Thursday, September 8, 2016

Received this letter from a reader--Ed G

While politicians are beating their gums over the current stagflation and a 7 - 12 percent unemployment number, humanities’ successes and the accompanying problems they brought are going unnoticed.

The First Industrial Revolution (1840 – 1870) was about water and steam power, machine tools factories and textile manufacturing and the urbanization of workers.  The Second Revolution was the technological and took place at the end of the 19th century and the beginnings of the 20th. It brought in electricity, the production line, railroads and gas, water and sewer lines to serve the urbanized workers.  The Third Revolution, now drawing to a close brought humanity computers, cybernetics, robotics, 3D print manufacturing and a massive shift from production of needs to the production of wants and at the same time a move of workers to the service industries.  We now seem to be on the cusp of the Fourth Industrial Revolution and the rewards and challenges it will bring.

With the problems of extraction of natural resources and the manufacturing of needs solved and on the decline, I expect, with others, that there will be an ‘unemployment’ rate of near 30 percent.  At the same time a massive increase in the ‘social worker’ sector to ‘police’ the massive numbers of recipients will be needed.  On of the basic objectives of any ruler is to settle the people’. That settlement cannot take place if the people are not fed, housed, and clothed.  However, there is a solution on the horizon.

Much attention has been paid to the problem of poverty, which has remained unsolved.  The reason it has remained unsolved is that poverty is relative and cannot be solved.  If the word is changed to privation, the insufficiency of food, shelter and clothing, it becomes definable and therefore solvable.  It is well known that the welfare systems in place are to address the problems introduced when capitalism emancipated slaves from slavery to wage slavery and manipulated workers by managing wages.  The solution being studied and on the verge of implementation in many countries is the provision of a Basic Income.  That idea is as old as the writings of the revolutionary Tom Paine (1737 –1809). 

Canada was a leader when it experimented by testing the in Dauphin Manitoba in 1974 - 1979.  More youth finished high school, teen pregnancies were reduced, hospital admissions were lowered, especially for mental heath.  It became a ‘town without poverty”

Leaders in all political parties support the idea and it is part of the Green party Platform

Massive material is available with the Google Search Engine.  Studies have proven that some $40 billions in annual budgetary savings could be realised.

On December 28 2015 the Toronto Star published an item by Robin V. Sears, a principal at Earnscliffe and a Broadbent Institute.  The Head was “Three big tests for the new Prime Minister.”  The three items were — “real carbon roll¬back, genuine democratic reform, and transforma¬tion in the lives of Canada's aboriginal citizens..”

A fourth needs to be added and substantiation made for it to be included.  That fourth, to address the problems of the Fourth Industrial Revolution is the implementation of a Basic Income.

And So I Responded!!!

All this is "old hat" for me Ed as i've been writing on this topic since 2008 on my blog and in response to a naive Toronto Star columnist 4 or 5 years ago, had a 3 or 4 column wide rebuttle “letter to the editor” published as the lead letter heading all of the single column letters.

My approach to the problem of the disappearance of work due to robotics and technological innovations is not as bleak as your crime and starvation scenario but rather indicates the need to phase in shorter work weeks with pay tied to machinery productivity rather than hours worked as we transition to a future of little work.  This would avoid revolutions seen in China and The Middle East and provide more (reduced hours with pay tied to company profits/productivity) jobs opportunity and the resultant available consumption capital necessary in the economy to keep the economy afloat.
Interestingly, the public support in America for Presidential Nominee Candidates like Donald (“We’re Gonna Make America Great Again”) Trump and Bernie (“More Fairness and Opportunity for the Working Class”) Sanders are strong signals of widespread public dissatisfaction with the American System that only works for a few and, without change, is a pre-cursor to future revolution.
I have also written about the Dauphin Manitoba Guaranteed Income experiments and see this distribution of wealth as necessary and a positive product of robotics in freeing people to do things they want to do (think, philosophize, write blogs, volunteer, travel, take up new hobbies like art, music, etc.) rather than things they have to do (tedious, boring, and repetitious work).  The working classes will get to live the life of the capitalist classes---sit on their asses and let the money flow in to support a good life style.  Even without the need to work, few people will be idle.  Magically, activity always more than fills idle time!  Just ask any retiree!
This problem of reducing work is not new to the world.  Before the industrial revolution of the mid 1800's, every man, woman, and child worked 100 hours per week in physical hand labour.  Mechanization of production allowed for increased efficiency of production and decreased hours of work so, over many years, the full work day became defined as 8 hour days that got enshrined in laws like Ontario's Employment Standards Act defining the work week as 40 hours for a 5 day work week or 48 hours for a 6 day work week.

The Problems Then?  

  • The work week has not been redefined for over 60 years despite computers, technological innovation, and robotics which have freed humans from being tied to the job.  We now simply have to redefine the work week as we reduce hours of work (job share) with pay tied to productivity rather than hours worked as we transition to the impending future of the need for little human work, and
  • We need to figure out ways to fairly divide the fruits of the economy to provide everyone with a "fair share" of the economic pie to allow for the necessary and growing consumption to keep the national and world economies growing and flourishing, where technology frees humans from the bondage of work but continues to provide a growing income tied to growing national economic productivity to feed the consumption necessary for continued economic growth.

There is nothing bleak about the future.  The "crisis" felt by the Luddites who destroyed the early machines taking their jobs is now being felt by many---but those early machines eased all the back breaking labour and brought the world the highest standards of living ever known to man---and this history of progress will be repeated!

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