The Future is Now, But it’s All Going Wrong

The other day our channel-surfboard stopped on some Discovery Channel show about how stuff is made, and for a few minutes we were educated in the manufacturing process of some long corrugated plastic tubes used, I think, for gardening or something.

What struck me was the utter lack of humans in the process. Machines and robots mixed the plastic compound, molded it into shape, rolled up the tubes, measured, cut, and secured it all. At one point a human did appear, who took the tube from one machine and put it on another, making me think that maybe one of the robots had the day off.

Now, I’m not going to say that robots shouldn’t be taking jobs from humans. I’m all for it. The more robots we can get doing repetitive, uninteresting tasks, the better. And double win if we can get robots to build each other, though always being careful to ensure their anti-evil computer chips are well-secured. We’ve all seen Spider-Man 2.

In a perfect world, this would be a great advancement. Hooray, we don’t have to do this mind-numbing bullshit anymore! But this is not a perfect world, this is America. And in America, a human’s sole purpose on Earth is to work for wages. So in America, when a robot takes away your tedious job, you suffer enough to want the tedious job back. That tedious job is how you get food, shelter, clothing, transportation, beer, comics, records, DVDs, books, kitchen utensils, furniture, toilet paper, and so forth. Oh, and health insurance, since we’ve decided that must be tied to a job.

“Labor-saving” became a huge buzzword in the 50s, especially around the house. The new breeds of ovens, dishwashers, vacuum cleaners, and so forth promised housewives oodles more time away from housework. It didn’t happen. Today, we have more labor-saving devices than ever. Computers and automation have made formerly all-day tasks doable in seconds. And yet, people are busier than ever. Or at least “busier”. The person who lost their job to the robot now may have to work two jobs now to make up for the lost income. Or maybe, because there are more displaced workers than jobs, that person has no job at all.

This is insane. This is completely opposite of how it should be. A society like ours, up to our eyeballs in things that make our lives easier should have tons of free time in which to read, play, explore, learn, create, and just enjoy life. How have we allowed this kind of madness to be considered normal? Why do we put up with this? We’re sitting in a proverbial Eden, and yet still tilling the soil because someone is not letting us pick fruit off the trees. Who has done this? And why do we let them?

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3 Responses to The Future is Now, But it’s All Going Wrong

  1. Al says:

    Because the goal of capitalism is not to strive for progress but to attempt to model efficiency. If we model efficiency based on externalities that are directly related to progress, it changes everything. At least I think so.

    One of Henry Ford’s goals in developing mass production was to radically reduce the workweek for everyone.

  2. pronoblem says:

    Quote Legomancer: Oh, and health insurance, since we’ve decided that must be tied to a job.

    Or that health care should be tied to “insurance”. As in, a profit-taking and speculating middleman in negotiation between the patient and the health care provider. How did they get hold of this cash cow in the first place? Sure, tie it to wages and payroll tax for the working but in terms of efficiency it should not involve insurance, especially when insurance is actually practicing medicine – they do… by telling doctors what they can test and procedure by threat of not reimbursing for such.

  3. Brady says:

    When you free people from menial labor, they don’t spend their leisure time learning and exploring and bettering. They do stupid shit that causes them to stagnate and go crazy. Or they do even more stupid shit that hurts them and others.