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The Fiction Of Unemployment

“This is actually why Smith’s (Adam) work is so important. He created the vision of an imaginary world almost entirely free of debt and credit, and therefore, free of guilt and sin; a world where men and women were free to simply calculate their interests in full knowledge that everything had been prearranged by God to ensure that it will serve the greater good. Such imaginary constructs are of course what scientists refer to as “models,” and there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with them. Actually, I think a fair case can be made that we cannot think without them. The problem with such models—at least, it always seems to happen when we model something called “the market”—is that, once created, we have a tendency to treat them as objective realities, or even fall down before them and start worshipping them as gods. “We must obey the dictates of the market!”

Debt: The First 5,000 Years by Dave Graeber

Back in the 1980s, people spent a lot of time discussing the future of work. One thing I remember being told was that we needed to be ensuring that students knew how to use their leisure time because with the improvements in technology, we’d all be working fewer hours.

Of course, we all presumed that meant that the working week would be shorter for all of us rather than the situation where the employed are expected to work longer while the unemployed have so much leisure time that we feel it necessary to compel them to go for a large number of jobs which they’re unlikely to get rather than actually using their time productively. Simply, even though there aren’t enough jobs to go around, we want to make sure that nobody feels ok about not working; they need to blame themselves rather than changes in the economy.

It was William Gibson who said, “The future is already here – it’s just not evenly distributed.” In his book, “The Inevitable: Understanding the 12 Technological Forces That Will Shape Our Future”, Kevin Kelly suggests the following scenario:

“First, machines will consolidate their gains in already automated industries. After robots finish replacing assembly line workers, they will replace the workers in warehouses. Speedy bots able to lift 150 pounds all day long will retrieve boxes, sort them, and load them onto trucks. Robots like this already work in Amazon’s warehouses. Fruit and vegetable picking will continue to be robotized until no humans pick outside of specialty farms. Pharmacies will feature a single pill-dispensing robot in the back while the pharmacists focus on patient consulting. In fact, prototype pill-dispensing robots are already up and running in hospitals in California. To date, they have not messed up a single prescription, something that cannot be said of any human pharmacist. Next, the more dexterous chores of cleaning in offices and schools will be taken over by late-night robots, starting with easy-to-do floors and windows and eventually advancing to toilets. The highway parts of long-haul trucking routes will be driven by robots embedded in truck cabs. By 2050 most truck drivers won’t be human. Since truck driving is currently the most common occupation in the U.S., this is a big deal.”

He goes on later to tell us:

“In fact, any job dealing with reams of paperwork will be taken over by bots, including much of medicine. The rote tasks of any information-intensive job can be automated. It doesn’t matter if you are a doctor, translator, editor, lawyer, architect, reporter, or even programmer: The robot takeover will be epic. We are already at the inflection point.”

Now this leaves the question of what “unemployed” in a future world where it’s those who own the means of production who acquire even more of the wealth, and then complain that they need to pay taxes to support those who have no meaningful way of supporting themselves. At least with the industrial revolution workhouses were a possibility because there was still work to do, but in a world where technology can do the vast majority of things, we may need to rethink the whole way the economy is shaped. Otherwise, we may end up with governments suggesting that certain companies need a billion dollars or so, because they didn’t benefit from the tax cut owing to the fact that they haven’t paid tax for years, while the rest of us are left to our devices.

There are no simple answers, but it’s clear that the answers we’ve been trying for past few years won’t work into the future. When the Liberals have been tell us that they support Jobs, somebody needs to tell them that he died a few years ago and Apple is run by someone else now.

