"When the life of people is unmoral, and their relations are not based on love, but on egoism, then all technical improvements, the increase of man's power over nature, steam, electricity, the telegraph, every machine, gunpowder, and dynamite, produce the impression of dangerous toys placed in the hands of children."—the diary of Leo Tolstoy (1828 - 1910)
Making Things Worse Not Better
Technology is the artificial enhancement of human power. It should make us stronger and smarter, however our demented community is discovering that it now has the opposite effect. Nuclear power has terrified and paralysed its creators, while the improved cleverness and flexibility of our machines have caused social chaos and economic stagnation.
Australia—A Nuclear Free Zone (1990s)
All over this country are signs announcing the existence of nuclear free zones, erected by councils to announce the unpopularity of nuclear technology. Our nation has no nuclear power generating stations, or nuclear weapons, despite our growing need for energy and the inadequacy of our military. Such concerns have been ignored by the electorate in favour of conventional (old) technologies. Any government that tried to ignore this prejudice would be deposed by a wave of public hysteria from a trembling electorate.
The End Of The Need To Work —OFF-LINE
Benefits Of Technology Thwarted By Our Attitude To Employment
My job for fifteen years (1975 - 1990) had been to write computer programs to make people redundant. I was not alone; throughout the western world an army of programmers have been working night and day to get rid of as many jobs as possible. Each job discarded meant improved productivity, and reduced costs. Because of our work, businesses throughout the world have become much more efficient, able to supply better goods and services, at a cheaper price. However it would seem we have wasted our time. Industry and commerce can't utilise our improvements because there is no demand. There is no demand because people have no money. Nobody has any money, because so many people are out of work.
The possibility of the loss of employment was first realised during the onset of the machine age. The invention and application of the steam engine heralded the industrial revolution. It dramatically extended the power and ability of the community. No longer was human strength and endurance the limiting factor in achievements. Machines could be constructed to work harder faster cheaper and more reliably than any group of people, however the initial implementation of machines meant mass unemployment and their use was bitterly opposed. People felt that such innovations were permanently robbing the community of jobs. The Luddite movement spontaneously formed which protested this change and attacked the new machinery along with its owners.
Eventually though it was discovered that these new engines did not destroy employment, but changed and increased it — the Luddites were wrong. The explosion in raw products meant huge increase in the work needed to refine them to make them saleable, as well as a necessary corresponding increase in control and administration. The newly harnessed power extended wealth and employment for everyone. Our society became significantly richer and the Luddite's fear was forgotten.
Were The Luddites Wrong Only In Timing Not Principle?
The communal fright which then proved to be groundless has left a permanent impression; it has become folk-law that though machines appear to create unemployment, this is only temporary. Regardless of appearances, mass retrenchments will be followed by even greater demands for workers in some new arena — but is this true?
Machines Displace Jobs From Workplace
Machines do not create jobs, they definitely eradicate the need for human effort. The fact that the engines of the industrial revolution created jobs was a reflection of their shortcomings, they were clumsy and stupid. Exploiting their potential meant employing people to make up for these inadequacies. But this did not mean that mechanised systems would always be dependent on human assistance. The development of artificial intelligence and advances in mechanical miniaturisation have overcome these shortcomings, automation has stopped generating jobs since 1980.
Machines Do Work Better Than People
The truth is not only are people now surplus, but a liability. People make mistakes, machines do not. People get tired and cranky, machines do not. People are erratic and unreliable, machines are not. People think and act slowly, machines do not. People have very definite limitations of endurance and concentration, machines do not. These human short-comings mean that every modern system is designed to minimise or exclude human intervention; so just as horses became obsolete and were phased out of the workplace, so have people.
Machines Are Taking Over Work
In every field of human endeavour smart machines are making improvements by supplanting workers. Jet planes are flown by computer, there is no need for a navigator, and the result is superior to any human effort. The weapons systems that protect warships need to react so quickly that any human intervention disables their effectiveness. The whole system operates without the use of a single person.
Machines Make Goods
The manufacture of goods is being automated. Whole factories build consumer goods without employing anyone. No human can compete with the relentless, accurate, speed of the robot.
Provide Superior Bank Teller Service
Automatic Teller Machines provide a continual, convenient banking service. No human agency could supply such a benefit at such a low cost. Throughout our community goods and services are being improved by reducing the number of people required.
