone down too far the South Africa path before TPTB realize that their multicultural (and debt-ridden) paradise isn’t turning out as advertised. Even if they don’t believe their own propaganda, they may well be too far committed to be able to turn the battleship around before it’s too late.

    1. Severian

      When I wrote “we,” you must’ve assumed I meant “TPTB in America.” 😉

      At this point, I’m going to start learning Russian. It’s enough of a lingua franca in the old Eastern Bloc that the only surviving White nations can still use it. We — and this time I do mean “America” — will be importing Polish, Czech, and Hungarian tech workers to keep stuff (barely) running here in a few decades.

  2. Al from da Nort

    Another variable that must be considered in any automation discussion is variance. Not only are robots costly but they are pretty inflexible (or else fabulously expensive). And in order to avoid any of the downsides of variance (robots doing the now wrong thing or doing now destructive things), one would have to envision all the possible ways things might go wrong. The more complex the system, the harder this is. And, perversely, the more important this is, since failures tend to propagate themselves rapidly in any fine-tuned, complex system.

    Since men do not have the godlike powers necessary to set all possibilities out in software, active supervision by intelligent people will always be necessary, as you mention about oil rigs.

    And besides this, robots are fixed cost, workers are semi-variable cost: You can lay off the second fry cook to reduce your costs of doing business when, not if, that business turns down. But you’re stuck with the lease payments for Robbie the Fry-Cooking Robot.

    As regards military robots, your enemies are constantly looking for ways to induce the variance that will collapse your complex systems. Likewise they will in business, just not to lethal effect. So variance that is purposeful and not ‘just’ random, like it is from nature, will always be hard to forecast.

    Bottom Line: The robot revolution is overrated due to unavoidable cost and competitive issues. So no franchise owner will automate any more than absolutely necessary due competitive pressures or to the actions of stupid and greedy politicians.

    However, there is one important caveat. The quality of the labor pool matters a lot too. An expensive robot order taker, once finally working on the new menu, will not short-change a confused customer, screw up their order deliberately out of spite or let their homies eat for free.

    1. Severian Post author

      That’s why I suggested we get some process engineers on the case. The Marching Moron future will have to sacrifice some high-end performance for streamlined, can-be-done-by-idiots-and-robots maintenance. Simpler processes, fewer moving parts.

      Kinda like the AK-47. As I understand it, the AK doesn’t do anything particularly well as a rifle. If you want accuracy, range, rate of fire, whatever, there are several better options. The one thing the AK does better than any other gun, though, is “be retard-proof.” It has something like 8 moving parts, they’re so simple that even drunk Soviet munitions workers can reliably stamp them out, and because of that it’s a snap to maintain — any dumbass can manage it in a jungle clearing — and therefore never, ever jams.

      That’s MoronTech (patent pending). Fascinating, isn’t it, going through the end of an era? Human culture reached its apex in London in 1911; I’ve come to believe that human technology peaked in Silicon Valley in the early Aughts. My kids will probably look upon their grandparents like medieval peasants regarded the Romans — a race of giants who did incomprehensible things, indistinguishable from magic.

      1. Rod1963

        Our future may look at best may look like Argentina(provided the EBT cards never stop working) or at worst like Zimbabwe. The problem is unlike Argentina our brown skins and upper class whites want all the blue collar and middle-class whites that maintain civilization to die. This makes it next to impossible to maintain any sort of civil society let alone a 1st world civilization.

        You can’t have a 1st world society without whites keeping the infrastructure working. And contrary to popular and HBD opinion, they are not stupid. It takes brains and skill. Not to mention being mentored by a senior tech since most of those jobs fall under the category of “trades”. A good portion of your skill is learned on the job.

        Looking at ASVAB test scores It takes a minimum of a 110 IQ just to get into the technical school and no guarantee that you will pass. Even at 110 that’s the low end. If you don’t have a 120 IQ and you’re expected to maintain a F-22 avionics suite, it’s not happening not unless you have a senior tech hand holding you.

        And here’s the thing. The military has it streamlined like hell. It’s tech manuals are loaded with trouble shooting flow charts, diagrams, some even look like comic books, etc. Still it takes literate, intelligent, well trained men to keep their gear working. I know I used to work as a avionic tech for the USAF. Later I worked as a electrician and instrumentation tech at a cement plant. So I’m pretty damn familiar with what it takes in the brain power department to keep shit running.

        You can’t lower the IQ standards anymore than it is our society and expect it to keep running. If you did you’d end up with Detroit on a nationwide scale.

        1. Al from da Nort

          What you say is pretty much right-on. Also, as I know from similar-but-earlier experience is that the military also *compartmentalizes* the tasks. It seems stupid and inefficient at first (and it is the latter). But sooner or later you come to understand that it makes important tasks a lot like LRU’s (line replaceable units) so on-scene commanders can hope to isolate demonstrated incompetence, keeping it from cascading throughout the ‘system’.

          For the benefit of non-aircraft maintenance types, LRU’s are functionally related parts (e.g. the radar altimeter package) specifically designed so that they can be pulled out intact, (hopefully) replaced by a spare LRU and the broken one sent to a depot for rework by skilled workers who did nothing else.

          During the Cold War we sure hoped there was a big hidden cache of LRU’s and parts somewhere else ’cause we were entirely too close the line on local stock levels even for peacetime. Of course, those that had been over the pond in SE Asia assured us that if the balloon went up, most of the rules (like having two of every instrument working or else the aircraft was grounded) went out the window.

          Speaking of comic book manuals, see if you can get yourself a copy of the 1967 (?) version of the one for the M14. It’s pre-PC hoot. Scantily clad, big haired, big boobie instructors, etc.

          1. Severian

            I think the Germans actually pioneered that one — there’s a comic book manual for running one of the Tiger models (I think). As the Wehrmacht started scraping the bottom of the manpower barrel pretty early, they had to get innovative with their training.

            [Funny how the more you learn about WW2, the more respect you get for the Axis’ staff work. The Japanese Army thought it had reached the bottom of the barrel before Pearl Harbor, for pete’s sake, and they kept on fighting well. The Wehrmacht was a fearsome fighting force almost to the bitter end. It’s incredible].

          2. Al from da Nort

            Right you are about German comic manuals late in the war. The art is pretty good in the later version, maps and line drawings earlier on. They had such a manual for the Panther Series of tanks as well. See ‘German Panzer Tactics’ for examples.

  3. WOPR

    Of course oil rig workers are PhD’s, I watched ‘Armageddon.’ Joking aside, I had an acquaintance whose step brother was an oil rig worker. I got the impression he wasn’t a PhD IQ(STEM type), but he was pretty sharp. I figure a lot of those guys are the types that if they set their minds to it are dangerous. They combine intelligence/physicality/practicality at about the optimum level.

    I’ll second what Al from da Nort stated very well.

    The problem with MoronTech (used with permission) is it tends to start a spiral of ever more moron technology because there has never been something a moron can’t mess up. But, your probably right that we’ve peaked and are in for a long downhill slide. Someone made a statement that a millennia from now, as our ancestors huddle around some steam powered warmth, they’ll scoff at the notion that anyone could fight a war with millions of machines and men.

  4. The Eleventh

    “Africa wins again.”

    Also known as, “regression to the mean”, in statistical nomenclature.

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