Idiots With Clipboards

They're too smart to deliver pizza, too dumb to think for themselves. Welcome the the Tyranny of Twits. And the occasional Clockwork Orange award.

Archive for the month “March, 2012”

Idiots with bad ideas

A recent article suggests that automation will free people for “creative pursuits”.  Guess the phrase “starving artist” has dropped out of the lexicon.  Artists are already more likely to starve than prosper.  Adding hordes of wannabees to the equation won’t improve the odds.

They don’t get it.  Most people don’t get it.  Automation is going to create a big hole in society by killing the jobs that kept the middling grade people from having to grow their own food just to survive.  These aren’t the middle class.  They’re the mediocre.  But they can read, and they can vote.  Fasten your seat belts, it’s going to be a bumpy ride.


Automation ain’t all bad

I suppose some kind of anti-Clockwork Orange award ought to be awarded now and again for examples of general coolness in automation.  Like the water-bottle filling option added to the boring old water fountain at my gym (the same one that got rid of the Clockwork Orange Award-winning electric paper towel machines).  Just hold your open bottle under the spigot, covering the sensor below it, and water emerges.

A big old Diamond Hard Blue Apples of the Moon Award for that.

But bear in mind, these things can be used for good or evil.  I was watching a man get a drink the old fashioned way at the fountain, and suddenly wondered what might happen if he put his head too close to the sensor.  And then thought about how the gadget might be tweaked to make such an incident more likely…

What’s it all about

Somebody once said “God must love poor people, he made so many of them”.  Well, after all the poor people, he made a lot of middling people who used to get by just fine.  Then all the better than middling people started making machines and the middling people are the ones whose jobs are being taken over.

Consider anything made out of metal.  Making things out of metal used to be a skill.  In the movie “Saturday Night and Sunday Morning” Albert Finney is a metalworker.  Sure he just pushes knobs and pulls levers, producing 1000 metal thingies a day, but it’s a job.  Now there’s a machine that does the same job, 24 hours a day.  What little skill Finney’s character had is now unwanted.

For years machines have been stamping parts out of metal, but there’s only so much you can do that way.  Now plasma cutters and laser cutters, controlled by computers, churn out just about anything you could want.  Saw blades, for instance, with any kind of teeth you like, ready for sharpening.

The only thing for people to do (except for the smart ones who program the machines) is to cart the finished product away and clean up the waste.

There will always be jobs for people who want to do fetching and carrying.   And cleaning etc.  But what about the middling people who are too smart for the menial jobs, but don’t have any middling jobs to do?  When the factory floor is run by computers, you don’t need line supervisors.  You don’t need paper chasers tracking everything when the computers are doing the tracking. You don’t need people creating reports when the data mining programs keep the top management informed.

Well, you can always have bureaucrats.  The more you have, the more you tend to need.  But even then, the purpose of bureaucracy is disappearing.  There was real data to gather once, and real information to be transmitted.  Sure it took about 10 times as many people as necessary to do it, but the work got done and they kept to themselves, pretty much.

Well, that’s all over.  More and more the drones and droids will have to find other things to do, and they’re probably going to do it to the rest of us.  And each other, of course.

There’s certainly plenty of scope.  England is a country where you get a ticket for smoking in your van, if the functionary issuing the ticket decides that the van is your place of work.  It’s illegal to smoke at work, you know.  In the US it is now illegal to smoke in a hotel elevator.  I can understand the hotel barring smoking wherever it wants, but who gets off making it illegal?

Idiots with clipboards, that’s who.  Yes, “Middle America” (and Middle Everywhere Else) is coming to exact revenge on the rest of us for having real jobs.

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