Fork In The Trail

It seems to me…

I think the person who takes a job in order to live – that is to say, for the money – has turned himself into a slave.”  ~ Joseph Campbell.

A well-known media theorist and author recently suggested in a blog that perhaps the entire concept of employment is obsolete.  Technology (automation) is capable of producing more than a sufficient number of material items; we produce more than a sufficient amount of food to feed everyone (even with farmers being paid to keep fields out of production) – though the problem of equitable food distribution has not yet been adequately resolved

While I understand why and what he is trying to say, I think he basically is wrong.  This is not based on some inherent belief in a protestant ethic that work is intrinsically good.  It essentially is the same line of reasoning that led to the suggestion that the Patent Office be closed since everything worth inventing already had been (actually an Urban Myth).

Consider how depressing Kurt Vonnegut’s 1952 novel Player Piano was.  It was a dystopia of automation and capitalism and described the resulting dereliction in quality of life.  No thank you…

What I prefer to think is more realistic is presented in a report published back in the 1960s, the Report of the Ad Hoc Committee on the Triple Revolution.  I think it still has relevance today and is worth reading.  Creativity is an open-ended process that while requiring increasing levels of general education, especially in technology, will result in an associated exponential increase in employment opportunities.  Educational requirements for these positions, especially those in brand new fields; e.g., nanotechnology, communications, energy, biology, space exploration and colonization…; would constantly continue increasing as would opportunities in education.  The report authors’ primary concern was keeping unemployment above 6 percent to prevent runaway inflation.

The problem is that it requires investment.  The U.S. did it immediately following WW II under a program initiated by Vannevar Bush and look what happened: an unparalleled period of innovation.  Unfortunately, Republican conservatives forced reductions in public-sector funding for research following Vietnam saying it was something best left to the private-sector (actually President Eisenhower warned about the increasing power of what he considered the Military-Industrial-Academic Complex).  This is just another area where Keynes’ theories have once again been proven correct.

China and other developing countries realize their current opportunities in these new areas so are rapidly expanding the general educational levels of their population in technology-related fields.  I hear people complain that everything they buy is made in China.  Unless Congress reaches an agreement to increase funding for education and innovation, it will not only be true that everything is made in China, we had better learn to speak Mandarin or whatever is the preferred dialect spoken by the company we will be working for.  And we had better do something quickly: it takes about twenty years to educate, train, and provide the level of experience necessary in research to contribute in most technical fields.

That’s what I think, what about you?


About lewbornmann

Lewis J. Bornmann has his doctorate in Computer Science. He became a volunteer for the American Red Cross following his retirement from teaching Computer Science, Mathematics, and Information Systems, at Mesa State College in Grand Junction, CO. He previously was on the staff at the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus, Stanford University, and several other universities. Dr. Bornmann has provided emergency assistance in areas devastated by hurricanes, floods, and wildfires. He has responded to emergencies on local Disaster Action Teams (DAT), assisted with Services to Armed Forces (SAF), and taught Disaster Services classes and Health & Safety classes. He and his wife, Barb, are certified operators of the American Red Cross Emergency Communications Response Vehicle (ECRV), a self-contained unit capable of providing satellite-based communications and technology-related assistance at disaster sites. He served on the governing board of a large international professional organization (ACM), was chair of a committee overseeing several hundred worldwide volunteer chapters, helped organize large international conferences, served on numerous technical committees, and presented technical papers at numerous symposiums and conferences. He has numerous Who’s Who citations for his technical and professional contributions and many years of management experience with major corporations including General Electric, Boeing, and as an independent contractor. He was a principal contributor on numerous large technology-related development projects, including having written the Systems Concepts for NASA’s largest supercomputing system at the Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley. With over 40 years of experience in scientific and commercial computer systems management and development, he worked on a wide variety of computer-related systems from small single embedded microprocessor based applications to some of the largest distributed heterogeneous supercomputing systems ever planned.
This entry was posted in Automation, Creativity, Employment, Keynes, Kurt Vonnegut, Military-Industrial-Academic Complex, Technology, Vannevar Bush and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to Fork In The Trail

  1. berlioz says:

    It is the free market, capitalist way that capital investment goes where it is used more productively. Chinese labour is cheaper therefore…..
    That makes me the employer of “slave” labour as I don’t need to work any more. My pension is higher then the wages the Chinese workers receive.
    We in the West have to produce something that is more valuable then mere factory out.put. You are pointing the way to higher education and our governments have to direct spending towards the education sector. Perhaps reduced military spending, after the disengagement from the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts, will make funds available towards this end.

    The world is constantly changing and I can see already Africa being the next reserve for cheap labour.


    • lewbornmann says:

      In a flat society, unskilled labor is the same regarless of location. Manufacturing, while recognizing other factors such as shipping, raw material or component availability, etc., will migrate to the least-cost location. Other than for some unskilled labor, such as in sales or services, education is the primary differentiator in individual employment potential. While only a fixed percentage of unskilled labor is required worldwide, the amount of highly educated labor is theoretically unlimited since creative innovation is not restricted.

      As for “slave’ labor, which type of prostitution is worse: the person that “sells” their mind, body, and soul to an employer for a wage; or the person on the street selling only their body? Society dictates the acceptabilty of one and not the other but which is less degrading?


  2. NLP says:

    There is noticeably a bundle to find out about this. I assume you made certain nice factors in options also.


    • lewbornmann says:

      Conservatives see one path is economic stability; liberals another. I believe history has shown that without adequate public sector investment, major innovation and development is not sustainable and a country enters a state of decline. The U.S. reduced its investment in education, research, and development following the Vietnam War and we now are witnessing the result. We have been following this path for forty years; if funding was immediately restored to previous levels — something opposed by conservatives — it would take at least another twenty years to recover.


  3. Shannon says:

    interesting stuff. what’s the source of this information? I would be happy to learn more


    • lewbornmann says:

      Thank you. As for an information source, the best answer is that I read quite a bit and do a fair amount of research. I encourage you to think about what interests you and learn as much about it as you can.


  4. I got what you designate, thanks for swing up. Woh I am pleased to undergo this website through google. Thanks For Share Fork In The Trail | Lew Bornmann's Blog.


    • lewbornmann says:

      It seems all-too-apparent that unless the U.S. substantially increases its investment in education and innovation, it will forfeit its position of world preeminence. Unfortunately, that is not the opinion of many political representatives in our country. I am very apprehensive about our future.


  5. WONDERFUL Post.thanks for share..more wait .. …


    • lewbornmann says:

      Thank you. Hopefully, I’ll be able to expand more on this topic in the future without becoming redundant. It is an all too serious topic and we, as a nation, do not appear to have decided what type of future we really want to have.


  6. Florida Jobs says:

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  7. Pretty good post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say that I have incredibly enjoyed reading your page posts. Any way I am going to be subscribing for the feed and I hope to visit your post once again soon.


  8. lewbornmann says:

    Thank you. The volume of comments sometimes precludes my ability to respond to every one but I will try to reply to most of them.


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