It is a healthymemory tradition that on or about Labor Day, HM laments about the adulthood and retirement he was promised in elementary school in the 1950s. During this time it was highly unusual for mothers to work. One of the primary benefits from technology was to be a large amount of leisure. The economist John Maynard Keynes predicted in 1930 that the work week would shrink to 15 hours by 2030. Actually, technology advanced further and faster than was predicted. Wi fi and smart phones were never imagined, along with the internet. Now more people, including mothers, are working more hours. What happened?
Current economies are based on Gross Domestic Products (GDPs). Economic growth requires increasing GDPs. Eventually this model runs out of resources and steam. Yet we have to work more and consume more to foster this growth.
Not only has technology advanced, product quality has improved. An inexpensive watch has the same accuracy as a ROLEX. People pay for more expensive products for prestige. There is ample research showing that scotch drinkers pay substantially more for high quality scotch yet are unable to distinguish the difference when drinking blind. Scotch drinkers are just provided as an example. Premiums are paid for many products for prestige, not for the utility of the product.
Voters grovel at the feet of politicians for jobs. Jobs lost to trade are a primary focus in the current elections in the United States. However, the trade problem is minuscule compared to the lost of jobs that will be taken by technology.
The following data and projections have been taken from David Ignatius’s column in the 12 August 2016 Washington Post article titled “When robots take all the jobs.” McKinsey & Co. estimate that in manufacturing, 59% of activities could be automated, and that includes 90% of what welders, cutters, solderers and brazers do. In food service and accommodations, 73% of the work could be performed by machines. In retailing, 53% of the jobs could be lost. If computers can be programmed to understand speech as well as humans do, 66% of jobs in finance and insurance could be replaced. So, to use the vernacular, we ain’t seen nothing yet!
Economic security can be addressed by a greatly expanded earned-income tax credit, or by large public works programs. But the topic of the immediately preceding post, a Universal Basic Income, is inevitable or violence will break out and public disorder will become the order of the day.
Under a Universal Basic Income, everyone would have enough income to live comfortably. To increase one’s standard of living, or to purchase prestige, employment would be required. But people could drop out of the economy and pursue an education, training, artistic pursuits,, travel, whatever would increase the quality of life.
The reader should be aware that this view of automation creating enormous job losses is not shared by all. So some regard this as a pseudo problem. But HM would still argue for changes that would provide the freedom and leisure activities that would result from technology that were promised him back in the nineteen fifties. HM has retired, so he finally has leisure time. His wish applies to all that there be vastly increased amount of leisure time.
Consider reading or rereading HM blog posts, “Gross National Happiness (GNH) and “The Wellbeing of Nations: Meaning, Motive, and Measurement.”
© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.