Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Plotting Our Obsolesence

The BBC reports that Chinese electronics supplier Foxconn has allegedly eliminated 60,000 jobs through the use of automation, which I think is just great. 

To grow a consumer-based economy, isn't it clear that eliminating potential consumers is the best path forward? While we're applauding, we should also acknowledge that this also protects at-risk executives from starvation.


After swallowing my morning bowl of corporate propaganda, I wonder how much less your next iPad will set you back as a result of this cost-reduction. Or your next Samsung Galaxy phone. Or your kid's next Sony PlayStation. I mean, isn't that why companies use automation? To lower costs?

One-hundred years ago, automation was touted as an expressway to affordable consumer goods, the most famous exponent of which was the Ford Model T. The economies of scale made formerly unavailable products available to the working man, which in addition to creating the middle class, exponentially increased the depth and breadth of America's collective wealth.

In the twenty-first century, automation seemingly serves another purpose: to cull people from their jobs. Automation is a tool, a merciless efficiency intended to swell profit margins while it removes enormous swaths of the population from consideration of anything but the barest, most marginal existence.

Again, let me know how much less your next iPAD costs, OK?

Corporate spokesmen will argue that as opportunities close at one end, they open at another. Which is only a self-serving repeat of Alexander Graham Bell's famous quote. Like the Reagan administration's fantastical explanation of trickle-down economics, it sounds wonderful and entirely plausible on paper.

But with opportunities for living-wage jobs (not to mention access to higher education) diminishing every year, this is more self-serving public relations swill than reality.

Instead of these new profit margins being shared by a wide demographic (i.e. workers), the resulting wealth is concentrated into an ever-shrinking sliver of the population (i.e. CEOs and shareholders), giving them power and control not seen since the sixteenth-century heyday of the Catholic church.

As corporate titans seek to marginalize the human being, perhaps now would be a good time to take this to its logical extreme and ponder the development of robots who consume. We've already replaced the worker with technology. Why not replace the consumer, too?

In a short-sighted world whose unthinking embrace of technology is best described as we should because we can, it would be entirely appropriate.

Feudalism is a growth stock. Invest now.

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