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Automation on the Job


I was reading something not related to the topic but came across an interesting detail, which resonates with automation on the job, or rather lack of such automation.

Herbert Spencer, an English philosopher who coined the phrase "the survival of the fittest", was invited ones to Pittsburgh by steel magnate Andrew Carnegie. That was the time when the concept of evolution (word also introduced by Spencer) was actively applied to social fabric of the society by Spencer and others.

What Spencer saw on the factory floors of Mr. Carnegie prompted him to say another phrase, which I find very descriptive: "Six months of residence here would justify suicide."

I understand that was the time when automation of steel production was in its infancy at best and 60 hours working week was commonplace. The point here is whenever we think of 15 hours working week (and don't get me wrong - I would love to have it!), we should put our current 40 hours in the context of automation development from 19 to 20th century. Whether our jobs boring or stressful, not too many contemporary workers would go as far as to contemplate work-related suicide after 6 months in the office (factory floor, warehouse, store etc). Speed of automation development accelerated big time since era of Carnegie's plants as article's illustration of that steel factory in North Carolina testifies. It seems to me though, that even if 15 hours week would become a norm, we will find a reason to be grumpy about work week length anyways.

posted by Anvar Amangoulov
January 12, 2009


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