I propose that unemployment is not a disease, but the natural, healthy functioning of an advanced technological society.
This week’s readings were fascinating in contemplating what the past-futurist’s sense of what we technology could do and also what we should not do. Mankind’s relationship — and work — with technology has become very much the symbiosis imagined by Wiener and Licklider, but have we heeded the warnings that Wiener in particular offered?
Warning: naive utopian leftist political fantasies to follow.
The ideal purpose of technology shouldn’t be to make bigger and better bombs, or more money for the already wealthy. It should be to make life on this planet more enjoyable, more sustainable, more equitable, and less nasty, brutish, and short.
Bucky Fuller first imagined a world-wide connected power grid in the 1930s. It would bring cheap and robust electricity to the world, and encourage renewable energy sources — but Fuller’s very plausible idea has never left the realm and fantasy because of human politics and greed.
Given the technological advances of the last century, and the vast resources created by it, why should anyone on this planet go hungry, or lack shelter, or basic medical care? And, to come back to the quote at the top of the post, why do we still use the unemployment rate as a major metric by which we judge the health of an economy?
At the cocktail party of the future, people will still ask “what do you do?” But the answer won’t be “sit in a cubicle and wait for death.” What you do will actually be what you want to do to build a better and more satisfying life for yourself and your family, not what you are forced to do for food and shelter.
From Wiener’s essay:
We must make a great many changes in the way we live with other people. We must value leisure. We must turn the great leaders of business, of industry, of politics, into a state of mind in which they will consider the leisure of people as their business and not as something to be passed off as none of their business.