Automation can destroy us

Dear Editor:

The automated, driverless vehicle in Mark Benjamin’s Jan. 16  piece, “Google hates me!” is symptomatic of the worker-less factories and wage-less countrymen that seem to be our dismal future. Even social ostriches among us should see that automation can destroy us.

A primary purpose of automation in the workplace is to displace workers. High precision, repeatability and through-put can be obtained with machines … good things all … but machines will run 24 hours without food or rest, don’t get two days off, don’t join unions, don’t enroll in employer-contributed health insurance and retirement plans. They don’t get hired or fired, so for them HR doesn’t exist. It’s a win-win for machines’ ownership. But what of those unlucky souls put out of work by them? What of our country when sufficient of our fellow citizens are forced onto an unsustainable dole? Revolutionary zeal will overtake.

Alexis de Tocqueville was a French political philosopher of the mid 1800s who admired the United States. A quote from him rings so true. “If you would create a conservative class you must give the masses something to conserve.”

Obama’s election and re-election are partially the result of our modern failure to sufficiently heed de Tocqueville. Though Obama is over his head in the running of a leading country, many people’s hope for change overlooked that. Now we are entering phase two of the introduction to our demise: The curse of Franklin.

As Benjamin Franklin was leaving Constitution Hall at the writing of the Constitution, a bystander asked him: “Well Dr. Franklin, what sort of government have you given us?” “A Republic,” replied Franklin, “if you can keep it.” That preambles a type of prophecy, since attributed to Franklin is this: “When the people find out they can print money it will spell the beginning of the end of the Republic.” Haven’t now too many of our unemployed found out they can have money printed for them?

A growing population and a decreasing need for workers due to automation and company offshoring lead ultimately to revolutionary radicalism. It’s inevitable.

Rod Bergengren
Cambridge

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