As the mechanization of labor increases, a smaller amount of human labor is required to produce an amount of goods or services. While in some instances this means that work will be reduced evenly, as in everyone in a certain industry might work less hours, often the reduced hours will be distributed unequally, with some individuals being pushed out of the labor market, and even some highly specialized workers seeing an increase in hours.
This surplus labor force is put in a quandary by an economy
wherein their income is determined by their production—as they are
not productive relative to machines within the legitimate economy
they earn no wages, and therefore must either turn to a black market
economy (one unlikely to be mechanized with the same vigor as legal
industry) or starve. The implications of this redundancy are already
having an enormous political, social, and economic impact on western
Human labor will be replaced by mechanized labor first where the
work is most physical and easily turned into an algorithm, so low
wage unskilled labor, such as factory work will be, and have already
been, the first to go. Compounding the difficulties of the political
system effectively handling surplus labor, the displaced work force
will be comprised of those least likely to be able to influence the
political system, instead, debate conducted by elites disconnected
from the realities of a mechanizing economy will continue to focus on
side-issues or moralizing on the failures of an unemployed populace.
Unemployed and unskilled persons have historically been marginalized
by the political process everywhere, and are unlikely to find redress
as jobs become permanently scarcer.
David Simon, creator of The Wire, speaks of the problems
already facing a permanently under/unemployed class caused by this
technological displacement. The drug war and the attendant massive
number of incarcerated persons in America, he asserts, are the result
of a system which has failed to adequately provide for those who have
been replaced by mechanical labor. Some proportion of any excess
labor force will turn towards criminality in order to survive.
Obviously, imprisoning this excess labor force as it inevitably
becomes increasingly desperate is a very poor solution to the
problem. By failing to ensure a wealth distribution system which
allows these displaced laborers to benefit from technological
advancements, society can expect little else.
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