Technology and the Future of Work

Every society creates an idealised image of the future - a vision that serves as
a beacon to direct the imagination and energy of its people. The Ancient Jewish
nation prayed for deliverance to a promised land of milk and honey. Later,
Christian clerics held out the promise of eternal salvation in the heavenly
kingdom. In the modern age, the idea of a future technological utopia has served
as the guiding light of industrial society. For more than a century utopian
dreamers and men and women of science and letters have looked for a future world
where machines would replace human labour, creating a near workerless society of
abundance and leisure. (J Rifkin 1995 p.42)

This paper will consider developments in technology, robotics, electronic
miniaturisation, digitisation and information technology with its social
implications for human values and the future of work. It will argue that we have
entered post modernity or post Fordism, a new age technological revolution,
which profoundly effects social structure and values. Some issues that will be
addressed are: elimination of work in the traditional sense, longevity, early
retirement, the elimination of cash, the restructuring of education, industry
and a movement to global politics, economics and world government.

In particular this paper will suggest that the Christian Judao work ethic with
society\'s goals of full employment in the traditional sense is no longer
appropriate, necessary or even possible in the near future, and that the
definition of work needs to be far more liberal. It argues that as a post market
era approaches, that both government and society will need to recognise the
effects of new technology on social structure and re-distribute resources, there
will need to be rapid development of policies to assist appropriate social
adjustments if extreme social unrest, inequity, trauma and possible civil
disruption is to be avoided.

Yonedji Masuda (1983) suggests we are moving from an industrial society to an
information society and maintains that a social revolution is taking place. He
suggests that we have two choices ‘Computopia\' or an ‘Automated State\', a
controlled society. He believes that if we choose the former, the door to a
society filled with boundless possibilities will open; but if the latter, our
future society will become a forbidding and a horrible age. He optimistically
predicts our new future society will be ‘computopia\' which he describes as
exhibiting information values where individuals will develop their cognitive
creative abilities and citizens and communities will participate voluntarily in
shared goals and ideas.

Barry Jones (1990) says we are passing through a post-service revolution into a
post- service society - which could be a golden age of leisure and personal
development based on the cooperative use of resources.

Jeremy Rifkin (1995) uses the term ‘The Third Industrial Revolution\' which he
believes is now beginning to have a significant impact on the way society
organises its economic activity. He describes it as the third and final stage
of a great shift in economic paradigm, and a transition to a near workless
information society, marked by the transition from renewable to non-renewable
sources of energy and from biological to mechanical sources of power.

In contrast to Masuda, Jones and Rifkin, Rosenbrock et al. (1981) delved into
the history of the British Industrial Revolution, and they concluded firmly that
we are not witnessing a social revolution of equivalent magnitude, because the
new information technology is not bringing about new ways of living. They
predicted that we are not entering an era when work becomes largely unnecessary,
there will be no break with the past, but will be seeing the effect of new
technology in the next 20 years as an intensification of existing tendencies,
and their extension to new areas.

I suggest that Rosenbrock may come to a different conclusion with the benefit
of hindsight of changing lifestyles, 15 years later, such as the persistent rise
in unemployment and an aging society.

Population is aging especially in developed countries and will add significantly
to a possible future lifestyle of leisure. Most nations will experience a
further rapid increase in the proportion of their population 65 years and older
by 2025. This is due to a combination of the post war baby boom and the advances
in medicine, health and hygiene technology with the availability and spread of
this information. Governments are encouraging delayed retirement whereas
businesses are seeking to reduce the size of their older workforce. The
participation rates of older men has declined rapidly over the past forty years
with the development of national retirement programmes. In many developed
countries the number of men 65 and older who remain in the workforce has fallen