Monday, 19 March 2012

Technological Unemployment

Man Vs Machine
Just as globalisation is a fact, so too is technological unemployment. It is all around you and you have experienced it your entire life, you just may have not realised it.

On a recent visit to the local cineworld cinema the man behind the kiosk told me that you can now buy tickets online and get a 10% discount from the usual ticket price, which is now a staggering £9.10! Firstly I was in a little shock at the price of a cinema ticket, they have steadily gone up over the past 12 months. Thank Joe Pesci I had already signed up for an unlimited card.

Now, you have the 'choice' of a self service machine, or a human. The man explained to me that by using the Internet I could bypass him and get a ticket cheaper by ordering from home and picking it up once I arrived, from the self service machine. As if this was not enough he then informed me that as an unlimited card holder I could do the same with this. This totally bypasses the need for any humans to operate the ticket desk in the pursuit of greater profit margins. I took a moment to highlight this to him and I do not think he had considered it until I used the words "technological unemployment". Being a good obedient worker he was doing his job by informing me of my option to avoid a queue and do it all from home, but at the same time however he is contributing to his own demise.

This is not a new experience for me though as anyone who has been to the VUE cinema in Angel, London, will testify to. Inside the VUE cinema you pay for your tickets at a machine at the bottom of the escalators and do not even see a human until you want to purchase a coca-cola or some popcorn. This was a few years ago now, I wonder if they have upgraded the humans to vending machines yet?

The pursuit to increase profit margins continues and one way to achieve this is by reducing the workforce wherever a corporation can. Everywhere you look machines are replacing the need for humans, from the main library in the town to WHSmiths, they have all installed several self service machines and reduced the number of staff required.

Is this a bad thing? Yes and no, no in that technology has raised our standard of living since the very first caveman worked out how to form and use tools, it is just that in today's society, driven by this never ending need for growth, this truth has been distorted. Yes in that the reduction in purchasing power of the people as technology replaces us, restricts the artificial growth that the "expert" economists talk about, and worsens the current economic situation. Machines do not need a lunch break, holiday, sick pay or any pay for that matter, they only require at present a few select specialists to oversee their maintenance. Remember that the construction industry was replaced by the service industry and now both these areas are heavily automated.

This is not something to be feared though, it is something that should be embraced. Technology can continue to revolutionise the way we live, generating abundance in resources for the planets population, through sustainable and renewable means and enabling us to achieve a standard of "civil"isation that we have not yet achieved.

Do not be fooled by Obama, Cameron, Merkel or Sarkozy. The credit crunch is not the cause of unemployment but it is a contributing factor.

Technological unemployment has only served to accelerate the flaws in the system we currently live in and as our technology increases in capability our reliance on human labour will continue to diminish and free us to pursue our lives in a much greater and enriching way.

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