It is "necessity" and egoism that explain the past, from the equalizing role of machines to the aberrant behavior of "tricks for toil" and "hyperjobs"; let's use necessity also as the crystal ball to project the future. The "rules of necessity" are the constraints and trends imposed by the technological imperatives: what will respect these constraints, follow these trends and go with the flow will succeed; what goes against them will fail.
Here, we will see the consequences of the new "technological imperative" as the necessary framework on which a new social contract should be built; in following Parts II and III, we will see what man-made rules can be made, within this framework imposed by circumstances, to readjust our ways in respect of work, employment, wealth and production and to provide society with a structure that will reflect the new balance of power.
Fortunately, there is good news glowing in the crystal ball of necessity.
You know the Negro Spiritual about all these bones that connect to each
other? Now, there is a new technological imperative that will bring creativity,
that will bring autonomy, that will bring participation, more equality amongst
men and a new brotherhood.... and this will bring more freedom and interdependence,
from which will stem the need for more solidarity, more complementarity,
and a democracy based on consensus and even benevolence... But there will
be the dark side of each one of these blessings, of course.
1 -THE CREATIVE IMPERATIVE
Can we see the new "technological imperative" which is about to impose the new "rules of the game", and what these rules will be? The "perfect slaves", of course! "Helots" are here, and at this point in time it is the Helots that express necessity. Good news, for just as machines necessarily brought greater equality, Helots now bring creativity and its consequences. Creativity in the labour force is what we always wanted, but now it is not a pious wish anymore; it is not only possible but inevitable - an "imperative". And the creative imperative will change our whole social structure.
With Helots, our ways of working will have to be revised drastically and this, in turn, will modify the roles of wealth and production in the system. New ways of working, and then to own, will mean significant changes in the pecking order and a new social contract will emerge to reflect these changes.
First, new ways of working. Now that we have the perfect slaves we were
looking for, the first thing we will have to cope with will be a drastic,
irreversible and accelerating trend towards a new division of labour; a
new division of labour between Man and Machine. We must now realize that,
with Helots from Cybernia in the picture, most of what we used to call "work"
will tend to disappear.
"Work", from now on, will come to consist only of activities which are not "programmed" and, as evolving technology and rising labour costs will gnaw constantly at the dwindling core of activities that will remain unprogrammed, we will soon reach the point where the only work not programmed will be that which is "unprogrammable". We had better begin to think in those terms "programmable" and "unprogrammable" right now, because other distinctions such as secondary and tertiary sectors, crafts and careers, professions and trades, etc...will become quite irrelevant.
What is programmable? If we want a computer to move from point A to point B, along a logical sequence of operations, we may define a relationship between A and B and determine in which conditions passage from A to B is going to take place. Primitive computers required the relation to be defined step-by-step but, more and more, we may merely state the "questions", the possible "answers", and the criteria for choice, letting the computer find its path and develop its own algorithms, using the "knowledge" of its own memory banks.
A human being too can use his knowledge, think along predetermined paths, and achieve results in a "questions-answers-and-criteria" fashion. It is not so easy for human beings to do it, though, because they have to deal with some interferences, like emotions. When a man succeeds in doing it, it is regarded very highly in our society; we say that he is thinking "logically" and a man who can usually think logically is said to be "intelligent". It is an axiom that computers are not "intelligent"; nevertheless, a large part of intelligence tests consists in assessing the capacity to think "logically", fast and accurately.... and a properly programmed computer will go through intelligence tests faster and more accurately than any man.
Everything which is repetitive, linear, sequential, anything that can be fully described in detail and fitted into a decision tree can be programmed. All activities which can be reduced to logical sequences of operations, or to "questions-answers-and-criteria" patterns, can now be planned by computers - call them "intelligent" or not - and once the tasks have been planned, most of the operations that constitute our productive process can be performed by robots linked to computers.