Even the administration of our society is being taken over by clever machines. All large corporations are really computerised systems. The company officials the public sees are just the servants of these entities. From when the public initiate business, to when they pay the final bill, despite the human face presented to them, the affair is primarily conducted by an electronic brain. The communications they receive are generated automatically. The cheques, invoices and reminders are sent without anyone in the business being aware of the transaction. It often only receives human consideration in exceptional circumstances, such as when the bill has not been paid within ninety days. Then the machine will instruct an officer to take action.
But This Raises Huge Problems
No Industry Safe
As I write these words in July, 1999, the Internet is threatening newspapers, the music industry, television broadcasting and even the movie industry. Instant up to date news on many and varied subjects is available, along with pictures, at the touch of a keyboard, via the Internet; a fact which directly threatens newspapers, if not the whole printing industry. Similarly music can be copied onto computer files and played without the need for records or compact discs, undermining the CD creation and publication industries; television programs and commercial films can be copied and viewed in the same way, on home computers or home theatres, making television channels and movie theatres unnecessary. Industries now share the same uncertainty as workers as they do not know how long they will be required.
Real Shops Replaced By Virtual Shops
In 2010 it is possible to buy just about anything "Online"; rather than go to a shop to make a purchase, the same item can be found, viewed and purchased via a computer screen, to be delivered by post or courier. A process that is faster, cheaper — it doesn't even have to fund shop-lifters — and more efficient than traditional shopping, whose very existence demands such costs as rent, power bills, staff, building maintenance, and security, with shop-lifters being a significant part, which must be passed onto the purchaser; while the service supplied is further constrained by such factors as the weather, opening hours, parking, and stock storage limits.
The Existence Of Libraries Under Threat
The spread and popularity of the Internet is threatening the existence of public libraries, which find themselves increasingly unable to match the service provided by home computers. Already (1990s) they are reducing their collection of books to make way for a growing collection of audio and audio-visual media, as well as supplying personal computers that can access the Internet.
Foundation Of Knowledge Is In Danger
The newly available media replacing printed books are selected for their popularity, which has become the controlling factor for librarians. Serious works by authors such as Gibbon, Locke and Hume are slowly relegated through of lack of demand to the stack, before their inevitable abandonment. The library services controlled by various councils are slowly adapting to growth of technology by becoming Internet sites themselves, but these are not built around the classical works that once made up the heart of every public library. The selection of works being digitised is invariably parochial and populist, being concerned only with Australian antiquity and local issues (see letter from the Queensland Cultural Centre). Though their web pages often include a list of sites that do offer some traditional works, these recommended links carry no guarantee of accuracy or availability, nor are they connected to the library in any official capacity.
Certainty Vanishes In A Flash
Once knowledge existed on the printed page, which was a stable medium, difficult to alter and easy to read, and insensibly supplied certainty. Laws, agreements, observations, the transactions of a communal mind, could all be written down to be later produced to allay any doubts or suspicions. Promises, ownership and wealth became embedded in the certainty supplied by contracts, title deeds and paper money. Naturally this was not fool-proof but it gave the community a good deal of certainty. But this certainty is now being eroded by electronic replacements; fast, convenient and beyond the power of an individual to check. The message once heralded by a solid, unchanging, document is now proclaimed by a computer screen. The tangible proof supplied by paper has been replaced by a medium that can be changed faster than the blink of an eye, without leaving a single trace. Certainty has vanished in a flash.
Technology Controls Truth
The growing inability of people to know is confirmed as a machine reveals:
Financial Status The replacement of currency with electronic banking means a machine says:
If a bill is due — How much money is in an account. (Balances can now evaporate) — If credit is good.
Land Ownership Tangible paper Land Title is replaced by a computer display (see Queensland Land Titling system)
Guilt or Innocence dictated by: Radar cameras — Red light cameras — Breathalysers — DNA testing
Knowledge The words of scientists and sages is no longer certain. Since books are rapidly being replaced by computer display, technology has made obtaining information easy in principle, but in practice there is no one charged (1999) with ensuring the information online is genuine.
—Technology now tells us what is true, because it is becoming increasingly beyond the power of people to be sure themselves.
New Kinds Of Crime Appearing
As more and more services become available through a computer screen, new crimes are appearing. By answering the wrong e-mail bank accounts can be emptied, or huge debts incurred for goods and services bought by someone else, or even your home ownership stolen.
Life Becoming More Complex As Help Gets Harder To Obtain
Despite the constant evolution of electronic services and the machines that provide them, help and advice on these changes and the problems they create, are becoming harder to obtain. Most firms supply the cheapest solution they can discover, which is to hire staff in third world countries to answer phone enquiries. Solving problems over the phone is difficult at best, but this is made much harder using over-seas employees because they are not fluent in English, not expert in the problems they are asked to solve, nor do they necessarily sympathise with the people they are paid to talk to.