Whatever the answer, maybe it’s time to do more than think outside the box; we need to think outside the clichés too. The following video isn’t a solution, but it might be some sort of start:

P.S. If you’re a teacher, you might find this blog interesting:


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  1. Ella Miller

    I have my 12y/o grandson staying with me. We all listen to some news and talk about it.
    To my surprise this morning he said “Nanny , can I use your computer? I want to write a letter to Malcolm Turnbull”

    This is what he wrote…
    Dear Prime Minister,
    My name is Cody and i am 12 years old i think that you are making life for the poor people very hard.
    We are not well off and my Mother is going to find it very hard to pay for all the things we have to get for high school.
    The rich like you have a lot of money why don’t they want to pay more tax?So that life is not so hard for those people who can’t get a job and don’t make any money.
    Ps I am with my GrandMother and i asked if i could write to you
    Have Great Day

    I nearly fell off my chair because I had no idea that he thought about things so deeply.

  2. rossleighbrisbane

    Cody for Prime Minister. He shows more compassion than the current one and more maturity than the last.

  3. jim

    MAX employment provider?..The latest scam is to wholesale push people into disability classification so these Agencies like Max Inc can get more funding, for themselves not you. Max do not want you to get a job ever!.

    I had a visit by Max employment services 1 month ago, btw I’m 64yrs on the DSP, there were two of them, all ok ’til one asks me, ” can you tell me the names of some of your unemployed mates, adding “I must have lots of unemployed mates”. these two were ushered out the gate by me.

    It really is a sorry state of affairs when the government spends Billions policing it’s citizens while pretending unemployment is only 6% when Roy Morgans states it’s 10%. And at the same time the same policy making politicians give themselves fat pensions for life.

  4. Ella Miller

    Thank you for that offer but maybe Im a bit to young to run

  5. Kaye Lee


    Just keep thinking. Keep learning. Keep caring. Keep speaking up. Keep asking questions. Our future depends on people like you 🙂

  6. Harquebus

    Personally, I don’t think that automation will progress much further. Robots are complex industrial machines that require a complex industrial society along with cheap and abundant energy and resources to produce and maintain them.

    You have surprised me. Well done.

    Ella Miller
    Contacting our P.M is something that I do regularly.

    Here are just a few of the many articles that I have read concerning this subject.

    “Foreseeing a rapidly approaching age of autonomous artificial intelligence, a European Parliament committee has voted to legally bestow electronic personhood to robots. The status includes a detailed list of rights, responsibilities, regulations, and a “kill switch.””

    “E-commerce and cloud giant Amazon has revealed that it now has 45,000 robots across 20 fulfilment centres around the world.”

    Amazon’s robot workforce grows by 50pc in just one year

    “Foxconn, the Taiwanese manufacturing giant behind Apple’s iPhone and numerous other major electronics devices, aims to automate away a vast majority of its human employees”


  7. Ella Miller

    Kaye Lee,
    Thank you i will keep thinking with my brain and i will just keep caring and learning

  8. kate ahearne

    Go, Cody!

    Thanks for this, Rossleigh. We’re probably going to need to look with sharper focus at the KINDS of jobs that are disappearing and the kinds of jobs that are more and more needing to be done, and which can only be done by humans. I’m thinking of the caring professions, where human contact is so terribly important – looking after the sick, the homeless, the aged, the marginalised, the lonely, and those who are disadvantaged in so many other ways. Machines can’t dispense sympathy or love. There’s a lot to be said for a basic wage that would be available to everyone, whether they need it or not. That way, maybe more people would be able to make themselves available for service in war zones and disaster areas and so on and on… famine relief, clean water projects … So much needs doing in this world that machines can’t do.

  9. Ella Miller

    thank you ..we sent it to
    but will also send it to where you suggested.
    I have also sent it to the editor at our local rag.
    I still can’t get over this mornings events.

    Yes. Go Cody! more power to the young who have not yet been twisted by this system.

  10. Harquebus

    Here’s another that just showed up on my reading list.

    “One of China’s first unmanned factories in the city of Dongguan recently replaced 590 of its workers with robots and the results were astounding. While the factory used to be run by 650 employees, only 60 of those people still work at the factory and their primary job is to make sure the machines are running properly, not working on manufacturing.”

