Anatomy of the American Death Spiral

America is struggling in a way that it never has before. This is not like the last times. It’s not a recession. It’s not even a depression. It’s a catastrophe.

Here’s some additional context around what I’m talking about here.

The reason this time is so different is that Americans have always had something solid to fall back on when things fell apart. 

  1. We’ve had religion.

  2. We drew meaning from raising children.

  3. We drew meaning from doing a day’s work.

We no longer have those things.

After the great depression, and the recession of 2008 to a large degree, there were jobs to go back to. That’s the big difference between those crises and what we’re facing now: it’s not that the jobs went away for a little while, it’s that they’re going away forever.

Religion and work have been eroded by knowledge and technology, and our focus on ourselves has largely surpassed our desire to sacrifice everything for our offspring.

This creates a Meaning Gap, and its vacuum is consuming everything we care about.

Jobs used to pay so much you could support two families on a single paycheck.

Some standup comedian

It’s a sad joke because it speaks to a primitive time where it was (almost) ok to have a mistress. But imagine being able to actually raise a family on what a parent brings in from a single, stable job.

Cause and effect

People don’t realize how essential good work is to the American psyche. And they also don’t realize how inevitable the progress is that’s removing that work.

Companies don’t owe us jobs, they owe shareholders profits. And they’re doing their absolute best to use AI, robotics, and other types of automation to replace the single largest drain on their bottom line: human workers.

Unsupervised Learning — Security, Tech, and AI in 10 minutes…

Get a weekly breakdown of what's happening in security and tech—and why it matters.

As the jobs go away, and young males feel increasingly less valuable, they will be contorted into various demented shapes and behaviors—often including total withdrawal into video games, or acting out violently against a world that doesn’t need them.

You can’t get a president like the one we have today in a happy country.

Once the emptiness reaches enough people (which it clearly already has), we’ll start becoming vulnerable to extremely dangerous political rhetoric.

We’ll start believing that it’s not the technology and automation and natural human progress that’s the issue, but it’s the Blacks or the Mexicans or the Democrats that took everything away from them. Scapegoating is so predictable because it’s so effective.

In order to survive what’s coming, we are going to need to realize a few things:

  1. It’s inevitable.

  2. It’s a natural result of human progress.

  3. It’s not caused by various groups around you who are benefitting from it.

Defusing any of those three would help us get through this, and would help vaccinate against the viral nature of hate rhetoric.

But that’s not the path we’re currently on. We’re currently on the path to blaming others and backing whoever will punish them the most.

America helped bring us the industrial revolution, and it’s going to be the first to experience the post-work revolution where most people simply aren’t needed for regular jobs like before.

The transition will be the hardest thing we’ve ever faced, and I hope we can survive it.

Related posts: