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January 9, 2009

Technology Taking Over Jobs

-- by Dave Johnson

How much of the unemployment is really coming because of technology taking over jobs? How many jobs replaced by the efficiency of computers? How many by machines? How many by robots? We have known for a long time this is a developing problem with our economic system, and instead of addressing it have been reacting by pushing the reckoning out into the future for decades.

So maybe this is about that - one more fundamental problem of our economic system. All the attempts to delay the reckoning collapse... all the psychological manipulation of "demand creation" that tricks people into using credit cards to buy cheap junk that they don't need... all the smoke and mirrors moves aside and we see that there really are not that many "jobs."

What is this thing, a "job?" I was on the phone with a tech support guy for Brother printers, and his "job" was to read this script to me, and I have to do everything on the script, and then the next thing on the script, and he isn't allowed to vary from the script. That is called a "job." He had a lifeless voice, and rent to pay, so he comes in in the morning and reads the script over and over.

How many "jobs" are trained-monkey jobs,shuffling paper, doing some meaningless task someone tells us to do, making someone else rich, just to keep us occupied and paid until a machine gets sophisticated enough to do it instead, and then the worker is discarded and left with nothing and no prospects (because machines do that now).

And what are our lives, in these "jobs"? How many of us even know what our own choices might be?

Who is our economy FOR? Is this really an "economic system" that is doing anyone any good? When demand creation works, and the economy is "stimulated," that just means we'll start strip-mining or clear-cutting faster, and then building more mountains of landfill.

Another perspective, if the economy was for us:

Shouldn't a machine taking over a job be a time of rejoicing? Shouldn't a new machine or process mean one less hour of work is needed from everyone?

But under our economic system, in which we pretend that a few people "own" what we really all own, a new machine or process means just a few people become immensely wealthy while the rest of us are discarded, or have to work even longer hours and for less pay, because the competition for the remaining jobs is even greater.

Imagine a life where you could actually decide what you want to do with your time.

Posted by Dave Johnson at January 9, 2009 9:40 PM


Comments

Maybe the problem with our economy is that those machines are not buying anything either.

If my reading of Adam Smith is correct, it is demand that drives supply, not the other way around. Supply side ideologues however don’t want to admit to that, even while our economy disintegrates from weakening demand. What we’ve been experiencing is deflation. It started as a correction in vastly overpriced housing and it’s spreading to the rest of our economy.

It will take courageous action to keep it from destroying our businesses and jobs. I recommend PRINTING a trillion dollars in NEW money, that’s about our loss in value so far, distributing it to those in the bottom ranks of our economy, and letting it percolate its way to the top. Trickle down won’t do.

I have another outrageous idea. Give every American citizen a monthly stipend that is enough for him/her to live on through the month. But if we want big expensive cars, oversized and overpriced homes, and designer clothes we’ll have to work for those. That would answer the problem of poverty in our country and provide a work force that is essentially not exploitable.

Posted by: WASanford [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 11, 2009 6:19 PM

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