  11. cartoonmick

    That’s awesome, Cody. Make sure Nanna gets your letter to the PM for you.

    Could I also suggest getting your letter into – Facebook and Twitter.

    ….. and, hang onto that letter for the rest of your life, Cody. Read it (twice) before you vote, in all future political elections.

    Cheers and good luck.

    . . . oh, and well done Nanna.

  12. jimhaz

    [can you tell me the names of some of your unemployed mates]

    Maybe that is part of the problem – too few salary only workers and too much commission based employment. In the old days Commissions were only in a few fields – certain sales areas like cars and insurance for example.

    “Max Employment is owned by a US billion dollar multi-national corporation and has significant legal resources, it is important that it is not given special privileges by the Government”

    Ok in Trumps possibly more protectionist world we should be kicking this company out of Australia !!!! He is a tit for tat operator and needs to cop repercussions.

    Now the wealthy have gotten rich from rent seeking activities they are passing the game down the line by forcing everyone into commissions and KPI rubbish to obtain an adequate total income.

    So the rich rent seekers get:

    The gift from politicians of a new ticket clipping market that they did not have to pay anything for, other than normal office administration costs.

    More productive company workforce – but only so in relation to ticket clipping, not in added value.

    Deregulation so they can completely abandon social responsibility.

    The provision of a community service on behalf of the government where there are no actual requirements for provision – they would have some “requirements” but no true KPIs on which the value of the contract with gov would be accurately measured. Gov wont measure this as they do not care at all.

    Massive taxation benefits on the personal income gained from these dud companies where invested income rates are much lower than income gained from work.

    F*ck the ALP – unless they adopt a policy of abandoning these contracts I won’t vote for them. It would be irresponsible of me – when it is ever so clear they not just do not add value, but take value away.

    It is very clear they operate as ticket clippers.

  13. Roswell

    Cody, you’re a legend.

  14. LOVO

    One wonders what robots will buy with ‘their’ discretionary spending.
    Well done Cody….and Nana. ☺
    Might I suggest, Cody, that you get your mates to write as well.

  15. kate ahearne

    LOVO, Good point.But no doubt their owners will buy heaps.

  16. Florence nee Fedup

    “I had a visit by Max employment services 1 month ago, ” If true, suggest they would be better occupied getting jobs for those already on their books. Something wrong here. More like private investigators.

  17. Andre Poublon

    We need a new word for this. “Disemployment”.

  18. king1394

    Investment in machines that replace people is only possible because the Government provides a payment to those people to keep them going (barely). We have to stop talking about welfare payments and unemployment and recognise that these payments are subsidies to business. And ‘disemployment’ is a good term for displaced workers.

  19. kate ahearne

    King, So do you think we should get rid of the dole?

  20. paulwalter

    Well, we already know from the Centrelink debacle what happens to the unemployed in the brave new world…f*ck off and go starve.

  21. spotteddoveblog

    Many years ago, in the early 80’s I read an article in “Electronics Australia” titled something like “How Technology Raises the IQ of the Village Idiot.” I no longer have the article but the gist of it was this
    Prior to the industrial revolution there was the village idiot –
    IQ in the bottom 10 percentile
    Drool coming out of both sides of his mouth
    Barely able to string 2 words together
    But he had a job! He could muck out the stables – Load the result onto a cart and then take it to wherever passed for the local dump. He may not have known where he was going, but the horse did. He was still a productive member of his society
    Came the industrial revolution and the introduction of the tractor. While the demise of the horse as a form of transport saw the birth of a new industry (the pet food industry), it did nothing for our friend. There was no way he would ever be allowed to drive a tractor.
    This situation has progressed over the years and this is the situation with which we are now being presented. The “lower level” jobs have gone the way of the horse. Automation and computerisation may have brought about new industries – robot maintenance, computer programmers, network engineers etc. but this has not helped the fate of the process workers and assembly line workers who are now without work and with little prospect of finding any.
    This reality is the reality of our unemployed today. There is a dearth of unskilled positions, and while the demise of these positions have seen the birth of yet another industry (the employment agencies) it does nothing to deal with the issue.

