Monday, September 12, 2011

Traditional Jobs Becoming Extinct, New Paradigm Needed

Eric Blair
Activist Post

As debt-riddled nations impose austerity measures and technical automation replaces human labor, joblessness continues to worsen around the world.  In the United States, yet another "stimulus" package of $447 billion in government spending has been proposed to create jobs. Economist Paul Krugman even proposed manufacturing an extraterrestrial threat to create a surge in unified defense spending, which he claims will pull the world economy out of recession in 18 months.  Clearly, these are desperate attempts to keep a failing paradigm alive.

Already, Western economies are propped up by jobs that are nonproductive and, in many cases, are destructive.  For example, the war on drugs employs countless people in positions that have proven to be very harmful to society, far more damaging than the drugs themselves.  And yes, ending the foreign wars will save trillions in government spending, but it will also bring millions of unemployed vets and contractors back into the workforce.  Furthermore, if all of the complicated games were halted on Wall Street, we'd likely face an extinction level event for "traditional' jobs. The system is destructive and it's time to question the paradigm of employment for the sake of employment.

Douglas Rushkoff, author of Program or Be Programmed: Ten Commands for a Digital Age, recently asked if jobs are becoming obsolete?  Rushkoff uses the financial woes of the US Post Office as an example of a sector in decline.  He points out that 600,000 jobs and 400,000 pensioners are in danger.  Rushkoff correctly dismisses the political blame for the post office downfall and blames it on Internet communication; "People are sending 22% fewer pieces of mail than they did four years ago, opting for electronic bill payment and other net-enabled means of communication over envelopes and stamps."

Rushkoff goes on to cite other examples where technology is replacing human labor like EZ-Passes and self-driving cars.  I recently pondered the impact of 3-D printers in every home, printing a cup, bowl, wrench, or toys when they are desired.  Imagine the jobs lost when this becomes a reality among countless other technical advances.  What would happen to jobs if you had a printer like the one in the video below?

Foxconn, an electronics manufacturer from Taiwan with about 40 percent of the global electronics market by creating things like iPhones and computer components, announced it will be replacing much of its staff with one million robots.  So it's not just Western jobs being lost in the high-tech revolution. Video of robots that will replace these assembly line workers can be seen below.

Rushkoff astutely questions the current paradigm of "jobs":
I am afraid to even ask this, but since when is unemployment really a problem? I understand we all want paychecks -- or at least money. We want food, shelter, clothing, and all the things that money buys us. But do we all really want jobs? 
We're living in an economy where productivity is no longer the goal, employment is. That's because, on a very fundamental level, we have pretty much everything we need. America is productive enough that it could probably shelter, feed, educate, and even provide health care for its entire population with just a fraction of us actually working.
Rushkoff stops short of advocating an acceptable welfare state.  However, he bravely questions the current paradigm where unemployment is unlikely to get better given advances in technology and the expendable nature of most tasks.  With nearly one quarter of Americans unemployed or under-employed, and countless more prisoners to occupations they detest, we must begin to ask if this is how we want society to be shaped.

Employment for the sake of employment instead of innovation or production has infested our system for too long and is now clearly unsustainable.  No one should feel useless because a corporation or the government won't give them a job.  Similarly, no one should be forced to waste their lives flipping burgers or working at a retail box store if that is not their desire.  It seems no better than slavery and we must begin to acknowledge that.

What if we simply allowed people to follow their passion no matter what it is?  It couldn't cost more than maintaining the current warfare/welfare state, could it?  Given the broad knowledge available on the Internet of nearly every subject, the cost of allowing someone to self-educate in pursuit of their dreams would be minimal compared to the current paradigm of the college bubble.

It's clear that traditional jobs will never return and, in fact, a large majority more could be done away with.  Society wouldn't skip a beat as long as the people had food, shelter, and the freedom to follow their dreams.   It's time to rationally discuss how to develop a new system that benefits everyone who wishes to participate.


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Anonymous said...

What I see is a society becoming more and more dependant on technology with all the associated risks. When we can no longer do those mondane jobs that require specific knowledge and skill we will become the ultimate slave to the system.

Already we can't fix new cars ourselves, plant a productive garden at home or write a letter without a spell or grammar checker on our computer. The future will be worse.

