Friday, January 27, 2017

Undocumented Immigrants Don't Steal Jobs -- They Create Them

Stuart K. Hayashi

Do you enjoy taking photographs with your mobile phone? I don’t, because I don’t have a mobile phone with that capability -- I’m low-tech that way. But if you love doing that with your phone, you should thank an illegal alien -- he is the one who invented that capability for a phone. His name is Philippe Kahn. He came to the USA legally from France but then he overstayed his visa. Upon becoming a multimillionaire in Silicon Valley from his inventions, he spent a fortune on legal fees to handle the immigration bureaucracy. He eventually got to the stay in the USA, much to our benefit. Anyone else with less money wouldn’t have been so fortunate.

Of course, “immigration skeptics” laugh off that example; Kahn doesn’t fit the stereotype. The undocumented immigrants who are most feared are the ones who come from poor countries. When Western Europeans fret about immigrants, they usually worry about Middle Easterners and Africans. Those groups are feared in the USA, too, but the group causing the biggest concern is Latinos. Therefore, let’s take a look at Latino immigrants.

Race to the Bottom?
The stereotype usually goes as follows: because they are impoverished, Latino immigrants decide to work in the United States for very low pay in “sweatshops” or in vineyards. Allegedly, they try to out-compete native-born workers by promising to work for a lower wage, and they thereby bid down the wages for everyone in a “race to the bottom.” This allows low-paid immigrants to be stuck in poverty forever.

This should sound familiar, because this is actually a Marxist argument. Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels proclaimed that the capitalist class would always keep the proletariat in poverty. Vladimir Ilyich Lenin said that to stop domestic workers from benefiting from an increase in the number of units produced in factories, the capitalists would have to export the units overseas. From the late 1990s to the first decade of the twenty-first century, the political Left -- which was then most commonly associated with “anti-globalism” -- said that greedy multinational corporations make foreign direct investments in poor Asian countries. Again, they said, the poor Asians try to compete against one another by trying to underbid one another in terms of the wages they accept. This ignites a “race to the bottom” that traps Asians in permanent poverty. Of course, that is not what happened. When Mattel invested in factories in Taiwan to manufacture Barbie dolls, the Taiwanese factory personnel initially worked for low pay. Those factory workers saved their money and were able to have their children trained for other professions. As Taiwan liberalized politically, it commensurately expanded in business operations and the Taiwanese have risen to First World affluence.

Even with the welfare state in existence, similar phenomena have occurred with immigrant populations in the United States. Those who invoke the “race to the bottom” argument proclaim that when immigration causes a long-term increase in the population, that commensurately increases the supply of potential laborers competing for work. That increase in the supply of laborers competing for work is supposed to bid down wages. Here is what those commentators overlook: every potential worker is also a consumer. Every immigrant worker needs food, clothing, and shelter: he or she works precisely to obtain the money with which he or she will pay for these amenities. The increase in the supply of potential laborers at businesses is therefore met by a commensurate increase in demand for amenities that must be supplied by other businesses. To supply the amenities that the immigrant laborers demand, those other businesses must hire more staff. Hence, as immigrants increase the supply of available laborers, those same immigrants increase the demand for labor as well, thereby bidding wages back up. That is what happened from April to October 1980 when Cuban refugees made a mass migration to Florida, increasing the working population of Miami by 7 percent in a matter of months. Economists noticed no discernible long-term change in unemployment or in wage rates.

Not Job-Stealers But Job Creators
The assumption that all immigrants from poor countries remain migrant farm workers their whole lives is a false one. The New York Times spotlighted the fact that many of the families that arrived in the USA from Mexico during World War II saved their money and eventually came to own vineyards similar to the ones they once worked on. Writing for the Matador Network, Amanda Machado is able to name ten such families in Napa Valley.

Consider Carlos Castro and Jose Wilfredo Flores, both of whom entered the USA illegally after fleeing civil wars in El Salvador. Flores founded W Concrete, which brought in$6.6 million in the fiscal year of 2011. Carlos Castro started Todos Supermarket, which earned $18 million in 2012. The fact that Castro and Flores immigrated to the USA is what resulted in a substantial increase in demand for the labor or native-born Americans -- they needed to hire staff to operate. These undocumented immigrants are job creators.

To expand operations and hire new employees to man those operations, firms need capital. Such capital is provided by the likes of Julissa Acre, who, at age eleven, migrated from Mexico to San Antonio, Texas illegally with her family. She eventually became a vice president at a well-known investment bank. Those are three reasons for the alt-right to dislike her: (1) she came to the USA undocumented (2) from Mexico, and (3) earned a position at Goldman Sachs.

Ambitious in America
Also think of Cristian Arcega and the three other undocumented immigrant students on his team from Carl Hayden High School who, in 2004, beat MIT in a competition to build a robot that would most efficiently operate underwater in salvage missions. This was recorded in the documentary Underwater Dreams and dramatized in the motion picture Spare Parts.

