Compute or be computed?

Sometimes things come together.  Like they have done with Big Data and Data Science, once you hear about something it seems to be everywhere.  For me, it’s just happened again. This time it’s automation and the impact of technology on how (and, mostly, if) we will work.  I’m reading Kevin Kelly’s What Technology Wants, so I suppose it shouldn’t come as a surprise.  There’s also a lot in the news about the lack of success in creating new jobs both here in the UK and the US.

Here are some of the pieces so far:

• Jeff Jarvis: The jobless future

Two books to read:  The Lights in the Tunnel: Automation, Accelerating Technology and the Economy of the Future and Program or be Programmed

• Douglas Rushkoff : Are Jobs Obsolete?:

New technologies are wreaking havoc on employment figures… Every new computer program is basically doing some task that a person used to do. But the computer usually does it faster, more accurately, for less money, and without any health insurance costs.

We like to believe that the appropriate response is to train humans for higher level work. Instead of collecting tolls, the trained worker will fix and program toll-collecting robots. But it never really works out that way, since not as many people are needed to make the robots as the robots replace.

We’re living in an economy where productivity is no longer the goal, employment is.

I have to wonder just how truly bad is it for people. Isn’t this what all this technology was for in the first place? The question we have to begin to ask ourselves is not how do we employ all the people who are rendered obsolete by technology, but how can we organize a society around something other than employment?

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