Thursday, October 28, 2010

Forces of Production

I remember back in the early 80's that I expected a wave of proletarianization due to the need to squeeze profits out from somewhere. Didn't happen, primarily because consumption was defended by the 2 decade orgy of debt we've just completed.

Regardless of the business cycle, however, technology trends are inexorable -- just the stuff in the pipeline already guarantees huge transformations ahead. Yet as Portugal, Ireland and Greece reach the breaking point, I wonder when people will stop seeing market forces as laws of nature, and when the movements for progressive technology will gain a stronger voice.

In the end we come back to the core question: How much wealth is sufficient for us to realize our potential, and what relationship should human beings have to nature and each other in its achievement?

From an article on technology, robotics, and automation:

If this polarization continues, a whole cohort of people who expected to be middle class—or at least financially stable—might find themselves living a very different reality. Then they might start asking questions about why they are in that position. If it gets increasingly hard to pretend that the average liberal-arts degree prepares a student for a decent job, there may be broader support for a sober assessment of our education system, and the reforms it needs. If the skills and talents that are truly financially rewarding become harder and harder to acquire, people who would never consider themselves students of Marx might start questioning whether, given the circumstances, it still makes sense to pay people based solely on the demand for their skills in a marketplace that would be demanding very few skills.

If market forces and increased automation leave the average person without any prospects for a decent job, we may have the chance—or perhaps even the moral obligation—to recast the opportunity to do meaningful work not merely as a privilege, but as something everyone deserves.

The whole article is here.

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