The newest IDW disinformation machine kicked off recently courtesy of the coiner of the phrase ‘intellectual dark web,’ Eric Weinstein, in his new podcast entitled The Portal. In its inaugural episode, Weinstein interviews his boss, and aspiring vampire, Peter Thiel. Yeah, that guy.
At one point in the needlessly lengthy sit-down with his boss, who he can’t really challenge on anything because he works for the guy, meaning Weinstein is essentially giving a platform to a billionaire to spout a bunch of nonsense, unchecked— because, why not — Thiel talks about how he isn’t big on UBI because he doesn’t see automation as a threat. He thinks it’s overblown. Maybe he’s right. Maybe not. Let’s take a closer look at his reasoning on this.
At about the 1:12 mark, a little bit after Weinstein tells Thiel how extraordinary he is and how the “median individual” is going to keep getting left behind by people like him, Thiel starts making his case against automation taking jobs, eventually pointing out how secretaries aren’t being automated away. He mentions how people still have secretaries, ergo this job is safe from automation.
Naturally, Weinstein says nothing and this is accepted as a legitimate argument. But is it? Of course not. And you rarely get legitimate arguments when two wealthy white guys are pontificating about the lives of everyday people, you know, “median individuals.” Looking at facts instead going by whatever fantasies about secretaries are lodged in Thiel’s misinformed head, we see according to the BLS that the outlook for secretaries and administrative assistants is a reduction in total employment of about 192,000 (-5%) in the period between 2016 and 2026. In the same period, the US is expected to have a total population growth of 7%, meaning the secretaries and administrative assistants per capita is going down by even more than 5%.
But what about up until now? As we know, technology has been growing since before the dawn of civilization. Pinsetters were automated away nearly 80 years ago. And when’s the last time you were answered by a human being when you tried to contact your bank? I can’t remember, either. What about secretaries and administrative assistants? We can see, again from querying the BLS database, that in this millennium, the total number of people in the office and administrative support sector (which includes secretaries and administrative assistants) has dropped from 20.448 million to 17.655 million. It has dropped in all but three years since 2000. All of this despite the population rising from 281 million to 329 million in that same time period. Office and administrative support personnel went from being about 7.3% of the population to being 5.4% of the population. Almost three million such jobs vanished in 20 years. And, as we’ve seen, it’s projected to keep dropping in the case of secretaries and administrative assistants.
But I’m not writing about secretaries and administrative assistants. I’m not even writing about automation. I’m writing about how worthless the intellectual dark web is. There is absolutely zero value in wealthy white men talking to each other about how a profession that has traditionally represented a large portion of middle-class women in the workforce is doing just fine. It’s actually negative value, because these uninformed clowns are lying to themselves, each other, and the viewers. And yet they believe themselves, each other, and the audience laps it up, uncritically. It is intellectual bankruptcy. There is nothing cool, edgy, or revolutionary about this. Human civilization does not grow from disconnected, entitled people making counterfactual statements to each other and recording themselves doing it.
This is the worst kind of echo chamber, and yet the intellectual dark web will not shut up about diversity of ideas and opinions. If you want to be genuine about that, why not interview an administrative assistant who lost their job in the last 20 years and ask them how they feel about UBI, the state of the workforce, automation, and how careers traditionally populated by women are doing? Why not look up a fact before popping off about things you know absolutely nothing about?