To mechanise or not


This is the question.

I don’t know if this only a problem for the third and developing world or is it a problem for the majority of us, well maybe excepting celebrities and the Kardashians( did I spell that correctly)?

Many firms around the globe are working on maintaining the bottom line above the ceiling, through all available means and this in a way has led to great innovations; creating machines that do the work of hundreds fast and efficiently. This helps match up the required productivity but on the downside, hundreds get fired laid off. If anyone has watched K-19, The widow maker, I would readily agree with them, it would have been 100x better to have a machine work in the reactor chamber once it was breached. I would say the same about those cleaning Fukushima? Chernobyl and other nuclear sites. I am not sure the same is true for replacing 100s of tea pickers with one machine. What becomes of their families and all those who depend on them?

Is this an ethical and moral question of our age or is this the musings of a naive third world mind?

Advertisements

About makagutu

As Onyango Makagutu I am Kenyan, as far as I am a man, I am a citizen of the world

29 thoughts on “To mechanise or not

  1. john zande says:

    I vital conversation to be had. I often think about the coming of drone delivery services. How many unskilled drivers will this put out of work? Where can such people find alternative employment?

    Like

    • makagutu says:

      Yes, those are the questions I ask. What answers are there?
      Is there a way to keep them in employment and still have a bottom line? Is the bottom line so important, humanity be damned?

      Like

      • john zande says:

        It scares me. In a country like Australia drones will be absorbed with some discomfort. But, in a country like Brazil where there is a massive unskilled/under-skilled labor force it will be devastating… and we continue to increase our population. It’s not going to end well.

        Like

        • makagutu says:

          It is my fear it may not end wall for many people.
          You know something else they say is a threat to our continued existence, global warming or rather climate change because of the pressures it puts on available resources like food production and so on.
          Today I was reading an article in the Economist about damming the Mekong river. There are 25 planned dams, some in China, Laos and I can’t recall where else. The author says all those dams will result in changes in ecosystems that may be irreversible

          Like

          • tildeb says:

            Most people seem completely unaware of the central role climate change has played in creating and exacerbating the Syrian conflict. Of course, we in the West are so used to feeling like we’re responsible for everything (and so it must therefore be in our power to fix everything… usually with some military intervention) that many of us don’t really hear any other voices, don’t seriously consider any other viewpoint. It would help if the press actually investigated such issues and presented them publicly, but with the rise of the internet commentary community and ‘public’ journalism (read, ill-informed) we are losing that organ of state to do the job of honestly inquiring before formulating a strong opinion. Again, education must make up the shortfall or we’re going to someday read serious historians who tell us Fox News was the last and only honest mass media that tried to stop the downfall of Western civilization.

            Like

          • makagutu says:

            First we are in agreement that most people underestimate the effect of climate change in a global scale and as a contributor to the conflicts.

            If Fox news outlives the New Republic or is it the Salon, that would most likely be the history the future generations will learn

            Like

  2. There are vast amounts of people who will never be capable of working jobs that require a high level of physical or mental capability. How are they integrated into a modern world?

    Here in the US there is a discussion going on about how much one should pay unskilled workers. Should every one be guaranteed a living wage no matter what they do? What should “living” define e.g. what are “luxuries”?

    I’m personally for population control but understand full well the dangers in that.

    Like

    • makagutu says:

      I am equally for population control and are at least aware of some of the dangers.
      What do we do with unskilled labourers? Or semi skilled?
      Should we have a safe net for everyone?
      Many questions but not so many answers

      Like

      • At least here in the US, there is enough capital to make sure everyone would get as educated as possible. It seems to be a matter of changing the culture to value education, to learn how to think.

        I’m curious, have you ever seen any data for unskilled/semi skilled labourers in countries with very strong educational systems? Of course, most of those countries also have fairly good social safety nets to begin with. Which may be me answering my own questions….. šŸ˜›

        Like

        • makagutu says:

          Last I heard, the debt for college leavers or those in college in the US is somewhere close to the ceiling and if the trend continues, such students or graduates will be forever in debt. Maybe I should check my sources.
          I see around me so many people educated in the social sciences and liberal arts. There can only be enough of them doing community development. Maybe there should be curriculum change. I don’t know

          Like

    • fojap says:

      I think population is a serious issue, but I believe the best approach is to give people the tools to control their own reproduction. There’s good indication that birth rates go down significantly when people are given a choice. And I think there are several good solid reasons to try that approach rather than anything more draconian. The big obstacle, as I see it, to that, are the religious people.

      Like

  3. tildeb says:

    Well, what did all those farriers do? All those stables to maintain, horse feed to provide, carts to build, watering stations to keep operational, coal delivery to the smithies?

    What about the telegraphers? The data entry clerks? The scythe makers? The newspaper printers? Water clock adjusters?

    Supply and demand is always in flux, with winners and losers trading places several times over a life span. For crying out loud, hand made Valentine Day cards these days is now a multi-million dollar ‘industry’. I used to call it ‘crafting’ and something young children excelled at; now it’s called ‘entrepreneurial foresight’.

    Preparing for employment (what is often confused as a synonym for ‘education’) by the teaching of job-related skills is fast going the way of those who were trained to install telephones with cords attached to wall receptacles: it seemed like a good idea at the time but hardly a career path to ensure a means to pay the rent. We need to ensure the next generation has (and adults in need of ‘re-training’ have) the thinking ability to learn anew – over and over again as required. That is a real world solution to real world changes.

