I would like to offer a few words on behalf of the defence.
Since the 1950s, a revolution in automation and information technology has been transforming the world. It has made life more prosperous and
comfortable for just about everybody on earth through an enormous increase in economic production.
This revolution began in America, then spread to the rest of the world. It was accomplished by replacing manual labour with machines wherever
possible, and with cheap immigrant or overseas labour when the job couldn't be done by a machine.
In the first phase, a lot of unskilled labourers in the West found themselves out of a job. Some learned new skills and found new employment. But then
the next phase of automation and rationalization made the new jobs obsolete too.
Some moved from labour into service industries... only to find that, in a few short years, everything from bank teller work to telesales to accounting
was being subjected to the same processes of automation and outsourcing.
By the 1990s it was happening in the developing world too.
Here is the truth. As automation, IT and other technologies bring new processes to market, any
job that does not involve creativity or direct
human interaction as an essential part of its description will be rendered obsolete. The overwhelming majority of the human race will be out of work.
Upgrading to new skills will not help. Most people are only fitted, in truth, for manual labour and following orders. They are already adrift in a
modern world that perversely insists on them thinking for themselves. These economic castaways are now being joined by the semi-skilled, the minor
clerical workers, the junior managers and by all those with IQs of 100 or less. In a short while, I expect to start seeing minor technocrats in
employment queues, too. Apparently, even the stockbrokers and bankers you love to hate will soon be
As far as we are concerned, trading floors are full of mainly men wearing coloured jackets shouting at each other. They've eaten nothing but
water-soluble vitamin C tablets since dawn. Some may have actually used "work hard but play hard" in conversation.
Yet we will one day look back on this archetype with something approaching nostalgia as if it were a weather-beaten ploughman slowly but steadily
walking in the shadow of two placid shire-horses, whistling (the ploughman, not the horses) a tune about a love-lorn swain and a maid with the pox.
Large cuff-linky firms like Morgan Stanley intend to change the trading floor from one filled with angry waving people to much quieter ones where a
few traders will be surrounded by the vzzzzmmm of large computers that trade with each other millions of times a second.
The fact is that work – an invention of the agricultural revolution – is at last becoming obsolete. Unfortunately, we modern humans largely define
ourselves by our work. With that vital source of self-definition and self-respect gone from us, we are bound for a long-drawn-out, traumatic and
probably deadly period of social adjustment. In fact, it has already begun – we're calling it the world economic crisis – and the OP's complaint
is a symptom of it.
If much of the American workforce is now useless to its employers, it may not be the workers' fault; it may simply be because the world has changed.
Have a little charity – it will be your turn next.
edit on 15/8/12 by Astyanax because: the Devil finds work for idle hands.