31 May 2024

Mixed Feelings About The Tradwife Movement

I'm not disposed to think harshly of the tradwife movement, even though it is full of Millennials and Zoomers who are glamorizing an era they never lived. Those Millennials tend not to acknowledge the many serious problems facing wives in that era and may not even be aware existed. It was a time when wives often couldn't have a bank account, or at least a credit card of their own, couldn't take out a mortgage, and lived in circumstances when their husbands do do bad things to them with impunity. 

So, why am I less concerned about them?

Homemaking Can Make Sense For Most Wives Some Of The Time

For all that current norms make clear that it shouldn't be women's fate or obligation, the reality is that a very large share of all adult American women will spend a few to a great many years of their lives as full time homemakers in a married couple. 

Raising kids is a tough job. It's hard to do when both parents work. And, trying to have both parents equally share money earning and parenting responsibilities equally, rather than having them specialize their roles in the family, isn't always the best option.

Indeed, a family where a wife is a homemaker is most likely to happen these days in college educated couples, because they're the only ones who can afford to do so. 

One of the important reasons we have a legally recognized institution of marriage at all is so that mothers of young children (there are exceptions to this pattern but it is the predominant one) can feel secure and have legal protections for their well-being if they take the economic risks associated with being a homemaker within a couple for a while. 

The Economic Prosperity Of The Era Being Glamorized Was Nice.

Plenty of folks on both the left and on the right politically are nostalgic for the economic prosperity of the 1950s and 1960s. This economic prosperity made this family structure a viable possibility for most people, because you could afford to raise multiple children, and own a home and car, on one man's income then, even if you had only a high school education and a rank and file worker job. 

There insurmountable reasons that we can't restore the sources of that prosperity

Some of the economic circumstances that made that happen can't be restored, others can. In the 1950s and 1960s, the United States was a global economic manufacturing powerhouse that created lots of demand at businesses for workers who didn't have to be very educated, intellectually talented, or skilled, which was fortunately, because high school diplomas were almost as rare as college degrees are today.

In part, this was a product of the fact that World War II was fought in the rest of the world in Europe and Asia, and that war destroyed the civilian manufacturing industry, while apart from a single day at Pearl Harbor, World War II was not fought in U.S. territory leaving it unscathed. And, World War II had also established a massive industrial base that was used to conduct the war effort of the United States and its allies in the places where World War II was being fought which could be swiftly converted to civilian production when the war was over. Everyone else with the money to buy goods was outsourcing their manufacturing to the U.S. while they were rebuilding a post-war society from the rubble that the war left behind. This economic situation can't be restored. 

There are now countries with manufacturing economies all over the world. Some of these countries that got started on a low wage, lightly regulated model to undercut U.S. factories that were more expensive, like Mexico, China, Vietnam and Thailand. There are also other countries with strong manufacturing economies like Germany, South Korea, and Japan, that have much higher wages and much greater regulation but have managed to master labor-management relations better than the U.S. did and automated their operations sufficiently to make up for their higher labor and compliance costs. The U.S. manufacturing industry has followed the high wages and automation path of Germany, South Korea, and Japan, but has done so only successfully enough to keep domestic manufacturing output more or less flat with fewer workers, and a declining share of goods sold domestically manufactured. The U.S. imports a lot of the manufactured goods that it consumes from these countries, because they've developed a competitive advantage compared to the U.S. in this part of their economies.

The favorability of the 1950s and 1960s for less educated workers was also a product of the fact that manufacturing technology was still pretty primitive. There was very little automation and lots of rote manual labor that was required. Since then, manufacturing has become much more automated, and factory work now requires skilled technicians who usually have at least associate's degrees, if not more education, to run the machines that do the rote work that used to be done with manual labor. It is a transition that has been made possible because a vastly larger share of the U.S. adult population is better educated now than it was in the 1950s and 1960s. This is another economic situation can't be restored.

But, other parts of the 1950s and 1960s era of economic prosperity may be possible to restore. Lots of people don't know it, but that era was also dominated by pervasive and powerful unions who went on strike a lot, and had very high taxes on the most affluent taxpayers, which were invested in infrastructure, education, and other long term public sector investments that made our society more prosperous.

Our modern economy relies not just on having lots of people who show up to work and do their jobs, but also on the intellectual knowledge, skills, and talents of those workers. Modern technologies require those intellectual aptitudes at a level required to be sufficiently productive, and a much smaller share of the population has those aptitudes, than the share of the population that was suitable for manufacturing work in the economy of the 1950s and 1960s. 

Even in countries that have used public policy to be more equitable than the current U.S. economy, a productivity divide still exists in their workforces to a similar degree to the U.S. But, those countries use taxes and social welfare programs run by the government more heavily than the U.S. to equalize outcomes. 

A Society With Stable Marriages Into Which Most Children Are Born Isn't Unattractive.

While some of the legal and economic and social forces that kept the divorce rate low then were and are problematic, it is also true that divorce rates were very low, and out of wedlock birth rates were also very low (at least in the early part of this time frame for everyone, and in the later part of this time frame for everyone but black families with fathers who were not high school graduates). 

Nobody feels warm fuzzy feelings about divorces, even when they are the lesser evil for a married couple, and nobody wishes that a larger share of children were born to single mothers from couples that couldn't manage to stick together. 

In East Asia, they have stable marriages and few out of wedlock births at the cost of few marriages that are often late in life, record low numbers of births overall, and multigenerational caretaking pressures in marriage that lots of women aren't willing to tolerate, so it isn't impossible even though it has high hidden costs. 

In Northern Europe, they have unstable marriages, often late in life, and lots of out of wedlock births, made possible by strong social safety nets, and low but not quite as low birth rates overall, and more personal freedom and individual actualization. 

Neither leading approach in the world to organizing marriage and parenting at the societal level in the developed world is without its drawbacks. 

In the U.S., we have ended up with a system that charts a third way with an intense marriage divide associated with socio-economic class and education. U.S. marriages are almost as solid as they were in the 1960s and out of wedlock births are rare among college graduates, but marriages are increasingly uncommon and fragile when they happen among people with no college education, and couples with no college education who eventually marry, on average, have kids first, and marry a few years later. 

The reason for the divide is counterintuitive and isn't one that college educated feminists would applaud or acknowledge. The marriages of college educated women in the U.S. are solid, and their children tend to be born after these women marry, because the lifetime career earning penalty for leaving the workforce to be a homemaker when and if a wife tries to return to her pre-parenthood career, is much steeper for college educated women in administrative and professional careers than it is for women without college educations whose careers don't require lots of uninterrupted experience to maximize one's earnings.