    Do we ‘fix’ any of these changes by imposing some kind of population control? No. That’s not a solution. How about we spend our efforts making sure women are empowered for reproductive choices? That might go much further in controlling population to sustainable levels throughout the world than any kind of top-down enforcement. How about we support the means to learn whatever needs learning? Real education is what you have left when all your skills are no longer employable and that’s the well from which all of us will have to draw as more technological change comes our way.

    Adaptation. That’s the trick.

    Liked by 2 people

    • makagutu says:

      On this comment, I agree with your assessment. That we should anticipate the changes, adapt or be left out. In a way, I think this has worked well in most of the world except well in the rest of the world where big fashion goes to Indonesia for cheap labour, Apple to China for cheap labour, gold and diamond industries turning a blind eye to child labour in producing companies.
      Education, education, education.
      I support women empowerment everywhere, but most of all I support equitable opportunities for all. This to me is the best way, though may only be a dream, to solve the problem.

      Like

    • fojap says:

      I entirely agree with you.

      Like

  4. Ideally, tea pickers should be seeing the writing on the wall and finding other work. There will still be some places where they will still have work, where the farm owners will actually be able to charge a higher price for “hand-picked” tea. Those pickers will be able to earn a higher wage as a result.

    A similar process happened in the States as farming became more industrialized. However, with the advent of demand for organic produce, some farms are reverting back to older methods of farming. If the process goes the same way for your nation, you’ll see farms spreading to the extremes of small organic operations and large automated operations.

    Hopefully, your country will be able to keep money going into its economy instead of just letting the crops get removed at dangerously low prices.

    Like

    • makagutu says:

      I like this idea.
      In the 1990s the IMF and World Bank introduced structural adjustment programs, SAPs, they called them. Many people were laid off. There was no time to retrain. No time for many to adjust and lives were ruined completely. What happens here? What does one do?

      Like

  5. shelldigger says:

    I think Tildeb nailed it. Adapt. It is what we have had to do since day one.

    Someone has to build and maintain the machines. Someone has to clean the aisles where they build and maintain the machines. Someone will figure out if they can shoot drones out of the sky they can have free stuff!

    Like

  6. This is the ethical and moral question of our age.

    Like

    • makagutu says:

      Some people look at it superficially, dismiss it as a third world problem and when I read articles from everywhere, there is an outcry of people losing their jobs to cheap migrant workforce and then I begin to think maybe my news sources are wrong.

      Like

      • That ubiquitous outcry is very real and completely justified. However, the problem wasn’t caused by migrant workers but by greedy corporations who seek to exploit cheap labor wherever and however they can.

        Like

        • makagutu says:

          So maybe there should be a way to reign on greed? An uphill task

          Like

          • Greed, self-interest, or however else we describe it, is inherent in our species (and in all species, for that matter). Therefore, it is a resident sociological constant within any given population.

            However, humans also have a latent capacity for empathy and compassion. The balance between self-interest and common-interest is determined by specific culture at the societal level. American culture today, for example, is weighted heavily towards narcissism. Many other cultures today are much more magnanimous. So, reining-in greed might be an uphill task but it’s still doable.

            Like

    • makagutu says:

      The matter has been addressed here and here

      Like

  7. fojap says:

    Hunter-gatherers they say averaged twenty hour work weeks. Farming allowed more people on the land, but required more labor. Maybe most of us can go back to being hunter-gatherers, spend our afternoons doing some pretty bead work. šŸ™‚

    That’s only half a joke. The problem is not the lack of work, it’s the lack of money that goes with the lack of work. The benefits of labor saving devices go to the owners of capital. Hand-picked tea sounds silly to me, but history has shown that “artificial needs” arise to fill the gaps.

    We need progressive taxation to offset the “condensation of wealth” effect and prevent capital from accumulating in so few hands that it undermines its productivity and distorts the political power balance. We need spending on infrastructure, education and other items from which society as a whole benefits. After the Industrial Revolution, what was seen as a normal number of working hours was reduced, maybe we need another, similar reduction.

    I don’t believe there’s any one answer. I don’t think utopia is achievable. We just need to address the individual problems as they arise.

    If Kenya doesn’t mechanize its tea, someone else will and their tea will be cheaper. You might find a market despite having higher priced tea if your quality is higher, but I would expect at least some loss. The question is, therefore, not whether or not to mechanize. You will either mechanize or lose most of your tea sales. The question is what to do with the displace workers.

    Temporary subsidies while they are retrained, perhaps. Retrained for what? Subsidies and retraining paid for by whom? Not small questions.

    You know my sister’s company does worker training and placement. They started out working in a rural are and have since expanded to the inner city. She talks a lot about what people can do for a living and how to train them. We’ve had endless conversations about it. I’m always keeping my eye out for news articles about this or that opportunity. Even when there is a potential opportunity, then there is the question of who will pay for it.

    They’re taking down abandoned houses in Baltimore. My sister is trying to talk them into doing “deconstruction” instead of demolition. It creates more jobs. Materials can be recycled. It is less disruptive to the communities where it is occurring. It is also more expensive.

    They make a dozen jobs here, half a dozen there. It’s a drop in the bucket, but then it’s better than nothing.

    Like

    • makagutu says:

      Well said.
      The question of who pays for the retraining is a pertinent one and retrained for what? What field isn’t overcrowded and so on.
      I think some farms mechanized but most still use manual labour. I have shared pictures of the hand tea pickers before.
      The idea of free afternoons for bead making sounds like fun.
      Yes, you get my question. The lack of jobs is attended with lack of money and a stagnant economy

      Like

  8. […] A while back we discussed to mechanise or not […]

    Like

We sure would love to hear your comments, compliments and thoughts.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s