Self Destruction

Technology instead of producing the once promised “better world” has instead been abused (predictably enough) to increase the profits and power of the few at the expense in all sense of everyone else.

Instead of a world were everyone works less and has a better quality of life – and the financial resources to have a real life – we instead have ever fewer people working ever longer and for decreasing pay. And automation has a major role in this.

Thousands of jobs in the UK alone – and many more worldwide – are being lost to automation. It is so out of control that some shops now have nobody working the tills for much of the day. Shops where I no longer “shop”.

This trend is not sustainable. Fewer and fewer people able to find suitable work leads to fewer and fewer ‘customers’ which means more business failures and so on. This shouldn’t have to be pointed out but such a basic concept seems to be too difficult for some to grasp.

While this ridiculous state of events lasts – and worsens – more and more people will be suffering. Bullied to find work that simply is not there, left with little or no money for food, clothing and housing – or any kind of life – because of a lack of a sufficient wage, or any wage, or because of welfare cuts by governments determined to bully, exploit, or – it has to be said; exterminate people who don’t or can’t conform to their profit and power hungry agenda.


Graphic by flickr user Byzantine_K

I adamantly refuse to use self-service checks outs and if that is the only option I will walk out without making a purchase. When approached and asked to use a self-service checkout I will explain to the assistant that doing so contributes to unemployment. I am more often than not met with a blank stare which may indicate that previously this may not have occurred to this person. But the fact is when an employee of a store encourages customers to use automatic checkouts they are in effect talking themselves out of a job, the same applies to banks and the post office. In my nearest city Barclay’s Bank was recently entirely automated, at least six or more people now are out of work joining the growing number of people whose lives are made miserable by being bullied by the Job Centre to find jobs that increasingly do not exist.

Automation is fine in a just society, it provides more leisure time from the drudgery of work and make no mistake that work for most is a drudgery undertaken merely to pay the bills and put food on the table, if you are lucky that is and earn enough not to need to go to a food bank, which increasingly is the case in recent years.

In his book , Economic Prospects for Our Grandchildren, economist John Maynard Keynes argued that with the expected improvement of technology and production in the future we would have more leisure time. He wrote: “For the first time since his creation man will be faced with his real, his permanent problem—how to use his freedom from pressing economic cares, how to occupy the leisure, which science and compound interest will have won.” By the present day Keynes expected that we would be working for only fifteen hours per week.

So why is this not happening? Here are some suggestions.

If automation can replace the need for people to perform many of the tasks that we do in the work place we would have more leisure time not less as increasingly is the case today.

Sadly such a state of progress despite the amazing advancement in technology has not come about and neither will it while the world is ruled by the ideology of greed and the acquisition of profit for the few at the expense of the many and while success is measured by how much money you have in the bank – in short capitalism. While the capitalist system dominates, the progression to less working hours and the even distribution of work will never happen.

Here are more suggestions

A new book* of essays by some of the world’s leading economists explores the reasons Keynes was mistaken about a new era of leisure.

One possible explanation is that many of us actually enjoy work, despite what we say to pollsters and to each other. To be sure, work can be boring, repetitive or exhausting, but it is also an arena where people get pleasure out of their achievements and enjoy mixing with other people.

Some economists argue that we have taken the benefits of our increased productivity in increased consumption. Sociologists argue that busyness has gained status as an end in itself. Psychologists argue that work is more inherently satisfying than we think.

For the most part I disagree with the two statements above.

Frankly I think most of us are taught or dare I say brain washed to think that working away the precious hours of your short life until we are too old to do much of anything is the be-all and end-all of our existence. I don’t see that many people get pleasure out of their achievements through work, much of which is undertaken with the sole purpose to earn barely enough to live on while making another person rich. Most people in today’s world hate their jobs, they work from necessity with little compensation for the waste of their lives often producing products that are not necessary – really who needs dozens of different types of washing power, shampoo, soap, breakfast cereals and so on and on, there is so much choice, too much choice. The world is pillaged and plundered for resources that are squandered in pointless or superfluous products which benefit the few, the capitalists, the one percent, the super rich at the expense of most everyone else, other animals and the very earth itself. My husband worked many years for sixty hours each week helping to produce keys rings and coasters, the sole purpose of which was advertising. These pointless items did not even offer an aesthetic value but were emblazened with the logo of corporations and the like. Most people receiving such would no doubt throw them in the bin. This is all this firm did, a small business owned by one person which after he retired was sold off and run down deliberately for complex but no doubt profitable reasons and the workers made redundant

The incentive to work , or at least work hard, other than to pay bills is to consume more of the materials things that we are again taught/ brain washed to believe are so vital to life and for which keep people slaving away their existence with the addition of debt which gives the illusion of wealth enslaving them still further to lives of unsatisfying drudgery. Few people even question the status quo, again their minds poisoned against the more fair and more satisfying alternatives of socialism or communism, deliberately confused into the misconception that these economic systems are synonymous to fascism and totalitarian, both of which could be applied to capitalism.

The notion that work fulfills our lives as …”an arena where people get pleasure out of their achievements and enjoy mixing with other people.” is is simply not true, at least for the vast majority.

Both of these fundamental requirements for a satisfying life are not dependent upon work, with few exceptions most people achieve little from their work either satisfying or financial.  It is sad that we cannot envision a life without work or less work, a life where we can be engaged in art and other creative pursuits, where we can cultivate our talents for the betterment of all , where we have time to enjoy the company friends and family .

