BOOK ONE
III - THE NULL-P. ORBITS


3. SYMBIOSIS

Breathing time, but it might not be for long. The production of military hardware for employment and investment was bound to be challenged more and more vigorously, and it was positively the last frontier for industrial production, short of changes that would amount to a revolution. Services would now bear the full weight of the pressure for more jobs and the trek to the third sector would accelerate.

Yet, vast cohorts of "high professionals" were still a dream for the future; the manpower might picture itself en route to a white-shirt Promised Land, but the average manual worker of the Fifties displaced from industrial production had little professional skills to offer that might find takers on the market. We would soon encounter a few logistics problems unless we found a niche for him.

Greeting the prepaid labour force

Society could simply not afford to turn all the little-educated displaced workers into "high professionals" at once, sending them to mingle freely with planners and other top-dogs in the lofty spheres above the Prestige Barrier. Untrained as they were, though, it would be politically and socially objectionable to have all of them congregate in "low" services, where they would, anyway, constitute an obstacle to the normal expansion of the machine.

A new haven would have to be found, between high and low services, where the overwhelming majority of workers displaced from the industrial production sector could find their place in the sun ... and work! After all, they would be have to be maintained anyway, wouldn't they? It was unthinkable, in our society, that they be left without their share of the level of consumption income...

Remember the "level of consumption" income which must be in the buyers' hands if everything produced is to be sold at a profit and the system is to survive? Since industrial production might level off but would not decline, this level of consumption income would not decline either, simply because machines would make workers redundant in the industrial sector. This income should at least remain constant, and it would be provided; the only question was: "Where would it come from"?

Money might come from Santa Claus, of course, meaning that the displaced workers would go on collecting from transfer payments and produce nothing. In this case, the money they would receive would add up to the money earned by those who would still work to become the effective demand. Since in this option no more services would be produced, though, and services would therefore remain in short supply compared to the affluence in goods that we enjoyed, the price of services would tend to go sky-high and the machine owners would actually sponsor the emergence of a class of rich suppliers of services. Taking this option would mean renouncing the Grand Strategy.

Better, of course, if the money could come directly from the machine owners. Since the manpower was to be kept at work, ideally it is machine owners who would have to buy the rather thin services that most workers removed from industrial production could offer. If employers did hire them and if their services were bound to some goods that the consumer would buy, it would not only solve the payroll problem, but the displaced manpower could then produce at least a modicum of additional welfare for society .

So, the displaced workers who were trying to relocate on their own were a credit to Mankind, but it would be better if the migrating manpower would not wander too far away from the industrial sector. Needed more than "high professionals", at that point in time, were workers who could infiltrate the production process offering services, make themselves handy and lovable so that "services" could merge solidly with industrial production and the secondary sector reach the point where it couldn't live without services anymore. If you are skeptical about this type of love affairs, remember that there are actually, in nature, living creatures which cannot live without each other. What we needed was this very type of integrating pattern, some sort of symbiosis.

The new entrants would have to be really lovable... Since no "machine-as-multiplier" would be involved in the production of their services, no significant part of the value of the work provided by these workers could be appropriated and thesaurized. Worse still, not only would the employers have to greet the new workers on a "non-profit" basis, but they would even have to put down the cash for their salaries out of the proceeds of accrued productivity in the machine-equipped sector of their operations!

Consequently, the best outcome machine owners as a class could expect, if displaced production workers were welcomed back in the production sector as workers in services, was that it might be possible to sell to the consumers "a bill of goods" that would include their services. In this case, employers would not make more profits but would at least come out even on the operation! Investors would really have to be played smoothly into finding some kind of interest in this type of proposition.

Yet, great love and symbiosis have their ways. The alternative was massive unemployment, and more of Santa Claus' gratuities to maintain the demand effective would have to come from the product of the employers/investors' taxes. So it was a great relief when some employers realized, as they tried as usual to compete and to strangle each others, that what was necessarily a non-profit venture for all the employers as a class could become a profit-making deal for an individual entrepreneur if handled properly. Machine owners found three ways to welcome back into the system, as workers in services, the workers expulsed from the production process. The first of these three ways was used mainly in sectors of production that machines controlled, or were about to control completely when Global Glut occurred. It consisted in pegging men to machines.

Peg men to machines

Keep close to the machines. The basic idea would be to make things easy for the consumer, to sell him "welfare" as more services, rather than more goods to add to his "wealth". The services sold would not be "high" services but, to the contrary, services that machines were able, or about to be able to deliver. This way, the system would gain on two counts: employment would be created for the not-so-educated labour force that it was so hard to relocate, and human labour would test the ground for demand before investments were made on machines.