A woman who is a doctor or a lawyer who takes six years out of the work force to raise children when they are little may end up making half or less of the salary that they would have been making at the same age if they'd not had children and continued working in that time period. In contrast, a woman who is a waitress or day care worker or receptionist or CNA is going to make about the same income when they return to the workforce after six years at home taking care of their children as their peers who didn't have kids and worked continuously at the same job the whole time do. Meanwhile, a professional doctor or lawyer husband who continues to work uninterrupted while his wife stays at home with the kids will see his income increase substantially over six years, while a husband who is a plumber or CNA or truck driver who has stayed in the work force for those six years will still be earning about the same amount as he did six years earlier adjusted only for inflation. And, the high school only educated husband is likely to have significant bouts of lengthy unemployment from time to time during which he will be an economic burden on his family which creates a powerful economic incentive for his working wife to divorce him, while a college educated husband is likely to have uninterrupted prosperity and find new, decent paying employment fairly swiftly if he loses his job for some reason.

As a result, in a college educated couple, wives who have been homemakers for a few years become much more economically dependent upon their husbands than wives in college educated couples who aren't nearly so economically dependent upon their husbands and will periodically have husbands who are economically dependent upon them. Economic dependency is the biggest part of the glue that keeps college educated couples together with kids born in wedlock, that is absent in working class couples, although better social and interpersonal skills among college educated couples, and cultural norms about marriage and parenting the emerge from peer pressures when the economic incentives work the way that they usually do for people like you, may play a modest secondary role in this divide as well.

The economic dependency of wives with many children with their husband in an economy where few occupations and jobs were open to women and those that were available didn't pay well drove the stability and frequency of marriage and of having children within marriage in the 1950s and 1960s as well, as much as legal formalities like the availability of divorces only based upon fault and ill-developed systems for reliably obtaining child support and alimony in the event of a divorce.

Now, this doesn't mean that all college educated women end up being "tradwives". Lots of Millennials and Zoomers buck tradition and just don't have kids at all and never leave the workplace and never become economically dependent upon their husbands or partners. Some of them do become homemakers and become somewhat economically dependent upon their husbands. But, even then, their college educations mean that they can still make much better money if they return to the workforce than women in the 1950s and 1960s did. Birth control and abortion mean that modern homemakers are likely to have one or two kids, rather than three or four or five of them, also making it easier to return to the workforce sooner. Divorce is now available on a no-fault basis, and child support and alimony awards are a lot more predictable and collectible so long as your ex-husband has a decent income, which college educated men generally do (and if a college educated man willfully earns less to spite his wife's ability to get child support and alimony from him, modern legal doctrines punish him severely). Wives and ex-wives today have more economic rights of their own than they did in the 1950s and 1960s in practical reality at least. And, wives today have much strong institutional and cultural support than wives in the 1950s and 1960s did if a husband is abusive towards his family.

In short, while college educated wives still have enough economic dependency on their husbands to make waiting to have kids until marriage worth it, and to make staying married worthwhile, unlike wives in the 1950s and 1960s, their economic dependency and legal status is not so low that they need to stay married even when their situation is horrible.

And, lets face it. Unless your marriage was unimaginably horrible, divorce is not a desirable thing for anyone even if it may be, on balance in someone's opinion, the best available option. 

It is the exception and not the norm for a divorced person to not rant emotionally about that experience. Shuttling kids between households under the usual shared parenting arrangement is complicated, cumbersome, takes more social skills to manage than parenting while married to your co-parent did, and leaves both resulting household for the children poorer because the large and very real economies of scale that come from living in a single household are lost and because the parents have lots the benefits that having specialized parenting v. higher income employment did. Sometimes stepparents, and prospective stepparents, really are evil towards their stepchildren and that isn't good for the kids. And, often, divorced couples with shared children have to return to the courthouse multiple times because they can't agree on how to handle inevitable changes in the parents' employment and living situations and as the children grow up and have different needs. Single motherhood is a recipe for poverty and hardship and a missing male role model for a child, even though an absent father can make living and parenting a lot more conflict-free than an involved father who the mother doesn't want as a spouse.

Trusting Your Spouse Doesn't Make You A Bad Person And Presents Less Risk Now Than It Used To.

Certainly, there is also nothing so horrible about being a woman who is an idealist who loves and trusts her husband so much that she has faith that their husband won't abuse their relationship in which she is trying her best to reciprocate by treating him well. 

The actual reality is that people are often blind to the darker potentials for mishaps in their own personal lives than they are in the lives of others from which they have more distance. 

But a little hope and trust and idealism isn't morally blameworthy. And, in any case, for better or for worse, modern day tradwives who cultivate marriages along these lines still have more institutional protections for themselves against abuses of their relationship with their husbands than their predecessors in the 1950s and 1960s did if things do go wrong, a discussed above. 

Women have more rights now which makes the relationship less of a risk if it doesn't go well even if many tradwives don't realize how much better they have it than wives did in the 1950s and 1960s and take their protections for granted. If a pregnancy threatens to lock a woman into a bad relationship and dependency for many years to come, she can unilaterally get an abortion in many states to prevent that, something that was not an option back then.

Many Tradwives don't Acknowledge That Their Lifestyle Is Only Possible With Privilege

If anything, the most prominent and outspoken tradwives of today can be faulted most for their failure to acknowledge the economic privileges that they personally as individuals enjoy which makes this lifestyle possible for them, when it isn't possible for others who aren't so lucky. 

This lifestyle is only possible if your husband is very economically successful in a way that is very stable and sustainable. Their failure to recognize that this isn't a lifestyle that is economically feasible for most people in their generation, whether their less privileged peers would want to emulate them or not, can be a problem. 

The problem is that their message can lead to economic ruin and hardship and unhappy traps for women in tradwive styles couples if the husband is not so economically prosperous and secure. The "tradwife for all" ideal can unfairly shame and denigrate husbands and potential husbands who are good partners interpersonally in a relationship, but aren't quiet so economically elite.

If you have a solid income that is economically stable, you are a desirable husband to someone who is interested in the tradwife lifestyle. But if you don't make all that much money and have an education and career that leaves you with bouts of unemployment or an unsteady income, you and your wife need to be a two career couple to make your family work economically, and that isn't a good fit to the tradwife model.

What Has The Economic Cost Of The Ukraine War Been?

What Has The Economic Cost Of The Ukraine War Been?

The relatively direct economic costs of the Ukraine War over the last 27 months have been roughly $2,250 billion U.S. dollars

This includes the economic value of deaths and physical injuries to civilians and military personnel alike, damage to civilian property, relocation costs for displaced persons, psychological care costs for war related trauma, losses of income and economic production, operational military costs, and losses of military equipment to Russia and Ukraine combined from the war and related economic sanctions. 

It also includes the cost of foreign aid that other countries have given to Ukraine in connection with the Ukraine War, and increased military spending by other European countries over the last two years that has been incurred in response to the Ukraine War and what it indicates about the threat of Russian aggression.

