I have a simple theory.
The problem is that it would take a while to explain it all in depth and I don’t want to bore myself. And it is just a very simplified theory but it’s mabe worth a thought?
Let’s go back a couple of hundred years. The economy was a lot simpler then and it was based on people having needs and others working to fulfil those needs. The needy paid the producers and so the circle was complete, as we all have needs.
It worked reasonably well. Let’s assume there is a commodity that everyone needs such as food. A farm would produce the food, and the farm workers would produce the labour. When the food is sold off, the income would be split between overheads, the farmers profits and wages for the workers. This applied to all consumer goods, whether it was building a house, churning out beer or fashioning a cart.
The key thing was that most people were employed in a labour intensive system that provided needs.
Then along came computers and robots.
I remember how they painted a rosy picture of the future. Items would be cheap and plentiful and there would be no need for tedious repetitive jobs. There were vague references to a future where we could all sit back and let the machines do all the work.
This is where the trouble starts.
Suddenly all those people who used to work in farms, car factories or whatever found there wasn’t any work for them, yet they still needed wages to purchase their requirements. And the owners of the production plants only had to divide the income between overheads, their own profits and a drastically reduced workforce, and rather than reduce their income to make their produce cheaper, they just took a bigger chunk of profit.
So here we have the stuff being produced by robots [which work 24 hours a day, don’t need wages, and only take the odd sick day] leaving the now redundant workers to do … what? There were no more factory jobs. Labour was no longer required.
Then they realised that computers could calculate things and cross reference things and do a load of stuff that hadn’t been possible before, and so there was a boom in bureaucracy. Suddenly offices sprung up filled with people all frantically calculating and cross referencing and mining data. Computers had reduced employment in a labour intensive productive system but had created jobs in a non-productive system.
Look at any office block and ask yourself what all the people in all those offices actually producing. My guess is that they are collating information, producing reports and holding meetings, while very few are actually doing something productive to fulfil the consumer’s requirements. No one is actually producing anything of any actual value except for reams of figures and reports. Departments are created solely to look after other departments but no one is actually doing anything productive. They claim they are creating efficiency in the system but are in fact just bums on seats.
“Research” is a perfect example of the creation of an industry that couldn’t exist without computers. In particular, epidemiology has become a whole new growth area and would be virtually impossible without all the data that’s flowing around.
I could go on, but that’s the general gist.
I wonder what would happen if suddenly all computers and robots ceased to work for a year?