How do you "peg men to machines"? Take, for instance, a competitive market and a product which is relatively cheap to produce; add a little extra "service" of cheap labour to make the product more attractive. If the competitive edge he gains is worth the extra labour cost to the producer, jobs to provide this extra service will be created and the salaries paid willingly by the producer/employer.

Take for instance a cheap, raw, naked, dirty potato, and just wash it before you bring it to the side of the highway to try and sell it to passers-by. Because it is clean, chances are that it will sell better and fetch a higher price. If it does, every potato producer will soon have his potatoes washed and potato washers will find jobs... Until somebody invents and puts to use, to gain another advantage over competitors, a "potato-washing" machine that does it cheaper than human labour. When this happens, "potato-washers" will go back on the labour market unemployed, but customers will now buy clean potatoes and will be ready to pay a little bit more for the privilege. Another step forward for the machines, but also jobs of not-so-cheap labour for operators of potato-washing machines and the supervisors of potato-washing operations.

Now, suppose you wrap and pack the potato? Suppose you bring it to the market in town or that, from market to wholesalers and retailers, it ends up in the grocery store or the supermarket? Suppose you peel it? Can it? Every time you add a new operation, you add a little to the initial low price of the potato and offer to the consumer something more for which he accepts to pay. You are not giving the consumer more "goods" for his money, you are giving him more "services". You do not add to his wealth but to his welfare and he pays for it.

Do it smartly, and every basic commodity becomes more and more loaded with extra services, until it appears as a reasonable alternative to buy French Fried potatoes at the friendly family restaurant around the corner, since it is now only marginally more expensive than the clean, packed, etc., potato product at the grocery store. The next step is to call it Pommes Frites, and to buy the fried potato - which is basically one cent worth of potato and two cents worth of oil - for $3.25 in a fancy Belgian restaurant. It's basically the same product as the initial cheap, naked potato, but eat it slowly, for there is now a lot of "services" invested in those bites.

Before we denigrate the approach, we must realize that the extra $ 3.23 of services does not go into the pocket of some capitalist exploiter, but it pays the ticket to heaven of the great majority of the population which does not grow potatoes nor produce cooking oil anymore, but is still eager to eat French Fries and must have money to pay for it, if potatoes are still to be grown and oil to be refined.

More services are offered, more jobs are created, the Realm of Machine expands, and the price of services - the price of human labour - is included in the final price of the goods; a final price that benefits from all productivity gains, since machine-production is still its basic component. It is in each producer's interest to follow the trend, and services ooze in relentlessly until the employer who does not play the game is out, until it may become quite a feat for the consumer to be able to buy anything except a clean, peeled, packed, wrapped or canned potato... Remember Superblade. Where to-day can you get any blade which is not "super" and which is not packed with proper respect for its status?

The thing snowballs, and the process of mechanization proceeds systematically. Peg services to goods, peg men to machines, and human labour is integrated smoothly into the machine-sector of the economy. Some human labour at least; it is often not the kind of labour we might have thought initially. It is cheap labour that comes in at first, but it stays only briefly, as the vanguard for more mechanization; eventually, it will prove more expensive than some new machine for which it has created a demand, and will be displaced to make room for more machines.

This is no surprise; it was clear, right from the start of the Industrial Revolution, that sooner or later machines would take over, one by one, all the repetitive jobs which, in fact, had men work for the machines. The really interesting point, in the "peg men to machines" approach, though, is not the temporary demand for cheap labour. It is that a fraction of the jobs that are created seem immune from further onslaught by the machines.

We are not talking here about the machine-operators' jobs in the production sector. Operators work for the machines, and they are introduced in a process made for machines from which they will be expulsed just like the "potato washers" before them, as soon as the machines are improved and make them expendable. We are talking about the human jobs which would not exist if machines were not around to mass produce something, jobs which seem to thrive on mechanization and to show symbiosis between Man and the Machine.

We can talk about symbiosis when the product from the machine has to bear the mark of a human interventor's personality and the human intervention itself would be impossible, useless or at least essentially different without the machine. Anybody who is not an accessory to the machine, but whose job depends on a machine production process that would not go on without his own contribution, is in symbiosis with the machine.

The whole management of every company whose purpose is to machine-produce something is in symbiosis with the machine. The machines will not produce usefully if not managed, and this particular type of managers would have no raison d'être if machine-production would stop. Supervisors left on the job when potato-washers made way for potato-washing machines are in this type of relation with machines. Symbiosis also, all along the lengthening distribution line from the producer to the consumer; therefore there are opportunities not only to create management jobs, but also to respond to a demand for human labour in the process of wholesaling, retailing, merchandising marketing, distributing, and generally selling the goods.

