The Third Place: The Mechanization Rate in MTEP

There are a number of ongoing technological trends in the State of Total Mobilization whose classification falls under the “Mechanization Rate (MR).” This Entry will be discussing about the latest ones to have been made possible Technology and could be repurposed for economic activities at the Shopping Citadel and Shopping Arena as part of the Total Educational Effort. It is possible that there may be similar technological trends unbeknownst to this Author that were not unveiled until after finishing the First Edition of The Third Place. To ensure that the Entry will remain relevant in spite of ongoing technological trends, I will be focusing more on how they affect the conduct of MTEP (Mission-Type Economic Planning) for Economic Planners and Inspectors with regard to the Shopping Citadel and Shopping Arena. The Mechanization Rate will always be the best way to integrate them into Production for Dasein, minimizing their potential at disrupting the livelihoods of affected Professions, Enterprises, Industries, and Economic Sectors.

The presence of all automated technologies in both the Student Tournament of the SSE and the official Tournament of the VCS Economy will always count toward the final MR value set by the Central Bank. The MR value itself corresponds to the full extent to which all economic activities in the VCS Economy and SSE are done by automated technologies. Any increases in the MR value reflects the total loss of any potential Vocations that someone could have acquired for themselves. If there is a source of Arbeit and Geld that can be easily done by an automated machine and without any human intervention whatsoever, then the deployment of that automated machine will force the Central Bank to increase the MR value.    

The MR is meant to enhance the capabilities of the Reciprocal-Reserve Banking System by serving as the Work-Standard’s alternative to the “Interest Rate” employed in the “Fractional-Reserve Banking System.” In Production for Profit as well as Production for Utility, the Interest Rate is used by the Central Bank of a Fractional-Reserve Banking System to control the rates at which the Quantity of Kapital expands or contracts relative to Currency Depreciation/Appreciation vis-à-vis the Inflation/Deflation Rate.

Higher Interest Rates make borrowing more expensive for potential Borrowers, forcing the Borrower to pay a greater Quantity of Schuld to the Lender for borrowing. A likewise pattern can be found in the case of negative Interest Rates, where the Interest Rate itself falls into the negative. In that case, the Lender is forced to pay a greater Quantity of Schuld to the Borrower for lending Kapital to them. At an Interest Rate of “±0%,” neither the Borrower nor the Lender has a Quantity of Schuld greater than the exact Quantity of Kapital borrowed.   

The Mechanization Rate functions differently from the Interest Rate because it focuses more on the Quality of Arbeit and the Quality of Geld inherent in the specifications of the Work-Standard. Based on my descriptions of the MR in The Work-Standard (2nd Ed.), the argument was that Automation should be used to enhance the capabilities of the Totality (and, by extension, the Student Body). It is not meant to completely eliminate the Totality and the Student Body from economic life insofar as the real sources of wealth in terms of Arbeit and Geld are always created by the Totality and student Body. The MR can decrease the number of hours in any given workweek, thereby reducing the effects of Currency Depreciation vis-à-vis the Attrition Rate. The MR can increase the Quality of Arbeit, but it cannot replace the Gestalt (Figure) of the Arbeiter in its contributions of Arbeit to the Life-Energy Reserve.  

Thus, it is logical to expect the MR value, unlike the Interest Rate, to be incapable of attaining a negative number. The lowest-possible the MR value can achieve is “0%.” Either the Totality and Student Body have deliberately decided by unanimous consensus that they have no such need for Automation or they have not and instead found ways of employing Automation toward beneficial and less counterproductive ends. Whichever the case may be, the Central Bank has a vested interest in needing to know about the full extent of Automation in the VCS Economy and the SSE. Given the characteristics of Council Democracy and the role of Economic Planners and Inspectors, the Central Bank will be able to make periodic adjustments to the MR value as needed.

Just as how the MR value cannot become a negative number, it is also unrealistic to expect the Totality and the Student Body to fully automate their VCS Economy and SSE without creating widespread social upheaval. Arrangements can be made by the Council State to set limits on how far the Mechanization Rate can be allowed to increase by the Central Bank. This in turn restricts the downsides of Automation whilst limiting its other effects to strategic areas where it can be of utmost benefit to the Totality and Student Body. Earlier in Section Five, I argued that the Gaming Industry should be an obvious candidate for Automation through the Mechanization Rate. But the Gaming Industry is not the only one worthy of mention within the broader discussion of the Shopping Citadel and Shopping Arena.

