Re: Science and Unemployment...

Bruce Salem (salem@pangea.Stanford.EDU)
2 Jul 1995 19:43:41 GMT

Given the torrant of response this is sure to generate, I will resort
to the third person in order to try to address issues here. As much as it
is tempting to react to Mr. Swami as though he is a fool or a hypocrite, I
think that there are some very legitimate issues, although I am not at all sure
that the solution Swami suggests is the right one.

In article <3svl13$> (Madhudvisah dasa Swami) writes:

No ideology or creed, or culture, as a monopoly on this. All kinds
of people get arrogant and have to learn some humility the hard way.

>Generally we accept the status-quo without questioning it.

This is the most important thing siad so far. Much of the rest of
what you say is about the decisions that got the status quo and the price
that we pay as a result. If your advice is habout people thinking about
what the effect the status quo has on them, I agree. It is good advice
for people to understand their own predicament and to take control and
direct their lives whenever they can. I am not sure that religious
prescription is the bst formula for that. I think that the scientific
understanding of ourselves provides a better hope of understanding
how to use what we get in this life.

>There things are going on in a very simple way without much
>emphasis on economic development. Things go on in much the same way as
>they have been going on since time immemorial. There are no new models
>coming out, no new building materials, no multinational corporations, no
>new fads. Life is simple.

See the last episode of the original "Connections" series, or
read the last chapter of the book of the same name by James Burke. This
os a commentary, hard hitting, literally, on "back-to-nature", being a
luddite and the effect of technology on culture.

>We earn and spend so much money, but what is the result? What do we have
>that the Indian villagers dont have? We have a house, it may be
>double-brick and in a posh suburb, but after all its a house. We are
>eating, we are sleeping and we are working, the same things are going on.

I wonder, do the Villagers have parasites in their bodies and what
is their life expantancy? What is their mental health? There is no doubt
that different cultures have different strengths and weaknesses, but aren't
they all mixed bags?

>Of course we have so many electronic gadgets but what have they brought
>us? The television and video are a direct line to the consumer society,
>and really who wants that?

It is pretty neat to see the earth from space, to be able to see
what astronauts see from orbit, that our world is a beautiful blue orb,
that we know now a great deal about all the other bodies in our Solar system
and about many of the stars and matter beyond; that we can simulate worlds
which we can only imagine. Of course that also means that any corporation
can anticipate our next move from marketing surveys and try to subliminally
manipulate our decision making through advertizing. Technology is power and
that is a mixed bag. Space travel and ICBMs are the same technology too. So?

>The computer has made half the work force
>obsolete, they are now thrown on the heap of social rejects which is
>growing at an alarming rate -- people who simply have no place in society.
>They dont have the intelligence to become great computer programmers or
>high-pressure executives, so there is no place for them.

I have commented on this before, but I have a new take on this
which comes close to home for you and me. I can make you squirm. You own
people are quite good a logic and puzzles and have a great mental discipline,
which is highly valued. This makes them ideal programmers and several Univer-
sities in India have turned out very skilled UNIX developers. There are about
20,000 or so UNIX programmers in the Bombey area alone. U.S. Companies have
been contracting out to firms in India because they can pay about half what
they would have to pay here, and the quality is good. In addition Indians
have been comming to the States to work in companies. I was at a computer
manufacturer in Silicon Valley where the technical support staff was being
replaced by Indians from a single contract house that brought people in. I
am sure that the price per person was less than what this company could
pay stateside. The point is, not that I have anything against cheap off-
shore labor, but that the door swings both ways. Opportunities are created
and destroyed by change, and that new technology, like this Internet, makes
some of this possible. It is possible for someone to live in a small village
in India and develop code that would be sent via satellite to some company
in Australia. One of the benefits of this technology may be to take people
out of the commute. One must work out the expression in the powestructre
which pays your way to allow you to telecommute. But as you bought into that
power structure in the first place you still have to deal with it.

I was arround when one of the first "Teleconferences", now we call
them bbs, hit a large organization in the 1970's. The lesson, which should be
painfully obvious to anyone on the Internt, is that such systems upset the
traditional communication of the organization and certian people can get a
voice all out of importance to their competance or power in the organization.
The traditional organizational hierarchy learns to abandon the BBS.

>The motor car has
>created so much pollution and has fostered a society where people now live
>two hours drive away from their place of work. They buy and maintain an
>expensive motor car with a large chunk of the money they earn simply to
>spend four stressful hours in it every day driving to and from work! So
>these were some of the thoughts that crossed my mind.

As someone who can't drive due to a vision handicap, I can tell
you that the car enabled a massive change in the urban geography of America,
particularly, and that it was possible for people to live far away from
work. For many the commute is an acceptable price to pay for the freedom to
have a house with a yard in a place which is not crowded.

>If this capitalistic society is to go "ahead" then people have to be
>encouraged to consume more. If people are satisfied with what they have
>they dont consume so much, so there has to be discontent, people have to
>be dissatisfied with what they have now, otherwise they wont buy the new
>model. Every year there is a new model of each car to make the owners of
>the previous years model feel they are driving an "obsolete" model.

There is noone with a gun to your head telling you to be a
consumer, now your kids, that is another story.

>Dissatisfaction is actually created in our society to fuel the
>capitalistic machine. But what sort of lifestyle does that give us? We are
>forced to work hard for things we dont actually need only to find twelve
>months after we purchase them they are obsolete, they have no resale value
>and there is a new machine on the market with many more features.

Actually, I thought that having to eat and pay rent or a mortgage
is what really kept us enslaved in a job, or feeding and clothing children.

Bruce Salem

!! Just my opinions, maybe not those of my sponsor. !!