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After 10,000 Years, Farming No Longer Dominates

kdawson posted about 7 years ago | from the long-row-to-hoe dept.

The Almighty Buck 332

Peter S. Magnusson writes "As reported widely in business and mainstream press, the ILO recently released world market employment statistics. Most outlets focused on US economic competitiveness vs. China and Europe. Few noticed the gem hidden away in the ILO report: for the first time since the invention of agriculture, farming is not the biggest sector of the global economy — services is. (Aggregate employment numbers often divide the economy into agriculture, industry, and services.) Workers are now moving directly from agriculture to services, bypassing the traditional route of manufacturing."

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To me, the really sad thing is... (3, Insightful)

AltGrendel (175092) | about 7 years ago | (#20481657)

...once you take land out of agricultural use, it is never used for agriculture again. By that I mean the growing of crops. Once a building is there, that's it.

Re:To me, the really sad thing is... (2)

jt2377 (933506) | about 7 years ago | (#20481707)

we no longer need huge land to create massive food. the advance technology can do wonder with a little patch of land. it's not sad. we can now produce more with little patch of land than before.

Re:To me, the really sad thing is... (0)

MyLongNickName (822545) | about 7 years ago | (#20481847)

we can now produce more with little patch of land than before.

Actually, no. Older, more manually intensive methods create more food per acre. But who wants to plant and pick by hand?

Re:To me, the really sad thing is... (4, Insightful)

gomiam (587421) | about 7 years ago | (#20481985)

I would like you to explain why do you say that. AFAIK, current crops and current agricultural methods provide more food per surface unit (and I'm not even getting into account hidroponics): mechanization of the work allows to plant and seed at the optimum growth distance, and current crops usually require less space per plant to grow and produce the same amount.

Re:To me, the really sad thing is... (1)

Otter (3800) | about 7 years ago | (#20481987)

That may be true, but newer crop variants are much more productive per area than traditional ones are. Overall, I'm sure the GP is correct. And even more so for raising animals.

Re:To me, the really sad thing is... (4, Informative)

bigdavex (155746) | about 7 years ago | (#20482013)

That's certainly not true for grains. What are kind of crops are you thinking of?

Wilson Quarterly [wilsoncenter.org]

Since 1900, U.S. farmers have more than tripled wheat production per acre to 40 bushels in 1997, up from 12. For corn, the gains have been even larger--127 bushels per acre in 1997 versus 28 in 1900. But in the previous century, crop yields barely improved at all. In 1800, wheat yields were 15 bushels per acre and corn yields 25 bushels per acre.

Re:To me, the really sad thing is... (1)

MyLongNickName (822545) | about 7 years ago | (#20482211)

I stand corrected.

Re:To me, the really sad thing is... (3, Interesting)

TykeClone (668449) | about 7 years ago | (#20482239)

For corn, much of the improvements have come in the genetics of the seed (hybridization in the 50's and gmo's now) and in the application of ag chemicals for fertilizer and pest control. This year, the USDA is estimating that corn yields will be in the 150 bushels per acre range (but that might be a bit high).

Re:To me, the really sad thing is... (3, Interesting)

E++99 (880734) | about 7 years ago | (#20482349)

Since 1900, U.S. farmers have more than tripled wheat production per acre to 40 bushels in 1997, up from 12. For corn, the gains have been even larger--127 bushels per acre in 1997 versus 28 in 1900. But in the previous century, crop yields barely improved at all. In 1800, wheat yields were 15 bushels per acre and corn yields 25 bushels per acre.

There are a whole lot of factors that contribute to those increases, though. Probably one of the simplest is the affordability of irrigation. One of the most frequently overlooked is the 30% increase of atmospheric CO2 concentrations.

Re:To me, the really sad thing is... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20482041)

you mean more food per full time person

Re:To me, the really sad thing is... (1, Flamebait)

bobcat7677 (561727) | about 7 years ago | (#20481723)

...And thus begins mankind's shooting itself in it's foot. With less land being used to grow FOOD, you will see more and more situations like the skyrocketing tortilla prices in Mexico and general famines around the world. I don't care to go into details right now, but the "global economy" is destroying our food supply.

Re:To me, the really sad thing is... (4, Interesting)

AKAImBatman (238306) | about 7 years ago | (#20481767)

I can fix that! [verticalfarm.com]

--

10,000 years of incredible human engineering isn't going to end with something as simple as "we've developed all the farmland".

Re:To me, the really sad thing is... (2, Insightful)

Otter (3800) | about 7 years ago | (#20481917)

I really doubt you need anything that complicated. People will knock down some building and plant crops long before they'll starve. I'm not sure why the OP thinks it's impossible.

Developed land is replacing farmland because agriculture gets more and more efficient, not because of some law of thermodynamics.

Re:To me, the really sad thing is... (5, Interesting)

AKAImBatman (238306) | about 7 years ago | (#20482055)

People will knock down some building and plant crops long before they'll starve.

While true, it's unlikely it will ever happen. Barring a collapse of civilization (did someone mention Huns at the door?) humankind will continue to engineer itself forward. Something "complicated" like an Indoor Farm may seem like an overkill, but it does have a lot of advantages over farmland. Not the least of which is control. We've already been engineering our crops and the soil. (Even the "organic" variety still use modern farming techniques.) Thus the next logical step is to engineer the farmland itself to better meet our needs.

