Where we’ve been, where we are currently, and where we are heading as workers (pertinent to the United States in particular) as summarized in the image below. As indicated by the concluding remark, some things have a way of making a comeback. Emerging conditions necessitate and support people’s ability to act as free agents – this means cultivating a business mindset when it comes to your career. I’ll let this image tell the whole story. Continue reading
Are you a technological evolutionist, catastrophist, or transformationist? This post will go over the meaning of these worldviews against the backdrop of technological advancement and globalization as considered by Great Transitions: The Promise and Lure of the Times Ahead (Rasin, P.; Banuri, T.; Gallopin, G.; Gutman, P.; Hammond, A.; Kates, R.; & Swart, R.; 2002).
In comparing the magnitude of the current technological transition to previous major transitions (e.g., stone age to early civilization and early civilization to the current modern era), Great Transitions, which is available here, introduces six worldviews with respect to technological advances, each describing a possible future. These worldviews encompass various philosophical and political thoughts including, “technological optimists and pessimists, market celebrants and Cassandras, social engineers and anarchists. Crudely, archetypal social philosophies can be placed in three broad streams – the evolutionary, the catastrophic, and the transformational…” (p. 9) and these are explained further below (pp. 9-10): Continue reading
Is it conceivable? Thinking of a way to reconstruct a society in which all the work is being performed by technology makes for an interesting thought exercise indeed. However, some thinkers (such as Andrew McAfee in his TED presentation – see my previous post “The Move Towards Self-Employment“) do see the possibility of a life where people are freed up to do other things. Can the currently assumed exchange between work and consumption be broken? Can the current unemployment situation be but a painful transition on to a life that is ultimately better? If money no longer mattered, perhaps some people would still be working and striving, but for different rewards (such as popularity or mere thrill of competition) as one of my conversation partners hypothesized. This possibility has optimists exclaiming “100% unemployment now!” However if we are striving towards this type of society, one of the worst risks we take is that our creations turn on us and we live out an event akin to “The Terminator: Rise of the Machines.” On the other hand, the way we currently work is already ruining people’s health and therefore slowly killing a good number of us so, if things keep going the way they are, the issue of our welfare becomes moot. Check out this interesting blog post, “Is 100% unemployment realistic, desirable, and statelessly doable?”
Originally posted on In defense of anagorism:
I find it hard to imagine a situation in which all real needs can be satisfied without any work being performed by people. I find it equally hard to believe that we will ever see full employment; understood to mean enough jobs to go around. Automation is real, and it’s inconceivable to me that the future needs all of us. Thus, as long as we are living under a market economy, some of us will be expendable.
Kurt Vonnegut envisioned this scenario in Player Piano, in which people not in-demand enough to merit a paying gig were relagated to the humiliation and indignity of the “Reeks and Wrecks,” a make-work program created to provide the illusion of being a contributing member of society, but the illusion wore thin rather quickly. In Player Piano, the “engineers and managers” are the last dominos left standing. As the nightmare is materializing right now, it looks more like nursing is the hardest occupation to automate.
It seems apparent that somewhere between the staffed economy and the unstaffed economy is the partially staffed economy. With substantiated complaints of “jobless recovery” for at least three economic cycles, I’d say we’re definitely in that middle zone right now. I think we are managing this transition in the least humane way imaginable. Instead of dividing the reduced workload, some can’t get out of mandatory overtime while others can’t get out of part time employment, and the market denies still others any employment at all.
By William A. Draves and Julie Coates, Nine Shift: Work, Life, and Education in the 21st Century opens up with some historical overview about the transition from the Agrarian Age to the Industrial Age in the United States and compares this to the transition from the Industrial Age to the Information Age. The authors aptly noted cultural resistance to new technology and transitions in work systems both at the turn of the 1800s and at the time of the writing of their book. In doing so they present interesting and entertaining side stories such as L. Frank Baum‘s writing of The Wizard of Oz to convey pro-Agrarian values and resistance to encroaching Industrialization. Continue reading