The race against the machine

This post builds on the above article and my last post (jobs of the future?)

Andrew McAfee is the Co-Director of the Initiative on the Digital Economy at the MIT Sloan School of Management and a Member of the Global Agenda Council on the Future of Jobs.

The article is a good read, however a thad lengthy. But don’t worry, I’ll give you the cliff-notes!

In his article he presses that we need not fear losing all our jobs:
“We will soon be able to eliminate those dull and repetitive tasks we don’t like doing, and achieve the goal of more wealth and abundance with less work.”
And that we should stop slowing innovation to keep people working:
“We definitely need to rethink the social contract that our societies’ offer to workers, but trying to protect existing jobs at this pace of innovation is a deeply flawed idea.”

I’d like to give you his conclusion:

“While it’s true that the consequences for labor seem – and are – pretty serious at the moment, it is vital that we don’t attempt to put the brakes on technological progress. We are standing on the edge of a singular point in human history, and we should be profoundly heartened and optimistic about that. Technological progress has always generated new, exciting opportunities for humanity. There isn’t any reason for us to expect otherwise for the future.”

“Are we holding back advancements in technology?” you might say. I could only say, ask the electric car wether it’s a yes or no. How long have we been holding onto our polluting cars? We all know they pollute but risking not having your oh so useful car is unimaginable. Maybe if we all said no to our cars and kept our minds open for a better solution it might happen faster than we might think. But then again, what if it doesn’t?
That, I think is a bit our conservative safe self. I find we have the same vision on technology in regards to our jobs. Innovation is all wel and good as long as we get better stuff that’s cheaper and more useful.

Smartphone, welcomed with open arms. HDTV, couldn’t live without it. The new slicer dicer that cuts onions so easily and without you crying, can replace the knife, for all some people care. But what about our jobs? Many people will fight as hard as they can to resist letting the “slicer dicer” of workers, robots, take over. The resent strikes in Belgium are all about our jobs, we don’t want to lose them or gain less money than we did before. Ironically we don’t want to work longer either. But that’s a discussion we best not go into here.

What would it take for us to be able te lot go of our jobs? It would seem magical, not having to work day in day out. So why can’t we risk it? I feel it’s because we can’t put our finger on how we will be when we no longer have jobs. Will we still have enough money? Will we all be rich? Will we all be poor?

I like to think we will all be better off if we all find something useful to do. hmm ALL…I do wonder what will happen to our population rate, births tend to be related to welfare (1). But do we feel rich when everyone has the same and yet still all they need?

Feel free to post your opinion on the matter. give your philosophical self free reigns!







One thought on “The race against the machine

  1. nicolemmens

    I think your comparisons are a little unfair…I do get what you’re saying, but I’m pretty sure “Cathode Ray Tube Inc.” and “Samurai onion blade co.” were also pretty upset when they were out-bested by new technologies and probably angrily but powerlessly went into bankruptcy. Flip side of the medal, consumers dead drop manufacturers too for better solutions…So yeah, the same thing happens in opposite direction.

    But is it really necessary to rush into this? The guy says that ‘we shouldn’t put a brake on it’ but I’m pretty sure in time the economic and sociological structure of our society will match up with the level of technology that is available. He’s looking at matters that have different viscosities right now and hopelessly wants them to flow at the same speed it seems… I’m all for automation and using technology up to the furthest extent possible. But not at the cost of a humanitarian crisis.

    Again i get what you’re saying, and partially agree, but you’re proposing an entirely different structure of living, one most of the people out there currently can’t handle as a replacement. Changing the model is changing the foundation of how our world currently works, and it’s not a matter of insecurity ‘what will it be like’ fact is that there is no system in place to jump into and it’s not possible to create one on the go or just to see what happens. To be honest I can’t really imagine a system that could work right now either. And its ridiculous to philosophize how it could work, something like that naturally grows the way it grows. But it’s not bad that you and other people are thinking about it, that way people can prevent it from growing in the wrong direction.

    So what I’m saying is, just chill, sit back and let this evolution flow on it’s on path. However, they also just dropped the gold standard one day( bills of money being backed up by a physical amount of gold) when it didn’t work for them anymore and that kind of worked without too much turmoil* … Or did it? Anyway, if something like that’s possible, then maybe i should be more open minded about a job-less world.

    Also, what does the conclusion say about the welfare and fertility relation? Your link is a book and it’s kind of a hassle to go trough it?
    I know well-educated , high-earning couples tend to wait longer with having children and usually also have less children… does the book match my current thinking?

    Interesting topics, keep them coming ! 🙂

    *I do not mean to underestimate the effects of the ‘Nixon shock’, but it could have gone a lot worse than it did….



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