Once this planning and linking has been done, the machine will do the job better than a man, will do it faster and will make no mistakes. Now... and forever, because after Helots have been installed and have taken over, they can repeat the same process ad infinitum; further human intervention in production being required, thereafter, only when unforeseen problems arise or to look forward for that "ideal" solution that, somehow, will always escape us. We may fight a rear guard action against Helots for social or political reasons, but some day "all work will be done that way". Very soon.
Insofar as work for human beings is concerned, if you can describe it perfectly, in detail, it is probably already obsolete. The "unprogrammable", in production, consists in setting right the questions, answers and criteria and nothing more; the rest is for the machines. As Helots will chase workers from their last traditional jobs and make away, once for all, with the burden of toil, we will have to render unto Man what belongs to Man... and unto the Machine what belongs to the Machine. Workers will have to withdraw from programmable tasks, and work for human beings will be reduced to its creative aspects. This is the Rule of Creativity that we will have to obey.
Obedience will demand some effort, because strange things will happen on the labour market when workers are displaced from programmable to unprogrammable activities. When the question is asked: "is it really unprogrammable?" - and other criteria by which it used to be decided that an activity stood above or below the Prestige Barrier are perceived to be obsolete - many professions which used to carry prestige may appear to be no more than collections of tasks fit for machines. In these professions, whether or not we drag our feet and try not to obey, jobs will not be back: activities will be programmed once, and Helots will repeat them.
In other professions, even in professions which are basically unprogrammable, hell may break loose when the cleavage becomes obvious between, on the one hand, the subsidiary tasks that were thought to be the essential components of the "job" - but actually interfered will the real professional purpose! - and, on the other hand, the necessary, creative, human and very often neglected unprogrammable aspects. We will meet with resistance at first; but, sooner or later, programmable tasks will be identified, programmed, and given to Helots. It is on the neglected "human" aspects - think of i factors - that we will have to concentrate all our energy, if we really want to go back to work.
Let's take diagnosis in medicine as a good example of what a programmable task might be within the scope of an unprogrammable advocation. Symptoms are facts, whether they are expressed by the patient or appear as the results of tests. Properly programmed, a computer, fed with these symptoms and the medical history of the patient, will arrive instantly at a set of diagnoses, will give the probability of each, and will even recommend treatment.
Good. It should not be the doctor's task to rake his brain, trying to remember if the coincidence of some minor symptoms increases significantly the possibility that the patient might suffer from some rare illness. The machine can do that faster and better than any man. Considering the information from the computer and the other aspects of the case that cannot be programmed - not excluding such circumstances as hysteria in the patient or gross malfunction of the machine - it is the human being though, the doctor, that should always take the final decision
Same thing in the courthouse. It takes a mature human being to accept
the facts and weigh their credibility; but, once the accepted facts are
fed into the machine, the "Law", as it applies in the case, considering
all judicial precedents and written rules, can be made to emerge from the
machine instantaneously and without bias. It is then a human function, of
course, to temper law with clemency, or to decide that the case is so significantly
different from all previous cases that precedents should not apply. Examples
like that could be given indefinitely, gleaned from each profession.
Upgrading to i level
Peg machines to men.... and let work for human beings be reduced to its creative, unprogrammable components. We may resist the creative imperative, but not for long. Not only will every task that is repetitive, boring, dangerous, menial be done by Helots/robots, but every bit of work also will disappear that does not call upon one of these three i factors: Imagination, Interaction and Initiative. All the jobs that do not require entrepreneurship, creativity or feelings will disappear.
Which is precisely what scares the wits out of some of our planners. What about the threat from "third-class", of mass unemployment, alienation, and passive or even active revolt? As we face new ways of working, what about this majority of the workers who presently do not use i factors in their jobs? If you are familiar with pulp sci-fi magazines, you know, after all, what to expect from robots, Helots, or by any other names they be called: good robots deliver us from the bug-eyed monsters... but bad robots make workers expendable.
You may stop worrying about the apocalyptic extermination of the "useless" labour force dear to science fiction. To the contrary, the worker-friendly Helots from Cybernia - which at times look like bug-eye monsters themselves - are about to do their worker friends two good turns in a row. First, they will wake them up to creativity; then, they will make everyone of them, not only useful once again, but irreplaceable.