Vending Machines and Automated Retailers

In the “Vending Machine Operators Industry,” which handle the manufacturing and operation of vending machines, there have been moves afoot since the 2010s to take advantage of emerging technological advancements in robotics and automation technologies. Originally, a vending machine was meant to sell only basic snacks, candies, and soft drinks at low Prices. The inherent limitations of conventional vending machines deter most people from spending large sums of Actual Geld for purchasing in-stock items. Vending machines are also limited in terms of their ability to sell anything larger than a soda bottle or a bag of potato chips. The same can be said for any conventional “Automats.”  

However, as the 2010s have demonstrated, and what the 2020s and beyond will seek to continue (with no guarantee of success), Technology is now making it possible for a vending machine to serve as an extension of the Retail Industry. These machines differ from conventional vending machines by being capable of functioning as “Automated Retailers.” Compared to a traditional Enterprise from the Retail Industry, an Automated Retailer does not require the construction of a store or a kiosk to conduct its economic activities. It is designed to sell a limited range of goods to interested customers in strategic areas.

An Automated Retailer relies on a combination of robotics and touchscreen interfaces to process the transactional sale. When somebody interacts with an Automated Retailer, the touchscreen interface can be used to obtain information about the items on display before proceeding to make a purchase. If the customer is a Social Media user, they are eligible to receive discounts from the Automated Retailer. The customer may purchase items with Actual Geld such as banknotes in large denominations or loaded into payment cards. Alternatively, the customer may be convinced to buy the items on display with Digital Geld, since the Prices of items at an Automated Retailer tend to be higher than most conventional vending machines.  

Upon purchasing the item, a robotic arm reaches for the selected product and releases it into a slot that the customer reaches into to retrieve their product. As of this writing, the general purposes of an Automated Retailers involve facilitating the transactional sales of basic electronics. It is possible that non-electronic items may be sold and others which have yet to be considered.  

Retail Merchandising Units (RMUs) and Automated Kiosks

In the Shopping Citadel and Shopping Arena, “Retail Merchandising Units (RMUs)” can be deployed to supplement the economic activities of their main tenants. Each RMU is to be run and operated by a single small-time vendor in charge of a stall, kiosk or counter that sells assorted wares to passing customers. The intended function of those RMUs at Shopping Citadels and Shopping Arenas is to provide an opportunity for the Cottage Industry to turn its Enterprises’ Heimarbeit (Homework or ‘Work-from-Home’) into Actual Arbeit. Such vendors may be operating as Subsidiaries of larger Enterprises or they may be occupying the lowest-level runs of the Public-Directed Enterprises (PDEs). Student Enterprises from the Student Tournament and regular PDEs from the official Tournament are both capable of operating an RMU inside a Shopping Arena or Shopping Citadel.

The advantages of operating an RMU include the ability to be highly mobile and can be easily assembled and disassembled by few personnel. They are ideal in areas where there is a lot of pedestrian traffic and as little vehicular traffic as possible. The RMU can be located inside or outside the complex. When deployed as Subsidiaries, they can serve as satellites of a larger Enterprise. They are perfect for Guilds seeking to establish their own presence inside a Shopping Arena or a Shopping Citadel. Since Rents and Mortgages are prohibited, other ways of establishing and regulating the economic activities of RMUs need to be entertained as part of MTEP.  

This in turn is where the usage of NSFIs come in. Rather than charge Rent for their economic activities, a Shopping Arena or Shopping Citadel could consider relying on a Four-Year or Five-Year Work-Plan. If the RMU in question happens to a long-term venture and assuming its property owner can afford the Work-Plan’s Service Fee, it will continue to be a constant presence on the premises for the foreseeable future. If the RMU is with the Student Tournament, a Sponsorship should suffice. To continue operating the RMU, the property owner will just need to purchase a new Work-Plan or Sponsorship prior to their initial NSFI’s Maturity Date.

