Well, the 'Memsahib' thinks so, for most of the time, at any rate. And it's true that for a great many of the mundane tasks that are required to get through "this vale of tears" I am, to all intents and purposes, useless! But surely, I ask myself desperately, I must be good for something, beyond, that is, entertaining two or three hundred people for 0.75 of a minute per person per day when they visit this blog? Alas, I fear not, at least, according to a book review by John Derbyshire in the Feb edition of Taki's Magazine.
He has been reading on of those futurist books, you know, the ones that mimic Pte. Fraser's favourite line in Dad's Army, "We're doomed, I tell yee, we're all doomed!" This one is called The Second Machine Age by a pair of clever clogs called Brynjolfsson and McAfee. They reckon that virtually all the jobs in the world will soon be done by robots and computers. As Derbyshire describes it:
So what’s it all about? The Second Machine Age is an addition to the growing pile of books about the vanishing middle class, books such as Charles Murray’s Coming Apart and Tyler Cowen’s Average is Over. If you haven’t been paying attention, here’s the message: Great swaths of the pen-pushing middle classes are about to lose their jobs to smart machines.
Of course, there may well be working space left for the smart arses, like 'SoD' (Son of Duff), who understand all this binary jiggery-pokery but for the rest of you pen-pushers, sorry and all that but it's curtains!
Brynjolfsson and McAfee did a New York Times op-ed after their original e-book came out, and it’s accompanied by a striking graph. The graph shows private employment and productivity since 1947. The two curves rise together until the year 2000. Then the productivity curve keeps on rising, but the employment curve flattens out. The authors call this a “decoupling.” There is no reason to think there will be a re-coupling, ever.
Yes, folks, it’s official: The future—the quite near future—will have less and less use for human workers. Software or gadgets will do the tasks that millions of people now do for modest middle-class salaries. The software and gadgets’ creators will get tremendously rich without employing many people. WhatsApp, whose entire payroll headcount seems barely to have made it into two digits, sold for $19 billion.
But, hang on a min, if this is right who is going to do all the consuming? I mean, it's no good producing all this stuff if no-one can consume it because they're out of work and broke! Now, I began this by asking if I really was totally useless and the answer is absolutely not because there is one thing I am damn good at - consuming! Show me the modern equivalent of 'baubles, bangles and beads', and I instantly want to 'consume' them. Even worse, or 'better' if you are a producer of 'bs, bs and bs', is that I regularly throw them away. I am The Ultimate Customer!
So, without me and my ilk (and that means you, you, and you hiding over there) the clever-clogs might just as well chuck their robots on (or order them to march to) the dump and then we can emulate that hero of the working class, Yosser Harris, as we demand "Gissa job!" Either that, or, better still, the handfull of Zuckerberg GA-zillionaires will have to be taxed up to their eye-balls and the dosh given back to us so that we can become full-time consumers again - without having to do any work!
"Oh brave new world!"