Online Community Needs An Online Government
Technology is now creating an on-line community, which demands an online government; a government that does not need traditional offices, manned by clerks manipulating paper documents. It needs workers who conduct all business online, using electronic transactions to update electronic databases and so achieve a very fast, convenient and responsive bureaucracy. This could allow immediate massive savings by discarding the need for many government offices, including schools and universities along with the costs and delays they impose. For example peak hour traffic would disappear, and paper usage would drop dramatically.
The Workers We Now Need
As with the first industrial revolution, to profit from the new technology, the community must change the work force to suit the technology. This must include:
• Online public servants continuously available to citizens via Online chat, empowered to accept and amend documents online.
• An on-line police force charged with detecting and arresting cyber criminals, as well as supplying better and more secure online systems. It must be noted that a Policeman armed only with a computer controlling a Drone could easily identify and arrange the arrest of criminals, without leaving home, yet there is still (November 2010) not one such officer in Australia.
• An online judiciary who can immediately deal with the problems occurring as they arise, without even the need for litigants to appear in a court house.
• An online senate charged with controlling, monitoring and suggesting the use of technical innovations, and able to quickly amend laws that technology has made untenable, such as the laws on copyright. With perhaps their first priority being to allow the easy and reliable online identification of citizens.
• Online auditors charged with maintaining the accuracy of online documents and official claims.
• Online librarians charged with maintaining the existence and accuracy of historical and contemporary literature and art.
• Online army of advisers to quickly resolve the problems citizens encounter with the new technology, expected to go and see what the actual problem is if it cannot be resolved via "online chat".
The Technology We Now Need
Passports, credit cards, driving licences, indeed licences of all kinds, are signs of an obsolete administration for they all can, and should, be replaced by an instant identification method. Appearing in front of a camera and microphone should be enough for an artificial intelligence system to identify the subject. All businesses and government offices should have in place the facility to identify clients by their voice and their appearance, whether the client be at home or in the office. This would vastly improve all services, their security and efficiency, while dramatically reducing costs. And until this is introduced the administration must remain Off-Line.
Actual Impact Of Artificial Intelligence (circa 2000)
The reality is very different; because the community fails to recognise that technology is destroying traditional jobs and new forms of employments are desperately needed, we are not being enriched, but reduced to penury, by clever machines.
Bureaucracy Is Now (2010) An Agency Of Delay And Confusion
Because there is no online government, government agencies are trying to manage an online community using Off-Line techniques based upon paper documents, which are far too slow and error prone to keep up with the demands of an online world: the public service is now an agency of delay and confusion. And this influence is forced upon non-government agencies because of the demands of the Off-Line government administration.
The Money Supply Is Shrinking
As the money supply is traditionally connected to the number of people employed, as employment shrinks, so does the money in circulation. Instead of rectifying this problem by issuing all citizens displaced from the work force with a regular ration of money — the dole — the community does the opposite. Except in those particular (increasingly rare) circumstances that qualify the unemployed for dole, any citizen without a job is refused an income and is no longer able to spend. That means the unemployed have no money to be a customer, they can no longer give their money to others who, in turn, would give this money to others, etc, so the whole community loses the money the unemployed do not earn.
Money For Nothing
Offering to pay people not to work invariable generates outrage in many citizens. It is clearly rewarding the lazy, as well as creating money from nowhere. Both these points are true, but they do not matter. It is unfortunate that the hard-working are just as unnecessary as those who are idle by nature, but this is a result of technology. And since the adoption of the use of paper money and credit notes, money is generated by the stroke of a pen. Which means there is no limit to the amount of money available to a community, so no community should suffer through lack of money, for as Sir Josiah Stamp (former president of The Bank Of England) said:
"The modern banking system manufactures money out of nothing. The process is perhaps the most astounding piece of sleight-of-hand that was ever invented."
Money Is The Blood Of A Community
The purpose of money is to allow the distribution of goods throughout the community. It does not benefit the farmer to have tons of turnips, or the mine owner to have tons of coal, or the garage owner to have gallons of petrol, if no one can buy these goods. All manufacturers need customers with money, which is why money was invented. The sole and only purpose of money is to distribute goods. It performs a function for the community similar to that performed by blood to a living body. If blood is cut off to a part of the anatomy, that part withers and dies, and the whole body suffers accordingly. Whereas the more extensive the circulation of blood, the healthier the individual. It is the same with money and the community; the more extensive the supply of incomes, the healthier the community, and vice-versa. The whole community is rewarded when someone who would otherwise have no income is given a wage. People do not eat money, but they pass it on to others by becoming their customers. And these recipients in turn use the extra money to supply extra custom to others. And so on.