  22. kate ahearne

    Spotted, I take my hat off to you. What a wonderful thing you have said so wonderfully

  23. corvus boreus

    The village idiot’s IQ remains fundamentally unchanged.
    What has changed is that he is now on welfare (under conditions of ‘mutual obligation’), and in place of the old job to which he was well suited he now must submit fortnightly job applications to dozens of businesses who would never consider hiring him.
    Ps, the poor fool also owes Centrelink a few thousand dollars, because automated data-matching has billed him for wages earned during his last 6 months of manure-collecting, before he was made redundant and forced onto Newstart.

  24. Ella Miller

    Just an update on Cody’s letter to the PM,
    NO RESPONSE..not even automated acknowledgement.

  25. Harquebus

    Ella Miller
    Something went wrong. The link that I provided earlier always provides an automated response.
    The address is not monitored while M.T. (head) is P.M. and you should have got an automated response stating that also.

  26. Florence nee Fedup

    Ella send it to all in government MPs with comment the kid got no response from PM email address.

  27. Shogan

    “Whatever the answer, maybe it’s time to do more than think outside the box.”

    Thinking outside the box is not something that neo-liberals do, greed is their god, greed is good & only a world wide depression will change those thoughts.

    Failing that, fear of a revolution might change their way of thinking, if not revolution is the only answer.

  28. Ella Miller

    Harquebus, I tried that address but it was not correct.

    Florence nee Fedup,

    living in Tasmania we sent it to;
    Senator Whish-Wilson
    Senator Abetz
    Senator Lambie
    and Chris Bowen.

    None of the emails HAVE BEEN RETURNED ……but not even an automated response.

    I guess the child does not vote .

  29. cartoonmick

    Please don’t give up, Ella. Cody needs you to succeed for him.

    I don’t know any correct addresses, but I’d start with a phone call to the office of your local member.
    Ask them for the email address of the PM, and any other pollies you would like to send it too.
    Resend it to the pollies who have ignored it, and keep sending it til you get a response.
    They have to respond to you, because they work for us. We gave them the job and we pay them.

    If all else fails, Ella, then get it out into facebook and twitter, and include the zero response to your emails.

    Newspapers, TV and radio are also interested in stories of this nature. And don’t stop with the first sign of disinterest. There are “media” people interested, you may have to dig around to find them.


  30. Ella Miller

    I have posted it on my facebook page.

    although I am not computer literate enough to know how to do a lot.

    I am not worried for Cody , the support he has got on this page has been amazing for him, and I thank you all.
    I also think he is innocent enough to still believe that one person can make a difference, and he feels he has.

    It just goes to prove how little we matter to our representatives..when an innocent child’s sincere concerns are so easily dismissed by them,
    not even deserving of a thank you.

  31. Ella Miller

    I have just gone to my facebook page and both private and public posts have vanished.
    Any ideas?

  32. Harquebus

    Ella Miller
    Again, something is wrong. The link works fine.

    Here it is again:

    The submit button is at the bottom of the page.
    I hope you can get it sorted. It is a good thing that your grandson is trying to communicate with our P.M.


  33. Ella Miller

    Harquebus, thank you.
    I DID IT.
    I think I tried to use above as email, that is why it did not work

  34. Harquebus

    Ella Miller
    You are more than welcome.

  35. cartoonmick

    Sorry Ella, can’t help with facebook, not all that clever myself when it comes to facebook and other computer stuff.

    I would still recommend pushing social media and mainstream media if you don’t get response from the polies.

    Just imagine the fast response you would have received from them if your email contained words such as “Hi, I would like to donate $20,000 to your political party, how do I do that?”

    Good luck with it all,

  36. helvityni

    Ella, our PM might be financially savvy, but to me he seems to lack emotional intelligence, empathy…

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