The economic article A Better Way’s main thesis is that productivity has paved the way for a better living in today’s world. The article starts off with a general but historical background of how production was in the earlier years and lays down the path of productivity which led to its positive effects in the present. It further points out how a closed-mind towards productivity is actually detrimental for future advancement. This paper will both discuss the key points of the article and my reaction to the same.
The general map and cycle of productivity is this: human beings used to do everything by themselves. The entire body of a person is used from the physical to the mental. There was need for muscle power and agility to be able to work. Then came the inventions that rapidly took over the work that humans used to do. It is at this point that human workers are displaced and had to look for other jobs to do. This general map and cycle is best exemplified in the agrarian sector wherein farmers used to everything in the farm from tilling the soil to planting the crops to harvesting.
And yet with the invention of machineries, tools, irrigation, and even the appearance of scientifically altered and advanced seeds, farmers had no place in the farm. And so they had to leave the farms for the city to work in factories and the industrial sector. At this point, another cycle begins. Assembly lines in factories are replaced by machines that can do the job better, faster and more efficiently. There was more output for a shorter span of time when machines are used. Once again, the worker is displaced. Productivity is one cycle that is very much disliked by the average worker.
It is the kind of change that is not readily acceptable as its short term effects are negative for the ordinary man. It seems that with the proliferation and rapid emergence of different kinds of technologies, it seems that there is no more need for a human being in the workforce. Industries are no longer satisfied with the physical skills of a person. There is a clamor for the mental capacity of a worker. Anything related to muscle power is no longer enough since there are many machines and even robots that can do the job.
Of course, the initial capital output or investment on such advancements are really expensive, compared to just hiring someone to do the job. And yet in the long run, the investment pays off. The article defends productivity in the sense that productivity actually creates more jobs for the workforce. It says that although the initial effect is that workers are displaced, these workers can actually shift to other industries where their talents are needed and will be more helpful.
It further provides that there is a hierarchy of talents that productivity can never replace such as imagination and creativity. Although it is a valid point that machines can never be creative or imaginative, it cannot be discounted that creativity and imagination is only available to a limited number of jobs such as the music, literary, and film industry. This then comes to my mind: productivity involves the manual aspect of the workforce. When technology takes over the manual skills of industries, the only thing needed is mental skills.
And these mental skills often require a certain amount of schooling and education. Going back to farmers who may not have been able to go to school, or the city children who could not afford to go to college, where will they be found when all the blue-collar jobs are taken over by robots? What will happen when labor becomes immobile? Surely, the idea of more for less will be applauded by business owners and traders and economists. But where will this leave the average Joe? I am not against the arguments of the article.
In fact I do admit that productivity definitely has its advantages. For example, although the email has made communications easier, there are still those things that cannot be sent over the internet such as bulky packages. For this, manual labor is still needed. And yet it is easier and faster to receive packages nowadays since there are trucks and airplanes that could bring them to you, instead of a messenger on foot. Life is indeed much better, even if this imaginary messenger of mine had lost his job.
I also admit that it is people who are responsible for all these advancements. It is the brightness of the human mind and human nature’s need for progress that brought about all these. And yet I ask, when will the world say, I am satisfied? Living standards may be better now but isn’t anyone afraid that there will come a time that machines will rule our world and people will just be subordinate to them? It may seem like a ridiculous idea but in our day and age where robots are invented as housemaids, it doesn’t sound so crazy after all.
The unmeasured payoffs of productivity seem so enticing at first look. But there will come a time when displaced workers have no more industries to go to; when even college graduates cannot find a job because technology does it for them. The question will be: now what? Imagination and creativity can only go so far. When the productivity cycle suddenly stops, when labor can no longer exercise its mobility, when inventions start inventing, it will probably only be mothers who will have a full-time job. After all, technology can never replace the touch and love of a mother.