How A Community Circulates Its Money Is Critical
Most communal poverty is caused not by a failure of production but by a failure in the circulation of money. The 'Great Depression' occurred not because our community had run short of something tangible such as food, or oil, but because the circulation of money failed. The community was just as rich before the depression as during the depression, but it relied upon mass employment for the circulation of money. The moment employment faltered then the money supply reduced which forced more unemployment etc. The simple truth is that a source of money must be given to the unemployed and then recovered by tax to maintain the necessary circulation of money. Otherwise we all starve.
The Real Cause of The Great Depression
Money is a tool created by communal understanding, its only value is that supplied by a community's understanding. So any shortcomings in the use of money must be shortcomings in the understanding of the nature of money by the community. The Great Depression was not caused by a general slump in share values; this event only exposed a flaw in our understanding of the circulation of money. There was no need for the circulation of money to fail because employment failed, this failure is easily repaired by establishing a method of supplying money to the jobless—the dole. [This small conditional payment is the one thing separating the current financial recession from the Great Depression.]
Communal Understanding Is No Longer Sensible
To repair the failing circulation of money (it goes to fewer and fewer citizens) the dole should be extended to every adult without a job. Unfortunately such a sensible step requires a sensible community. Our community is unable to overcome the prejudice of the Protestant work ethic, which insists that only workers get paid. And this lack of commonsense is only confirmed by official attempts to resolve the problem created by the failure of the circulation of money.
Official Attempts To Deal With Unemployment
Governments faced with the popular demand to fix unemployment, but restrained by the need to indulge popular feelings, find they are unable to do anything but fiddle with the statistics that indicate the extent of the problem. These statistics are the result of a random survey of dwellings carried out by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, where one person only is questioned from each residence. This immediately makes the result a reflection only of the opinions of the chosen sample, who could be unwilling, or unable, to state the truth.
Indicators Uncertain And Variable
By varying the definition of unemployed the truth is distorted. This random statistical selection omits all people who claim to belong to any of the following categories:
• Have given up looking for a job
• Have found at least one hours paid work a week
• Have worked at least one hours unpaid work in the family business
• Perform voluntary work
• Are on training courses
The published amended figures then allow governments to maintain their electoral hopes by hiding the community's slow and inevitable descent into poverty.
Signs Of Poverty Ignored
While the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) unemployment rate for September 1999 was 7.2%, the media were also reporting:
i. Whole towns whose continued economic existence seemed to depend upon welfare handouts
ii. An increase in home loan defaulters, despite low interest rates.
iii. A doubling in the number of dole recipients
Real Figures Ignored And Unpublished
The truth about our economic welfare can easily be confirmed by a statistical analysis of the figures held by the Australian taxation department. This would leave no doubt:
a. If the majority were losing or gaining spending power.
b. The number of people and the amounts involved in such a trend.
c. What percentage of adults were earning at least the annual average wage, and what percentage were below, or significantly below this standard
And these figures could easily be grouped by age, sex and financial year thereby supplying an accurate indication of what is occurring in the economy, but this is not done.
Unpleasant Truth Ignored
No mention is made of the awful change in the nature of employment. In the 1950s and 1960s citizens were the masters of their fate who could obtain a career for life in an honourable occupation by committing themselves to long years of study. Then the biggest concern was avoiding ending up in a dead-end job. That is adopting an occupation that only supplied a wage and lacked opportunities for advancement or status or job satisfaction. Now the act of winning employment is considered sufficient reason to be grateful, no matter what the job, or for how long it lasts ( few, if any, jobs are now considered for life). Citizens are now (1999) clearly slaves to the demands of commerce, but silence reigns over this degradation in the prospects of the whole community.
Ominous Trends Ignored
Little media attention is directed upon the fate of men who once had self-respect, identity and money, who suddenly find themselves impoverished, jobless and forgotten; with the skills and wisdom that took a life-time to acquire, made obsolete almost overnight by technical improvements. Little public concern is expressed at the discarding of experience and maturity from the workplace, leaving only the young and inexperienced in control (see sinking feeling). Nor does officialdom remark upon the sudden proliferation of menial activities such as:
• The appearance of people who clean car window screens at intersections
• Mobile car washing services
• Mobile dog washing services
• Young men working as supermarket check-out operators
—All of which suggest an ominous reversal in career aspirations.