Reducing the distance between the farms and the consumers could have a lot of direct benefits. One of which is being able to control and recycle the farm wastes means that open lands are cleaner and better smelling. Future city engineers may even look at ways of pumping filtered CO2 from the city's air into the crops, while pumping the resultant oxygen back to the city.

Lots of possibilities. :)

(And yes, I've been watching too much "Engineering an Empire" off of iTunes. Excellent show!)

Re:To me, the really sad thing is... (1)

Otter (3800) | about 7 years ago | (#20482279)

While true, it's unlikely it will ever happen. Barring a collapse of civilization...

I agree, but a collapse of civilization is precisely what was being discussed.

In Zimbabwe, where agriculture has collapsed, shanties are torn down to grow gardens in urban areas.

Re:To me, the really sad thing is... (3, Insightful)

gstoddart (321705) | about 7 years ago | (#20482369)

Developed land is replacing farmland because agriculture gets more and more efficient, not because of some law of thermodynamics.

No, it replaces farmland because cities grow out into previously rural places, and smaller farms sell out because they can make more money by selling the land than farming it. On the industrial scale, farming is more efficient. But it doesn't account for most of the loss of farm-land.

If what you were saying, farms in rural areas would simply congeal into a big mega farm.

I know both Toronto and Ottawa in Ontario (Canada) have steadily been expanding into what was once some of the best farmland in the country. There's an ever-diminishing number of farmers who haven't sold out. For the most part, it goes away due to subdivision growth, not anything to do with the efficiency of farming.

When you get many miles of subdivision occupying what used to be very arable land, that farmland is taken out of the pool. Increasingly in the west, food comes from rather far away since we're using the land for roads and houses instead of farming.

I can only imagine that if you look around the western world, you'll find lots of places which used to be good farmland have suffered the same fate. Unfortunately, it would take a massive amount of upheaval to cause people in suburbs to start tearing down their homes and streets to start on subsistence farming.

Cheers

Re:To me, the really sad thing is... (2, Interesting)

imaginaryelf (862886) | about 7 years ago | (#20481937)

Population problems are self correcting. Yes, there's the bit about war and famine and general misery for a few generations. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Malthus [wikipedia.org]

Re:To me, the really sad thing is... (1)

timeOday (582209) | about 7 years ago | (#20482353)

That type of "self-correction" is the problem. Avoiding that is the whole point of agriculture in the first place!

Re:To me, the really sad thing is... (2, Insightful)

Knutsi (959723) | about 7 years ago | (#20482365)

Any ecological population in nature that grows towards the capacity of what the environment can sustain encounters growth regulating factors that limits growth, and eventually levels the growth at certain numbers. These factors are: competition, decease, predation and stress (dogs eating puppies, harder territorial fights etc). This leads to improvements in the genetic pool, keeping the overall population strong as specimens that are sickly, weak or have other non-benefitial mutations are removed from the pool, and provides nutrition for those who make it. It also stimulates long-term adaptation to the environment. It's really quite stunningly beautiful...

That is, unless your apply it to humans of course, and live by modern society values such as human rights (which we hold dear, and are bloody well right to do so!). I'm afraid the times coming up will try us very hard, and in the process make sparse what today defines being a good human: love and respect, a chance for everyone, right to personal development and education, right to equal share of good life and resources, forgiveness.

People who have tried to apply purely biological principals of the strong man's right to survive has gone down in history to be seen as demons that once walked amongst us.

Re:To me, the really sad thing is... (5, Funny)

Gospodin (547743) | about 7 years ago | (#20481969)

I don't care to go into details right now, but the "global economy" is destroying our food supply.

I don't care to go into details right now, but you're wrong.

Re:To me, the really sad thing is... (1)

ichigo 2.0 (900288) | about 7 years ago | (#20482027)

That has nothing to do with the "global economy" (whatever that is), and everything to do with biofuel shenanigans. Why would farmers sell their wares as food when they get much more from selling them as fuel?

Re:To me, the really sad thing is... (1)

Cro Magnon (467622) | about 7 years ago | (#20482351)

Yeah, but until we all become cyborgs, we can't eat ethanol!

Ignorance is not an excuse (4, Interesting)

pkbarbiedoll (851110) | about 7 years ago | (#20482449)

Ethanol is most criticized, and with due cause. Traditional methods of ethanol production (for instance) deserve criticism. Using only corn kernels is horribly inefficient, particularly when corn is a food source.

But the old ways are changing. The State of Georgia will host the nation's first cellulosic ethanol production facility [dailykos.com] . Cellulosic ethanol production is more than 15 times more efficient than traditional production methods. Any green biomass can be used: corn kernels, corn stalks, corn roots, switchgrass, cane sugar, tree chips, industrial green waste, and even pig shit. This is the future of biofuels.

Range Fuels is building the new facility in Georgia. They do not use any biomass also used as a food source for humans or animals. The Georgia plant will use industrial tree waste from the many paper mills in the region.

