Sunday, December 30, 2012

Meditation on work

I was going to look at some scripture, but my memory of it was incorrect when I looked at the Bible.... and my good study Bible has grown legs... I'm sure scripture has lots to say about work and labor, google it.

Anyways, I was listening to a podcast about robotics and invention. Before that I listened to another podcast about maker sheds, sort of like shop club for adults. The common thread was that American manufacturing is changing as is American manufacturing jobs. The robot podcast provided an example of a robot that can do line work, if the line work is simple, like putting cupcakes in a box. You take the robot arms and show (provide motor memory) the little bot how to do your job for a few hours and the next day you collect your last paycheck. The little robot doesn't need health insurance, bathroom breaks, a union, nor any of those things to make humans happy and healthy.
Yes, there are many manufacturing tasks that have been taken over by robots already, but what about more tasks than now?
Then I thought about jobs my friends and colleagues pity and feel bad about, like maid service, janitorial work, and farm labor. What if in some near future there is no need for maids and janitors because they've been replaced with bots? What if thousands of migrant workers were replaced by bots or tractor parts that could pick the tenderest lettuce, or the ripest grapes. Think of the many labor issues in America for low paying jobs and imagine that those issues went away because the people have been replaced by technology.
I don't know about you but I find something unsettling in that thought. It's not that I want to subjugate people to low paying jobs but there is something in work that is good and eliminating a whole sector of work, bad. 
My first job was as a non-union cashier in a grocery story. I made a dime more than minimum wage to start. My mom, when she had to re-enter the work force got her foot in the door with low skill low paid work. Same thing for sis. Low paid work is not a good place to hang out, but it is a good first step. My first paid job, I'm glad I had it. I'm glad the manager took a chance on a 16 year old girl with no previous work experience. I learned a lot. I learned to challenge myself. I learned there are some really creepy men out there as well as cool couples who clog. I'm also glad I don't do it anymore for pay , yet the experience does come in handy for self check out.
Self-check out, back to the robots.  I like it. But sometimes I need a human and they won't let you buy NyQuil at the self-checkout w/o a human.
But as my history project showed, where we listed occupations that no longer exist, there is little point in hanging on to those occupations taken over by technology (horse buggies by cars; laundresses by diy washer dryers) or fashion or what have you. But whatever, we must have some work for the poor and the young so they can move towards that which hasn't been replaced by technology, yet.

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