This estimate excludes global macroeconomic effects of the war on countries other than Russia and Ukraine, apart from the costs that governments other than Russia and Ukraine have incurred to provide foreign aid to Ukraine and to strengthen their own defenses in light of heightened Russian aggression. These macroeconomic costs are almost certainly non-zero, and almost certainly amount to many billions, tens of billions, or hundreds of billions of dollars. But the indirect global macroeconomic effects of the Ukraine War outside of Russia and Ukraine are exceedingly difficult to credibly disentangle from myriad other macroeconomic impacts on the global economy. 

Perhaps those macroeconomic impacts were $450 billion over 27 months (less than $17 billion per month), which is only a very thinly supported guess, but is in the right economic ballpark. If so, then the Ukraine War has cost the 8 billion people who live on Earth, as a whole, about $100 billion U.S. dollars a month so far, about $12.50 U.S. dollars per person per month, for everyone in the entire world.

This analysis also ignores the existential global threat to humanity's survival caused by Russia's threats to escalate the conflict into nuclear warm, and the global impacts economic and military that have flowed from Russia brining us closer to World War III.

Details regarding how this was determined in each category are summarized in the remainder of this post.

Whose Fault Is This Immense Economic Cost?

This immense cost to the world as a whole, can reasonably be considered the personal responsibility of Vladimir Putin, Russia's President, who authorized the invasion of Ukraine and has been the driving force Russia's continued prosecution of the war. 

There were no significant political factions within Russia pushing to conquer Ukraine before Putin initiated the war, and he did so with very little consultation with, or preamble directed at, the Russian general public, Russian elected officials, or Russian economic elites (the so called "oligarchs"). 

Even many key members of the inner circle of Putin's cabinet and advisors, and many senior military officials in parts of the military that weren't involved in the invasion in 2024 were kept out the loop in the process by which Russia decided to invade Ukraine.

This war is one of the clearest cases in history of an international war which was unequivocally started unilaterally by the aggression of a single country, in violation of international law, pursuant to an international law obligation which it expressly recognized in a treaty not long before the first stage of the war in year 2014, when the Russia purported to annex and took de facto control of Crimea and most of the territory in eastern Ukraine which it controls now. There had been a de facto cease fire in the wake of the 2014 stage of the Ukraine war for a decade, before Russia began a far more expansive effort to conquer the entire Ukrainian state on February 24, 2024.

The Ukraine War aptly illustrates the fact that a handful of highly culpable rogue national leaders account for an outsized share of the geopolitical threats and misery in the world. 

Yet, this seems like a problem that it wouldn't be impossible for some future international institutions to address in a manner that could gain a wide global consensus from non-rogue nations, to the enormous benefit of the world as a whole, and without fundamentally upsetting the parts of the current world order that work well enough.

Combined Russian and Ukrainian Military Losses

Neither Russia nor Ukraine disclose their own military losses in the current Ukraine war between them which started when Russia launched an all out attack on Ukraine on February 24, 2022. But they do make claims about the military losses that they have inflicted on the other side in the war. 

These may be used as upper bounds on the severity of the losses inflicted, but independently verified numbers, which are admittedly incomplete since not all losses can be verified independently, and credible third-party estimates, do suggest that each side's claims made by losses inflicted are in the right ballpark. Ukraine's claims, in particular, are close to accurate (although Ukraine words its statements about losses of Russian soldiers as if they were all were all killed, when in reality most personnel losses on both sides are injuries not mortal, soldiers captures as prisoner's of war, and desertions).

Ukraine has suffered fewer military losses than Russia, but has suffered the lion's share of civilian casualties and civilian property damage in the conflict, because Ukrainian territory has been the site of the vast majority (although not all) of the fighting, and because Ukraine has taken more care to not indiscriminately target civilians than Russia.

Combined, the combatants claims that more than 630,000 Russian and Ukrainian troops have been killed, injured, been taken prisoner, or deserted in 27 months. Of these, perhaps 90,000 troops have been killed, while 540,000 or so have been seriously injured, taken prisoner, or deserted. 

The military equipment losses of Russia and Ukraine combined in the 27 month long war include up to 27 Russian warships (including one Russian submarine) and all of Ukraine's meager pre-war navy which it destroyed to prevent its ships from begin captured, 962 warplanes, 600 military helicopters, far more than 26,992 aerial drones and cruise missiles, 1,339 anti-aircraft systems, 24,353 multiple rocket launchers and artillery systems, 38,814 tanks and armored vehicles, and 39,942 unarmored military vehicles. 
The General Staff of Ukraine's Armed Forces posts figures on Russia's troop and equipment losses as part of its daily update on Moscow's full-scale invasion of the country, which began on February 24, 2022. 
It said Russia lost 22 armored personnel vehicles in the past day, bringing the total number to 14,913. Both Moscow and Kyiv have lost significant amounts of personnel and equipment amid a recent ramped up push by Russia in Ukraine's east to seize territory. Kyiv said this month it had stabilized the situation on the front line after the Kremlin's forces kick-started an offensive in the Kharkiv region on May 10, seizing a number of villages on Ukraine's northeastern frontier. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has claimed that Russian losses during its Kharkiv offensive were eight times higher than Ukraine's.  
The General Staff of Ukraine's Armed Forces also said Russia lost 1,160 soldiers over the past day, bringing the total to 506,260. Moscow has also lost a total of 7,710 tanks, 13,101 artillery systems, 17,849 vehicles and fuel tanks, 815 anti-aircraft warfare systems, 2,222 cruise missiles, 357 military jets, 326 helicopters, and 27 warships in the war. . . . 
A U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency assessment leaked in April 2023 said that Ukraine had suffered 124,500 to 131,000 casualties, including 15,500 to 17,500 dead.
Russia's Defense Ministry said in its latest update on Wednesday that its military has so far destroyed 605 Ukrainian aircraft, 274 helicopters, 24,770 unmanned aerial vehicles, 524 anti-aircraft missile systems, 16,191 tanks and other armored combat vehicles, 1,322 combat vehicles of multiple launch rocket systems, 9,930 pieces of field artillery and mortars, as well as 22,093 units of special military vehicles.

Via a May 30, 2024 story in Newsweek.

Valuing military lives at a fairly standard figure used in cost-benefit analyses in civilian life, of $5 million each, and other military casualties at $100,000 each, the combined loss of life and injuries to military personnel can be valued at about $500 billion U.S. dollars.

Major warships and submarines cost perhaps $1 billion each, and lesser warships cost at least $100 million each. Warplanes cost perhaps $20 million each and military helicopters cost at least $10 million each. Anti-aircraft systems, multiple rocket launcher and artillery systems, tanks, and armored vehicles each average something on the order of $1 million each. Unarmored vehicles, aerial drones, and cruise missiles average at least $100,000 each. The replacement value of the combined equipment losses in the war appears to be in the ballpark of $100 billion U.S. dollars.

