The way humanity treats fellow members of the species is just horrifying.
Automation will help prevent some of the mistreatment that humans perform on each other; however, one has to wonder exactly what is going to happen when this relief happens – what next?
Case in point – the garment industry in Bangladesh.
Workers protested making substandard wages ($66 a month) and requested $200 a month. Instead of sitting down at a table and holding a discussion – the police were called. A total of 150,000 workers went on strike. This is no fringe movement. Imagine the amount of work it takes to get 2 people to agree to something and you get an understanding of what it takes to get 150,000 people to agree to do something – especially something that ends up causing economic harm to yourself.
People were arrested, people were harmed, and 3,500 people lost their livelihood and were fired.
And nothing changed.
This is an industry which needs to be automated out of existence. It is a human rights issue. Fires have killed over 1,000 workers in the United States of America decades ago – and that caused changes to the industry and brought about safety regulations. This still didn’t wipe out sweat shop working conditions in the USA as there are still illegal sweat shops in existence in the USA.
Capitalism Without Oversight
The problem starts in the West. Companies that people spend lots of money on their clothing want to pay the least for the product. They require fixed bid contracting and select the lowest bids. Quality, ethics, or human rights do not factor in the purchasing departments mind.
While there is a lot of “lip service” to ethically created clothing – there isn’t a lot of follow-through.
“Treat others the way you want to be treated.” Doesn’t seem to apply in the logistics and procurement of clothing. It should. While slightly hidden people blithely live in ignorance of the suffering and basically slave labor conditions that accounting creates to encourage large profit margins.
In some ways slaves have advantages over paid employees in a sweat shop environment. Hold on. Hold on. Let me explain.
If a person is a slave, your life is the responsibility of the owner. You are their asset. If you don’t get enough food then you are a lost asset on the balance sheet.
If a person is a wage slave or sweat shop labor and they starve because they don’t have enough money to buy food, the company does not care because there is someone out there who is in worse shape willing to take their place.
This makes the sweat shop laborer a disposable object – like an ink jet printer that the cartridges cost more to replace than the printer originally did.
So, in the article on this Bangladeshi strike the company owners step in and say “We aren’t the problem, we bid and the lowest bid gets the contract and we can only pay the employees so much.” Or something similar. Pleading that they are helpless in the working conditions that they provide.
The problem is that as a collective group all of the garment producing factories need to stand up and require good wages for their people. They need to include in their bids the hourly wages of the workers and present that when one of them decides to undercut everyone else – by paying starvation wages to their workers.
The fact of the matter is that no wages will be cheaper than paying robotics to produce clothing once the technology is ready for prime time. This can’t happen soon enough. Humans are not slaves. People should not be servants and subservient humans are not useful to the future of humanity.
Going out to dinner is enjoyable, but there are aspects of it that are dark. Waiters and waitresses who are paid far below minimum wages in the hopes of getting tips. While most people pay tips this leads to a situation where a waiter or a waitress are little more than subservient servants to their customers. This model is being pushed out to teachers where the performance of students is tied to teacher wages and increases.
While there is a place for monitoring, observations, and relating that information to wage increases – teaching children isn’t the place for that. Each child is an individual. Children may learn or not learn despite the best efforts of teachers. It isn’t like the teachers are programming computers and the results can be monitored and directly tied to the teachers capability. People are not machines.
The major problem with sweat shop laborers is that when automation comes it will completely wipe out their jobs from existence. If 150,000 sweat shop workers can go on strike I would be there are hundreds of thousands of more sweat shop workers in Bangladesh that didn’t go on strike. Go on strike or not, when automation comes those hundreds of thousands of workers will all be out of work (maybe not all at once).
And part of the problem in Bangladesh is that unemployment and other social services for people not worker are probably fairly substandard compared to the needs of their people. This is why so many people are willing to work for so little. People would rather work for too little than have nothing at all.
So what happens next in Bangladesh (and everywhere) after jobs are automated out of existence? Is someone perhaps going to argue that new jobs are going to come into existence to employ everyone? I don’t think so. The reason automation works is that it reduces costs for the employer making their business more profitable.
In addition, the level of skill and knowledge required for the making of clothing is not similar and not transferable to say – computer programming, automation techniques, or design practices. Most likely people who already are working will be in more demand to provide these services to companies automating the creation of clothing. The other major beneficiary of automation will be college graduates – if they choose their major with return on investment in mind.
So, what will happen to the hundreds of thousands of unemployed and for the most part unemployable people?
Two Models of the Future
- UBI (Universal Basic Income) – where people who don’t have a job are paid enough to ensure that they have a roof over their head, have medical coverage, and have enough money for food and education. Through education a certain percentage of people on UBI will graduate to working.
- The world as it is at present. Unemployment may exist and be temporary in nature. There is no health insurance or those that are unemployed – unless they can afford it and if they aren’t working I’m sure they can’t afford it. Education is pay to play.
In case 1, humanity survives and thrives. People who have been on the bottom tiers of the world can at least live and be comfortable with the hope of better futures.
In case 2, there is no option. These people will die. In a variety of ways.
In countries like Germany the groundwork is already being laid for UBI. These countries value their citizens and want them to survive and thrive. Perhaps, the United States of America will follow, but not until lots of things change. Right now in the present political climate the USA will view UBI as “freeloaders” or perhaps people getting UBI through fraud as commonly alleged against SNAP.
But places like Bangladesh – I don’t know that UBI is even as feasible as it will be in the USA – and I don’t think it is all that probable in the USA – not until a lot of people start suffering.