Re:To me, the really sad thing is... (1)

Akvum (580456) | about 7 years ago | (#20482033)

The prices are skyrocketing because population rates still explode upwards while farmland is being converted to service sector use in some countries like Mexico, causing shortages. This "global economy" model only works for countries with near 0 net population growth (a condition most "first world" countries experience). Agricultural economies can accept expanding populations, as the educational component is minimal for operation, and the physical labor component quickly wears out workers. Service economies need to expand lifespans more than agricultural economies, as education requirements are costly in time and $$$. Living longer seems to correlate to low population growth. These starving countries are trying to emulate the success of their first world neighbors by expanding into services, while ignoring a condition for being successful. Thus they predictably fail, leading to shortages.

Re:To me, the really sad thing is... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20482499)

No it is the subsidization of farmers in the USA that drives up prices.

Look it up in the ft.com or cnn.com.

Ethanol and illegal american subsidies are raising tortilla prices and putting Mexican farmers out of business. NOT more people.

Re:To me, the really sad thing is... (1)

wcrowe (94389) | about 7 years ago | (#20482299)

I don't care to go into details right now, but the "global economy" is destroying our food supply.

I dunno, guess that depends on your definition of "food supply"...

"Soylent Green is people!"

Re:To me, the really sad thing is... (1)

mini me (132455) | about 7 years ago | (#20482323)

The food supply was already well on it's way to destroying itself. You can't keep a farm going when corn is only worth $2 a bushel. The correction was going to happen with or without ethanol, ethanol just made it a whole lot easier for everyone. Unless you mean that the US flooding the rest of the world with their heavily subsidized food is destroying the food supply, then I would agree.

Re:To me, the really sad thing is... (1)

king-manic (409855) | about 7 years ago | (#20482411)

...And thus begins mankind's shooting itself in it's foot. With less land being used to grow FOOD, you will see more and more situations like the skyrocketing tortilla prices in Mexico and general famines around the world. I don't care to go into details right now, but the "global economy" is destroying our food supply.

I'm not sure if someone else pointed this out but we're currently producing the most food we have ever produced in all recorded history. What you are noticing is probably the local reduction in carrying capacity of marginal lands. The areas that where just barely supporting the historic population. Marginal areas like a large swath of Africa, parts of the middle east and so on. What happened in these areas is the population there subsisted close to the carrying capacity of that land. Westerners came, brought a whole bunch of food and medicine from other areas for various reasons (buying loyalty, humanitarian efforts, hubris etc..) and this raised the population above what the local carrying capacity is. As well the westerners brought farming techniques that suited the rich European farmlands they came from. The greater population and the mismatched farming techniques diminished the actual carrying capacity and when something like civil war or de-colonization occurred the population was left with a pop greater then the carrying capacity. Thus famine and war and other nastiness.

The global food supply in general has actually grown despite this. We have more food then is necessary to feed the entire world population but due problems of logistics it cannot be re-distributed properly. Incidents like the Mexican tortilla price were effects of manipulated economies not of limited supply. In fact we have the capacity to produce much much more, but we choose not to (see Canada and how much of it's arable land is used for agriculture). The Global economy is not destroying out food supply. Avarice and Misguided compassion has destroyed some people local food supply.

Re:To me, the really sad thing is... (1)

Lithgon (896737) | about 7 years ago | (#20481765)

What is sad to me is that agriculture is shrinking at the same time the demand for food world-wide is increasing.

Re:To me, the really sad thing is... (5, Insightful)

MyLongNickName (822545) | about 7 years ago | (#20481915)

And, yet, starvation rates world wide are going down. Perhaps the issue is distribution, not supply? Also, the fact that food is a smaller percentage of the economy does not mean that the amount of food is decreasing. If the rest of the economy per capita is increasing by a positive rate, then it will naturally outstrip food which is not going to be consumed at an every increasing per capita rate.

Re:To me, the really sad thing is... (0)

COMON$ (806135) | about 7 years ago | (#20481955)

Having grown up in an agricultural town I can tell you that the problem isn't shrinking food supply, the problem is getting the food to the people that need it. The overabundance of farm grain and produce in the US is astounding. Wish I could find the stats to back this up right now but I am just too lazy at the moment.

Re:To me, the really sad thing is... (1)

TykeClone (668449) | about 7 years ago | (#20482311)

Google listing of pictures of piles of corn [google.com]

We're so efficient at growing corn, our problem is getting it out of the midwest. Because of this, we "grow" piles of corn during the fall until it can be shipped to market for its end use.

Re:To me, the really sad thing is... (1)

JesseMcDonald (536341) | about 7 years ago | (#20481961)

What is sad to me is that agriculture is shrinking at the same time the demand for food world-wide is increasing.

The summary didn't say that worldwide food production was decreasing, just that fewer workers are employed in agriculture (relative to industry and services) than were in the past. At least part of that is probably due to more efficient production methods that allow the same or greater amounts of food to be grown by fewer workers. I don't know the actual statistics, but it would surprise me greatly if overall food production wasn't increasing year-on-year, despite the shift toward service-based employment.

Re:To me, the really sad thing is... (1)

Kadin2048 (468275) | about 7 years ago | (#20482457)

What is sad to me is that agriculture is shrinking at the same time the demand for food world-wide is increasing.
In the anything but the short term, they balance each other out nicely.

Re:To me, the really sad thing is... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20481807)

We could farm the moon, the Mars, and the asteroids.

Once we've drilled the oil out of them, that is.

Re:To me, the really sad thing is... (1)

AuMatar (183847) | about 7 years ago | (#20481849)

So? We only need to increase the food supply if the population grows. Something we need to stop anyway- western lifestyles aren't sustainable to 6 billion, much less 10.