Thus, Russia and Ukraine combined have suffered about $600 billion U.S. dollars of military losses in the last 27 months of the Ukraine War.

Combined Russian and Ukrainian Military Operational Costs

Russia has spent about $530 billion on fielding military forces to conduct the Ukraine War. Ukraine has spent about $150 billion on fielding military forces to conduct the Ukraine War (basically its entire military budget of $65 billion a year since its entire military is devoted more or less exclusively to fighting this war).

Thus, Russia and Ukraine combined have spent about $680 billion U.S. dollars to field military forces to conduct the Ukraine War.

Ukraine's Civilian Losses

According to Oxfam, as of 22 February 2024 (the latest data available), 10,582 civilians have been killed in the conflict and 19,875 civilians have been wounded in the conflict. Valuing civilian deaths and serious injuries on the same basis of military deaths and serious injuries set forth above, the economic value of civilian deaths and injuries in the last 27 months of the Ukraine war can be valued at $55 billion U.S. dollars.

In addition to all of these other costs, probably at least 25 million civilians (about 40% of the population of Ukraine) have suffered psychological traumas and/or minor injuries that will require at least some medical care or psychological care during their lives as a result of the war. Even valued at a modest $1,000 per person, representing a few months of psychotherapy or some urgent care treatments, the economic cost of this psychological care and treatment for minor injuries to people not classified as civilians wounded in the war, is not less than $25 billion U.S. dollars.

One of Ukraine's universities has estimated that Ukraine has suffered about $155 billion U.S. dollars of property damage in the war. 

Ukraine's GDP has taken a roughly 30% hit (i.e. $60 billion per year) as a result of the war from a prewar starting point of about $200 billion per year. For a total hit of $150 billion over 27 months.

About 10 million people have been displaced by the Ukraine War, about a third internally, and two-thirds of whom are refugees. The cost of internal displacements is probably at least $10,000 U.S. dollars per person, and the cost of fleeing the country and living abroad is probably at least $20,000 U.S. dollars per person. On this basis, the economic cost of these displacements is on the order of $150 billion U.S. dollars.

Thus, Ukraine has suffered a total of about $535 billion U.S. dollars of civilian economic harm.

Russia's Civilian Losses

As a very crude estimate, based upon the relative proportions of civilian deaths, civilian injuries, and property damages to Russia and Ukraine, Russia may have suffered $15 billion U.S. dollars of military action caused civilian deaths, injuries, and property damage in Russia itself. 

Civilian property damage in Russian annexed parts of Ukraine dating back to 2014 (mostly parts of eastern Ukraine which it controls and a lesser amount in Crimea) is probably on the order of $100 billion.

Sanctions have cost Russia about $30 billion. Other war related harm to the Russian economy has been more or less offset by increased wartime production and rising oil and gas prices. Russia's GPP has declined about 2% of a prewar $2,240 billion U.S. dollar annual GDP, which is about $50 billion U.S. dollars. But $30 billion of this amount is double counted as Russian losses due to economic sanctions.

Thus, Russia has suffered a total of about $165 billion U.S. dollars of civilian economic harm.

Economic Harm To Countries Other Than Russia And Ukraine

European governments other than Russia and Ukraine have also felt the need spend about $100 billion U.S. dollars to strengthen their own military defenses as a result of the heightened threat to their security that the conflict has made evident over the two years sine the Ukraine War started.

Ukraine has received about $170 billion U.S. dollars of foreign aid, mostly from the U.S. and Europe, during the current Ukraine War.

In both cases, I have converted Euros to U.S. dollars at about $1.10 U.S. dollars per Euro, roughly the exchange rate, at the time of this post, between these currencies. 

It appears that while Russia has sold goods to countries that support, or at least do not oppose it, in the Ukraine War, and has been able to find some countries like North Korea and Iran, who have been willing to sell weapons to it, in fair market value transactions, that it has not received any meaningful amount of foreign aid in connection with its Ukraine War effort.

Thus, the Ukraine War has caused about $270 billion U.S. dollars of direct economic harm to countries other than Russia and Ukraine.

30 May 2024

Most Construction Work Should Relocate To Factories

Manufacturing large modules for a building off-site and then assembling them in a couple of days on site has all sorts of benefits over on site stick built construction. And, this is one area where China is far ahead of the United States in technology and economic organization.

U.S. construction firms, to a great extent, operates like pre-industrial craft shops in the manufacturing industry, that never updated themselves to the modern, maximally automized and optimized factory production model.

Manufacturing large modules for a building off-site in construction projects is significantly cheaper than getting the same work done on site.

The number of workers required is significantly lower without the hurry up and wait of traditional construction projects. You can spread the work over the entire years rather than being limited by weather to the building season, which provides more stable employment with a steady paycheck and regular hours. Workers at a factory can live close to a factory whose location never changes that can be transit accessible, and workers who drive to work can use designated factory employee parker that doesn't disrupt the neighborhood where they are working. Factory workers can use real bathrooms with running water and sinks, instead of porta-potties and sometimes hand sanitizer, and can enjoy pleasant break rooms with refrigerators and microwaves and nice coffee machines and TVs, or go to familiar neighborhood restaurants to have lunch. 

In contrast, in the status quo, most construction work is seasonal, workers work unpredictable long hours when conditions are good and have unpredictable unpaid interruptions due to weather and other onsite project delays associated with sequencing tasks in the complex PERT chart that face all sorts of random interuptions, and workers have to drive to different construction sites on a daily or weekly basis all over the region where their construction firm operates. 

On site workers swamp the neighborhood's publicly available parking on and off for weeks, have to use grotty temporary toilets, often can't wash up with running water, constantly contend with dust, mud, dew, frost, wind, chills, heat, pre-existing electrical and gas lines, darkness, glare, and construction debris at sites whose configurations constantly change even during the course of a single construction project.

For example, many of my Colorado relatives on my father's side, are dry land farmers on the Eastern Plains which occupies them during planting and harvesting season, and then migrate to Front Range cities and mountain towns for construction work much of the rest of the year to make ends meet. not that I'll ever really get why they sink so much multifaceted skill and expensive land, water rights, and equipment into something so uncertain due to fires, droughts, hail, etc. and so unprofitable in all but the best of years.

When you construct a building on site, you need to negotiate new combinations of subcontractors on a project by project basis and have only limited control over how those subcontractors do their jobs, which adds a great deal of administrative and management expense, while impairing quality control, uniform safety rules, and efficiency. In a factory, in contrast, you don't have to renegotiate the organizational structure of the factory for each new project.

