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A well-known media theorist and author recently suggested in a blog that perhaps the entire concept of employment is obsolete.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?