Re:To me, the really sad thing is... (3, Insightful)

Marxist Hacker 42 (638312) | about 7 years ago | (#20481879)

Not necessarily. You can always put a green roof on the building. You can also use corner offices for greenhouses. Especially Southwest and Southeast corners.

What really disturbs me though is that we've gone from a race of creators, creating goods with agriculture or manufacturing, to a world wide economy of McJobs that pay minimum wage and create NOTHING.

Re:To me, the really sad thing is... (1)

Overzeetop (214511) | about 7 years ago | (#20481993)

No, you've missed the transition. It now takes such a small portion of human output to feed, clothe, and house said humans that entire industries have been created from scatch to "enhance" our lives. Don't think of it as so many useless things we consume, but that it takes so little effort to provide the basic necessities.

Over the course of human history, it has been the same tale of minimum wages - those at the top of the money ladder consume and provide jobs for those at the bottom. Many view this situation as unfair. Without passing that kind of judgement - for or against - I say the the overall process is similar, but that a smaller and smaller portion of the consumed goods are truly necessities.

If you want my opinion, and most people don't, I'd say there are close to 5.5B too many people in the world. And no, I don't have a discrete reason for said overpopulation valuse, nor a workable plan to get to that number...but thanks for asking anyway.

Re:To me, the really sad thing is... (1)

Marxist Hacker 42 (638312) | about 7 years ago | (#20482265)

No, you've missed the transition. It now takes such a small portion of human output to feed, clothe, and house said humans that entire industries have been created from scatch to "enhance" our lives. Don't think of it as so many useless things we consume, but that it takes so little effort to provide the basic necessities.

I'd believe that if the majority of the human species wasn't struggling to survive. But I suppose, that's more of a resource allocation problem than a resource production problem is what this number is telling us.

Over the course of human history, it has been the same tale of minimum wages - those at the top of the money ladder consume and provide jobs for those at the bottom. Many view this situation as unfair. Without passing that kind of judgement - for or against - I say the the overall process is similar, but that a smaller and smaller portion of the consumed goods are truly necessities.

Thus leading to a potential labor surplus. But I say- we could all be much more wealthy if we'd all produce *more* than we need, so that we have storehouses available for the inevitable lean times.

If you want my opinion, and most people don't, I'd say there are close to 5.5B too many people in the world. And no, I don't have a discrete reason for said overpopulation valuse, nor a workable plan to get to that number...but thanks for asking anyway.

Well, that would be one way to produce such a surplus. But actually using those extra 5.5Billion to say, fix the inevitable problems that come with overpopulation, might be a better answer.

Re:To me, the really sad thing is... (1)

ackthpt (218170) | about 7 years ago | (#20481909)

...once you take land out of agricultural use, it is never used for agriculture again. By that I mean the growing of crops. Once a building is there, that's it.

Michigan may have to test that. There are a few cities which have lost considerable amounts of their employment base and population. Saginaw and Flint have lost large percentages of population which moved elsewhere after the withdraw of General Motors manufacturing. Over 20 years ago I drove through parts of the city where there are streets, but few houses (most of the remaining are condemned.) They may as well tear up the streets and begin planting corn, soy, sugar beets or wheat as it's likely the only way the land will be productive in the next 100 years.

have you seen me? [dragonswest.com]

Re:To me, the really sad thing is... (1)

Gospodin (547743) | about 7 years ago | (#20482019)

...once you take land out of agricultural use, it is never used for agriculture again.

What the heck are you talking about? This may be true in practice, but that's only because we're vastly more efficient growing crops than we've ever been before... which is what this article is about. This isn't bad news, for crying out loud!

It certainly isn't true in principle that once a building goes up, that's it for agriculture for that city block. So what's the problem?

Re:To me, the really sad thing is... (2, Insightful)

CaptainPatent (1087643) | about 7 years ago | (#20482021)

Not completely true...

The glorious thing about having an economy is that the value of using that land as building space versus using it as farmland is openly weighed. One may tend to think that once a building is up, it's there to stay because in our economy, plant output has been getting progressively more efficient so the demand for farmland is slowly decreasing. This is why buildings that are put up tend to stay up. If we lived in a society where the demand for veggies was increasing and the only way to meet demand was to make more farmland, the price of veggies would go way up and people would do anything from growing them in any free backyard space to tearing down buildings when it becomes more profitable to use that land as farmland instead.

A good real-world example is the demand for parking in large cities is increasing. I know of quite a number of buildings which were torn down because they would be more profitable just to have a space to park a car.

Except in my garage! (1)

tjstork (137384) | about 7 years ago | (#20482377)

Random thoughts:

1) When a farm is converted to housing, a lot of trees go up, and as a result, we are sort of reforesting ourselves.

2) I left an open bag of top soil and an open bag of grass seed sitting on top of each other, next to a leaky hose. Sure enough, the water dripped down, and, when I was cleaning out my garage, I discovered I had a small lawn inside.

3) Also, if you take a look at some industrial areas in PA, you'll find that a lot of old buildings are being overrun by nature.