Since everyone in a factory is an employee you can impose stricter quality control and safety rules and use workers more efficiently. It is easier to get workers in a factory who smoke to do so in designated areas that spare fellow workers secondary smoke and prevents fire risks,  than it is to enforce that at an on site construction project.

In onsite construction, construction workers are notorious for showing up late or not at all. This isn't simply a matter of construction workers being worse people than other employees. 

An office or factory worker can follow a routine and let habits take over, and when they arrive, what they need to start working will generally naturally and almost automatically be in place be virtue of the structure of the workplace which doesn't change much. And, office and factory workers aren't exposed to the same risks of occupational injuries and illnesses (and the away from work time necessary to treat them), that on site construction workers are on a daily basis.

In contrast, construction workers have to have the bandwidth every day to keep up with a constant barrage of changing schedules at different places with unfamiliar transportation times to get there due to traffic and construction and have to keep track of all the tools, equipment, safety gear and supplies that they need for each particular job. Often, at least somebody has been hurt or get sick from events at some previous job (often different jobs for different workers). And, those construction workers aren't conditioned to the expectation that everything will be on time, because often it isn't and they don't feel the obligation to hold themselves to higher standards. The delays that foster disrespect for exact work times flow, in part, from the fact that project managers need to make sure that everything the workers need before they can do their job from permits, to prior steps in the construction process, to construction waste dumpsters, to portable toilets, to heavy equipment, to parking spaces for worker vehicles, to partial road closures is in place before those workers show up in a process that has to be repeated from scratch with every new job and has numerous potential chokepoints that can stop everything, even before considering weather conditions and supply chain issues that add additional layers of unpredictability to the process.

When you hire general contractors and subcontractors to do on site construction, the workers generally have to pay force and finance their own equipment and tools, sometimes financing it with their own subpar credit or cutting corners on what they buy because they can't afford the best equipment and tools for the job. And, the financing costs of those equipment and those tools, and a profit margin on those purchases, gets passed along to the general contractor and the owner of the land buying the building. But, in a factory, the factory owners can buy the optimal equipment and tools with a much lower financing cost, and any profit margin is collected only once at the factory level rather than at the general contractor level and at each layer of subcontractors right on down to individual employees of subcontractors who supply their own tools and equipment and safety gear.

The predictability of the in-factory part of the construction process also makes it easier to manage the cost and timing involved in procuring the necessary construction materials. Less uncertainty about when you will need construction materials, which is subject to constant rushes and delays in on site construction, means you don't need as much warehouse and construction yard space. But you also have fewer surprises about what you will need when, which allows you to shop for deals better and allows you to avoid paying premium prices when supplies are in the highest demand at particular points in the construction season that the weather allows.

Workplace injuries are an order of magnitude lower and tend to be less serious. The work environment can be better controlled, can be monitored and improved upon over time as the same space is used for one project after another. The work is done in a temperature controlled setting that is dry and has good lighting, where everything is in a familiar place that you don't have to relearn with each new project. The factory is free of the dust, mud, frost, dew, bugs, wind, excessive heat, cold, construction debris, and pre-existing natural gas and electrical lines that are ubiquitous in on site construction. Random strangers and neighbors are much less likely to wander into a factory than a construction site. Only absolutely necessary final assembly work takes place at great heights, or in windy or wet or dark or high glare conditions.

The amount of building material waste is an order of magnitude lower and you can be smarter and more efficient about what you do about the waste that you do generate. For example, it is much easier to pre-sort construction waste into five different kinds of materials each with different recycling options that don't have to be landfilled at a factory than it is to do that on site. And, the temptation to throw out, useable bits of leftover lumber or screws or paint from one job rather than trying to save it and reuse it on another project is much smaller in a factory setting. You can also power your tools and equipment with electricity from a greener, cheaper, and more efficient power grid at a factory, while you frequently have to resort to on site diesel generators in traditional on site construction projects.

The precision and quality control in the final building is greatly increased, which also makes the finished building better at withstanding storms and minor earthquakes which aggravate weaknesses caused by minor imperfections. Concrete components that can be made in the factory can be made in optimal temperature and moisture conditions that aren't dependent upon the whims of the weather which can impair their quality. The materials in the building also aren't exposed to weather that can cause them to be damaged or deteriorate for long periods of time from heat and cold cycles, warping from sun exposure, and moisture during the construction process. 

You can use heavier machinery that is better for getting certain parts of the job done efficiently and well, rather than being limited to what a construction worker can carry. You can also build with heavier building components (e.g. large cast metal or wooden single beams with no subparts that provide weak points) rather than multiple smaller components fitted together on site like smaller girders or pieces of wood that are screwed or nailed together, even if larger building components are better from an engineering and architectural perspective, but aren't used because workers at a construction site can't easily carry them to the places where they need to go (e.g., in the interior of higher stories of multistory buildings).

You don't need to tie up expensive and scarce tall building cranes at the job site for long periods of time. 

The disruption to people in the neighborhood where the building is going up is vastly less because there is so much less on site construction time. You still need to prepare the foundation and water main, sewer, and utility main hookups in advance which can't be done in just the flashy three stories a day of onsite construction of the building itself that is shown in the video. So it isn't quite as instant as it seems. But you are still talking a few weeks instead of a few months or couple of years of disruption to the neighborhood. And, when a stick built mid-rise building looks complete on the outside it is really only about 50% done, while a modular build like this is is more like a week or two away from being ready for occupants to move in since the interior finishes and electrical and mechanical work is mostly already in place.

The inspection and permitting process for the factory made components can be done on a predictable and routine basis in the factory, rather than making every inspection a scheduling chore and bottleneck in the process that has to be coordinated on a job by job basis that requires the inspector to climb all over half-finished buildings often many stories tall, on a construction site at critical points in the course of the project whose timing is hard to predict.

Some of the cost benefits just boil down to economies of scale. It is more efficient to add plumbing and electrical fixtures to a hundred bathrooms on an assembly line at a factory, to have twenty subcontractors add these fixtures to an average of five bathrooms each in two or three buildings each, in a work load often interspersed with a decent share of repair work in existing buildings. But the construction industry in most major metropolitan areas, where about 80% of the U.S. population and where an even larger share of new building construction takes place, is large enough to support building component factories large enough to benefit from these economies of scale.

Also, in the current site built construction paradigm, to get any kind of meaningful construction economies of scale at all, you have to build a lot of nearly identical buildings next to each other in Levittown style residential subdivisions or giant multi-building apartment complexes, or office parks, or industrial parks. But, in a factory build module system, most of the economies of scale happen at the factory, so you can get most the same construction efficiencies of scale by building thirty similar office buildings that are spread out over infill sites spread all over a metropolitan area, as you can from building all thirty office buildings right next to each other in a massive, single use office park. As it happens, that isn't how it is actually done in China, which builds massive apartment complex and office parks and rapidly builds whole new towns and cities from scratch on green fields several times a year. But it could be done that way in the U.S. where the pace of development, even in the fastest growing metropolitan areas, isn't nearly as frenetic, because the U.S. economy is more mature and has already done a lot of the economic development that it needs to do over many decades. The U.S. economy hasn't had the pace of rising demand for new construction that China is experience since the 1950s and 1960s.

