And now for something completely different.
A prominent blogger on another site, Fireswan, sent along a bibliography of articles from banking magazines all of which had the same theme “Adapt or Die!” (1)
Here’s a common example:
“Nothing stays the same forever and the best companies are those which are flexible and innovative enough to adapt [to the challenge of technological innovation or automation].
“Without this capacity they risk becoming obsolete and are likely to face a steady decline in profit and cash flow until they eventually go bust or the remaining viable bits of the business are broken up and sold.
“The guiding motto of Andrew Grove, the man behind the rise of US micro chip titan Intel was ‘only the paranoid survive.’” (2)
An economy based on fear of survival? How sad. And how predictably dysfunctional.
Back in 1990, I began to follow the automation of work, having woken up to its job-consuming nature. (3)
It was an awakening similar to what hit us all later around 9/11. Suddenly I saw in a flash what unplanned/uncompensated automation was doing to our society. Ripping it apart, really, and impoverishing it.
At the time, I found that talking about it – even to the President of the British Columbia Federation of Labour or the Premier of my province – was simply not welcome. We enjoyed the computer and what it could do too much to hear what sounded like criticism.
It didn’t matter that it made so many people jobless and penniless.
Technology should be for the benefit of humanity, not for its harm.
The people who drove automation used it to consume work, jobs, careers, professions, trades, entry-level positions, chances for promotion, pensions, benefit plans – everything went down the drain, with no compensation offered.
It became a buyer’s market in labor. That situation has only gotten worse for workers as time goes by.
Automation was billed in the 1950s as the answer to everyone’s dreams – a future of labor-saving devices. We little suspected that the labor saved would turn out to be our family’s breadwinner.
It was said in the 1990s that, if a machine didn’t save the company $10,000 in labor costs, it was not a worthwhile investment. (4) No one asked who the labor would be and what might become of them.
Nowadays people sometimes have to hold down two and three minimum-wage jobs just to survive. Youth can’t find entry-level positions. Whatever can be automated is automated without compensation to those uprooted.
Throughout the centuries, we’ve turned a blind eye to this kind of upheaval. The first Industrial Revolution saw it and every “industrial” or “post-industrial revolution” since then.
No one sounded the alarm when huge swathes of labor were about to be rendered obsolete and incomeless. The accepted meme is always about the company fearing for its life rather the industry eliminating workers.
I’m not a financial expert. But I have looked at mindsets and this for me is a problem of mindsets.
Are there answers?
I think the main answer is that we as a society need to separate work from living.
Living should not depend on working.
Everyone should have sufficient money to ensure their living costs, offering everyone the opportunity to be free of survival concerns. That should be across the board and may take the form of a guaranteed basic income. Matters should start from there.
Communal services such as schools, hospitals, and other medical services should be free to all citizens (for as long as we have nations).
Shelters for the homeless, emergency services, universal medicare, long-term care, chronic care, etc., should all be paid for by the community at large through fair and uncorrupted taxation.
The impact of automation on workers should be recognized and ameliorated through compensation, re-employment services, paid re-education, etc.
Companies that benefit most from automation should pay most in taxation. Robots don’t pay taxes but their owners should.
Money should become again what it started out to be – a means of exchange, making business transactions easier – and not something one’s life depends on.
It’s a change of mindset that’s needed. No, it should not have to be adapt or die.
How is all this to be carried out? I don’t know. I can only see so far. But it does need to be implemented.
I assert that we have all the talent in the world to work out a solution. If anything, what we lack is the will.
I say: Let’s make it happen!
Now you need to take me up on it.
(1) “‘Banks, Adapt or Die’ by Fireswan – 1.4.19,” Intel Dinar Chronicles, at https://inteldinarchronicles.blogspot.com/2019/01/banks-adapt-or-die-by-fireswan-1419.html
(2) “Adapt or Die: The companies forced to transform as technology and markets evolve,” Sharesmagzine.co.uk, March 8, 2018, at https://www.sharesmagazine.co.uk/article/adapt-or-die-the-companies-forced-to-transform-as-technology-and-markets-evolve .
(3) See Steve Beckow, “The Impact of Automation on Work,” Essays of Brother Anonymous, at http://www.angelfire.com/space2/light11/index70.html
(4) “Theoretically every time you make a $10,000 investment on technology, you should have replaced one employee.” (James Miller, CEO of Royal Trustco in Macleans Magazine, Nov. 23, 1992, 44.)