The moral of the story, point by point, is this. 1) a lot of what was farmland was trees to begin with, and is going back to trees. 2) nature always finds away to prosper, even if you turn your back on it for a month, and 3) large parts of American cities that were manufacturing centers will be reforested within our lifetimes, and you can see that happening now, if you ride the R2 rail line from Chester PA to Philadelphia, and I imagine in other cities as well.

Finally, fuel prices are rising and will continue to rise, and this will over time put a break in the suburban sprawl that so many are against.

Re:To me, the really sad thing is... (1)

be951 (772934) | about 7 years ago | (#20482421)

To me, the sad thing is that the article is about the number of people working in the different categories (agriculture, industry, services) and says nothing about land use. Yet you've spawned a whole thread of people bemoaning (mostly) the loss of agricultural land and diminished food production, neither of which is supported by the article -- and may not even be accurate (a quick google search didn't turn up anything to that effect).

Iceage (2, Insightful)

Sragonal (1141621) | about 7 years ago | (#20481671)

Over 10.000 years there wil be an iceage... no, farming will not dominate then.

Re:Iceage (1)

ed.mps (1015669) | about 7 years ago | (#20482199)

Actually, iceages ocurrs before interglacial periods of 10k to 30k years. [wikipedia.org]
The last glacial was 98k years long, anyway, our interglacial is nearly at its 12k birthday...

Re:Iceage (1)

Cro Magnon (467622) | about 7 years ago | (#20482407)

Nah, just keep driving SUVs so Global Warming can stave off the iceage.

I for one... (-1, Offtopic)

cliffiecee (136220) | about 7 years ago | (#20481679)

have already welcomed my service-sector overlords.

"Would you like that document delivered to your cubicle, sir?"

Re:I for one... (5, Funny)

snowraver1 (1052510) | about 7 years ago | (#20481815)

Question: Are Chinese gold farmers in the service or agriculture industry?

Re:I for one... (2, Funny)

owlnation (858981) | about 7 years ago | (#20482053)

For that matter... is Phishing and Pharming agriculture or service industry? There certainly seems to be no shortage of people employed doing that.

Re:I for one... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20482121)

I'll go and feed my herd of viruses now.

Re:I for one... (1)

voracious99 (1152419) | about 7 years ago | (#20482417)

The death of agriculture ... LOL

6 Billion+ (1)

BlowHole666 (1152399) | about 7 years ago | (#20481689)

Well with machines, and 10,000 years of practice we do not need everyone farming or the biggest sector farming. So that then leaves a majority of the rest of the people to work in the service industry. Earth has 6 Billion+ people on it we can not all be farmers, or programmers. So that leaves a large majority to work at Wal-Mart or the grocery store etc. Not a great job but it is a job.

Re:6 Billion+ (1)

Semptimilius (917640) | about 7 years ago | (#20481745)

I don't know if you're implying this isn't the case, but, programming is a service job. Like a checkout clerk, an engineer or a police officer.

Re:6 Billion+ (1)

BlowHole666 (1152399) | about 7 years ago | (#20481901)

When I think service I think putting up with customers bull shit etc. Programming it all depends if you deal with the customer or not.

Re:6 Billion+ (1)

Mattintosh (758112) | about 7 years ago | (#20482187)

Programming is an "industry" or "manufacturing" job since it produces a final, tangible product (a program). Project management and architect/designer gets lumped in with programming a lot, and they're service jobs (they guide the output of the manufacturing job, but produce no final product in and of themselves). But programming itself is not a service. Code monkeys are digital steering-wheel installers on a code assembly line.

Service over Ag (1)

ackthpt (218170) | about 7 years ago | (#20481721)

Simply put, this is about delivering Food Solutions [google.com] rather than Food.

Have you got your cut, yet?

have you seen me? [dragonswest.com]

Re:Service over Ag (1)

snowraver1 (1052510) | about 7 years ago | (#20481913)

A feeling of having made the same mistake before: Deja Foobar
It's Fubar, not Foobar (F*cked Up Beyond All Recognition) Sorry to be nit-picky, but you should know :)

Re:Service over Ag (1)

ackthpt (218170) | about 7 years ago | (#20482049)

A feeling of having made the same mistake before: Deja Foobar

It's Fubar, not Foobar (F*cked Up Beyond All Recognition) Sorry to be nit-picky, but you should know :)

Which hasn't detered many from copying it all over the internet [google.com] since I coined the phrase years ago. Some (*gasp*) have even adopted it as their own!

I purposely wrote it that way to be silly, in a geekish way. Foobar is sometimes used in place of Fubar by intent to distance it from the obvious profanity of the original. I simply followed that lead.

Note to moderators: This post is a Service, not Food.

have you seen me? [dragonswest.com]

.W00t 7p (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20481755)

ermmmm... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20481839)

is petersmagnusson.com a reliable

Title of the place is "Thoughts on Tech and the Tech Industry"

Couldn't we have found a better source

Does gold farming count? (1)

R2.0 (532027) | about 7 years ago | (#20481863)

Is it agriculture? Is it a service? Floor wax? Desert topping?

Re:Does gold farming count? (1)

jayemcee (605967) | about 7 years ago | (#20482193)

From the pdf, the ILO definitions: The agriculture sector comprises activities in agriculture, hunting, forestry and fishing. The industry sector comprises mining and quarrying, manufacturing, construction and public utilities (electricity, gas and water). The services sector consists of wholesale and retail trade, restaurants and hotels, transport, storage and communications, finance, insurance, real estate and business services, and community, social and personal services.

