This is the second in a series of posts about automation and humanity. This one is about my personal experiences with work that has certainly been taken over by a robot. I won’t be getting into the philosophical side of this paradigm shift here. That will wait for a future post.
I was fortunate enough to be able to pay my own way through college with a minimal amount of loans. Dad as a single parent just didn’t have the resources to help me. He was busy surviving week to week. My mother, who was then married to a rich lawyer was too focused on herself to have much left for anyone else. She offered no help for me. To pay for college I applied for several hardship scholarships but since Mom was wealthy they were all rejected. So, to get through college meant I had to work as much as I could and I did just that.
I was fortunate enough to get a job for four of the five summers in a small factory next to the sand casting place where Dad worked. Uncle Harold, one of Mom’s brothers, was the time-keeper there and that was enough to get me in the door. Since I didn’t have a car being able to travel the forty plus miles to Indy everyday with Dad was my path to a job. The job paid about $1.50/hr. It was a union job so I ended up giving part of that wage to Jimmy Hoffa for the privilege of working there.
The job entailed for the most part drilling the same holes in the same type part thousands of times. To state it as simply as I can, it was mind numbing! The only thing that allowed me to do it was I could drift off into a dream world and my hands would do the job without much mental activity.
Being a union job every task had a certain number of parts that you were expected to drill in an eight-hour shift. I found that the required number of parts meant I had to work at a snail’s pace. It was boring but I needed the pay. My last summer there I got so bored I decided to say “to hell with the rate, I’m going to do the number I want”. The first day I did that I ended up doing 250% production! It didn’t take long for others around me who were for the most part full-timers to warn me to slow down as I was ruining the job for them. To say it mildly they were pissed that I showed “management” that the rate was actually agonizingly slow. I was not given a job during my fifth summer and I’m sure that was the reason. Even Uncle Harold couldn’t make that happen.
Henry Ford by paying so much for assembly line work revolutionized factory work. He made it possible for an uneducated man to have a middle class life. That was unheard of before him. But, assembly line work and any other repetitive work was mind numbing. Today robots for the most part have replaced all those jobs and that trend will continue to increase in the future. I think eventually, after the shock has worn off, losing those jobs to unthinking machines will be celebrated….