Those that control the energy to run the techonlogy will control all of us because we will have lost the ability to do things for ourselves.

This is version number 2 of the "honey trap" where things are great until the trap is sprung.

almound said...

A job is more than a revenue stream, of course. Whatever replaces jobs will also have to replace the social interaction a job entails ... including such intangibles as prestige, self-satisfaction, motivation, and attraction to the opposite sex. Other questions will arise, as well.

What will it mean to be a successful artist under the new paradigm, because to be a successful choreographer, or conductor, etc., means to work within the context of an organization of artists in competition with one another motivated to attract the largest audience possible? Loans are required for many non-salary related purposes: to retain concert venues, pay for raw materials to build stage props, buy musical instruments, advertising, to retain lawyers to handle contract issues, insurance, etc.

Another difficulty is the different personalities of people. Many don't want to figure out what they are going to do in life. They prefer to apply to an employer who will then direct their activities. To supervise themselves is not a dream for such individuals, it is a nightmare. They are not necessarily on auto-pilot, but they prefer to be a worker rather than a leader. They view themselves as people who makes themselves available to be productive at the behest of others who, in turn, coordinate activity so that others can take part in something bigger than themselves.

Not least of the issues involved in rethinking jobs is the rethinking required of every other aspect of life that has through-out recorded history been devised and attuned to dove-tail with employment ... regardless whether the vast majority were engaged as slaves/serfs or as blue/white collar workers. The psycho-sociological ramifications pursuant to such a change in existential identity are staggering and will have to be borne mainly by the individual. What time of day will one wake or eat? How is one to dress? Is barter to become the predominant form of exchange? If not, what kind of fiat monetary system could survive such an overhaul?

Although one could criticize such questions as being obsessive or else obtuse, the fact remains that for most people such details of the modern world are often determined in relation to proscribed rules of thumb held to be subordinate to notions of class and occupation.

Anonymous said...



lonegranger said...

I read the Ruskoff article. My impression is, that either April 1, '12 is early, or the man is unaware that Mexicans are people too. Someone has to "do the jobs others won't do"!

On the other hand, he may have hit on a plan! Consider how people will spend their new-found leisure. About 75-80% of the world population qualify for membership in the intellectual hoi-polloi club. Most of these people, condemned to desuetude, will likely fall into some self-destructive mode of existence.

The Ruskoff plan, if implemented, may serve as a purge for the human species. 7.00x10^9 is a lot of the same critters even for insects. Does anyone know what the MVP for humans is?

The old "idle hands" saw may hold a lot of truth.

Anonymous said...

thats about all your going to get in this new banker run economy (A PAR OF DIMES)

Dave R said...

Eric: The same concerns were made when the steam engine mechanized many manual jobs, and computers did accounting, etc., but ALL improvements in productivity (output per man-hour) increase the standard of living. Yes, changes are needed, and personal responsibility and keeping the gov’t away from it always works. For example, min. wage, NLRB, unemployment welfare, bailouts to prop-up failing firms , tariffs (ala Fletcher and his employers), etc., etc., all make things worse. Fake money from the Fed allows excess gov’t domestic spending and wars that distort the economy, and creates bubbles from social engineering like Fannie & Freddie(houses for all; ignore ability to pay; be NICE), and the college bubble caused by grants to schools and professors, and loans to students (it is the only ‘industry’ that can raise prices and lose almost zero customers, they just borrow more!). Government meddling, YUK! That describes where we are in the USA today!!

We should comply with our constitution that describes a limited govt. Eric, when you write; ‘Society wouldn't skip a beat as long as the people had food, shelter, and the freedom to follow their dreams’ I fear you mean the gov’t should supply these things so people are ‘free to follow their dreams’. Sounds like Marxism to me, which along with Socialism, are proven failures, especially if you include Liberty as a goal. The Pilgrims tried this kind of collectivism and starved, until they converted to private property and personal responsibility (to grow food, make shelters, and clothes, etc.). People don’t work as hard if they can count on others (people or gov’t) to bail them out. Economists call this a ‘moral hazard’ or ‘perverse incentive’.