Re:Does gold farming count? (1)

ackthpt (218170) | about 7 years ago | (#20482465)

Is it agriculture? Is it a service? Floor wax? Desert topping?

I don't know about that, but I have worked in a Cubicle Farm [wikipedia.org] before. It's a whole new brand of agribusiness! Seeded with ideas, harvesting new technologies, raising profits, that sorta fing.

I though ILO was a Walmart brand... (1)

Boap (559344) | about 7 years ago | (#20481865)

Wonder what it stands for in this case?

Nice blog to get hits, but... (5, Informative)

EveryNickIsTaken (1054794) | about 7 years ago | (#20481881)

Here's the important info, from the actual report: Here (PDF) [ilo.org]

You'll note, from this article:

Caution should be used, however, where the information refers only to employees or only to urban areas. For some years in certain countries, the sectoral information relates only to urban areas, so that little or no agricultural work is recorded.
Also, there is no data culled for the vast majority of African nations, where the sector of choice would be agriculture. So, to sum it up - your blog about the rise of services vs. agriculture could only be considered partially correct, at best.

Selling each other imaginary stuff (0)

athloi (1075845) | about 7 years ago | (#20481893)

We seem to be selling each other services and properties without really adding value. It's something Thomas Pynchon wrote about in "The Crying of Lot 49," where he describes how in a zero-sum game it's false to pretend you can take something away from it. Agriculture, manufacturing and intellectual property (software development) make value, but the rest of this services-based economy just pushes money around.

Re:Selling each other imaginary stuff (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20482113)

There is value to pushing money around: Startups need funding. Your house needs funding. Your car needs funding. Your fast food bill /needs funding/. Do you use cash for all of those? I've not carried cash on me 6 months.

Granted, there's an /awful/ lot of cruft. Still, middle management has value: Just not a lot.

Re:Selling each other imaginary stuff (1)

Gospodin (547743) | about 7 years ago | (#20482133)

For this to make sense, you need to have an objective sense of the word "value". Describe to me, without any subjective principles, why a car is worth more than the raw iron ore, bauxite, plastics, leather, etc. of which it is composed. Then explain to me how manufacturing produces objective value in a way that "services" do not.

Re:Selling each other imaginary stuff (1)

everphilski (877346) | about 7 years ago | (#20482165)

But software development **is** considered a service... and your view of services is narrow. Wal-mart employees, gas station atendees, car wash owners, Jiffy lube workers, etc. are all services.

Re:Selling each other imaginary stuff (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20482361)

I disagree. Examine your definition of "adding value." A service creates efficiency. One purchases a service because it is more efficient to spend one's time earning money at work than to spend one's time attempting to perform the service oneself. An effective service is an opportunity to increase a society's standard of living.

Re:Selling each other imaginary stuff (1)

ackthpt (218170) | about 7 years ago | (#20482429)

We seem to be selling each other services and properties without really adding value. It's something Thomas Pynchon wrote about in "The Crying of Lot 49," where he describes how in a zero-sum game it's false to pretend you can take something away from it. Agriculture, manufacturing and intellectual property (software development) make value, but the rest of this services-based economy just pushes money around.

This is what you get with fiat money, eh? We believe the paper represents some value, though it is only backed up with the intention of the government to manage it's value through manipulation of interest rates and negotiating terms with other countries on exchange rates. Money has effectively been reduced to points. Rarely do I see a large note in my wallet these days, more often my entire pay moves around without me seeing more than a tiny fraction of it necessary for incidentals (newspapers, bubble gum, 14 pin dual inline sockets, etc.)

More about technology than people... (1)

coolmoose25 (1057210) | about 7 years ago | (#20481949)

This is more about technology than the people... over time, we've managed to create more and more efficient ways to do things with machines (technology) than with people. It is interesting to note that technology was applied to manufacturing first, then agriculture on a large scale. So mass production first displaced workers from craftsman occupations (gunsmiths, blacksmiths, fill-in-the-blanksmiths). At that time, farming was still largely a people job. What drove the rise in manufacuring jobs was the rise in demand for goods. The same could not be said of agriculture - once you have enough food, you stop buying more... with manufactured goods, you always want more... But now we are seeing industrial agriculture displacing workers... we have automated the easy stuff (grain production) and now we're automating the harder stuff (fruit picking)... over time, the number of workers required will fall and since nature abhors a vacuum, these people start working in services... you see the same trend with working mothers over the last century... in the US, taking care of a home was a full time job - washing clothes, dishes, preparing meals, etc. were all labor intensive - now they are trivial (washing machines, microwave dinners, etc). So as the 50's rolled into the 90's, you saw all this home automation drive the job of keeping a home to part time work instead of full time. So the traditional stay at home mom started working outside the home - at first in jobs like teaching where you could still be with your kids when they got home, now with a much more varied opportunity for women. We have two wage earners in a family now not because it takes more to maintain the home, but because it takes less...

Re:More about technology than people... (1)

BlowHole666 (1152399) | about 7 years ago | (#20482127)

It is almost like human nature tells us to be lazy. All the hard task like farming, washing stuff, cleaning etc. have all been replaced by more efficient ways of doing stuff. If we could replace everything from programming, to all the cleaning we then get something from the Jetsons. Where all George has to do is push a button and sit in his chair. It is like human evolution is pushing us to a time where we do not have to worry about anything where we are left to either be lazy or left to think about the universe and our surroundings.

