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Technology and the Future of Work

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Technology and the Future of Work

Every society creates an idealised image of the future - a vision that serves as

a beacon to direct the imagination and energy of its people. The Ancient Jewish

nation prayed for deliverance to a promised land of milk and honey. Later,

Christian clerics held out the promise of eternal salvation in the heavenly

kingdom. In the modern age, the idea of a future technological utopia has served

as the guiding light of industrial society. For more than a century utopian

dreamers and men and women of science and letters have looked for a future world

where machines would replace human labour, creating a near workerless society of

abundance and leisure. (J Rifkin 1995 p.42)

This paper will consider developments in technology, robotics, electronic

miniaturisation, digitisation and information technology with its social

implications for human values and the future of work. It will argue that we have

entered post modernity or post Fordism, a new age technological revolution,

which profoundly effects social structure and values. Some issues that will be

addressed are: elimination of work in the traditional sense, longevity, early

retirement, the elimination of cash, the restructuring of education, industry

and a movement to global politics, economics and world government.

In particular this paper will suggest that the Christian Judao work ethic with

society's goals of full employment in the traditional sense is no longer

appropriate, necessary or even possible in the near future, and that the

definition of work needs to be far more liberal. It argues that as a post market

era approaches, that both government and society will need to recognise the

effects of new technology on social structure and re-distribute resources, there

will need to be rapid development of policies to assist appropriate social

adjustments if extreme social unrest, inequity, trauma and possible civil

disruption is to be avoided.

Yonedji Masuda (1983) suggests we are moving from an industrial society to an

information society and maintains that a social revolution is taking place. He

suggests that we have two choices 'Computopia' or an 'Automated State', a

controlled society. He believes that if we choose the former, the door to a

society filled with boundless possibilities will open; but if the latter, our

future society will become a forbidding and a horrible age. He optimistically

predicts our new future society will be 'computopia' which he describes as

exhibiting information values where individuals will develop their cognitive

creative abilities and citizens and communities will participate voluntarily in

shared goals and ideas.

Barry Jones (1990) says we are passing through a post-service revolution into a

post- service society - which could be a golden age of leisure and personal

development based on the cooperative use of resources.

Jeremy Rifkin (1995) uses the term 'The Third Industrial Revolution' which he

believes is now beginning to have a significant impact on the way society

organises its economic activity. He describes it as the third and final stage

of a great shift in economic paradigm, and a transition to a near workless

information society, marked by the transition from renewable to non-renewable

sources of energy and from biological to mechanical sources of power.

In contrast to Masuda, Jones and Rifkin, Rosenbrock et al. (1981) delved into

the history of the British Industrial Revolution, and they concluded firmly that

we are not witnessing a social revolution of equivalent magnitude, because the

new information technology is not bringing about new ways of living. They

predicted that we are not entering an era when work becomes largely unnecessary,

there will be no break with the past, but will be seeing the effect of new

technology in the next 20 years as an intensification of existing tendencies,

and their extension to new areas.

I suggest that Rosenbrock may come to a different conclusion with the benefit

of hindsight of changing lifestyles, 15 years later, such as the persistent rise

in unemployment and an aging society.

Population is aging especially in developed countries and will add significantly

to a possible future lifestyle of leisure. Most nations will experience a

further rapid increase in the proportion of their population 65 years and older

by 2025. This is due to a combination of the post war baby boom and the advances

in medicine, health and hygiene technology with the availability and spread of

this information.



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