The Corporation Giveth, and the Corporation Taketh Away

Who is really “stealing jobs”? Immigrants? Or automation? And why are so many people focussed on immigrants rather than automation if they are fearful for their job security and livelihoods? The “tech-revolution” is forecast to eliminate an estimated 47 to 60% of all job categories, and yet most people are focussed on immigrants or minorities supposedly stealing jobs. That’s not sane. Both immigrants and non-immigrants are competing with each other for scarce, secure jobs against engineers and robots. It’s even anticipated — which is frightening to think — that journalists will be replaced by artificial intelligences.

Automation is already biting into the social and economic fabric and structure of society, and, as is usual, a “jobless recovery” has been underway since the Great Recession of 2008, when corporations took the opportunity from the downturn to automate tasks and jobs formerly performed by humans. It almost seems deliberately conspiratorial that so much attention is being deflected onto immigration rather than the automation wave. You hear virtually nothing about this from government or the corporations (except, of course, how wonderful it will be). It seems to suit the purposes of both to allow, for the time being at least, the scapegoating of immigrants and minority groups rather than have too much public attention focussed on the serious social problems of automation.

Any proper social policy “planning” for wide-spread automation has been, so far, completely incoherent — more or less symbolic gestures of concern and to give the impression that policy planners are on top of things: proposals such as a basic universal guaranteed annual income, or pointless job retraining schemes, or (worse) superstitions about leaving it up to the “Invisible Hand” of the universal “free market” to sort things out.

What ya goin’ to do when they come for you? The robots, that is, and you’re carrying a mountain of private and public debt, a mortgage, or carrying a student loan against the prospects of a future career that will already be obsolete by the time you graduate? I haven’t heard much about how an automated society is going to handle that at all.



12 responses to “The Corporation Giveth, and the Corporation Taketh Away”

  1. donsalmon says :

    why not a guaranteed universal income?

    • Scott Preston says :

      So far, they appear to be no where near adequate in view of the private household debt-load people are carrying. In Canada, a figure of $12,000 to $15,000 has been floated (and trials are presently being carried out in Finland anyway).

      Ironically, austerity policies for the last couple of decades have gone in the diametrically opposite direction of what was needed to pre-empt social disruption from automation. A guaranteed annual income will have be financed from some source, and that means increasing taxation on corporations or robots (which will have to be globally coordinated) — and that will be resisted all the way.

      We already have the problem of “precarious employment” (the Precariat) related to automation that is being left unaddressed while governments and corporations not only dither about it, but pursue social and economic policies that promise only to exacerbate it rather than alleviate it. Rather than pre-empt it, they’re going to wait until it escalates into a real social crisis, at which point it might be a case of “too little, too late”.

      • donsalmon says :

        I’m not saying it could happen, just saying if it did, it would work. You’ve pretty much made my point, I think.

        1. Establish some kind of baseline, as they are trying in the countries you mentioned. Start with 12K a year.
        2. Tax the corporations, up to 90% (They did it in Eisenhower’s time; with the way the Republicans and Trump are going, we may have a progressive lock on governance in this country by 2020)
        3. Spread permaculture and other forms of community gardening throughout the land. Create enough community-based renewable energy sources that it essentially becomes free for basic needs.
        4. Create small (under 800 square foot) housing, and make sure folks by their late teens have basic building skills so communities can build their own housing. Thousands in the US have built very nice small homes for under $20K.
        5. Live simply.

        With free energy, nearly-free housing, much of one’s food grown in the local community, and a 12K income from the government, what more does one need?

        Ok, I’ll shoot down the entire proposal – if you try all this while stuck in the deficient mode of mental consciousness, no matter how nice it could look on paper, it ain’t going to work.

        Well, it was fun to try…

        • Scott Preston says :

          It would be a very strange world where an autonomous economy geared to mass production for mass consumption would have to co-exist with a society suddenly given to the collective enjoyment of frugality. That would be another one of those “cultural contradictions of capitalism” described by Wolfgang Streeck and Daniel Bell.

          • donsalmon says :

            exactly my point, which is why it couldn’t possibly work in our present state of consciousness. Automation in a world of integral, aperspectival consciousness – that would be an interesting column!

            • donsalmon says :

              Which also brings to mind my increasing sense of the extraordinary importance of the infamous 1971 “Powell memo.”

              What was the most important thing that happened in the 1960s? Socialist revolution, feminism, civil rights?

              Powell was frightened to death, and thought his fellow wealthy 1 percenters should have been as well, that people were taking spiritual goals seriously, that living simply, on a spiritual basis, was gaining widespread acceptance.