Re:More about technology than people... (1)

coolmoose25 (1057210) | about 7 years ago | (#20482341)

That is one way to think about it... I largely agree. I would put it in less negative terms though... human nature teaches us to automate the mundane, tedious, and time consuming tasks, so we have time to do the more challenging, interesting, and enjoyable tasks... what is interesting about human nature is that while that is true on the macro scale, at the micro scale it is sometimes exactly counterintuitive... for instance, we automate farming, so food is cheap and plentiful. Then my neighbor goes out in his back yard with all his extra time and grows his own tomatoes... For him, it is a labor of love, something that is interesting and challenging and enjoyable - otherwise he wouldn't do it. But for me, I'm just glad he drops a fresh tomato by once in a while... I can't imagine why he thinks its fun. But then, he probably doesn't understand why I don't just hire a contractor to do the trim work on my new bedroom... (But if I did that, I'd have no excuse to go out and buy that air compressor and nail gun that I had coveted for so long)

Re:More about technology than people... (1)

Notquitecajun (1073646) | about 7 years ago | (#20482359)

My grandpa told me this same thing in less educated - and wiser - terms.

"Laziness is the mother of invention." Of course, I think someone else said it first.

10,000 Years? (2, Funny)

unfunk (804468) | about 7 years ago | (#20481963)

bu bu bu... God only created the earth 6,000 years ago!

Food remains crucial though... (1)

hughk (248126) | about 7 years ago | (#20481999)

By definition, we all still need food. Agriculture may have fallen behind but the decline has been happening since mechanisation but we are still eating. The cost of food at the farm gate has fallen, the value added bit of the chain moving more and more to the processing and manufacture of food items. I can't find an easy way of looking at the food sector as a whole from farm (or vat for that matter) through to supermarket but it must remain massive.

Re:Food remains crucial though... (1)

nomadic (141991) | about 7 years ago | (#20482093)

By definition, we all still need food.

If you're going to make wild assertions like that, please back them up with some evidence.

Re:Food remains crucial though... (1)

Gospodin (547743) | about 7 years ago | (#20482253)

Agriculture may have fallen behind...

The cost of food at the farm gate has fallen...

Do you not see the inconsistency here? If prices have fallen, it's because supply is becoming ever more efficient and is outstripping demand. So in what sense has agriculture "fallen behind"?

Re:Food remains crucial though... (1)

gstoddart (321705) | about 7 years ago | (#20482567)

Do you not see the inconsistency here? If prices have fallen, it's because supply is becoming ever more efficient and is outstripping demand. So in what sense has agriculture "fallen behind"?

Supply is becoming efficient in a limited way, but not on a wide scale. Most of these savings are economies of scale, or cheap imported produce.

Large scale industrial farming generates a large amount of food available relatively cheaply. But, it's effectively off-shoring of your agriculture. It's cheap because a country with lower labour costs is producing it for you.

Prices of food at the farm gate gave dropped because customers know they can get cheap lettuce and tomatoes at the grocers, and they're not willing to pay what the actual local producers costs are. In many case (eg, meat) the producers have been selling at below production costs because the consumer expects that everyone can sell it for the same price as Wal Mart does. Eventually, they get gouged too badly and go out of business entirely, and we lose even more farming capacity.

In the end, there's fewer reliable suppliers, and it's something of a shell game. Farming is undergoing some of the same changes as other industries are under globalization. But, glitches in the supply chain (or massive recalls of California produce due to E-Coli contamination) can cause major upheaval in the markets.

Sourcing globally gives lowered prices, but it doesn't mean supply has outstripped demand and then become lower due to economic factors. There's just more of a disconnect between the supply and demand.

We certainly haven't reached the point where we can efficiently feed everyone. Just the nations who can afford to import things so they have non-local, out-of-season produce all year round.

Cheers

The number of farmers will probably increase (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20482003)

We are discovering that some of our activities can't be sustained.

EXAMPLE: Farming on the prairie. Up to now, farms have gotten bigger. Around 1900, an economic farm on the prairie might have been a quarter section. (ie. 1/4 square mile) Now, most farms are several square miles. That is due to mechanization and it means there are a lot fewer farmers. The trouble is that the fertility of the soil has become badly depleted. At some point, we won't be able to continue on our current path and more labor intensive methods will probably come back.

We are starting to use corn for ethanol. That means that all grain crops are becoming more expensive. That is likely to bring marginal land back into cultivation using more labor intensive methods. It also means we won't continue to dump subsidized food into the third world. Farmers there will become price competitive again and farming activity will increase.

Large scale mechanization pretty much implies monoculture. That can't be sustained. My guess is that we will see the number of farmers begin to increase in the next few years.

Jabber Wokky (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20482005)

Nothin but god hatin pussys on Slashdot... if it wasnt for that gloryhole... i for one welcome you mouth on my member...

sincerely RIAA mafIAA

grammar nazi time (5, Funny)

curmudgeous (710771) | about 7 years ago | (#20482017)

Yes, I did RTFA, and I think the following is only one example in the blog of why one should proofread one's works or at least get an editor to do so.

(sic) "If you licked this posting, then please click here..."

