Estimated Time of Intellectual Disability (E.T.I.D.)

Your "E.T.A." is the time when you are estimated to arrive, so I am coining the term "E.T.I.D." for the time when you are estimated to qualify for Social Security benefits on the basis of intellectual disability. As of 2010, the U.S. Social Security Administration has been publishing statistics on the number of people who receive such benefits, people to whom the government sends money each month because their I.Q. is too low to earn money for themselves. In 2010, the E.T.I.D of 141,701 U.S. citizens had already been reached. That number raised to 476,083 in the next year. If it continues to increase 335% per year, the E.T.I.D. for people with average I.Q. will occur in 2016.

That seems unlikely--we need more than two data points--but I want to tip my hat to the Social Security Administration for continuing to track this statistic. Intellectual disability is already the leading justification behind non-worker Social Security benefits (accounting for about 46%). The I.Q. cut-off to qualify for intellectual disability benefits may be fuzzy, but, at the extreme end, we find adults unable to take an I.Q. test, because, like babies, they have not yet learned any language. As adults, responsibility for their care shifts from their parents to the Social Security Administration, who refers to them as "Adult Children." Our society cannot simply abandon these people to die, nor can we expect their parents to outlive them.

Toward the middle of the fuzzy cut-off, we find adults who require help--perhaps they are unable to read beyond the third grade level--but who are able to work as animal caretakers, laundry workers, building maintenance workers, library assistants, data entry clerks, mail clerks, store clerks, messengers, cooks, printers, assemblers, factory workers, photocopy operators, grocery clerks, sales personnel, hospital attendants, housekeepers, statement clerks, automobile detail workers, or clerical aides. I get this career list from this employer's guide to the American's with Disabilities Act (ADA), a document which clarifies that it is legal to create jobs which require higher I.Q. (e.g. robotics engineer), and thus to discriminate against intellectual disability.

Introducing Baxter, one of Time Magazine's "Top 25 Innovations of 2012". Baxter is a robot designed to eliminate jobs, starting with the easy ones. Equivalent to an unskilled laborer willing to work for $1/hour, Baxter is expected to neutralize the economic justification for foreign sweatshops--Baxter will do the sweating locally--but, according to Inc. Magazine, Baxer is also expected to eliminate 30 million U.S. jobs. That's already 20% of U.S. jobs, but add the truck and taxi driving jobs to be eliminated by the Google car, and the personal assistant jobs to be eliminated by Siri, etc., and our current 8% unemployment rate sounds really mild. I'm glad to see those jobs go--I wouldn't wish jobs from the ADA list on anyone. Also, assuming inventors in our society are limited by the costs of building and distributing their inventions, we can expect the elimination of these jobs to increase invention, to spur a new golden age by freeing the creative class from having to work with the disabled.

But, on the other hand, labor costs are not what keep the intellectually disabled from being inventors, and blaming education is misleading--the impracticality of education is the defining characteristic of intellectual disability. When we talk about retraining the American workforce for a new job market, we aren't exactly talking about teaching calculus to people who require more than a lifetime to learn even to speak, but we are talking about educating people for jobs that require higher I.Q., and that simply isn't feasible, especially if I.Q. requirements rise faster than humans can learn--it's yet another example of politicians unable to sell reality. We can either relinquish human identities (and morals) by turning humans into cyborgs, or we can put more and more human beings on Social Security. Privatization of Social Security will seem less plausible as intellectual disability replaces old-age as the leading benefit reason. For example, my most recent patent application replaces medical scribes, clearly a job for above-average I.Q. As the I.Q. requirements continue to rise, we will find that even the creative class is not competent enough for the jobs of the future.

Parts of the process of assembling Baxter robots will likely be performed by Baxter robots (oblivious to the fact that they are reproducing). The idea of similar machines actually improving their own redesign is often taken to imply a technological "singularity," a point in time when machines will surpass humans as the most intelligent beings on Earth. Most experts say this will happen in the 21st century; Ray Kurzweil pegs the date at 2045. I think it is more compassionate to forecast E.T.I.D. than to forecast the date of the singularity, because each person feels the crisis at a different time. More and more people are reaching their E.T.I.D. every day, hundreds of thousands in the last year alone, and there is something inhumane about thinking we've got thirty years before we need to start caring.

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