There is, and has been for the last decade, a new social consciousness emerging from within our species which embraces automation. A consciousness which understands and respects our inter-connectivity with each other, the world and life on our shared planet. This consciousness rejects, at least in part, the old world views of competition, of power and control and of the drudgery of menial unrewarding work for little more than a paycheck to keep the old way propped up.
This consciousness is being driven by declines, make no mistake about it, it is being driven by declines. Declines in global and regional social stability, declines in resource availability (oil, freshwater, topsoil, rainforests etc etc) declines in habitat, declines in species numbers and declines in climate stability to name a few.
This emergent understanding of our role as a species on this planet, with respect to the impacts of our actions on our biosphere, on our communities and on ourselves is converging with technological advances which are driving us to a third industrial revolution.
In a talk titled The Third Industrial Revolution: A Radical New Sharing Economy, Jeremy Rifkin discusses the why and how of a new economic model which can take us from the brink of social failure to hope and a new way of living.
Mr. Rifkin sees the Internet of Things, which covers communication, transportation and energy, being the enabler for dramatic economic change with the Millenials new social awareness being the catalyst. Jeremy points out in the talk that once the Internet Of Things is fully operational we can expect most products and services to reach zero marginal cost. For the most part the talk aligns very closely with what Peter Joseph and The Zeitgeist Movement (TZM) have been presenting since 2008.
Automation Revolution Divergence
Where Peter and The Zeitgeist movement understand and accept that it is financial economics at the root of the majority of the social and environmental pathology prevalent around the world today, Jeremy promotes the idea of capitalism persisting. Whether this is a result of his personal disposition or simply to make the idea of dramatic change more palatable is unclear.
In his talk Jeremy points out that it will take thirty years with a mass employment push, aimed at retrofitting existing private and commercial buildings as well as constructing new energy infrastructure, before we will be in a position to enjoy the benefits of goods and services reaching zero marginal cost as a result of the IoT (Internet of Things) and automation.
Of course having goods and services reaching zero marginal cost is contingent of a mass reduction of employment across many sectors in the current economy. Jeremy understands this, however he expects Capitalism will be able to continue because jobs will move into sectors of the economy which he explains can not be done by robots. To this end he talks about aged care, health and child care.
Perhaps that could happen, yet it is important to understand that all three of those sectors are not unskilled labour positions, especially the majority of work in health care. Further, if employment roles are decreased through automation to the extent they would need to be in order to reach zero marginal cost for goods alone, then who are all these people in need of childcare? If your job was made redundant through automation the one thing you would have an abundance of is time to care for your children.
Similar applies to aged care, beyond the fact that there is a finite limit to the need for aged care in society, based in part by numbers of elderly in society and of course the relative health of the elderly. Where some may be in need of care in the twilight of their lives, others do not and again if employment roles significantly decline then can we not all take it in turn to care for the elderly in our own families where specialist care is not needed?
Further to the two points on aged care and childcare is a financial matter, if job roles are reduced through automation then how do those left unemployed pay to put their children or elderly members of family into care? Do we all start working in aged and childcare so we can afford to put our children and elderly into care? It starts to feel a bit circular and ridiculous.
Health care has a similar situation arise, a world with less manual labour and more automation is a much safer world. In such a scenario it is likely that hospital visits would dramatically decline. I talked about this in an article titled “The High Cost of Automated Electric Vehicles” where I pointed out
With less road accidents also comes less pressure on Doctors and hospitals. The O.E.C.D. International Transport Forum found in their Road Safety Annual Report that for the year 2010 in Australia alone there were 1,353 fatalities and 32,775 people hospitalised as a result of traffic accidents. Not only would a reduction in these numbers through the adoption of automated driving save lives, it would also reduce strain on an already heavily over stressed hospital system.
Keeping in mind that the above information pertains to the automation of a single sector of the economy, the road transport sector, it stands to reason that automation in other labour intensive fields would only further decrease the instances in which people needed hospitalization or medical help. Moreover there is an undeniable connection between chronic stress and illness which ultimately results in the need for medical intervention or if untreated and unresolved the potential for death. With both work and finances leading the way as inducers of stress in Australia, and very likely the majority of the world, it is likely a reduction in the need to “work” would result in both a reduction in stress in society and in turn instances of ill health.
Automation Revolution Alternative
This is where TZM and other similar groups working towards the removal of monetary economics and the implementation of an economic model based of sharing and cooperation makes much more sense. Unlike Jeremy Rifkin, TZM sees the implementation of automation into human society as being the driving force behind the removal of financial economics completely. Thus freeing people from the forty hour work week and the stress related to both work and finances, resulting in a healthier society.
We find ourselves living in a world which undeniably promotes ill health of the vast majority through the very foundational aspects of society, working to pay to live, coupled with the obvious potential for fundamental change as discussed by Jeremy Rifkin. We also see our biosphere being torn apart as a result of an out of control consumption for the sake of consumption of material goods pandemic which has gripped human society since Victor Lebow expressed “commodities and services must be offered to the consumer with a special urgency. We require not only ‘forced draft’ consumption, but ‘expensive’ consumption as well.” in the Journal of Retailing during the spring of 1955.
As such we should no longer be simply talking about the potential we have as a human family though those changes, but demanding those changes take place in the interest of global sustainability and public health.