We should also think of Alfredo Quinones-Hinojosa. As a young man, he climbed over a fence from Mexico to the USA illegally. His first years in the USA were consistent with that of the stereotype: he was a low-paid migrant farm worker. However, as with the Taiwanese factory workers in the 1970s, he saved his money. He sent himself to medical school. He is presently one of the world’s foremost brain surgeons, saving the lives of native-born Americans.

Immigrants from poor countries are not doomed to poverty and failure -- there are many other success stories. And we would have still more success stories about them if not for the present red tape restricting immigration from poor nations.

Peaceful immigration is a noble enterprise. To deny free immigration is to deny free enterprise.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Drawing of Godzilla Coming At You

Stuart K. Hayashi

I drew this from January 13 to January 15, 2017.  You can also see it on Instagram here.

Godzilla is a registered trademark of Toho Co., Ltd.

The drawing on January 14, before it was finished:

Upon completion:

Sunday, January 08, 2017

Why, While NOT Being Philosophically More Pro-Technology, the Japanese -- Unlike Westerners -- See Robots As Good Guys By Default

Stuart K. Hayashi

Dark Horse Comics publishing "Astro Boy" in English.

Years ago the futurist José Cordeiro, an associate of Ray Kurzweil, pointed out to me that Japan and the West see robots differently. In Western fiction -- especially fiction published before 1997 -- robots are usually the bad guys by default, whereas the Japanese see robots as good guys by default.

It is true that in both Japan and the West, there are stories where good robots fight evil robots. However, what remains conspicuous is whether they are good or evil by default. In the West's Terminator 2, Arnold Schwarzenegger plays the hero, but this Terminator is a villain by default; he only fights on the human protagonists' side because he was defeated and reprogrammed. That is, what is typical in Western movies made before 1997 is that for the sapient robot to be considered the good guy, he has to be manipulated into siding with the human race.

Despite the Star Wars franchise being very strongly influenced by Japanese motion pictures, the Western trend of robots being villainous applies. Yes, C-3PO and R2-D2 are on the Rebel Alliance's side, but much of the tone implies that becoming more mechanical makes you less soulful and less caring. Anakin Skywalker taking on a more mechanical body corresponds with his corruption; he transitions into the cold, domineering Darth Vader. Obi-Wan says, “He is more machine now than man -- twisted and evil.” To be more machinelike is to be less good. General Grievous started out as an organism, but his making his body more robot-like over the years corresponds with a deliberate degradation of his humanity.

By contrast, in Japan the Mega Man video game franchise (called Rockman in Japan, with the “rock” being short for rock ‘n’ roll) is something of a reversal of Terminator 2. Mega Man, as well, pits good robots against destructive ones. However, in the very first Mega Man game, it is stated that all of Mega Man’s opponents began as benign robots that Dr. Light assembled for the purpose of assisting human beings in construction. They did not become villainous until Dr. Wily captured them and reprogrammed them to do his bidding. That is, in contrast to Terminator 2, wherein robots begin as evil and must be manipulated into doing good, Mega Man has the robots start out as good. They will do no evil until they are manipulated into doing so. The recent Mega Man homage Mighty No. 9 is even more explicit about that.

Not even the Transformers franchise -- where the robots can either be good or bad, and there is no obvious default -- provides a real counterexample to this trend. Many people falsely assume that Transformers started in the West. Actually, Transformers was originally a Japanese toy line, though, in the original Japanese story, all of the robots were piloted by humans. It was Hasbro in the West that changed the story, deciding that the Autobots and Decepticons would be sapient.

For a long time, I thought that maybe Japanese popular culture having a more benign outlook on robots than the West indicated one area where Japanese culture is actually more pro-technology than is Western culture. Later, though, some Objectivists on Facebook pointed out to me that a likelier explanation is that this is an accident of culture and, oddly, has to do with ancient Japanese belief in animism.

Japanese Side With the Robots Because of . . . Mysticism?
Animism is the belief of ancient peoples -- mostly hunter-gatherers -- that all objects possess spirits inside of them. This animism was often translated into an early form of political environmentalism -- the idea was that tribal law should forbid you from drastically reshaping this part of the wilderness, as the wilderness spirits will punish you. Even today, there are indigenous-peoples activists who quite successfully lobby for legislation to obstruct the construction of telescopes or roads or pipelines on particular sites, proclaiming that those sites are sacred and that human development will disturb the wilderness spirits and incur their wrath. The Japanese, though, put an odd spin on this -- they said that, to some extent, you are permitted to reshape the wilderness to create manmade tools, but that benign spirits -- usually helpful to humans -- will inhabit those tools. For instance, if you have an umbrella, the umbrella has a benign spirit of its own. On that interpretation, a robot such as Mega Man will, by default, have a soul, too.

