Thursday, October 06, 2011

Jobs and the Future

I could of course be terribly wrong about this but I simply do not believe there are ever going to be enough jobs for everyone, unless perhaps everyone gets paid a living wage for doing someone else’s hair, giving them pedicures, walking their dogs, or shaping their pubic hair into the shape of a heart. I don’t know how many people are out of work as I hear various authorities, or those who believe they are authorities, make very different claims. I have heard 14 million, 15 million, 20 million and even 25 million, and I have no way of knowing which of these figures might be the correct one.

But yesterday, I think it was yesterday, Dylan Radigan was complaining to Ed Schultz that Obama’s plan to create 1.9 million jobs was just a drop in the bucket, not enough to solve the problem. Schultz pointed out, rightly I believe, that this would just be the beginning. If the number of unemployed is truly as great as it appears to be according to any of these estimates I doubt it will be possible to ever solve the problem. Obama and Schultz are right in that we need to create jobs now, and 1.9 million is not to be laughed at, but it clearly does not solve the problem if the problem is to somehow create many millions more. I have no doubt it should be possible to create probably several million jobs by improving our infrastructure, putting teachers back in the classroom, police on the streets, firemen in the fire halls, and so on. But when it comes to the future I think the idea that we can create jobs for all is simply a pipe dream. Technology is going to make that impossible. This is much of the current problem, jobs have been lost, not only to going overseas but also and perhaps even more importantly to technology. This is undeniable. Loggers claim the environmental protection act has cost them jobs but they overlook the invention of the one man chain saw, huge machines that can saw down and carry away whole trees all by themselves, and so on. Fisherman decry the loss of their fisheries and the decline of jobs but don’t seem to think it has anything to do with more modern technologies with respect to methods and overfishing. Factory workers have been increasingly replaced with robots, farmers can do more with one man and a tractor than they could before with fifteen or twenty farmhands. It appears that even restaurants are now replacing waiters and waitresses with computers, and supermarkets are replacing checkers with self check-outs, and on and on. The idea that in the long run we need to create more jobs is in some ways misguided, what we really need to do is devise a society that can function without so many jobs. In a sense this has already happened, except that the profits derived from the new technologies, rather than being shared with workers, has been siphoned off by management and the owners. While their fortunes have consistently increased as a result of technological innovations those of the workers have not. Thus, although it is true we will need to produce more jobs, more importantly we are going to have to decide how to live with so many surplus people and far fewer jobs.

There are, I suppose, different ways of dealing with this problem. A more socialistic society would be one way. That is, devising a system whereby everyone is in one way or another provided with sufficient means to survive at least at some minimal level. At the moment this would seem unrealistic in the United States as socialism is believed to be worse than death. So what about death? Death could be a solution. We could, for example, randomly select every third or fifth child to be euthanized, or whatever number would be sufficient so the wealthy would not have to give up any of their obscene fortunes. If euthanasia strikes you as too direct or brutal we could just let the less fortunate die of starvation or from the lack of health care (a system that seems to be favored by Republicans). If our technology advances far enough we could also, I suppose, simply round up “undesirables” and fire them off into space. Perhaps with the right combination of drugs we could convert them into robots thus saving the expense of having to actually create and manufacture robots. Or, as I mentioned once before, following a suggestion made by Jonathan Swift, we could just eat our children. I guess we shouldn’t overlook just plain old fashioned infanticide and/or senilicide. Maybe we could offer courses in patricide, matricide, fratricide and sororicide. That’s it! As males don’t bear children, the basic problem is girls. Maybe we should just stick with the time honored system of doing away with girls. It appears that soon we will not even need many people for the military, what with drones and other robots. This unemployment situation could quickly get completely out of control.

We could, I suppose, also ban any further technological innovation, and phase out the various technologies we already have, go back to farming by hand and with horses so we would need and use all the people we have. Instead of tractors we could hire farmhands, and we could replace the robots on the assembly line with real people. We could scrap chain saws and go back to the good old two person saw or insist that fish can only be caught with willow poles and worms. The possibilities here are endless.

I suppose as a last resort we could have something like Planned Parenthood and people’s right to choose that might help alleviate the problem, maybe even some form of birth control, but I guess that would be too extreme. We could also have a system whereby everyone shared In the benefits of technology so workers would have to toil fewer hours, have much longer vacations, months off for child care, better health care with more doctors and nurses, and so on, but I guess that would be too “European” for us.

Anyway, if you encounter anyone who knows how to create somewhere between 14 and 25 million good paying jobs in the not too distant future please let me know.

For a list of all the ways technology has failed to improve the quality of life, please press three.

Alice Kahn

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