Work Is Replaceable

Technology has created more jobs than it has destroyed yet I’m still subjected daily to the whining of people worried about the jobs. What will happen to people working checkout aisles at convenience stores if everybody uses kiosks? How will employees at McDonald’s afford housing if they’re replaced by kiosks? Where will people working in manufacturing go if 3D printers make their jobs unnecessary? Then you have the people, usually old folks, bitching about the current generation not working as hard. You would think any 20-something working less than 80 hours a week was some kind of lazy bums. And don’t even get me started on the people worried that there won’t be as much work available in the future because of automation.

You’re reading this so I infer that you both have access to a computer and aren’t currently working (even if you’re at work). Two things about these inferences should amaze you. First, you have access to an incredibly complex piece of machinery that has went from non-existent to pervasive throughout society in roughly half of a century. Second, you don’t have to perform hard labor every minute of the day just to survive.

It’s true, automation has replaced a lot of jobs. It’s also true that automation has allowed us to work less than the previous generation and still enjoy a better standard of living. That’s the beauty of automation. Not only does it replace hard labor with easier jobs but it also allows us to generate the same wealth in less time.

I, like you, am not spending every moment of daylight hunting animals or gathering berries. Usually I put in around eight hours five days a week. For those 40 hours a week most of it is spent sitting on my ass in front of a computer. The most strenuous effort I have to put forth most working periods is moving my fingers thousands of times to different keyboard positions so I can properly enter in the correct sequence of characters to convince a computer to do what I would rather not do myself. Programming is much easier than automotive repair, which is what my father does. I also work fewer hours than he does.

In most cases when a job is replaced with automation it reduces the amount of physical effort needed overall. You know the socialist dream of abolishing work? It becomes a little more feasible everyday as we make better use of advancing technology. Human history is actually a lengthy demonstration of this point. This generation is lazier than the previous, the previous generation is lazier than its predecessors, and so on.

This is why I scoff at neophobes and why I roll my eyes when some union leader is bitching about the machines replacing jobs. I don’t want to struggle every waking hour to obtain enough food to eek out a substance living. Fuck everything about that! What I want to do is go home after doing what little work I need and enjoy myself. Machines can create more wealth than I can so let them do it. I’ll enjoy the product of their labor.

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