Jeremy Rifkin\'s "The End of Work"


Assignment #2
by
Sugumar Sivagnanam 233722 Sec. C
Dominic Lozada 228223 Sec. B
Mike McDonald Sec. C

Presented for
M.N. Kiggundu

Business 42.210

Individuals tend to develop a false sense of security concerning the
certainty of their jobs. After working for an organization for fifteen or more
years, it is difficult for them to understand that their employers may no longer
need their service. Jeremy Rifkin wrote The End of Work in order to warn people
about what he foresees may be happening to the global labour force because of a
rapid increase in the use of automation in the workplace. He identifies what he
believes are causes of the problems which we are currently facing within the
organizational structure along with some potential solutions. Rifkin\'s ideas
may be relevant to most peoples lives including ours. The reactions of six
currently employed persons to Rifkin\'s message will be included in this text.
These professionals include a technical manager, a convenience store owner, a
cashier for Marriot food services, a Residence-Life Staff Coordinator, a Part-
Time Credit Card Service Assistant and an Assembler for an Electrical Switch-
Gear Manufacturing Company.

Rifkin observes that the main problem of mass global employment in both
the private and public sectors is caused by the continuing advances in
technology and it\'s impacts on organizations, it\'s structure and design and it\'s
direct effect on the global labour force. In particular, organizations are
using the concept of re-engineering and replacing human labour with labour
saving technologies. Rifkin gives us a better understanding of the development
of the cause of this problem by examining the three industrial revolutions. In
the first industrial revolution, Rifkin identifies steam power as the major tool
used by industrial and manufacturing sectors. In the second industrial
revolutions the electrical innovation effected the manufacturing, agricultural
and transport industries by further reducing the global labour force.

Unlike the past, two industrial revolutions where industrial
technologies replace the physical power of human labour, the third revolution
(The Information Age), at present, is contributing new computer based technology
which are involving into thinking machines. These thinking machines will evolve
to the extent that eventual the human mind will be replaced in all economic
activities. In particular, advancements in computer technology including
parallel processing and artificial intelligence (robots) are going to cause a
large number of white collar workers to be redundant in the near future.
Furthermore as a result of advancement in the information and telecommunications
technologies, organizations are using the concept of re-engineering to
restructure their organizations to make them more computer friendly. As a
direct result of this, training employees in multi-level skills, shortening and
simplifying production and distribution processes and streamlining
administration. One example of this is the global auto industry which is
reengineering it\'s operation and investing in new labour displacing information
technology, related industries are doing the same, eliminating more and more
jobs in the process.

It is Rifkin\'s belief that it is technology that is taking jobs away
from people. He includes many statistics concerning job loss, unemployment and
how much organizations are benefitting from all this, he states that "more than
75 percent of the labour force in most industrial nations engage in work that is
little more than simple repetitive tasks. Automated machinery, robots and
increasingly sophisticated computers can perform many if not most of these
jobs... in the years ahead more than 90 million jobs in a labour force of 124
million are potentially vulnerable to replacement by machines." (Rifkin p.5).
He shows us that this global unemployment effects those who are in agriculture
industry, "nearly half the human beings on the planet still farm and land. Now,
however, new breakthroughs in the information and life sciences threaten to end
much of outdoor farming by the middle decades of the coming century." (Rifkin
p.109). Just to show us how widespread this problem is, he includes information
concerning the downfall of those who work in the service industry "computers
that can understand speech, read script, and perform tasks previously carried
out by human beings foreshadow a new era in which service industries come
increasingly under the domain of automation." (Rifkin p. 143).

Rifkin does, however have a few solutions to this dilemma. The first of
which demonstrates a 30-hour work week because "the information and
communication technology revolutions virtually guarantee more production with
less human labour... Free time will come, William Green said, the only choice
is unemployment or leisure." (Rifkin p.222). There are already organizations
which have implemented this 30-hour week, with great success. Employees must
take a small pay cut, but they remain employed