Some of you may have heard the phrase before, associated with conspiracies to depopulate the planet. There may or may not be a conspiracy to depopulate the planet, but in the words of the indomitable George Carlin – when interests converge, who needs a formal conspiracy? The fact is, all indicators point to the loss of tens of millions of jobs to automation within a decade. If during that time, food, housing and access to basic utilities remains inextricably tied to what a person can do to “deserve” some paltry portion of money [that does not circulate] in the economy, then we are looking at the inevitable and near total collapse of human society.
[W]e will soon be looking at hordes of citizens of zero economic value. Figuring out how to deal with the impacts of this development will be the greatest challenge facing free market economies in this century.
Says venture capitalist, Bill Davidow, in an article he co-wrote with industry journalist Michael Malone, featured in Harvard Business Review in December 2014.
Their main thesis, by no means isolated among the elite, is that technology will invariably replace human beings in the workplace and render them “incapable of contributing economically,” an artificial condition known in a growing number of internet circles as the ‘useless eater.’
If you doubt the march of worker-replacing technology, look at Foxconn, the world’s largest contract manufacturer. It employs more than one million workers in China. In 2011, the company installed 10,000 robots, called Foxbots. Today, the company is installing themat a rateof 30,000per year. Each robot costs about $20,000 and is used to perform routine jobs such as spraying, welding, and assembly. On June 26, 2013, Terry Gou, Foxconn’s CEO, told his annual meeting that “We have over one million workers. In the future we will add one million robotic workers.” This means, of course, that the company will avoid hiring those next million human workers.
Of course, these two brilliant and so-called valuable ‘contributors to the economy’ don’t bother to ponder the “inevitability” of this doctrine, or question who is behind this ever increasing drive to automate every aspect of our economies.
But then that would not fit well with their agenda. So let’s all meekly go along with the program, and sacrifice ourselves and each other to the god of technology, at the alter of capitalism.
If the Second Economy does achieve that rate of growth [they predict], it will be replacing the work of approximately 100 million workers. To put that number in perspective, the current total employed civilian labor force today is 146 million. A sizeable fraction of those replaced jobs will be made up by new ones in the Second Economy. But not all of them. Left behind may be as many as 40 million citizens of no economic value in the U.S alone. The dislocations will be profound.
A citizen “of no economic value” seems as close as they’ll ever get to calling us useless eaters. Americans ought to sit up and take notice, before they find themselves on the short end of an equation where they are easily dispensable.
[F]or major segments of the population, human value is now being set by the cost of equivalent machine intelligence.
I once spoke to a very successful mechanical engineer who told me that anything that can be quantified, i.e., translated into numbers, can be manipulated and reconfigured to create something new. That’s exactly what’s been happening to humanity over the last few centuries and continues apace.
Through commodification of every aspect of our lives we have enabled high priests of finance to re-engineer our economies, taking human value out of the equation. To them, soon we will all be useless eaters, if we’re not already.