The construction industry has been stubbornly unable to materially improve its productivity, cost structure, and quality for decades. It has one of the highest rates of workplace injury and death in the entire economy (neck and neck with farming, fishing, and mining). And construction defeats in the site built construction paradigm are routine, can be expensive to fix, and can lead to long, complicated, and expensive construction defeat litigation.

Greatly increasing the share of construction work that is done in factories could revolutionize the industry in a way that is cheaper, faster, safer, and far less prone to construction defects and the litigation and insurance costs that go with it. It would create a better situation for construction workers, would be more environmentally sound, and would dramatically reduce the impact that construction projects have on the neighborhoods where they a located.

Doing more construction work in factories wouldn't solve the affordable housing problem by itself. In places with soaring housing costs, rising land values are more of a problem than construction costs which are often only a minority of the total cost of housing and have been quite stable over time and between markets compared to land values. But, even if the construction module factories had a higher profit margin, they would still materially reduce the cost of building new housing which would help address the affordable housing problem.

29 May 2024

How Will The Future Look And Feel Different?

This trend will be one of the biggest visual differences between life in the late 2020s and 2030s and the period from about 1980 to the twenty-teens – in addition to the shift to now ubiquitous cell phone presence, the relative absence of roaming tweens and early teens roaming the streets when school isn't in session, fewer people carrying disposable coffee cups, and more men with beards, that have already happened.

Other pervasive change in how life feels in the late 2020s and 2030s will be a great increase in the number of people living in central cities relative to office space, more protected bike lines in cities, and the rise of recycling and compost bins. 


Ever fewer men wearing neckties and business suits. More men and more women are wearing short sleeves in the workplace as air conditions are set to less chilly temperatures during hotter summers. Watches are returning, but are smarter now, monitoring your health and sleep.

Younger adult women are much less frequently wearing bras, other than sports bras while exercising, especially in casual settings, and have been doing that for a while. Women and girls who would have worn one piece bathing suits in the 1980s often wear two piece bathing suits that providing varying degrees of coverage now. Adult women's panties have also been trending towards being more skimpy. Yoga pants and tights for women increasingly substitute for jeans, slacks, shorts, or a skirt, without anything over them. 

Contrary to many people's conventional wisdom, however, more affluent countries and communities tend to become more gendered in dress and education and professional roles as people feel more free to put self-expression over economic priorities, not more androgynous.


Diners and diner-like restaurant chains like Perkins and Village Inn are fading away. Fast casual restaurants like Chipotle have become common place. Ethiopian, Thai, Vietnamese, Korean, Japanese, and vegan food has entered the urban American palette, as Mexican and Chinese food did before it.

The remaking of a shared, cosmopolitan American establishment culture diet is has been ongoing for some time now and continues. This is a question of multicultural integration, of changing lifestyles, of food economics, and of health. 

We know we have an obesity problem, and we seem to be homing in on an overemphasis on simple carbohydrates, too many "ultra-processed" foods, and a more sedentary lifestyle as some of the main culprits behind this, although it is still somewhat puzzling and intractable trend that we don't really understand well. Old conventional wisdom, like the importance of a low fat diet, hasn't stood the test of time.


Marijuana dispensaries are now pervasive and common place and are on the brink of becoming much more mainstream since the federal government is likely to reclassify it from a Schedule I Controlled Substance under federal law to a lower schedule which will end the punitive taxes of Internal Revenue Code § 280E on dispensaries and will allow marijuana firms to use banks, declare bankruptcy, apply for federal patents and trademarks, and avail themselves of the federal courts. About half of the states have legalized THC at the state level, almost all of them have legalized CBD at the state leve, and the rest will probably follow suit quickly when marijuana is rescheduled at the federal level.

Other formerly illicit drugs are also gaining respectability in medical niches that will become a part of people's daily realities. Ketamine is now available as a fast acting, short term antidepressant and is also being widely used as an anesthetic used by first responders in trauma cases. LSD and peyote are being explored as PTSD treatments. A significant small percentage of older children, adolescents, and adults routinely take amphetamines for ADHD.

Semaglutide drugs like Wegovy and Ozempic are proving to be wonder drugs for Type II diabetes, obesity, addiction problems, cardiovascular diseases, and even enhancing executive function in people with ADHD that have surged to widespread use very rapidly despite their very high sticker price.

Surprisingly, the religious moral crusade against drugs, like the anti-gay efforts of religious conservatives (as distinct from anti-transgender efforts), seems to be a war that religious conservatives have largely conceded, at least on the political front. 

Six months away from the 2024 election, no prominent Republican politician has made the war on drugs an important part of their campaign, and this is not a drum beat which conservative media outlets are pounding any longer. There has been sharp rhetoric aimed at Latin American drug cartels with a strong xenophobic bent, an instinctual desire to crack down on the fentanyl trafficking that is behind so many drug overdose deaths, although this has finally plateaued. But few political arrows have been aimed at U.S. drug users, or harm other than opioid addition by mostly white and often working class Americans, that drugs themselves, as opposed to foreign drug cartels as sources of organized crime, have caused to the United States.

Moral resistance to marijuana legalization has been undermined by the legalization of marijuana in about half the U.S. states without any clear and shocking ill effects. Indeed, marijuana legalization has coincided with a dramatic decline in illegal opioid use by minors despite a relentless surge in adult opioid overdose deaths fueled mostly in recent years by growing illegal distribution of fentanyl, often by dealers who don't disclose that fentanyl has been cut with other drugs from heroin to meth, in non-laboratory conditions.

Red states have softened overly punitive incarceration sentencing for drug offenses as much or more than blue states have, despite their strongly conservative politics, in part, to save on the staggering costs of having the world's highest incarceration rates that has been mostly financed with state tax revenues. Red states have lagged in legalizing marijuana, but his seems unlikely to persist and all or almost all of them have already legalized  CBD cannabis products, which are more medicinal than psychoactive. Bipartisan federal legislation has mildly relaxed sentencing for drug offenses.

Demographic Trends

This said, however, the global demographic transition that has emerged hand in hand with economic development all over the world in every religion and culture that has experienced economic development shows no signs of abating. 

The average age of marriage has risen a lot hand in hand with a larger share of women attending college and weaker economic prospects for couples who don't have college degrees. The percentage of men and women who never marry has surged, as women choose not to and men can't find partners to marry as a result (and as more men who don't have college degrees can't fulfill a role as a primary economic provider for their families). Couples who do marry are increasingly close in age. Men and women are having children later in life. A large share of children in the U.S. are born to unmarried mothers, although many of those mothers are cohabiting with the fathers of their most recent child at the time. 

