The ways that people make a living today are very different from what they were a generation ago. In 1970, Detroit was still a bustling manufacturing metropolis, thousands of women earned a decent living as telephone operators, and many newspapers provided employment to linotype operators who spent their days at the keyboard of a clunky pile of machinery that molded molten type metal into sticks. Needless to say, you will have problems finding a manufacturing job in Detroit these days, and the other jobs are history too....
And we are by no means done...almost half of current U. S. jobs could eventually vanish as they are taken over by "computerisation."
What so often goes completely unmentioned in discussions of technological unemployment, is the question of anthropology: what is your model of the human being?
I think the model that most secular economists and researchers use is something like this. All life is basically economic in character, and the ultimate good in this life is a smoothly functioning economy, wherein everyone capable of contributing to it works to the best of their ability and receives in turn the material benefits of their work. That is a nice picture as far as it goes, but as a philosophy of life it's somewhat lacking.
For a completely different take on technological unemployment, you should read one of a number of works that were popular in the 1930s. Even in the teeth of the Great Depression, writers such as C. C. Furnas in The Next Hundred Years went into optimistic technophilic raptures about how the increasing efficiency and productivity brought about by technological advances would let most people earn all the money they needed by working only one or two hours a day, leaving the rest of the time for leisure pursuits such as art appreciation and charitable work.
We have certainly gone beyond Mr. Furnas's wildest dreams of increased productivity. So what went wrong with his vision?
I'm not entirely sure, but one factor seems to be the social consensus of what kinds of work and lives are to be desired, and what kinds are to be disparaged.
Go ahead and read the whole thing. I think he's correct about that social consensus, incidentally, but another piece of the puzzle is -- in my opinion -- the rise of the two-income (or n-income, where n is the number of adults) household in all economic classes.
That's just a link for thought this Monday morning. See you later!