Peg men to machines and watch for symbiosis. In the short-term, as the Realm of Machine would expand, these jobs would be the only hope for full employment. It is not the machine-operators who would proliferate anymore, the way they had in the early industrial revolution, when the demand for goods looked insatiable, nor still the high professionals, but the symbiots, white-collar workers whose activity would be essential to a process but whose work would be productive and have significance only if there were machines somewhere busy producing something

Men and machines

The second approach to integration became popular when we began to move beyond the production of goods - of "wealth" - to the selling of services and the direct production of "welfares". This we did as soon as growing affluence could convince us that the demand for some "mass consumption" services would generate a healthy profit both for a human and for a "machine partner" and its owner. You have not produced anything material after you have taken Mr. Smith from New York to Los Angeles, or Mr. Jones from London to Tokyo; yet, a need or a wish has been fulfilled; the service you offer to the buyer is something that makes him feel better, according to his own judgment of how or where he should be. You have produced and packaged more welfare for him.

In the beginning, the direct production of welfare took its models from the industrial system. Selling welfare, like selling goods was done with a machine, an operator on borrowed time and maybe, next to the operator, other men or women pegged to machines. The plane, for instance, was a machine put at the disposal of the customer; the machine would provide the service and the pilot, as a "machine operator", would simply be working for the plane - "Just take us there safely, Captain X" - until the day would come when people would feel comfortable and safe with an Automatic Pilot, and he could be replaced by a contraption (which/whom) might well then be nicknamed "John", to have it/him look smart. To peg more men (women) to the machine, the system would also favour Air Hostesses over pre-packaged meals.

It did not take long for machine owners to realize, though, that selling welfare would be easier if service were more personalized. This opened the door to the second way to integrate workers back into production and another type of symbiosis. As a second step on the long road to "high services for all", the objective became, in the Sixties to have humans work with rather than for the machines, and thus to achieve more intimate and more equal symbiosis.

The distinction, by the way, had nothing to do with prestige or qualifications, since the pilot had been definitely working for its airplane, while a gondolier in Venice (you are sooô.. cute, Gino!), could certainly be said to be in symbiosis with his "machine"! Put a motor to the boat, and neither gondolier nor gondola have the same meaning. To know whether or not the man works for or with the machine, see if the final product should owe anything to his personality

Personalized services, sold in "symbiotic packages" with the products of machines as multipliers, did add a new twist to the man-machine relation. It meant, however, the same intertwining between worker and machine that allowed the system to spread productivity gains and to broaden the manpower base. The Hospitality Trade and the Tourist Industry are good examples of sectors where the demand for "welfare" allowed both a profit for investors in "machines" and the payment of salaries to human beings for the part of the work that machines alone couldn't do.

It is possible to look at an hotel as a "machine to live in". The customer's bill will pay for such "goods" as the drinks, the food, furniture, and amortization of the hotel building itself... but will include salaries for waiters, hotel clerks, receptionists, telephone operators, hotel manager, Tour operator, etc... And it is the way these people will have performed their tasks, personally, that will make all the difference and have the customer decide whether he will be back or not.

People in this situation become equal partners in the symbiosis, which will be reflected in the respect they obtain and in the fact that the sum of their salaries will vastly exceed the cost of all the "goods" consumed, amortization cost of the building and equipment included. So, it is mainly "human labour" once again now, if Room Service will charge you over $ 6.00 for Pommes de terre au Gratin, when you insist that the naked potato be escorted by five cents worth of cheese rather than two cents worth of oil.

Peg machines to men

Manpower was elbowing its way back smoothly. Simultaneously, if wealth was to remain the all-important basis of the power structure of a dynamic society, the other part of the strategy would have to be a success too. Machines would have not only to hold their own, but also to expand more in the sectors traditionally reserved to human labour, to become once again the best answer to the consumer's new priorities. Machines would have to learn to do things they had not done before.

We could achieve this objective without damage to our employment policies if, rather than use human labour only to dress the all-important product in accessory services, or to share with the machine the responsibility for the client's welfare, we would turn the table and see the machine as a junior partner, enhancer of the quantity/quality of human services.

The third way to integrate workers back into the labour force would be to put machines at their disposal. Machines in this case could be only tools, mere amplifiers of human activity: think of an opera singer, who can take it or leave it when it comes to microphones and loudspeakers... But it could be also the beginning of a real "peg machines to men" approach, which could bring a higher level of symbiosis, closer to the dream of the "perfect machine".

Higher level symbiosis would occur when the machine also would be essential, but still, it is the human being, not the machine, who would be in the driver's seat. The next step in the Machine's progress would come through putting at people's disposal machines that would not only greatly enhance the value of their services, facilitate their work, or improve their results but become indispensable. Rock groups, for instance, are obviously in symbiosis with their equipment; a rock group would be a completely different phenomenon if it were deprived of its electronics and visuals. For the same reason, movie stars are in symbiosis with movie equipment.

