Archive | January, 2013

Technology or jobs

23 Jan

The assumption in political discourse that creation of new jobs is an indisputable goal irritates me. Especially when someone states that new technology is the way to achieve it. I have dedicated my professional life to technology, and in my view, the objective of technology is to reduce the need for human work. To get rid of jobs, not create them.

To get some perspective, look back to the time before the monumental improvement in human living conditions (in other words, our environment) that came with using energy from bodies of organisms long dead, as opposed to the bodies of the living.[1] In those days, people (except for a privileged few) were pretty much constantly employed with producing food. Unemployment for those able to work was not an issue. If that was the ideal state of society, we should abolish modern technology, not develop it.

But it wasn’t, of course. We don’t really want to work all the time.

Industrialism did create some jobs. Hard, dirty and monotonous jobs, which we should be especially happy about getting rid of. But that’s a past phase in our part of the world, and eventually, I am still sufficiently stuck in Star Trek utopianism to believe, it will be past across the globe. There may be a dent in the curve due to reduced use of fossil fuels, but I’ll believe it when I see it.

It’s not like there’s shortage of rewarding uses of our lives. We can, for instance, increase the overall quality of life by serving each other knowledge, art, healthcare, or caffè latte. That takes some hard work, but why make an effort to create more work than necessary?

I suppose it has to do with the dominating religion of our time, and the supernatural being at its center: the economy. The economy, our priests tell us, must forever grow in order for society to function. And for this growth, we should all work, not primarily to increase the quality of life, but to generate interest on invested capital.

I can’t help but feeling increasingly disturbed by the discrepancy between this faith and the reality of the world with which I am presented.

1. In case I was too obscure here: what I’m saying is before humanity started using fossil fuels for energy.