I don't know about the rest of you, but I've never felt the urge to lick someone's blog.

Re:grammar nazi time (1)

svendsen (1029716) | about 7 years ago | (#20482243)

I dunno when I see Bill O'reily's blog I want to lick it all over like a lolly pop....

I just threw up...

McJob (1)

heresyoftruth (705115) | about 7 years ago | (#20482029)

That's because McDonalds employs more folks to ask, "Do you want fries with that," than farms that raise the cows and potatoes.

Impossible... (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20482097)

As long as games like WoW exist.

Farming will always be there.

Pretty sad (1)

Orig_Club_Soda (983823) | about 7 years ago | (#20482103)

Read: McDonalds, DMV. Service jobs do not produce tangible objects. There is is no equity in the service industry. The dollar devalues as it is is handed from one schmuck to another. At least in manufacturing people are making some kind of widget. But as we can see in the US service jobs pay the least. And labor jobs are leaving the US. Have left.

Read: Doctors, Lawyers (1)

C10H14N2 (640033) | about 7 years ago | (#20482401)

...or, basically anything that isn't agricultural or manufacturing. Probably your job, for instance.

Sure - until the oil production skids (2, Insightful)

Ralph Spoilsport (673134) | about 7 years ago | (#20482237)

Sure - we have the luxury of a service economy because we have a huge amount of oil that permits things like fertiliser and pesticides and trucks to move food and all that crap.

Once we start sliding down the back end of the depletion curve, fertiliser will become increasingly expensive, as will pesticides. Farming will become more labour intensive, and farming will, again, dominate the economy, as it always has and always will.

Enjoy living in Atlantis, while you can.

RS

But is it only a Bubble like the Dot Bomb era? (3, Insightful)

abb3w (696381) | about 7 years ago | (#20482247)

Semi-seriously. I'm not sure the services-dominant model is sustainable.

Re:But is it only a Bubble like the Dot Bomb era? (1)

decipher_saint (72686) | about 7 years ago | (#20482613)

"Semi-seriously. I'm not sure the services-dominant model is sustainable."

Well you could find out on your own, but for a moderate fee I could find out for you!

The oldest profession (1, Interesting)

Baldrson (78598) | about 7 years ago | (#20482261)

People think "the services sector" is something new in civilization, but they forget the oldest profession: prostitution.

Almost as soon as there were cities, there were temple prostitutes who, along with grain, formed the backing for much of the early currencies. These days the temple [google.com] is returning to "services" for backing of the value of its currency, but we must ask ourselves one simple question:

When subsistence agrarians are cut off from their lands through centralized land ownership, and wealth is increasingly centralized, how are we going to keep tabs on the portion of "the services sector" that is really just some form of temple prostitution? Or don't you care that the children of the world are increasingly going to have to provide, in the form of "services", what amounts to prostitution for their food and shelter?

less agricultural folks is NOT a good thing (3, Insightful)

cats-paw (34890) | about 7 years ago | (#20482275)

fewer people making food makes the agricultural system more sensitive to disruption whether due to political upheaval, new and exciting crop pests, weather misfortunes, etc... Many folks on slashdot realize the advantages of decentralized, i.e. distributed systems, and it's an especially good thing for food production.

Also, the argicultural "miracle" we are currently seeing, is borrowing from the future to pay for itself in terms of environmental damage. You should really be worried when growing food hurts the environment, it really shouldn't be that way.

Re:less agricultural folks is NOT a good thing (1)

hey! (33014) | about 7 years ago | (#20482461)

less agricultural folks is NOT a good thing...
... ceteris paribus, which they never are.

People have been raiding livestock, burning crops, and salting fields since the dawn of time. And it has certainly been "disruptive". Upheaval continues to be disruptive, but these days the disruption is limited to subsistence farmers who become refugees. The further up on the economic scale you are, the more wealth you have sitting in spreadsheet somewhere that can be exchanged for real goods like food from far away.

Therefore, it seems that having fewer, more productive farmers makes things more stable, because more people have more of this abstract and mobile 'wealth' -- even the people who are doing the farming. It's the people stuck unable to produce anything but food, and of that not much more than they need to feed themselves, that are the most insecure of all.

A world where everybody has surplus wealth which can, if necessary, obtain food from outside the immediate area would be a more secure world.

old professions rarely die - they modernize (1)

peter303 (12292) | about 7 years ago | (#20482287)

Something like three percent of the US population produces and processes enough food fo r the entire US population, when it took 70% when the country was founded. Thanks to technology, non-renewable energy, and better business organization. Farmers use GPS, Google Maps, wireless, spreadsheets, etc. to manage their operations now.

Why is this a "milestone"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20482321)

I can't understand why the author feels this is such an important "event". It doesn't seem like anything to crow about or be proud of as a species.

The Third Wave (3, Interesting)

Doc Ruby (173196) | about 7 years ago | (#20482337)

Read Alvin Toffler's 1980 book _The Third Wave [wikipedia.org] _ which predicted with uncanny accuracy just how this would play out. Stay ahead of the next 10,000 years.

Services *are* (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20482473)

you is welcome.

Arbitrary... (0, Redundant)

evilviper (135110) | about 7 years ago | (#20482619)

Gee, one arbitrarily-defined segment of the economy is now larger than another arbitrarily-defined segment of the economy. I'm shocked.
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