"... an autonomous system displays traits of self-repair,
self-defence, self-maintenance, self-control and self-improvement. No
current system has all these properties ... but many technologies
exhibit some of them. Aeroplane drones can self-steer and stay aloft
for hours, for instance, but cannot repair themselves. Communication
networks can repair themselves but cannot self-reproduce. Computer
viruses can self-reproduce but cannot improve themselves. As
technologies multiply and become more adaptive, the technium is
becoming increasingly autonomous." From a review of Kevin Kelly's book What Technology Wants.
Technological change, in short, falls flat as either a
cross-national explanation for American inequality. Indeed, as Thomas
Piketty and Emmanuel Saez concluded recently, the very fact that
wealthy nations with essentially similar histories of technological
change show such divergent patterns of inequality suggest that
institutional and policy differences—and not the underlying
technological change—are the key. In this sense, the magnitude or pace
of labor’s displacement is less important than the fact that, as Peter
Frase notes, such displacement is now occurring “without many of the
countervailing protections that labor enjoyed in the heyday of the
postwar Keynesian compromise.”
In the United States, those differences—or those lost protections—are
now pretty familiar: a long decline in union density and bargaining
power, the retreat of basic labor standards and their enforcement, a
fiscal policy that accommodates spells of high unemployment out of an
irrational fear of inflation, and the evaporation of fiscal or
regulatory restraint on incomes at the very top. The robots and
computers had little to do with it. Colin
Gorden Dissent Spring 2014
"Almost a third of ordinary Americans say human beings have
existed in their current form since the beginning of time, a view
held by only 2 percent of the scientists. Only about half of the
public agrees that people are behind climate change...in fact,
there is no credible scientific challenge to the theory of
evolution and there is little doubt that human activity is altering
the chemistry of the atmosphere in ways that threaten global
change." New York Times reporting on a survey comparing public
opinion to that of scientists.. 7/18/2009 pg A17
"In our lifetimes, we may be able to perform all of the operations of manufacturing and mining with one-quarter of the human effort with which we have become accustomed.
For the moment, the very rapidity of these changes is hurting us and bringing us difficult new problems to solve.
We are being afflicted by a new disease, namely technological unemployment. This means unemployment due to our discovery
of means to economize the use of labor outrunning the pace at which we can find new uses of labor." John Maynard Keynes
Economic Possibilities For Our Grandchildren (1930)
We know there is a race between
possibilities and the advance of technology. In the shorter run, we
also know that advancing technology costs jobs and creates huge numbers
of surplus workers. That's a problem with the way we structure markets
though. There's always plenty of work to do. When automation makes most
work unnecessary, we should have a social safety net to match.
Republican Rep. Paul Broun of
Georgia says, "All that stuff I was taught about evolution and
embryology and Big Bang theory, all that is lies straight from the pit
of hell." The Earth, he says, is only "about 9,000 years old" and "was
created in six days as we know them." Broun is a member of the
House Science, Space and Technology Committee.
Rep. Chris Stewart (R-Utah), the chairman of a House subcommittee on
the environment, unlike 97 percent of scientists, denies climate change, so does Repblican
leadership and Donald Trump.
When Republicans don't agree with evidence, they deny it: "austerity is always wise economic policy," "Tax cuts will pay for themselves," "They will greet us as liberators," "Legitimate rape will shut it down," "Climate change is a hoax," "Government is
After voting to cut the EPA, and end food stamps, they
threatened to shut down the federal government unless Congress defunded
R's don't care if they crash the economy,
shred the social safety net, wreck
the environment, or cripple
Empowering them guarantees disaster.
Robert McChesney and John Nichols' book "People
points out that accelerating technology can and will take over massive
numbers of jobs. Combined with a global labor surplus
trade policies, unemployment is certain to become a critical problem.
It didn't have to be that way. Mind-numing, routine factory
joba can be done by machines so that people might have shorter working
hours and improvement of quality of life. But no. Policy is driving the
vast majority into debt servitude. Not much different than slavery.
Elevator operators were replaced, telephone operators
automated, Kodak shrunk to a handfull of employees, secretaries have
declined with word processors and voice recognition, auto manufacturers
make extensive use of robotics, and, soon, expect self-driving
vehicles. Doctors, lawyers, and other professionals will be assisted by
really smart machines like Watson. The job market will change.
Corporations will need fewer
employees. Most of the benefits
of increased productivity go to capital (i.e. the top), so income
inequality, if not addressed, will get more extreme. Better
productivity should make
better with shorter working hours, better benefits, family leave, more
vacations, and over all a higher quality of life. Policy driven
by wealthy interests and a coin operated Congress
made sure that wont happen.
The good news is: there is always plenty of work to do. A
functioning economy would still make use of
everyone willing to work,
however we are far from having a well functioning economy. A shorter
work week, livable minimum wage, sensible taxes, and a strong social
safety net would improve our situation. Most likely there will be
massive loss of jobs as a result of advancing technology.
Our media propagandists don't tell
that story. Maybe they can't because considerable government activity
is secret and can't stand the light of day.
Technology, assissted by corporate predators and government snoops, is fast taking people's privacy.
Good government would counter this, but it is not on the horizon..
No improvement is possible unless we get over government
with expansion of the military. What we
are seeing is crumbling
infrastructure, decaying cities, social misery, weak democracy, and, thanks to Republicans, an unwillingness to fix any of
Our politicians lied to take us to wars, and
that resulted in horrendous damage to life ,
resources, civilization, and the environment.
War is profitable. There will be much more