Man Vs. Machine — By John Reed
Man Vs. Machine
Regular readers will know I’m an optimist. I believe science and technological progress are the solutions to many of our challenges we face today. Given the right environment to flourish, research and development translates into answers.
A good example is the extremely rapid invention of vaccines by multiple companies in response to the Covid pandemic. Doubters and naysayers remain, and the Delta Variant or the one after that will cull that herd more efficiently than any politician could: anti-vaxxers will either change their tune or get sick. Many will die. Many ARE dying even as I write this.
All that to say this: I am not a Luddite. I appreciate the way computers and other machines can make our lives easier and less tedious. Blueberries picked mechanically. Cars that steer themselves. Solar fields replacing coal for power generation. We truly live in an age of marvels.
I refuse to order fast food at a kiosk. And I absolutely refuse to check myself out at Walmart. My reasons have nothing to do with fear or loathing of machines; rather they are financial and ethical.
When I buy a Big Mac or batteries, the price of those items includes whatever the corporations choose to charge me for paying their workers. Fine, I get that, and I appreciate the cashier ringing up my stuff. But when I do it myself, guess what? I’m still paying the same price, even though I’m now doing the work of those cashiers. Plus, I’m helping the companies to eventually replace their employees with machines.
Now if they were to offer me a discount to do their cashiers’ jobs myself, I might be more inclined to do it. Or maybe pay me some of that $15 an hour everyone’s yelling about these days…
That still doesn’t solve the ethics of workers getting replaced by machines. Of course it’s been happening since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution 300 years ago. Where will the displaced workers of this century go and what will they do?
Retrain and adapt say the pundits. Easier said than done, especially for those who only had one skill to begin with. You can’t turn a coal miner into a solar engineer overnight. Meanwhile, families starve.
Progress comes with a price, something progressives fail to recognize.