Among the terms and conditions listed in those NSFIs would be a clause where, in the event of any announced increase to the Mechanization Rate, the RMU will be converted into an “Automated Kiosk.” An Automated Kiosk is a fully-automated variant of the RMU where there is no direct interaction with the vendor and all transactional sales are to be done by interfacing with a payment processing system. While the property owner will not be contributing as much Arbeit and Geld to the Life-Energy Reserve as they normally would with a conventional RMU, they will still be entitled to a Paygrade and the final payout of their Work-Plan or Sponsorship.

Auto-Service Stores and Cashierless Stores

I still stand by my earlier position that Auto-Service and Partial-Service models can be implemented by Enterprises looking for a proper alternative to a true “Self-Service” model. Unlike Partial-Service, which straddles the line between Full-Service and Self-Service, an Auto-Service model harnesses the technological capabilities of MATVs (Miniature Automated Tractor Vehicles) and MARVs (Miniature Automated Repair Vehicles) to supplement the economic capabilities of the Supermarkets relying on them. MATVs can be used to deliver items requested by a customer in advance or sent directly to their door. Another possibility that may be in the cards is the potential of using the C-Wing (Civilian Aerodyne Wing), the aerial counterpart of the MATV, in an Auto-Service model.

When I introduced the C-Wing in The Work-Standard (2nd Ed.), I suggested that it could be to facilitate eCommerce-related deliveries. The idea of employing in an Auto-Service model for the Retail Industry of the Services Sector was something that I did consider at the time. Even though I did not mention it in my original discussion of the Supermarket back in Section Two, I still felt that a C-Wing could be used to transport lightweight items to their intended destinations. In any case, the general idea remained the same. Somebody buys a series of items ahead of time and specifies that they wish to have them delivered to them at a specified address. Depending on the terrain, an MATV or a C-Wing is sent from the nearest Supermarket, travels to the customer’s address, and delivers the ordered items in front of the door.   

Even though the Auto-Service model employs MATVs, MARVs, and C-Wings, none of them will count towards the Mechanization Rate of the Central Bank. Those three do not always need to be automated insofar as somebody could just as easily pilot them or reprogram them to their intended destinations. In both cases, somebody still needs to be in control of them because their operational range does not allow them to operate self-autonomously without any human intervention. Thus, they are ideal for support roles as part of a main effort.

If we stick to the topic of Supermarkets for the remainder of this Entry, then there is a viable area that can be easily affected by the Mechanization Rate. In essence, the cashier operators can be automated in favor of a “Cashierless Store,” a subvariant of the Partial-Serve model that I discussed earlier. Supported by the National Intranet and backed by an Artificial Intelligence, a Cashierless Store allows customers to go inside, pick up their items, and leave the store without ever having to encounter a single retail cashier. Entrances equipped with advanced sensors and biometric scanners pick up the customer’s movements and immediately detect the items they are carrying. The acquired data is then calculated to yield a final Price in Actual Geld, to be deducted from that same customer’s personal accounts. And unlike the MATV, MARV, and C-Wing, the technologies employed at a Cashierless Store do not require human intervention to process the transactional sales.  

Interestingly enough, the fact that I am willing to consider the Cashierless Store to be one among many contexts where the Mechanization Rate is also related to the inherent limitations of making that model more widespread. The technologies in question are related to the problems of the Internet-of-Things (IoT), the idea of connecting every conceivable economic activity to the digital realm on the World Wide Web (WWW). While the National Intranet can be used as a more realistic application, I should mention that Cashierless Stores are vulnerable to cyberwarfare because they are connected to the digital realm. In fact, any practical application of the Mechanization Rate in general needs to consider the issues of cyberwarfare and cybercrime seriously.    

But, to be honest, the Mechanization Rate does serve its intended purpose as the means through which the Totality and Student Body determine their relations to Technology. They can be neither completely independent of Technology nor completely dependent on Technology within the State of Total Mobilization. In a functioning Council Democracy, the Mechanization Rate is there to help the Totality and their Council State how to apply Automation in areas where they are most effective. Not everything needs to be automated and at risk of being exposed to cyberattacks.  

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