People (compassion)

What happens to the people who do menial or procedural work when their jobs are automated?

My perspective is that no one chooses to be born, no one gets to choose what their genetic make-up is and no one gets to choose what environment they are raised in. This is not a catch-all for having no responsibility for the outcomes of your life, but if someone is born with the traits of laziness and below average intelligence into a low socio-economic group then the odds are stacked against them. And none of that is their fault. Add onto that physical and mental health issues, bad parents, poor education or an irreversible bad choice and you’ve got people who’s jobs will be replaced, the unemployed and the imprisoned (and worse). 

If we treated social ‘disease’ such as unemployment, homelessness, drugs, crime, etc like we did medical disease - as a collection of symptoms with tested and proven treatments to be made and then discharged - rather than as things we punish, hide and deride then we would all live in a better place.\

I don’t use this as an excuse for people to do stupid things without consequences, just as fact of humanity and society.  I know what I was gifted that I did not earn - I know for sure that I don’t have the drive to pull myself out of the situations I know others are raised in.

If you believe that “they” deserve to have a measurably worse life (not superfluous material things, I mean good housing, health, education, food, good public space, safety, internet access, watching movies, buying books(being a member of society requires these things)) than you because they are not as smart and not as driven then say it out loud: “I deserve a better life than those people because I lucked out on the genetic and social lottery” and then accept the slow realisation that you’re a bit of a selfish arsehole.

I believe that those basics should be accessible to everyone, no matter how stupid or lazy. I believe this to be compassion, and that’s my starting point.

I’m not going to try and go into the future of what jobs will be replaced (I’m guessing ‘all but machine manufacturers and service people’ (assuming machines can’t repair themselves)), but try to convey my concern for how society is going to deal with it, and that you are probably part of the problem.

In the past, “machines” have replaced jobs widely and people have learnt new skills, done more complicated tasks, retired or become unemployed (probably in that order of precedence) - tractors[farm workers], assembly lines[factory workers], email[secretaries], etc. We don’t have hundreds of thousands of people unemployed everywhere so they have been and are finding work elsewhere. (I won’t try and address the sociological aspects of the detachment of creation in work, but that secret, hollow feeling that you’re not doing anything of real value is possibly related.)

The idea that concerns me is that some people are incapable of doing jobs any more complicated than can be automated . This goes back, for now, to my first paragraph - I know too many people that deride these people as lazy and stupid ‘and if they just worked hard and bettered themselves’ etc, putting 100% blame of their situation on them as it was some choice. We can all stand there from our white, middle class porches and lament their laziness and lack of drive, all the while unemployment and crime soar, social outcomes for these people get worse - there are no jobs that remain for them to do.\

Now, please also keep in mind that this may someday be you, as technology continues to advance - some kind of dirty Peter Principle where the machines are promoted past your level of competence.\

So how will you react when we have large swathes of unemployable people? Remove minimum wage to make employing them more attractive? Continue to blame them at dinner parties while feeling smug about your success?

The people who invented the modern world had the intent of reducing the burden of our labour to allow us time for individual pursuits - it was seen that by now we’d be barely working at all, with the machines creating enough wealth to support all of society with the minimum of effort.

So why aren’t we all working  2 days a week?

This is where you’re the problem. For two reasons: Job = status + money. You still see the only value in people in their productive output - ie their job - if someone does not work then they have zero value to society. This is reflected in the monetisation of arts such as music (how else are they supposed to eat?). This includes how you view yourself - the better you are at work, the better you are.

And the more money you earn (which let’s remember for the most part has less relation to the societal importance of the work you do than the ability of it to make someone else more money (see: teachers, garbage removal, nurses, bio-security, vs investment bankers, currency speculators, accountants, lawyers), the more things you can buy, the bigger, nicer house, redder car, purer-bred dog, shiniest mobile phone. 

You could accept people as (truly) having value in ways beyond their work, you could learn to work less for less pay and you could stop being angry at those below you in society and think about who is really screwing you over - those productivity gains in the last 30 years didn’t end up in your pay check (or the government’s coffers).

Everyone is so blinded by the ‘unfairness’ of social welfare that they fail to see a) that those people most likely have much less that is fair than you and b) that we could, if we wanted to, decide to (the crux, it’s arrived!) just spend less time working, change the way society is shaped, funded and driven. If there was enough wealth for everyone to barely have to work (but still be able to should they want, of course!) would you still be upset at the ‘bludgers’, upset that that you were no longer better and richer? Or would you be relieved at your new opportunities to spend time developing yourself as a person, writing music, bad poetry, playing with your kids, running a personal petting zoo or just doing plain old nothing but talking shit with your friends on a hill somewhere looking over some sort of lovely body of water?

Automation of jobs can make that happen, but we need to shift as a society to accept that our value as people is not our value as workers and that while we are not all even remotely equal, we all deserve a good life. From what I see now, this is going to be a tumultuous process and I’m worried that politics and selfishness will win out.