To begin with, workers chased out of the shops and into offices - or office-like shops - will be happy to discover that Helots, in the office, do not only increase the output but also create, simultaneously, a huge demand for human labour at a "higher level", above the Prestige Barrier. What's the use, for instance, of one hundred statistical series to really "grasp the essence" of a situation... unless you put to work immediately, analyzing and interpreting the new data, many more people as were busied before plotting the one and only graph on which you had to rely?
This analysis and interpretation of the one hundred series will be done also with the help of Helots, of course; but ,when it comes to these "higher level" applications where they enhance the quality of human labour, Helots prove to be useless save in symbiosis with human i factors. You remember the impact of "communication" in the office? It is a multiplier of work. Like anyone who has tried to cut expenses using computers has found out, Helots in the office displace, but seldom replace men. Helots will generate a lot of work!
Mostly useless of course... Who in his right mind wants to pay people to peruse one hundred statistical series to "grasp the essence" of a situation, when one graph was enough a fortnight ago? Only "Epsilonasis", and a relentless political will to keep demand effective, will save the day. The day will be saved, however, for we will have both this strange illness and the will. Helots will not free us from the constraints of effective demand, nor will they cure us from the epsilon-drive....
Does it mean that, with Helots and the creative imperative, we are about to attain a higher level of nonsense in non-work and null-production? The bad news is "yes, for a while". Yes for a while, because we face the problem of making repairs to the whole production system, a system that obviously cannot be shut-down for the duration. Orbits #1 and #2 will not be closed immediately, null-p. jobs will not disappear on the spot, and we will still be "producing to work"... for a while. The first impact of the Helots' takeover will not be to eliminate all non-work but to make it less tedious and some of it - alas! - even more inconsequential.
The boring repetitive null-p. jobs in production - in offices as in the shops - will fade away, because they too now, will either be done by Helots... or suppressed. Nobody will ever be bored to death again with repetitive gestures or plotting that graph long-hand; it is one of the greatest thing of all about Helots that, in production, they totally fill the space for tedium. On the other hand, jobs that are the answer to a need for image and have little to do with production, pure prestige functions which depend on human presence because human work is so ostentatiously expensive - the like of sartorial doormen and "one-call-a-day" receptionists - will persist and even proliferate, since they call upon "interaction".
The good news is that the null-p. nonsense will not last long. Over the last forty years or so, a large part of our production has been worthless, an even larger part of the work that has been done was useless and, to put it bluntly, we could have dispensed with a significant number of the workers except as consumers. Workers were kept as "Epsilons", to work for the machines... and then to consume, thus vouching for the value of the fixed capital invested in machines.
The creative imperative will change this situation once for all. Significance will be brought back to the workers' activity as soon as symbiosis is achieved, matching human creativity with the multiplying effect of the machines, and the labour force will crash in force the Prestige Barrier. Of course, there is no way the Helot-assisted production system will provide significant jobs for more than a small fraction of the labour force. The "re-conquest" of the value and dignity of work will come with the happy conclusion of a two-pronged attack, the first of which only will concern "jobs" and take place within the employment structure.
Within the job framework itself, it will happen only for the chosen few assigned to symbiotic tasks calling upon more and more specialized knowledge. These chosen few will become "professionals", and since it is symbiosis in its "peg machines to men" aspect that will become dominant, these worker's personality will soon begin to play a role in shaping the final product, making them substitutable at a cost, maybe, but fundamentally irreplaceable.
Even to-day, there are examples of "irreplaceable" workers
around. Think about the restaurants whose fortunes rest on their Chef or
Maitre d', for instance... The number of these irreplaceable workers shall
increase with symbiosis, which at the beginning at least will be perceived
as a welcome social change: in more and more cases, it is the worker rather
than the machine who will become once again the most considered factor in
production. This should come as no surprise.
