D42-gat-jobs - Oct 1997
Author, Noel Hodson,
SW2000 Teleworking Studies,
tel 00-44-1865-760994 fax 00-44-1865-769384 firstname.lastname@example.org
INTRODUCTION TO A PAPER PREPARED BY NOEL HODSON
FOR THE EC ACTS, GENERAL ACCESS TELEWORKING CHAIN (GATChain).
JOBS AND INCOMES IN THE TELEWORK AND INFORMATION SOCIETY
Fearing the Future
There is general anxiety about the impact on employment of the rapidly expanding information society. Some commentators take the 18th century Industrial Revolution, Luddite view that new, labour saving, highly productive technology will diminish employment, disrupt the economy and decimate wealth. But on the contrary, history shows that nations which embraced industrial change became wealthy and powerful, while regions excluded from the revolution remained isolated, poor and undeveloped, consigning their citizens to centuries of poverty. However, the process of changing from a largely rural to an industrial economy, driven by ambitious merchants and factory owners, guided only by unregulated market forces for more than one hundred years, brought terrible working conditions and often starvation to millions of oppressed, un-represented, cottage industry families; and concentrated immense wealth in the hands of an elite minority.
A Flexible Work-Force
These families of “piece workers”
i.e. paid only for each unit or piece of goods they produced; were a vast,
flexible, mobile and cheap source of labour which could be switched on or off
without cost or conscience. If the families did not receive work to fill 15
hours a day 7 days a week for all of them, including their children, they often
The Quiet Revolution
The folk memories of those terrible centuries, etched deep into the collective unconscious, are now being triggered by the advent of an even greater revolution; the unstoppable emergence of the Information Society, “The Quiet Revolution” impelled by the electronic, automating, robotics, computing advances of the past 70 years. All those who must work to live are right to be alarmed and concerned that the current vogue for free-market-forces, flexible employment and unbridled entrepreneurship at this time of unprecedented socio-economic change, may signal a return to 18th and 19th century relationships between an international super-rich supported by an oppressed mass of workers; obliged to be humbly grateful for every trivial act of charity the super-rich trouble themselves to perform.
People elect and pay parliamentarians to form governments to govern them. Paid and elected representatives are charged with the responsibility to take the time and make the effort to look into and shape the future; an activity most citizens do not have the time or information or power to do for themselves. Politicians should not abandon the task of governing and planning through the complex information society changes taking place, merely because they are complex. Relying only on the quasi-magical powers of free market forces is unlikely to replace scientific planning and may result in a return to piece-working conditions for a large percentage of the workforce.
Factories will be peripherals on the Internet
In this era of unsurpassed global real wealth, humankind is working hard to abolish work. Factories are now largely automated and in a few decades most production facilities will become largely unmanned peripherals on the Internet; to be switched on and off at will as stocks of goods require. A robotic, machine version of the unfortunate, dis-enfranchised Industrial Revolution piece-workers. The information society revolution, characterised by the ubiquitous personal computer, telephone, radio and television equipment, is now replacing most repetitive and tedious office tasks with robotic, machine activities. Present day office buildings will, within twenty years or less, lack white collar workers just as today’s factories have lost most of their blue collar workers..
We have worked hard to abolish work – overproduction looms
In a few more decades, most citizens in developed regions will no longer need to work to produce the necessities of life. “Work” will be largely vocational, technically complex and by choice. Whole communities, major portions of the global population, will have achieved the five thousand year old ancestral ambition of having “worked hard to abolish work”. But this brave new world will be a status-quo prison for the majority if all privilege and wealth is held by a few hundred thousand dollar billionaires, maintained by a super-police state, while the rest of the teeming millions languish in enforced idleness in marginal living conditions. Not even the provision of hundreds of interactive broadband television channels, delivered into every home, is likely to depress the furious energy of such frustrated masses, trapped and useless in an unequal society.
New ways to Distribute Wealth
It is to be hoped that the future will be one of prosperity and social justice for all citizens. There is work to do to ensure the information society does not create social and economic fractures and social unrest. The developed world is wealthier than it has ever been in history. With the necessity for work diminishing rapidly, there are now too many capitalists - tens of millions of retired capitalists on unearned incomes, represented by thousands of pension fund managers; throwing traditional systems for rewarding productive work into doubt and dispute. The main task of government, in the transition between the present and a Brave New World order being established, is to manage the complex socio-economic processes involved and to find new ways of distributing modern society’s unprecedented wealth. Suitable rewards for productive work are a vital component of the planning process.
A system for such redistribution is BIRTHRIGHT - “Birthright” applied across the globe would include all people in the money economy, create immense new markets and eradicate poverty. Check it out.