Empire-USA is failing due to cost of wars (and their blowback, ala 911 and loss of rights) and excess domestic spending It’s an old story. Expecting or demanding bailouts or free ‘ food, shelter, and the freedom to follow their dreams’ is a sign of decadence in a society. Rome called it ‘bread and circuses’. We call it ‘entitlements’. How to save the USA will be the theme of my next book. Key points are made in;

Regards, Dave

Anonymous said...

Yep, question all assumptions. People were relevant to society because they were a productive part of it. Now the wealth of society lives in its own society, while we are redundant to our own. Honest work cannot provide a decent living, while dishonest work provides disproportionate wealth.

The war on poverty didn't outlaw being poor. Maybe we need a war on greed. Greed is not good. Ambition is, but greed manifests the worst of human nature.

The current political system is run by business based on institutionalized greed. Can capitalism be reformed, made more compassionate and a servant of humans instead of its master?

I don't know. Even if you taxed billionaires out of existence, how would you recycle the wealth? If billionaires could no longer control governments, would the recycling of power have the results we hope for? It's clear to me that money's power has outstripped decency, but how to pry its power loose for the good of humanity? The State is not the answer since it is as much the problem as corporations. Yet, citizens - self-directed, self-empowered people, don't seem to be able to stay focused enough to stay in control. It's almost a paradox - people have to sacrifice doing what they want in order to maintain freedom, yet freedom gives people the ability to do what they want instead of working in a sweat shop, building monuments to power or fighting wars.

We do need a paradigm shift. So thanks for talking about it. I would propose for openers that we need a "space program" for truly democratized and clean energy sources along the lines of creating hydrogen from water using sunlight with each house having its own fuel cell. We pay for the technology, and then WE own the technology.

Imagine if every citizen got a dividend check from all the inventions we have funded over the years. It seems to me that technology's financial rewards should have been being distributed more broadly to the society that paid for its creation. It would have been one way to compensate labor as it was replaced by technology.

Anonymous said...

Holy Cow. Many of the comments here are tell tale signs of exactly what ailes this nation/society. It's not the advancements or technology, and the guy obsessing and being obtuse not only confused me I think he confused himself. Man himself has changed very little, and it his mindset that rules the day. Capitalism has been morphed into some huge con game where you must lie, cheat, and steal to be successful, and this has permeated into every facet of our lives. THIS IS HOGWASH AND WE ALL KNOW IT.
If you would stop following this self destructive plan you could change things.

Divide and conquer has been used to render you useless. You must fix the biggest problem before you can move on to other great innnovations, creations and or discoveries, and believe me you are very capable of doing just that. But nothing is going to work as long as you have that huge parasite attached to you. I'm sure you know exactly what I'm talking about too.
Get rid of the parasite and it will free your movement and ability to take the next big step, but this MUST be done first.

Anonymous said...

One good solid solar blast, like that
experienced in 1859, will bring this technological
Tower of Babel crumbling down. On one hand
I dread it. There will be anarchy. On the other
I embrace it. A long dark age will give humanity
time to consider its place in the Universe.
When comes the next Renaissance, we will then
be finally ready to head out into the stars.

Anonymous said...

One good solar blast, like that experienced in 1859, will have no effect on those who do things the old fashion way without technology, like the Amish or those poor Russian people living in remote villages for example. For them the day after the blast will be the same as the day before. Maybe this is how things should be.

Anonymous said...

By rendering the labor of one, the property of the other, they cherish pride, luxury, and vanity on one side; on the other, vice and servility, or hatred and revolt.
~ James Madison

Anonymous said...

Losing jobs is part of the promised "fundamental transformation" of our government promised during his campaign! Besides, America is Israel by the seed of Joseph and has to produce the endtime marxist(Anti-Christ) over u.s. because England already is marxist and also the first-born(Cain) must be last to get resurrected and the last born, Able first! Also, think about Obama also being a member of the first 100% voting block in u.s. history?

hene said...

Rushkoff view on the post office thing is quite true. Mails are more sent over internet and fast like magic...boom its there popping up. Some things are good even better with this new innovations. But there were things that needing to be sustainable... we still have hope to revive traditional jobs. not all this stuff are forever, human force still needed. New paradigm is on the net check out

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