It's no longer possible to rely 100% on ads to keep our organization going. If you believe in why Films For Action exists, we hope you'll become a supporter on Patreon. A monthly donation of $1, $3, $5 or more per month will really help!
Can Automation Turn Fewer Jobs Into Better Ones?
We must shape a future in which technological progress means freeing people to work fewer hours for fairer compensation and to devote themselves to social advancement.
Can Automation Turn Fewer Jobs Into Better Ones?
YES! Illustration by Jennifer Luxton.
By John Nichols / yesmagazine.org
Sep 1, 2016

The cruelest hoax of the automation revolution that is now in the first stages of transforming the nature of work is the suggestion that it will play out as the industrial revolutions of the past: with people, perhaps grudgingly, perhaps happily, moving from one kind of work to another. That’s not going to happen.

This revolution is moving people out of work altogether. Digital applications and automation innovations are creating a future where robots will do most of the work that was once performed by human beings. Bizarrely, shamefully, this reality continues to be obscured and even at times denied by elite analysts who spin the fantasy that the future of work will follow the familiar patterns of the past.

It won’t. Capitalism guarantees that this revolution will be dramatic. The only question facing the great mass of Americans who are not currently occupying the top rungs of the economic ladder is whether it will be dramatically worse or dramatically better. For those of us who prefer the dramatically better option, honest recognition of where we are and where we are headed is essential.

The multinational corporations that already profit from the dislocation and disorientation of workers continue to peddle old understandings of industrial change to maintain that work is simply evolving and that workers need only adapt to new opportunities. A chipper headline from The Atlantic in January promised to explain “Why Computers Aren’t Going to Steal Everyone’s Jobs.”

But consider the case of Uber, the multinational ride-sharing conglomerate that advertises incessantly about the employment prospects it offers those who have been displaced from steadier work (and the security associated with it). Its radio ads promise drivers a quick route to prosperity.

“How many different driving jobs are there?” Uber’s website asks. “A lot,” it answers. In fact, the most popular driving job in the United States is truck driving, which employs about 3.5 million people. Uber has only been around since 2012. “Despite this,” its website claims, “it’s growing the fastest because of the great earning potential and flexible schedule.” What is not mentioned is that, in 2015, Uber hired 40 scientists and researchers—yes, 40—from Carnegie Mellon University’s National Robotics Engineering Center to envision “autonomous cars that could someday replace its tens of thousands of contract drivers,” explainedThe Wall Street Journal.

In our research for People Get Ready: The Fight Against a Jobless Economy and a Citizenless Democracy, Bob McChesney and I found countless examples of corporations investing in research designed to replace the jobs of the future with robots, automation schemes, and digital applications. No matter what the starry-eyed futurists may tell you, corporations are not going to create millions of new robot-repair and oversight positions to fill the void that is being created. Nor will there be enough positions for software designers and managers to maintain a middle class. Companies are not going to pour resources into automation while at the same time creating jobs for displaced and downsized workers—doing so would negate the very profits they seek.

In this new age, old models for employment must be replaced. There will still be work, but there will be less of it. Will the work that remains be viciously exploitative, with workers pitted against one another in a fight for the last job? Or will workers begin to think of themselves as citizens of a new era, when the promise of technological progress can be made real?

Automation can and should eliminate drudgery, freeing people to work fewer hours for fairer compensation and to devote themselves to social advancement. To do this, however, citizens must assert themselves by demanding not just political but economic democracy. We must replace fantastical talk about “the future of work” with the honest understanding that there will be less work. We must shape a humane future in which corporate monopoly and inequality give way to a sharing society where technological progress benefits everyone.


0.0 ·
0
Featured Films
The Staging Post: Courageous People Never Give Up! (2017)
61 min The Staging Post follows two Afghan Hazara refugees, Muzafar and Khadim. Stuck in Indonesia after Australia 'stopped the boats' and facing many years in limbo, they built a community and started the school which inspired a refugee education revolution. A real-life...
Inhabit: A Permaculture Perspective (2015)
92 min Humanity is more than ever threatened by its own actions; we hear a lot about the need to minimize footprints and to reduce our impact. But what if our footprints were beneficial? What if we could meet human needs while increasing the health and well-being of our...
Within Reach (2013)
87 min Within Reach explores one couple's pedal-powered search for a place to call home. Mandy and Ryan gave up their jobs, cars, and traditional houses to 'bike-pack' 6500 miles around the USA seeking sustainable community. Rather than looking in a traditional neighborhood, they...
Schooling the World (2010)
66 min If you wanted to change an ancient culture in a generation, how would you do it? You would change the way it educates its children. The U.S. Government knew this in the 19th century when it forced Native American children into government boarding schools. Today, volunteers...
Fall and Winter (2013)
102 min This stunning film takes you on a hypnotic journey, reaching to the past to understand the origins of the catastrophic environmental transitions we now face. Over two years, director Matt Anderson traveled 16,000 miles to document firsthand our modern industrial world and the...
The Economics of Happiness (2011)
65 min Economic globalization has led to a massive expansion in the scale and power of big business and banking. It has also worsened nearly every problem we face: fundamentalism and ethnic conflict; climate chaos and species extinction; financial instability and unemployment. There...
Trending Today


Love Films For Action? Become a Patron!

Our Patreon campaign is now live! We hope you'll be among the first to support this new direction for Films For Action. The goal is to go 100% ad-free by next year and become 100% member supported. A monthly pledge of just $1 -5 per month x a few thousand awesome people will ensure we can continue our work and grow our impact across the world. Click here to join.

Join us on Facebook
Can Automation Turn Fewer Jobs Into Better Ones?