[ExI] The End of Meaningful Work
pharos at gmail.com
Tue May 19 11:12:38 UTC 2015
Long article at Dark Bid. (Well over the current 8 second attention span).
The End of Meaningful Work: A World of Machines and Social Alienation
Daniel Drew, 5/18/2015
Many activists are clamoring for a higher minimum wage. That's an
admirable goal, but is that where the worst problem is? Even at the
abysmally low wages of the present moment, we still have 938,000
people being turned away from McDonald's because there aren't enough
McJobs. The real problem is the lack of meaningful work. In a world of
machines and social alienation, meaningful work is as scarce as water
in the drought-stricken California Central Valley.
Even up to the present day, many view new technology and efficiency as
the main drivers of human progress. For awhile, it seemed like this
was indisputable. In his book Rise of the Robots, Martin Ford
describes the 25 years after World War II as the "golden age" of the
American economy. Productivity, employment, and wages were increasing
in synchrony. As with many trends, economists assumed they would
continue indefinitely. It was the glorious free market at work.
Then it all came crashing down at the turn of the century.
This time, it really is different. The shift happened when machines
transformed from mere tools to actual workers.
Martin Ford explained, "In 1998, workers in the US business sector put
in a total of 194 billion hours of labor. A decade and a half later,
in 2013, the value of the goods and services produced by American
businesses had grown by about $3.5 trillion after adjusting for
inflation - a 42 percent increase in output. The total amount of human
labor required to accomplish that was...194 billion hours. Shawn
Sprague, the BLS economist who prepared the report, noted that 'this
means that there was ultimately no growth at all in the number of
hours worked over this 15-year-period, despite the fact that the US
population gained over 40 million people during that time, and despite
the fact that there were over thousands of new businesses established
during that time.'"
If this trend continues a few more years, it will be two lost decades,
which means an entire generation has gone by with no net new jobs
created. This might be somewhat permissible if the population had
stagnated or declined, but with 40 million new people, it sets the
stage for a national disaster.
It is truly a new era.
Much more detailed exposition in the article.
A world with few jobs? What are billions of humans going to do?
One obvious answer is to fight with each other. At least it's
something to do that gives a sense of achievement to the survivors.
Mass medication to tranquilise populations?
The next generation are going to have to face some tricky problems.
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