When it comes down to it the reality is most people want more time to themselves and their friends and families.

This article shows that even when high wages are on the table that family life comes first.

Family Life More Important Than Big Wages, Study Finds

When we say work we automatically think the only work of value is that for which we get paid even if such wages are nothing more than a pittance. Work in its own right can and is fulfilling, a person who enjoys gardening, helping other people, even house work – indeed many gain pleasure from improving their environment – are all satisfying. Many gain satisfaction from hobbies and sport or the acquisition of knowledge for the sake of knowledge. Life is rich and full of wonders, there is no need for boredom or an aimless existence. And perhaps the only purpose of life as the Dali Lama points out is happiness: “I believe that the very purpose of life is to be happy.”

While work has its value, and I envision a future where work will be much reduced though not entirely eradicated, slaving away your existence for greedy money grabbing corporations should be questioned. It should be questioned why automation has only enhanced the lives of the rich with still more money at our expense and is in fact for most a detriment.

The only compensation is at the end of the day automation will play a role in the downfall of the capitalist system. After all if few people have a job how the hell can they buy the over priced material crap that they are brain washed into believing they “must have”, the labour of the exploited over worked and under paid few that have a job.

When I stopped working to have a child many years ago I admit I did not miss work for one single moment, looking after a baby was work enough. We did not have much money but we managed. Now today for many this is not possible both partners now need to work for the equivalent of one living wage and sometimes not even that. Many users of food banks are couples whose combined wages don’t allow them to live comfortable lives not even to feed their families.

In the past hard work was inevitable but today things could be so much better with whatever work that could not be automated fairly shared among those of working age and appropriate health and ability. Naturally some jobs can and will never be replaced, a doctor for instance, but with a fair education system that provides quality education for all, where financial considerations do not count there no doubt would be more people able to qualify for specialist jobs with the consequence of even specialist people having more time, if they want it of course. I admit that some people may find satisfaction in work, though I rather think that very few enjoy and find work fulfilling, I doubt if the person who works eight hours a day on a conveyor belt in a factory turning out surplus goods for basic minimum wages with a zero hours contact, no paid holidays and no rights at work really enjoy their work.

Maybe a fifteen hour week is a pipe dream, a fantasy, naivety, who knows. Not in my lifetime that’s for sure when people are working longer hours and work is considered the crowning glory of achievement, when thanks to government Nazi style propaganda you are despised if you are disabled or too ill to work or you cannot find a job because there are so few jobs.

Automation could transform your life but right now it can take away what meagre income you have. Until people wake up and come to their senses and oppose the current unfair capitalist system, automation is a detriment.

In the mean time people need jobs so boycott shops that provide only self-service checkouts, banks and the post office. If asked to use a self-service check out refuse and explain why. Complying makes you an unpaid worker. Ask yourself why you should get your own shopping – remember in times past self-service supermarkets did not exist – most of which is hugely overpriced and then run it through the check out yourself. More profit for big business at your expense, fewer jobs for people, more unemployment.

Related Link

Half of all British jobs could be replaced by robots, warns Bank of England’s chief economist

15m jobs in the UK are “at risk of automation” over the next two decades, according to Andy Haldane

“As many as 15m jobs are under threat of replacement by smart machines, the Bank of England’s chief economist has warned.

Andy Haldane has said that new generation of increasingly creative robots could replace “at risk” jobs over the next 20 years, such as those held by accountants and sales people.

“Occupations most at risk including administrative, clerical and production tasks,” he said, noting that “those most at risk from automation tend, on average, to have the lowest wage”.

There are presently 33.7m jobs in the UK, meaning that the number at threat represents close to half of all positions. In the US, he estimates that up to 80m jobs are “at risk of automation”.”



2 thoughts on “Automation

  1. I can’t speak for other countries, but I’m old enough to remember a time in America when workers enjoyed a level of dignity, respect, and fair compensation. Yes, that era had its problems. Women were paid less than men, as were blacks and other minorities; but, there was the sense that these issues could be resolved.

    Today, all that hope is gone. Workers are treated with disrespect and even outright hostility, and are considered as valueless chattel by an amoral and unethical corporate hierarchy. Not coincidentally, the great western middle class of a half century ago is dying slowly but steadily.

    The replacement of workers through automation is symptomatic of this larger economic trend. I don’t know if our societies were ever truly just, but they’re certainly not now.

    Great post.

    • Likewise I remember a time here in the UK when workers were treated fairly, paid compensation and were entitled to rights at work. Also like the USA there were problems and women got paid less than men but in general it was a more fair and just society. There was an abundance of jobs. Trade unions were strong and employers could not get away with the injustices they get away with now, such as zero hours contracts, few rights at work, low or no pay rises, long hours, poor conditions. Jobs were plentiful which meant employers had little choice but to treat their employees properly, now with not only automation but also jobs being sent abroad there are fewer and fewer jobs and people are expendable. Add to that the reduction in welfare benefits for the unemployed,disabled and low paid there are increasingly more and more people who are poor needing to use food banks with people in some cases actually dying of hunger. Not only the unemployed, sick and disabled but also those in work,for many working people as a result of low wages there is not enough money to provide even the basics of food and warmth.

      Unfortunately it seems like our countries have followed the same path to what seems like corporate slavery. Sadly here people seem to do little about it and accept the status que.

      You are indeed right our societies are certainly not just.

      Thanks for your interesting comment

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