Time to think
No surprise if some professionalized workers gain in status. The surprise will be the improvement in status brought by Helots to others, to the "less-than-useful", the eminently "replaceable" workers in the job framework; because they too, through a detour, will inevitably be upgraded to i level also. Helots will wake all workers to creativity, because although every bit of work may not immediately become useful, Helots whenever they are installed will always provide their workers friends with leisure and therefore with time to think.
It is possible to design a useless unprogrammable task - and to analyze data in excess of what the situation and decisions at hand warrant is as good an example as any ! - but such a task, however futile, will still remain by definition something that a machine cannot do; it will either be creative or provide time to think... and, with thought, significance will grow in the most unexpected situations.
We could even say that, the more "useless" the formal objectives set for unprogrammable work, the more open-ended this work will be, the less constraints on free thinking. Helots will impose tasks that must at least look creative, and this will be a definite improvement over the repetitive, hypnotic 1-h.p. job of the Machine Age. It will also make the conditions right for every worker not fully busy with useful symbiotic tasks to access Parkinsonian leisure, to take time to think, and to consider jumping into his own hyperjob.
What's wrong with hyperjobs, by the way? The trouble with hyperjobs to-day is simply that, socially and production-wise, they are useless: a misguided energy, bound to Civil Service or Industrial Production as an expedient, and which is lost in the great Nowhere. Except for that, nothing is wrong with hyperjobs, just the contrary. Nothing wrong with people working at their own leisure, with a minimum of instructions and controls, self-motivated by a drive for achievement and recognition, with no needs for either extra sticks or carrots.
If we could use the hyperjob approach, and fit a growing part - and maybe eventually all - of human labour in that same framework that proved so satisfying for managers in the technostructure, if we only could bring out the same dedication in all workers and apply the resulting efforts to the satisfaction of the needs of society, we would have it made.
And this is precisely the opportunity that we will be offered, when work as we have known it will fade away, when the workers will begin to turn into professionals to reflect the requirements of unprogrammable activity, and when those to whom the production system will not have entrusted symbiotic functions and who will not have been granted professional status in the job framework will realize that they, too, must develop their innate i factors, but cannot do it within the scope of their jobs.
As Helots will restrict human work to its creative aspects, while the need to maintain a level of consumption income will forbid that employment in the job framework be reduced to our real manpower needs, pseudo-production in Orbit #2 will slowly disappear, while pseudo-work in Orbit #1 will become even more open-ended, broadening the path to Orbit #3. Parkinsonian leisure will become accessible not only to managers and deciders, but to the rank and file of symbiots, to the mass of the new professional workers.
Accessible, yes, but there are good reasons to believe that professional workers, with plenty of free time on their hands and Helots to boost, will not think about "hyperjobs" but rather about work, and about new ways to reintroduce significance in their work life. There is a major difference, you see, between the situation of the new class of professional workers in leisure at work and what is now the situation of managers flying into hyperjobs: managers have very little to "manage" outside the employment structure, but there will be a booming demand for the services that the professionals can offer on the free market.
The moment the professional workers access Parkinsonian leisure is when the second thrust of the two-pronged "re-conquest" of the labour market by the labour force will occur. Most professional workers, freed by Helots from "tasks for machines", upgraded to i level and granted Parkinsonian leisure, will not fly into an hyperjob but will rather become available to satisfy the demand for intangibles, in their "spare time". In the proper hands equipped with the proper tools, Parkinsonian leisure can give birth to constructive schemes.
These schemes, however, being conceived under the same conditions of freedom and motivation as the egotistical and useless hyperjobs, will not only be constructive but will mean as much as hyperjobs in terms of commitment. Workers will begin, on their own, to cater to needs previously unsatisfied, self-satisfied, or even unidentified. The Parkinsonian leisure of the professional workers will meet the huge demand for intangibles and generate a lot of work. We should, however, look forward to it as an occasion for "manpower participation" rather than employment, because this activity is more than likely than not to take place outside or at least beside the restrictive employment structure... and it will not mean jobs. Creativity leads to a second rule of necessity: autonomy.
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