Instead of resolving the problems caused by the new, clever, technology, and discovering how to maximise their huge promise, the community engages in denial. It is futile pointing out the truth to government agencies; they will merely repeat that somehow jobs lost by technology in one field will be magically recreated in another. (See letter from the minister). Our government (1999) is still trying to conjure up jobs, while it punishes the unemployed for their condition. The opinion of an Australian prime minister and his employment minister attacking dole recipients reflect views that were popular during the Great Depression. These erroneous ideas obtained the terrible poverty of those years, and prevented America, Great Britain and France from ever discovering how to deal with a major financial recession. History reveals that Nazi Germany found a solution to the slump, and it was only the Second World War that finally ended it for most of the remaining countries. But this invaluable lesson has been ignored. Our inept governments utter the same claims which were popular in the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s, despite their complete failure, as they deliberately repeat the mistakes of the past by insisting upon reducing the money supply in a society wilting from lack of money.
The Result Of Delusion
The community is trapped by its own delusion that nothing has been changed by technology. So we are being slowly crushed between our immovable prejudice that people must have traditional employment to get paid, and the irresistible reality of machines creating an Online community. And this has inevitable effects:
1. An Accelerating Poverty Cycle:
The money shortage forces firms (including government) to economise by cutting staff, which further reduces the money in circulation, which further reduces the number of customers able to buy services, which forces further staff cuts, etc. Naturally welfare budgets are no exception and they are also slashed; diminishing charity along with work. And the community slides into an ever-accelerating poverty cycle.
2. Exploitation By Essential Services:
Corporations that are in control of essential services find themselves able to hold the community to ransom, e.g
i. Telecommunications giant Telstra has revealed its parasitic nature by:
a. Posting huge profits as well as shedding thousands of jobs
b. Introducing a fee for consumers who do not pay their bills fast enough.
c. Refusing to supply adequate services to remote areas because it is not profitable
ii. The main banks have posted huge profits as they continually discover new service charges while cutting their staff and reducing the number of bank branches. And since the year 2000 credit card regulations have allowed the banks to charge a late fee of $20 for any customer who fails to pay the minimum amount two months running. Actions revealing the short-sighted and parasitic nature of bank executives.
3. Increasing Social Confusion:
i. There is no financial security, no one can be sure they will not lose their job. This creates an atmosphere of anxiety and uncertainty.
ii. The sense of identity once supplied by regular employment has been lost. A well paid systems analyst can become an unpaid job-seeker over night; a competent architect, can become a harassed taxi driver; a respected manager can suddenly discover that the only work available is as an office junior.
iii. Skills and qualifications no longer guarantee employment, which undermines the purpose of schools, colleges and universities.
iv. Rise In Crime; poverty, idleness and despair can only increase criminal activity.
4. Erosion Of The Quality Of Goods:
Lack of money encourages short cuts in manufacture, so there is a continual and increasing erosion of the quality of all goods.
5. Erosion Of The Quality Of Services:
Typical examples of deteriorating service, are the condition of public hospitals and the police force, but the evidence is everywhere. In response to a written complaint from my wife about a lack of seating, Qantas Airways Limited took two weeks to give this reply:
"Unfortunately due to staff shortages there is a backlog but we will get back to you as soon as possible". signed Fran Williams, Customer Relations, Queensland — 7th May 1999
This major Australian airline, in a time of mass unemployment, has not enough staff to answer their mail! Anyone wishing to see staff shortages in action just has to attend the enquiry counter of a large grocery store on a Saturday morning (1999) to see workers overwhelmed by demand. Or go to a bank, either The National Australia Bank or ANZ. The firms simply do not employ enough staff, preferring instead to provide inadequate service.
Nevertheless the most common and frustrating demonstration of deteriorating service obtained by insufficient staff is the appearance of the now common phone queues (see Australian and UK experience). Nowadays (2000) telephone requests to many businesses (including banks and government) involve spending an unspecified time (perhaps hours) just sitting holding onto a telephone handset in the hopes of reaching a human operator, before the call is cut off or closing time is reached or patience expires.
Tyrannised By Technology
The Industrial Revolution (1760-1830) secured unprecedented wealth for Western Civilization by unleashing the power of technology, but this new power only enriched the community when it was the servant of genius. As communal understanding has decayed, the erstwhile servant has become the new master. Our machines, which now embrace miniaturisation and artificial intelligence, are relentlessly stagnating and impoverishing our community; which is further cowed by its terror of nuclear power. Technology is no longer our enriching slave but our ruinous tyrant.
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