              I think it’s on the verge of happening again, though as a recent New Yorker article on wealth survivalist preppers observed, it is often taking the form of survivalism, an infra rational reaction to what can only be solved from a supra-rational consciousness.

            • Scott Preston says :

              That’s interesting. I wasn’t familiar with “the Powell Memo” and had to look it up


            • donsalmon says :

              interesting summary of the Powell memo from Kirkus reviews:

              KIRKUS REVIEW

              Newfield and Greenfield are proposing both a political program and strategy to facilitate the development of what they call the new populist majority — a “”coalition of self-interest”” comprising the younger urban middle class, have-not racial minorities, and progressive labor. Pegged on the historical American love affair with the idea of egalitarianism and the desire for sociocultural diversity (the two have proved incompatible, but never mind), their manifesto is a “”synthesis of many radical and some conservative ideas”” aimed at redistributing wealth and power through numerous socioeconomic reforms, e.g., provision of free medical services to all, reorganization of the criminal justice system, diversification of the broadcast media, break-up of large corporations, nationalization of major public utilities, decentralization of grassroots decision-making, democratization of the political selection process, and reduction of spending for national defense.


            • InfiniteWarrior says :

              it couldn’t possibly work in our present state of consciousness

              Which present state of consciousness is that? (For they are legion.)

              We broached this subject, with exceptionally brief conservation, many years ago. As corporations are in charge, it’s the corporate mentality that’s running the show, so the first (or is it the last, considering “our institutions will be the last to change,” in Scott’s words) state of consciousness that has to change is that — from the “mass” mentality to one that respects the indefinable nature we all share.

              The hiring process itself has been automated to the extent that there is little to no human involvement in it. HR representatives don’t want to see or hear from candidates for any position. The interview selection process itself is accomplished via search engine, combing applications for keywords that match whatever the position description includes. (Not sure how large corporations think they’re coming by the best candidates for the jobs that way (and, of course, they’re not), but there we are.)

              Believe it or not, though, there are stirrings in the direction of change or transformation, although the practicalities have yet to make an appearance.

              “Human Resources” used to be “personnel,” of course, which is a military term and, so, not much better than what we have now, but at least, then, human beings were recognized as “persons.” No longer, but (as noted) people are beginning to question that very mentality.

              Think about the term “Human Resources.” Simply by its definition it implies that people are “resources” like machines and capital … resources that just happen to be “human.” (This is why I don’t like using the words “Human Capital Management,” which have the same connotation.) — Has Human Resources Become Out of Date?

              Was it ever “in date?”

  2. Scott Preston says :

    On a slightly different note: petroleum is fueling a lot more than the economy and climate change, but also terrorism, war, criminality and a globally organised kleptocracy — more reasons to finally be rid of the fossil fuel economy. If climate change isn’t a big enough reason, maybe people will be convinced by how petroleum fuels criminal cartels.

    • davidm58 says :

      And speaking of petroleum, the efficiencies of automation are, I believe, dependent on the fossil fueled economy. Automation is energy intensive, and as fossil energy becomes scarce, the costs may skyrocket.

      David Fleming (author of Lean Logic) famously said, “Localisation stands, at best, at the limits of practical possibility, but it has the decisive argument in its favor that there will be no alternative.” What this means is that energy scarcity will necessitate local, lean, frugal, community oriented, living.

  3. abdulmonem says :

    Please bear with me, if I broadcast on a different band wave, but be assured my end goal is similar to your goal in addressing the malady. I feel certain that mental sickness can not be cured by mental remedy, that is why through out history the revelatory language is needed to address the mental sickness. This is the whole issue of Gebser, Seth, Blake and others in calling to return to the root. What is the root but god the source of everything principally the consciousness we are using in addressing all these issues and problems to reach what help us to see the most appropriate solutions. Our soul is our moon that reflects the divine light that helps us to see in the darkness of the ego that has lost its way, through pursuing what is wrong. Our soul is our conscious tool that helps us to manipulate the different human faculties in the service of what is true beautiful and good, A soul that can not function properly away from the light of its source. In a planetary ecology and a connected earth it is no longer viable to address human problems in closed circuit, no matter what these circuits are called but to be aware of the oneness of the root, not only of ours but the earth we are walking on and eat from its abundance and the cosmos the earth orbiting within, benefiting from the sun the moon and stars. How ugly to forgot all this divine sustenance and feeding and think that corporations and governments are our feeder and sustainer. Our mother earth on its breast we are fed and in its lap w have grown and flourished. The gift of god to the humans to see how he perform and thank. It is really stupid to listen to the stupid who think that all these things came about by chance. It is the same old story between those who deny and those who do faithfully believe. Let us all work to benefit from the light, and to him belong the still.

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