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Progress – Part 3 – Who Benefitted Most

If you’ve been following, Parts 1 and 2 of this 3-part blog entry, you’ll notice that we have had substantial gains in productivity from automation (I conservatively guesstimated at least 25% gains over the last few decades) and most people would guesstimate that they personally benefitted much less than that.

Where Did the Rest Go?

So who benefitted from all these gains in productivity, and how was it decided that the lion-share of gains should go there?

I posit that almost all of the gains (financially) from the more efficient workforce that automation created went to corporate executives and shareholders of corporations.

Did you ever watch the Jetsons?  George Jetson worked at pressing a button all day and would sometimes come home with a sore index finger from all the work he’d done.

Automation allowed him to have a flying car, a wife who could stay at home with a robot maid who helped care for their two kids and their dog and video-chat with her husband at work when she needed to.  The fictional Jetson family benefitted from automation… in many ways, it seemed like an almost utopian society.

Us…not so much.

Today’s regular Joe here in America, mostly:

  • is saddled with amazing debt when graduating from college education
  • has a lot more difficulty finding a job after school
  • competes with other workers to keep their job (and associated benefits)
  • makes a wage that barely competes with inflation
  • is required to generate many times the output someone in their field did in the past
  • is often required to be available via e-mail, text and phone at all hours of the day and week
  • isn’t guaranteed a wage to keep them out of poverty
  • isn’t guaranteed healthcare (or insurance for healthcare without paying a lot)
  • needs to have both partners in a relationship work to maintain a family
  • has no paid maternity/paternity leave

I’m going to start to sound socialist here, but who decided that the worker gets stuck getting crumbs, while the corporate elite and shareholders garner most of benefits?

CBC Radio in Canada is doing a 3-part series of their own regarding the impact of artificial intelligence (and taking this conversation well into the future).  I highly recommend listening to the full first part (and I look forward to Parts 2 and 3), but here’s a clip showing the history of automation (back to the 1800’s) and the associated benefits/costs and how this is expected to change in the current environment in the future:

Can you imagine if we all don’t have a much easier life with automation doing more and more work?  I would like to suggest that we have an entire mindset change about how we distribute gains from automation in the future…and this is where socialism comes in.

We need to stop thinking that gains in automation are for others to determine.  Why should CEO’s, corporate executives and shareholders determine this?  We really need to demand more of these benefits as well.  Living wages, shorter work weeks, single-income families, vacation time that is encouraged, required disconnection from work communication in off-hours.

If  having automation is going to make our lives better, it needs to make ALL our lives better.

I know this requires a huge mindset change…taking the Bernie Sanders message and expanding that.

The right-wing has been incredibly successful in focusing on making sure that wealth goes mostly to (and remains with) the already wealthy.  Their tax strategies, social systems and ideas on education all funnel money to the rich…who fund elections and continue the cycle.  They don’t realize what a short-term benefit this will be…the buying class (you and I) will soon be unable to purchase the shit they manufacture, so it benefits all when we have a more balanced economy that benefits everyone.

The rising tide of automation gains needs to raise all boats…not just the yachts.

Readers’ Comments/Questions
Regarding the ease of editing documents in an automated world, Julie Writes:

“Joe, if only people were “editing documents with ease.” Why am I constantly needing to pick up my little red pen to correct spelling, usage, and grammar in the e-mails, texts, articles, and headlines that I see all around me in print and on the internet? Since we have done away with human proof-readers and gone entirely to assuming that spell-check and other programs of that ilk will catch mistakes, we have been inundated with such egregious errors that it makes me cringe – and I am not just referring to That Man in DC.”

Editing documents to make them correct is still easier in today’s world…even if folks are still lazy and refuse to do so.  I shouldn’t talk…I’m sure if I were to go back through the years of blogging I could red-pencil many an error.

Julie also asks:

“Looking forward to seeing this project as it grows. How goes the diagonal stripe blanket?”

As I need to start some serious production knitting to prepare for craft show inventory, the Knitted Sheet has been put on a back-burner.  But it will emerge again sometime.

Current Knitting

Having done a quick poll on Facebook, I’ve decided to use two hanks of the Persimmon Tree yarn to make a wrap instead of two wide scarves.

It’s about 10.5″ wide right now and about 65″ long…it will eventually be about 20″ wide and gloriously orangey!

I also got a partial shipment from Webs the other day of two hanks of Koigu KPPPM.

I pre-ordered the latest design for Dolores and had to increase my order a little to get a discount on the entire order.  They yarn was practically free.

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