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Posts Tagged ‘work

“The gods keep livelihood hidden from men. Otherwise a day’s labor could bring man enough to last a whole year with no more work.”*…

 

Ind Rev

Upheaval more than a century into the Industrial Revolution, and more than 100 years ago:
An International Workers of the World union demonstration
in New York City in 1914. Credit: Library of Congress

 

As automation and artificial intelligence technologies improve, many people worry about the future of work. If millions of human workers no longer have jobs, the worriers ask, what will people do, how will they provide for themselves and their families, and what changes might occur (or be needed) in order for society to adjust?

Many economists say there is no need to worry. They point to how past major transformations in work tasks and labor markets – specifically the Industrial Revolution during the 18th and 19th centuries – did not lead to major social upheaval or widespread suffering. These economists say that when technology destroys jobs, people find other jobs…

They are definitely right about the long period of painful adjustment! The aftermath of the Industrial Revolution involved two major Communist revolutions, whose death toll approaches 100 million. The stabilizing influence of the modern social welfare state emerged only after World War II, nearly 200 years on from the 18th-century beginnings of the Industrial Revolution.

Today, as globalization and automation dramatically boost corporate productivity, many workers have seen their wages stagnate. The increasing power of automation and artificial intelligence technology means more pain may follow. Are these economists minimizing the historical record when projecting the future, essentially telling us not to worry because in a century or two things will get better?…

We should listen not only to economists when it comes to predicting the future of work; we should listen also to historians, who often bring a deeper historical perspective to their predictions. Automation will significantly change many people’s lives in ways that may be painful and enduring.

Get a start on understanding that history at “What the Industrial Revolution Really Tells Us About the Future of Automation and Work.”

* Hesiod, Work and Days

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As we hum “Hi Ho, Hi Ho,” we might send ink-stained birthday greetings to Richard March Hoe; he was born on this date in 1812.  In 1847, he patented the rotary printing press.  Hoe had invented the press a couple of years earlier and improved it before submission. His creation greatly increased the speed of printing, as it involved rolling a cylinder over stationary plates of inked type, using the cylinder to make an impression on paper– thus eliminating the need to make impressions from pressing type plates, which were heavy and difficult to maneuver.  In 1871, Hoe added the ability to print to continuous rolls of paper, creating the “web press” that revolutionized newspaper and magazine printing.  His first customer was Horace Greeley’s New York Tribune.

Hoe’s “web perfecting press,” with continuous feed

source

 

Written by LW

September 12, 2017 at 1:01 am

“Apparently I lack some particular perversion which today’s employer is seeking”*…

 

Justine Kurland, Rebuilt Engine, 2013

The second floor of Buffalo’s Albright-Knox Art Gallery currently greets patrons with an empty conveyor belt moving through, and back around, a giant mirror.

“Contemporary capitalism trades in nonexistence,” Agnieszka Kurant, the artist behind the piece, told ArtForum in 2013. “Seventy percent of money in this world is phantom—it exists virtually, on computers—but still produces physical consequences.” Much the same tone is at play in Kurant’s contribution to Overtime: The Art of Work, a new collection of artwork that examines the struggles of laborers across nations and eras.

From paintings of child workers in 18th century England to 3-D printed limbs of contract workers in 21st century America, the show is relentlessly engaging…

Learn more about– and see more of– the exhibit at “Art That Understands What It’s Like to Work.”

* John Kennedy Toole, A Confederacy of Dunces

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As we whistle, we might send radically provocative birthday greetings to Kathy Acker; she was born on this date in 1947.  An experimental novelist, punk poet, playwright, performance artist, essayist, postmodernist, and feminist writer, she was a prolific creator who was formative influence on dozens of younger writers, and on Kathleen Hanna of Bikini Kill and Kim Gordon, co-founder of Sonic Youth.

In 1996, Acker was diagnosed with breast cancer, and underwent a double mastectomy.  The surgery was unsuccessful, and following year, she undertook a series of alternative therapies.  She died, in November of 1997, in an alternative cancer clinic in Tijuana, Mexico. She died in Room 101, to which her friend Alan Moore quipped, “There’s nothing that woman can’t turn into a literary reference.”

Reason is always in the service of the political and economic masters. It is here that literature strikes, at this base, where the concepts and actings of order impose themselves. Literature is that which denounces and slashes apart the repressing machine at the level of the signified.

Kathy Acker, Empire of the Senseless (1988)

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Written by LW

April 18, 2015 at 1:01 am

“Heigh ho, heigh ho, it’s off to work we go”*…

 

Researchers often look at the number of hours worked, but rarely do they ask the question of when. Fortunately, the government conducts an annual study called the American Time Use Survey that tracks how people spend their days…

The interactive graph pictured above (and available live here) shows the share of workers who say they’re working in a given hour, grouped by occupation. The tabs at the top allow one to focus on different job categories to see how their average workdays differ from one another.  For example, servers and cooks have a schedule that’s essentially the opposite of all other occupations; their hours peak during lunch and hold steady well into the evening.

Explore more at “Who’s In The Office? The American Workday In One Graph.”

* Disney’s Seven Dwarfs

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As we breathe a sigh of relief that these studies don’t extend to what one does at work, we might recall it was on this date in 1929 that panicked sellers traded nearly 16 million shares on the New York Stock Exchange (four times the normal volume at the time), and the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 12%. Remembered as “Black Tuesday,” this was the conclusive event in the Crash of 1929, and is often cited as the start of the Great Depression.

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Written by LW

October 29, 2014 at 1:01 am

(Wet Your) Whistle While You Work…

 

From the ever-illuminating Lapham’s Quarterly.

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As we remember to use a coaster, we might send shocking birthday greetings to a man who genrrously lubricated his labors, the enfant terrible of French letters, Arthur Rimbaud; he was born on this date in 1854.  With his buddy, Symbolist poet Paul Verlaine, Rimbaud was a leader of the Decadent Movement; fueled by absinthe and hashish, he succeeded in shocking a literary establishment that was nonetheless awed by his visionary verse, which influenced modern literature and arts, inspired various musicians, and prefigured Surrealism.

All known literature is written in the language of common sense—except Rimbaud’s

– Paul Valéry

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Written by LW

October 20, 2013 at 1:01 am

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