Technology makes us realize the “useless” work we are doing

Pre-election periods are favorable for estimating points of convergence, as well as of course differences, which do not go unnoticed by political analysts.

Some of the affinities between ideological opposites are partial, such as that the invasion of Ukraine has legitimacy. Complete other discursive convergences. The biggest one is that job creation is an end in itself.

It is clear that there is a very large difference in the situation regarding labor reform; But no famous ideologist or politician questions the importance of employability itself. Everyone knows that this would be irrational – and that it would be political suicide.

It makes sense, after all, that this is a country where many yearn for a source of income that will allow them to put food on the table and have minimal rest, with employment being the most dignified and sustainable way to do so.

The fight against unemployment is placed above basic ideological divisions for reasons of political survival, while the nature of work is rarely discussed, which seems to me a big problem.

If 95% of the working population is employed, that’s great. It does not matter which party involved is doing useless tasks. As long as the numbers are good, we’ll be fine. vice versa.

You don’t have to frown so much to realize that this is a fallacy. Quests need to add something to the community. Otherwise, it will only lead to the weariness of those who do it, leading to insecurity and low self-esteem – as well as cementing the national income on the lower plateau where it has always been.

The debate about replacing work with technology in Brazil tends to leave this fundamental aspect aside, reducing itself to a kind of praise for delay and scarcity: we must do everything to stop the progress of the auto industry, once this threat is over with the practice of riding and destroying so many jobs.

In contrast, like the mechanical loom and the plow, modern lifts and carriage-free vehicles have made life better. This is generally true and especially for those who were on their way to becoming elevator operators and who today are working hard at something else.

In the United States and Japan, replacement severely affects low-skill jobs; Here, they get paid so low that they get it almost unscathed. momentarily.

The main objective of technological replacement in mid-sized economies like ours is low management or “management”: professionals who take meeting minutes, send emails so that no one forgets to fill out a certain form, and then download and save it. in Excel .

Here are also the professionals who apply selection processes on paper and then collect the results, the people who work to not allow suppliers to delay payment, the staff to send the output and the accounting person to send the invoice, after the approval of the customer.

It is not that these tasks, along with the occupations associated with them, are useless; The point is that the problems that are being solved are becoming much smaller with the help of technology.

The ecclesiastical view in Brazil and the rest of the world until some time ago was that replacing work with automation and artificial intelligence centralizes income, generates unemployment and nothing else.

Today, we see a more accurate picture, as the decline of traditional occupations has given rise to many other occupations, partly due to the increase in total available wealth, including food and drug production, and partly because of the secondary markets that emerging technologies themselves are stimulating. It should be noted that it is common for these markets to become larger than the ones they created.

Automation and artificial intelligence are synonymous with less work in industry, in the countryside, and in professions that rely on algorithms usually in urban areas. It is also synonymous with the growing demand for personal, digital and other services.

The medium-term vision of the technological substitution of labor must include mechanisms to supplement income – or even a universal basic income – after all, the trend implies a general reduction in the need for productive effort, as many social scientists have already revealed.

It is equally important to place education, including adult training, at the center of the debate. Without high-quality public schools, such as those that set the course for educational life in the United States and Europe (which did not privatize well-managed education, as we did), we would be done.

Having taken these considerations, it is important not to forget the other side of this story: important tasks are not left unfinished; They simply demand less human suffering, which makes them invisible to us.

Nobody needs to mop the floor to clean it; A simple machine does this, relieving the inhabitants of the richest countries from this burden. The same goes for the simpler managerial roles here.

One of the most notable aspects of all of this is that the proliferation of technologies that are perceived to be disruptive at some point is what leads to the perception that the mission or occupation is futile. Lampholders on public roads were only seen as part of this equation when electric lighting dominated the streets of large cities.

Now, let’s imagine how this realization spread. Could it be that as soon as the general illumination came on, everyone immediately realized that having someone take care of this job did not make sense, or is this understanding formed over time?

In the same way, has the advent of automatic elevators eliminated elevator operators or have we, for a long time, seen people sitting in elevators pressing buttons, as in buildings of lonely and rational nobility? You understand, I know.

The utility of human action is not merely a function of available alternatives, but rather a proxy for the ability to update beliefs about how things work.

Technological progress gives us subsidies to understand the unnecessary nature of a task, job or function, while in reality the dynamics with which this happens are characteristic of society, which is specially adapted to various innovations.

Often, this particular component does not penetrate into the problem of job abolition and the political tensions associated with it classically.

Take, for example, the use of video conferencing tools during a pandemic. This was approved from the ground up, which ended up revealing how much physical interactions could be dispensed with for existing productive circuits to keep track of their flow.

Hours and hours of traffic and hours of time and a group lunch in the company cafeteria, all of this was put out for almost two years without causing a significant drop in productivity.

However, given the signal of appeal, what we see is that many institutions have not been able to retain a drop of learning, which has put them at a disadvantage compared to those who have internalized the importance of dosing head-to-head and in a remote, strategic way.

The same can be said of countries: while some seem to have internalized this principle more deeply, others have passed largely by enforced default unscathed, like a deranged patient with his habitual inability to learn.

Looking at technological progress from an international point of view, it is easy to play the victim, saying that technology creates inequality between countries because it separates those who produce from those who consume.

It would be more accurate to consider that the inequality is partly due to this and partly due to the ability to respond to innovations that come from outside, including the extent to which a particular way of doing things can be substituted for a better way.

Despite being on the cusp of becoming the world’s largest economy, China is far from being the largest repository of disruptive innovations on the planet. On the contrary, the distinguishing feature of the country is the speed of adaptation, integration and focus on technologies that have originated in other countries.

This is what we lack. Even more than being able to lead the new stage of artificial intelligence or metaverses.

Leave a Comment