Thu Dec 18th, 2008 at 10:56:26 AM EST
Today was trash pickup day in my neighborhood.
This modern truck with robotic arms slowly drove along the neighborhood streets. It would stop in front of each trash container and the automated arms would reach out, grab the containers, lift and then dump the trash into the top of the truck. Then the driver drove onto the next trash can. Very impressive show!
Thirty years ago, the same task was performed by three people-a driver with two healthy young men jogging behind the trash truck manually emptying each trash container into the truck.
So today, one person and a very expensive truck performs the same job as three people and a much less expensive truck thirty years ago.
Progress! Or is it?
Certainly, no one would want to spend all day jogging behind a truck picking up garbage. Although it seems thirty years ago, plenty of people would do any dirty job if the work allowed them to make a living and sustain a family. And for some people, driving a garbage truck, picking up garbage or doing a simple repetitive manufacturing task all day is demanding enough. Not everyone can be a rocket scientist.
So in a time of overproduction, dwindling resources and not enough jobs, is society better off employing three people and using a cheap, basic truck or employing one person supplemented with a very expensive, advanced technology truck?
Technology means more efficient productivity. But what if productivity is so efficient that few people are necessary to meet societies needs? Thus leaving many without sustainable work providing the means to live securely? Is society better off or not?
Progress or not?