Re: Science and Unemployment...

Clint Brome (
Tue, 4 Jul 1995 11:04:26 GMT

(Gordon S. Little) writes:

>In article <>,
> wrote:
>> >>I have not said "technology is a bad thing". But I have questioned the
>> >>current direction. I have also said we can't, in reality improve the
>> >>"quality of life"... This is my most controversial statement because it
>> >>questions the basis of current western "civilization"...
>> All you nead to be happy is warmth, food, water and enough sleep even in
>> western civerlisation it is possibal to understand that. modern technology
>> just makes it easer to obtain those things and gives us time to worry about
>> other things. personaly i regard the lack of small pox epedemics, cholora,
>> polio ect as a great boost to my quality of life.

>Sorry, I absolutely, fundamentally disagree with this last statement; and I
>think this point is of crucial, central importance in today's society.

>Warmth, food, water and the rest of it are not all we need. We also need
>something to do. We need significant roles in life. We need to be able to
>contribute to our own survival and wellbeing, and the survival and
>wellbeing of others, in order to make our lives even remotely meaningful.
>We need achievements and successes to give us joy and a feeling of personal
>power. Otherwise life is just a meaningless round of eating, drinking,
>sleeping and copulation; and in the end we fall into despair.

>When we lived in an economy of scarcity, it may have been harder to
>recognize this fact, though it surely didn't go unnoticed by philosophers.
>When we must labor all our waking hours to scratch food from the earth, we
>have little time to reflect on this fact; but the "doing" and the feeling
>of success that comes from it is an automatic part of life.

When we lived in an economy of scarcity, when everyone was working
hand-to-mouth, and barely scraping by, I suspect that people didn't
have some of the problems of today -- let's not exaggerate, though.
These problems amount to boredom. I would trade boredom for the
ever impending threat of extinction in an instant. Especially boredom
of the sort we face today. There is a shortage of good jobs. However,
there isn't a shortage of things to do. If you work at a crappy job,
I'm sorry. However, there are a great many volunteer organizations
out there that could give you a sense of purpose and accomplishment
in your spare time.

>Today we live in an economy of surplus. We have more than enough to go
>round, even if only some of the people worked. Much of the work we do is
>makework, from government bureaucrats to lawyers to advertisers and
>telemarketers to manufacturers of Lion King dolls. We don't "need" these
>things. In a way it's fortunate that humans are greedy. However much we
>have, we always want something more; and collectively we can usually find
>something new to occupy our time.

>But we do have a shortage of roles. The fact that science has created
>unemployment, leading to lack of *incomes* for some people, is only part of
>the picture. The other part is that besides having inadequate income, many
>have no roles in life.

>Compare the fate of many American blacks in the 19th century with today. A
>century and a half ago, in an economy of scarcity, labor was short. It was
>profitable for plantation owners to keep them in slavery, exploiting their
>labor to create material wealth for themselves. Today, the world has
>turned upside-down, and employment is short instead. It's profitable for
>liberal politicians to keep the poorest black men in spiritual slavery,
>giving them welfare as a substitute for jobs, exploiting their existence as
>political capital to create roles for these politicians.
Pause for a moment. Given the choice of these two roles, as a
slave on a plantation, or as a poor person on welfare with no idea
where to find a job, I know they are both pretty lousy choices, but
if you had to choose between them, would it really be that hard a

>Science has made our lives safe, comfortable, and wonderful; but it has
>also given us new problems to face. We will not solve these problems until
>we acknowledge the totality of human needs. These are not just material
>needs, but truly meaningful things for everyone to *do*, a way for everyone
>to contribute to our individual and collective survival and betterment. It
>is not enough to feed the human stomach. We must feed the human spirit as

I agree. Science has made our lives safe, comfortable, and wonderful.
I think there are still problems to face, some of them new. However, they
don't come close to rivalling the problems we had to face two hundred or
a thousand years ago, much the less farther in the past.

> Gordon S. Little
> (