I was once asked the question, “What is technology?” and I was a bit baffled at the time. Cause technology is ‘fire’, ‘assembly line’, ‘printing press’, ‘Google Search’ — it’s innovation to an extent, but so what? Let’s say that technology is ‘innovation’, then the next logical question would be, “What does technology do for society?”
I think that the first answer that most people think of (and that I thought of as well) is that technology benefits society. Yes, it can, but technology’s effect on society can’t be defined as a benefit because it can just as easily be used as a detriment to it; the perfect example being nuclear fusion: nuclear energy versus a nuclear bomb.
So, if technology can’t be defined as a ‘benefit to society’, then what does it do for society? In the search for that answer, I started along this line of thinking: more than innovation, technology leads to specialization. The innovation of fire, created an entire new industry where people could begin to specialize in such tasks as cooking, purely in the creation of a fire, or even in the creation of stronger weapons. Now let’s take a look at more of the macroeconomic effects of technology on society.
The hypothesis that I’d like to present is that, for a long time now, specialization has created more jobs than it has destroyed; however, it seems that we’ve reached a tipping point where specialization through technology destroys more jobs than it creates. Therefore, technological innovation has reached a point where it no longer supplements the work of human labor, but replaces it.
If we take this as fact, then we also need to take as fact that we’re moving toward a world where there will be less overall working hours available for society. Further, that if we stay within the societal bounds as currently constructed, those in abject poverty will only grow as their labor is replaced and that those in control of the ‘replaced human labor’ (ie robots) will reap the benefits in lieu of those replaced.
So, this goes back to my previous post on how I believe that socialism needs to serve as our foundation and capitalism as the playground on top of it. In this world where technological innovation is growing at a pace no generation since has seen, without an intervention, without a moral renaissance, we’ll become a society bent on revolution.
I’m not principally against revolution. If society pushes people to that point where they feel that they need to revolt, then I believe that there’s good reason behind it. However, revolution tends to lead toward bloodshed, general chaos, and a long transitory period of suffering for large masses of people. Therefore, my preference would be to avoid that.
So the general solution that I see is this: a system where people’s needs are met (the foundation of socialism), but where they’re then allowed to innovate freely (capitalism) on top of that foundation. My goal, therefore, is to try this model out within a corporate structure where you have to work to reap the benefits. I think that this can be accomplished through a combination of structural changes to how commerce is conducted, technological innovation, and a moral renaissance. I’m sure that I’ll talk about the practicalities and values of some of these in the future.