Although theirs might be work basically fit only for human beings, chances were that people who could reach their best only with a machine by their side would simply desist from working in any way except in symbiosis with this machine. From this point on, it would be possible to get more symbiosis, simply by addiction. Symbiosis might creep up surreptitiously, in the hierarchy of services, and even pass the Prestige Barrier! Think about medicine becoming more and more dependant on the hardware of modern hospitals. Who would dare to-day undertake even a minor surgical intervention without the best equipment?

Peg machines to men and push the frontier of the possible. Symbiosis would allow for Rock Music, a mixed blessing, but it would also make a many more things possible - and thus create more work than what we had thought. The day the "peg machines to men" approach would have made a "machine partner" a paying proposition in high level symbiosis, it would finally have made possible also, economically and politically, the development of high services in a way innocuous to the interest of the investors in machines and of the power structure. We would have found the "perfect slaves".

We had these three types of symbiosis to integrate the workers in the service-orientated labour force and to promote the future of machines. Would it be enough to keep under control the trek to services and for enough jobs to be created? Together with military spending that meant a permanent demand for wealth, could symbiosis keep the system alive until the "perfect slaves" would arrive? The last word belonged not to the employers, who would hire symbiots if they had to in order to compete, but to the consumers; would they catch the "clean potato" habit? They did; and then, to the planners' pleasant surprise, it was discovered that symbiots were an extremely prolific breed.

The prolific symbiots

The man in symbiosis with a machine becomes more and more dependant on "his" machine, and will see to it that it grows bigger, better, more complex, more expensive, and eventually creates the need for other machines, on each of which he will gladly become dependant also: machines have a way to proliferate. Even more wonderful for the planners, workers in symbiosis with machines will also multiply. Symbiosis creates a growing demand for machines, around each of which a growing number of symbiots will tend to gravitate, until the limit is reached of what the machine will support. What is the limit? When one has grasped the implications of "effective demand" and of the "level of consumption income" it becomes rather obvious.

As long as there had been a growing demand for goods, sufficient to balance the productivity increases, workers could remain machine operators and their wages would grow to provide effective demand. With our needs satisfied though (and the production of goods remaining constant, as it should when needs are satisfied), further productivity gains could bring only mass unemployment... unless the threat was immediately countered by a new division of labour. The new division of labour would have a constant quantity of goods produced by machines and a dwindling minority of machine operators, while an overwhelming - and ever-growing! - majority of the working population would flee to services as "symbiots" to manage, supervise, sell and distribute, talk about the goods or otherwise play with them, before they would finally reach the consumer.

Together, operators and symbiots would have to account for the same effective demand as if the operators were alone and the symbiots did not exist. Consequently, the total wages, of all symbiots and operators living off the production of all machines, would tend to equal the total wages which would be paid to all the workers who would be required to produce the same output without the use of the machines. Not the wages that would be paid if machines did not exist, mind you, but the inflated wages that reflect the fact that machines do exist and that there are lots of goods symbolized by the money of these wages.

Symbiosis was a necessity, and symbiots would begin to proliferate in industrial production, as organizers and administrators of the complex logistics of affluence. Symbiots could grow, multiply and proliferate in almost any environment and would necessitate no care at all. Because they are such a resilient breed, there would be in a spontaneous generation of symbiots as the trek to services gathered momentum, almost unnoticed however, because the continuous gains of productivity realized on production itself would hide a large part of the extra cost that symbiots added to the price of almost everything. The extra cost could be spread evenly across the system, and the general increase in prices dismissed as "inflation".

We would have inflation, because we had to spread the real income of production on both operators and symbiots and make provisions also for the money-only profit of investors. We would also face what looked like stagnation, because needs were satisfied and we had no sensible reason to produce much more goods. Inflation and stagnation together could read: stagflation, and the concept would become popular - although not properly explained and therefore not very instructive - in the Seventies.

There would be some other minor inconveniences to the proliferation of symbiots in our economy. For instance, productivity gains are often measured taking into account both "operators and symbiots", rather than operators alone. These gains, therefore, would look much smaller than they were in reality - and smaller than those of other nations - which would have us appear a little inept and foolish. This was a small price to pay, however, for equilibrium and social peace... and we could always find solace in the fact that we were doing it in 8 hours-a-week, remember? Considering the situation and the values at stake, the inconveniences were tolerable.

Welfare being qualitative, and the appetite for it practically infinite, it seemed that once the consumer had accepted to buy welfare packaged with goods, symbiosis, if need be, could keep all the manpower at work eternally around the machines in the production sector! It would be a continuous race though, in a state of optimal stress, between our talent to increase productivity and our imagination to provide services.


Next

Link to my BLOG Nouvelle Société !(Click here).

Table of Content

Accueil
1