While divorce rates for college educated couples have plunged to levels not seen since the 1960s, divorce rates for couples without college degrees have reached unprecedented levels despite falling marriage rates (with a majority of these couples having a first child before rather than after getting married). This is driven mostly by the economic stagnation experienced by men without college degrees as the economy has developed greater intellectual requirements in a modern, automated and computerized work environment in a sophisticated complex bureaucratic society. Black families started experiencing these trends in the 1960s and have reached the most extreme realization of them, with children raised by unmarried mothers becoming the norm. But working class white families and Hispanic families are following suit thirty and forty years later. Strong social welfare systems have also made this pattern viable and the norm for lots of middle class Northern Europeans. 

These factors combined have led to a marked drop in the total fertility rate (roughly speaking the number of children per lifetime per woman) almost everywhere worldwide outside of non-elite families in sub-Saharan Africa, and outside of Gaza and Afghanistan. The decline has been seen in the Arab and non-Arab Muslim world, in East Asia, in Europe, in Latin America, among Protestants and Catholic alike.

There have been subcultures, especially among religious conservatives, pushing "tradwife" traditional housewife roles and pro-natalist agendas. But the Mormons are real the only organized movement that has had any success in implementing this agenda. And, they have seen their share of Americans decline by a third over the last fifteen years to a mere 1.2% of religious adherents in the United States. 

It is unclear if the Dobbs decision of the U.S. Supreme Court that ended the constitutional right to an abortion, and other ruling of an ultraconservative U.S. Supreme Court will turn the tide. Courts and voter initiatives in several Red States, and a handful of dissenting GOP legislators in Arizona, have restored some or all of the abortion rights that Dobbs took away. Abortion drugs for some early term pregnancies, and interstate travel from states where abortion is banned to those where it is legal have caused the number of abortions carried out to decline far less than was anticipated in the wake of Dobbs. Even Donald Trump has bucked the Republican grass roots by taking the position that abortion laws should be decided on a state by state basis and not strongly advocating an anti-choice position. All of this suggests that Republican efforts to roll back the clock of reproductive rights and women's rights may not be the major step backward turning point that it seems once the dust settles over the next few years, regardless of who wins the Presidential election.

East Asian total fertility rates have fallen to the lowest levels because all worldwide, because the factors delaying marriage and child birth are present there in spades, but out of wedlock births remain extremely rare there. Out of wedlock births are rare there, in part, because neither the social safety net nor family law rules provide nearly as much support and protection to single mothers there, and because abortion is less taboo there.

For example, in Japan, much of the social safety net provided by government in Western Europe is provided by large corporate employers, to whom single parents have no access, there.

Concretely, in people's daily lives, this means smaller families, more only children, fewer siblings, far fewer families with three or four or five or more kids (especially, in couples that have not recently immigrated from countries where larger families are common) and far fewer cousins, aunts, and uncles, although longer life spans mean that more children know not just their grandparents but their great-grandparents well. In working class America, it means that lots of kids are raised by single mothers with little contact with with their fathers or father's side of the family during their childhoods. Part of the reason that housing supplies are tight in many areas is that smaller households required more distinct housing units to house the same number of people, as typical family households now have three or four, instead of four to six family members. This trend toward smaller families muddled somewhat by complex blended families resulting from fragile marriages and even more fragile cohabitations that produce children.

It will be interesting to see if polygamy laws change anywhere in the U.S. as this becomes an issue of Muslim immigrants and leftist polyamory advocates, and not just vanishingly few Mormon fundamentalists in a handful of distinct geographic places.

Shrinking families make community and government safety nets and support more important, and reduce the relevance of nepotism and clannishness in American life. This is also impacted by the fact that Americans are among the most mobile people geographically in the world. Less than 59% of Americans age 25 or older live in the state where they were born, far less comparable mobility levels in any country in Europe, and especially in Western states there is even more mobility. Less than 20% of people aged 25 or older in Nevada were born there and more of these adults in Nevada were born outside the United States than were born in Nevada.


Interracial couples, married and dating alike, are no longer as striking, and mixed race children are much more common. Interracial marriage rates of native born Hispanics, Asian-Americans (including East Asians, Southeast Asians, and East Asians), Native Hawaiians, and Native Americans are all very high, and interracial marriage rates for whites (who have few non-white prospective marriage partners in some parts of the U.S.) and blacks, while lower, are at record highs. Jewish outmarriage rates to non-Jews are also very high.

The U.S. is basically seeing shrinking proportions of purely white European stable proportions of black Americans, and a rapidly growing share of mixed race, Hispanic, Middle Eastern, Native American, and Asian Americans, as well as African immigrants, who are starting to blend into a "brown" plurality that is not starkly internally divided by race or deeply separated from or antagonistic to white Americans, in a manner similar to how Catholic immigrants, especially from Ireland, Italy, and Spain were assimilated into a pan-ethic white American identity. 

The cultural divide in the U.S. between native born black Americans and those of other races is higher, but not as high as it has been for most of American history since the abolition of slavery in 1865 that was replaced by de jure and de facto segregation until long after the victories of the Civil Rights movement a century later. The emergence of significant ethnic populations that are neither black nor white has helped bridge the cultural racial gaps between blacks and whites in the United States.

Homosexuality And Transgender Realities

Homosexuality and same sex couples are unremarkable, and not that controversial. A conservative majority U.S. Supreme Court established a right to same sex marriage, and there are a number of high profile politicians and celebrities who are gay or lesbian. They haven't abandoned this fight entirely, but they have deemphasized it.

The Christian conservative right has diverted its current efforts to scapegoating transgender people instead focusing on homosexuality, which is more common, more mainstream, and easier to understand.

It isn't clear how successful and sustained the religious conservative scapegoating of transgender people will persist. Those targeted don't have much of an ability to fight back on their own, and have broad but not very intense support from much of the rest of the political left, which is impotent at the state level in many Red States.

Housing, Land Use, and Remote Work
Land use regulation reform and New Urbanism seems to be finally hitting their stride in response to an affordable housing crisis, with state laws forcing major liberalizations of zoning regulation of residential development density in states including California and Colorado, and local municipal reforms in cities like New York. We're seeing more townhouses, more midsized apartment buildings, more conversions of office buildings to residential use, and more apartment buildings with first floor retail. 

Accessory dwelling units (i.e. "granny flats" and "tiny homes" on existing single family home lots) that are built as extended family housing or rental units are being legalized in more places and need just a little nudge to take off exponentially. Parking requirements are being dispensed with, especially near major transit lines and in walkable developments. 

