Forced leisure

MSNBC  interviews a blogger from Good magazine on automation nation.

The take away: automation is moving beyond manufacturing sector (e.g. Google test drove an unmanned vehicle in California, or Italian researchers tested a driver-less van, from Italy to China) to service sectors, such as health care .

Japan has been deep into robotic technology, a national policy to appease conservatives who were anti- immigration, and democrats who caters to its aging population.

Today, China has the fastest computer in the world.

Translation: it can develop faster elevators, bullet trains, assembly lines and bottling lines, weather forecasting, medical tech, bio tech, clean tech and up-the-value-chain services.

In short, all things that compute.

I cannot envision 1.3 Billion Chinese forced to travel and spend their leisure time away from factories and industrial parks

(take a nap in IKEA showroom, anyone?)

Unlike Japanese companies which have off shored their work force to counter balance their unfavorable currency (as of this edit, its Central Bank refuses to print more stimulus money, resulted in Asia’s stock plunge), Chinese companies have moved factories away from coastal cities as far as  Africa for cost-cutting.

Automation and offshoring  full impact will ease wage pressures and labor unrest e.g. Foxconn workers’ suicide.

It’s a Detroit way to fix Union challenge. First, they shifted manufacturing jobs South of the border, then, overseas. Then, service jobs were off shored as well. Now, even call centers in India’s major cities got further outsourced to secondary cities to shave off costs, with automation as first solution.

(I was just interrupted by a Spanish-speaking automated voice pitch from a retailer, probably urging me to rush to early Black Friday). First get someone else to do the job elsewhere. Then the machine. Then the customers.

Toffler was so prescient in observing trends such as pro-sumerism (the consumers contribute to the process of making the product e.g. stuff your own stuff animal, upload your Facebook data) and outsourcing. Kurzweil has been a thought leader in predicting that “Singularity is near“.

In the age of assembly line, Jobs the rebel, came up with the I brand (people buy the I phone cover to show individuality). Even I-robots invasion into our domestic lives. As Gordon Moore continues to see his “law” be self-fulfilling, Michael Moore will produce angrier documentaries i.e. about industrial changes and worker’s displacement.

Changes that are almost at the “speed of thought”. Bill Gates could think of the title, but his successor is left holding the bag. Knowing that change is coming is one thing, adequately preparing for it is quite another. These days, one cannot fight against the machine (winning at one chess game doesn’t guarantee much). The cat is out of the bag. Even if we took the Luddites approach, 21st  century lifestyles can’t accommodate collaboration Amish-style.  We left our farms for the factories just to end up with forced leisure. No wonder micro-trends like knitting, pawning, flannel shirts are back (knitting for boys?).

Back to frontier days, and the spirit of survival. In the Golden State, digging equipment and Levis are back. The Alpha male mentality. Off the grid.

The good thing is , blue jeans are still in. If you can still fit in those. If not, off to Wal-Mart, where jeans are cheap (thanks to logistic and automation). Have you noticed there is no one around to help you find your size? Workers have all turned shoppers of goods produced by 24/7 machines that don’t take break or demand health care.

Machines can’t afford to take time off. Neither can we, but it is increasingly forced upon us.


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