Japan’s regard for robots as benign particularly got a boost when Osamu Tezuka started his manga Astro Boy in 1952. Tezuka conceived of Astro Boy as a modern or futuristic Pinocchio. Astro Boy is a goodhearted little boy but, instead of a wooden puppet being magically animated, he is a lifelike robot, an android. (Android is gender-specific; the prefix andro- means male man. A female robot would be a gynoid.)

Tezuka is the main reason why manga/anime characters have such exaggerated large eyes. Tezuka read lots of Uncle Scrooge comics and noticed all the Disney toons had exaggerated large eyes. As something of an homage, he gave all his human characters similarly exaggerated (neotenous) large eyes. He inspired later generations of manga/anime artists who copied him. Likewise, those same artists copied the idea of robots being good by default. Notably, the creators of Mega Man cite Astro Boy as a major inspiration.

As for why robots are generally depicted as the heavies in Western popular culture, I suspect it has to do with nineteenth-century Romanticist philosophy.

Nineteenth-Century Romanticist Philosophy: Why Western Artists Depict Robots As Bad Guys
Today we have this stereotype of pretentious avant-garde artists who proclaim that their artistry is of pure emotions loftier than anything technological, and who rail against materialistic commerce. Yet that stereotype is relatively recent; it was alien for most of modern history.

Filippo Brunelleschi pioneered in using linear perspective in paintings. In so doing, he revolutionized the arts, and these principles were explicitly scientific. Following his lead, painters throughout the Renaissance understood that art naturally followed from science. To create more lifelike depictions of the human nude, they studied anatomy, even dissected corpses. To produce a more lifelike effect in their paintings, they studied optics and the scientific nature of light and its effect on how objects are seen. And, despite some lip service to Christian anti-materialism, these artists were hardly abashed in how commercial they were in their pursuits. On into the nineteenth century, J. M. W. Turner continued to learn the science of optics to improve his art.

It was Turner’s contemporaries who changed the direction of art in the West, though. We are familiar with the virtues of the Romanticist style of art in the nineteenth century -- the emphasis on larger-than-life themes and the exploration of what it means to be a hero. While Romanticist style is beneficial, most of the Romanticists’ explicit philosophy is not. Back in the days when the nascent political Left was praising industrialization, and promising that industrialization and technology would develop further under their social collectivism, it was the Romanticist philosophic movement denouncing industrialization and technology. Whereas Karl Marx wrote of his collective being good on account of being able to advance industrialism better than private capitalists could, William Blake’s poetry bemoaned “dark Satanic mills.” Whereas members of the Old Left in the vein of Edward Bellamy heralded a collectivist technological utopia in Looking Backward, Mary Shelley gave us Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus.

Since the nineteenth century, the basic ethical attitudes of Romanticist philosophy have come to pervade Western art, and that includes motion pictures. This is how we end up with James Cameron, creator of The Terminator, turning out Avatar. For Western artists, sapient robots symbolize industrialization. To them, industrialization is evil. Therefore, following that syllogism, sapient robots must also be evil.

If you think of the Mega Man video games as being representative of Japanese attitudes, and then regard James Cameron’s Avatar as representing the attitudes of Western artists, it may seem that the Japanese are more open-minded about the benefits of robots and artificial intelligence. Strangely, though, that might actually be the result of Japan’s mystical belief in animism -- a mystical belief that, in its present form, is often implemented as environmentalist legislation.

Other Notes
Ironically, by the 1970s, Osamu Tezuka -- as was (and is) common for Japanese artists since the late twentieth century -- had become fervently environmentalist. Like most Japanese artists who craft tales about heroic robots, Tezuka actually agreed, to the end of his days, with nineteenth-century Western Romanticists that industrialization is cruelly encroaching upon the wilderness, dehumanizing humanity and robbing the wilderness of its grandeur. I don’t think Tezuka adequately reconciled, intellectually, how human beings would have to burn energy and alter the landscape to power their benevolent robots, just as people don’t think of all the fossil fuels they burn in order to play the video game Final Fantasy VII, which cast electrical utilities as inherently villainous.

Also noteworthy is that, while Star Wars is strongly influenced by Japanese cinema, that cinema consisted mostly of samurai movies that were released prior to Astro Boy.

Still, in large part thanks to Japanese influence over Western culture, we are increasingly seeing Western motion pictures and comic books depicting robots as sympathetic by default, such as in the cases of the Steven Spielberg picture A.I. and in the computer-animated Big Hero Six. Despite being unrelentingly “chick lit,” Cassandra Clarke’s The Mad Scientist’s Daughter is also interesting. It is the story of a young woman in love with the world’s only remaining sapient robot; she wonders if he truly shares her affection or if he is merely a “philosophic zombie” that mimics human emotions but does not truly experience them.

Sunday, January 01, 2017


Stuart K. Hayashi

Happy New Year? 😯

. . .

Happy STU Year! 😄