There hasn't yet been much restoration of pre-zoning law land use patterns like single occupancy hotels and boarding houses, but the legal authority to do that kind of development is quietly being put into place. The same legal developments are also laying the groundwork for another round of cooperative housing with shared kitchens and common areas in basically an owned boarding house arrangement that flourished briefly in the late 1960s and 1970s before the governance and social interaction issues associated with them took the shine off of them. But the less ambitious project of having single family homes with multiple unrelated households in them, either by subdividing them physically or just having the room tenants share a house like college students is also supported by these land use reforms and is already quietly becoming more common.

We are still working out the remote work issue. But the pandemic gave videoconferencing the boost it needed to become a part of every day work life and extended family interactions. The percentage of office workers who work remotely at least part of the time has surged, although probably less than half of them are fully remote workers. A pandemic generation that attended school remotely makes this way of working a lot more familiar.


Plenty of people still attend church with some regularity, but it is no longer socially assumed that everyone does, even in the South and rural America. It is also increasingly no longer assumed that everyone is Christian. 

"Nones" and Muslims make up a growing share of Americans, while almost all forms of Christianity have a decreasing percentage of Americans who adhere to it (apart from some definitional arbitrate as Evangelical Protestant denomination adherents rebrand themselves as non-denominational Christians).

About 30% of adults view themselves as "not religious" and almost half of young adults identify that way, in a dramatic growth over the last half century.

Muslims have become much more common due to immigration and to a lesser extent due to native born African-American converts, and are increasingly a visible presence in daily life. Halal food offerings are now almost as common as Kosher ones, and institutions like schools now have to be conscious of Muslim holidays and holy days (although public calls to prayer five times a day, which are pervasive in Muslim majority countries, are absent).

Mormons have resisted the trends of late marriage, fewer marriages, less stable marriages, and fewer children, more than any other faith in the U.S. But while natural growth from these natalist attitudes has helped to keep the number of Mormons declining as much as mainline Christians, white Catholics, and white Protestants, neither natural growth nor a massive missionary effort deeply ingrained in this faith, have been enough for them to increase the share of Mormon adherents in the overall population much. For example:
Between 2007 and 2022, the percentage of Americans who self-identify as Mormon has dropped from 1.8 percent to 1.2 percent (according to an independent tabulation of election survey data) - a percentage decrease of one-third over 15 years.

Via Wikipedia.

Communication, Transportation and Energy

Other look and feel changes in daily life already happened a while ago. 

Landline phones are almost gone. Fewer and fewer people read dead tree newspapers. Broadcast and cable TV have already been replaced by streaming to a great extent. Satellite radio and apps like Spotify have gradually undermined major radio stations that used to be a pervasive sound track to almost everyone's life.

Paper checks and postal money orders sent in the mail are becoming a thing of the past, while cash apps have started to become mainstream even though they are somewhat uncommon. Invoices and appointment reminders now come via email and text rather than snail mail. Email and texts have also increasingly replaced letters. Court documents are now usually e-filed and the service has been made available to non-lawyer litigants in many cases. Tax forms are usually e-filed too, and sooner or later, the IRS will cast aside the fax machine - a technology that is increasingly used by no one else - in favor of secure online portals. 

Parcel post from the postal service has increasingly lost market share to private delivery services as online shopping has led to a resurgence in package deliveries. Homes increasingly have front porch video streaming, in part, to deter porch pirates who steal those parcels. Quality photography and videography from cell phones, pervasive security and laptop cameras, dash cams, and body cameras, cheap and small tracking devices, cell phone GPS and Wi-Fi locator technology, and digital payment systems have made a well documented surveillance society an every day reality.

As typing has replaced dead tree writing, cursive writing has waned as well and will soon go the way of the slide rule. Voice operated computer system are already common in big business phone systems, where they compete with international call centers in India and the Philippines. Dictation, now done by computers instead of secretaries, is making a gradual return. And, real time voice to voice language translation is on the brink of becoming commonplace - it is already widespread as a cheap and fast way of doing text to text language translation.

Most cars are now keyless and manual transmission has virtually vanished from the United States. A modest but growing share of vehicles are plug in electric. We are on the brink of widespread use of self-driving vehicles, although we aren't quite there yet. When the do arrive, this will have a profound effect on the long haul trucking industry, as robots replace humans on our interstate highways (probably with greater safety).

Smart phones, GPS, and computer networks with AI features, have already enabled ride sharing that has effectively restored decentralized, thinly regulated taxi service to much of the U.S., and has facilitated easy scooter and bicycle and e-bike rentals. Online real estate sharing services like Airbnb have vastly increased the supply of hotel and bed and breakfast type services on a decentralized basis, with vacationers now as likely to stay in an online brokered short term rental of a private home as they are to stay in a hotel.

Life in 2024 is full of battery charging. Laptops, smart phones, smart watches, headphones, toothbrushes, shavers, cars, and even device and home backup power systems, all have batteries that must be regularly recharged with customized power charges, and can even pose fire hazards on commercial airline flights. But this part of daily life will soon make some subtle but noticeable changes. Spurred by the demand for better electric car batteries, several new game changing battery technologies for electric cars, like solid state batteries with different raw materials will enter the marketplace in the mid- to late-2020s. The new batteries will store several times more energy than existing electric vehicle batteries, will have longer lives with less depletion in capacity as they are recharged repeatedly, will recharge more quickly, will cost less, will have less of an environmental impact, and will be safer. This will make electric vehicles in every context where internal combustion engines (ICEs) running on gasoline or diesel fuel more competitive vis-a-vis ICE vehicles - cars, trucks, buses, delivery vehicles, construction equipment, farm equipment, military vehicles, boats, and even propeller driven short haul aircraft and drones. It will make electric lawn mowers and leaf blowers and snow blowers more attractive via existing two stroke engine models. It will mean that laptops and cell phones and smart watches and headphones and toothbrushes and shavers that used to have to be charged daily will be able to manage with a couple of rounds of charging a week.

Supersonic commercial airline flights across the Pacific and Atlantic oceans are on the brink of returning after the supersonic transatlantic Concorde flights from New York City to Paris and London were discontinued after a couple of decades of limited and unprofitable service.

Intracity passenger rail has experienced a minor resurgence over the past few decades although this trend may have neared its peak for a while. There are a handful of intercity high speed passenger rail corridors in the U.S. which are built or in progress, although few meet the standards of Western Europe, Japan, and China, and it will still be many decades before this really becomes an feature of American life for most people.

Modern heat pumps are replacing air conditioning and gas forced air HVAC systems in homes. Home and business solar panels are now common and meet a decent share of household electricity demand, sometimes feeding energy back into the grid. Trains full of coal to deliver to utility power plants are a lot less common, while large utility company wind mills to generate electricity are common worldwide.