MWA2 – Machine World Anxiety: Stage Two

Our machines have us right where they want us – nose to the grind stone, too busy, too dependent, and too confident. When we realized the machines were coming for our jobs, MWA1 set in. We don’t think about it constantly, but it’s there. They are coming. We know it.

I visited the cemetery recently just prior to Memorial Day. It was quiet – peaceful. A woman was handing out flags. The flowers along the path were vibrant and temporal in contrast to the grey of the tombstones. Tombstones are forever. My thoughts wandered. I got stuck on the figurative death of our economy, and an epitaph for the tombstone. That’s when the gallows humor set in. Gallows humor was a survival tactic during the Vietnam War. It became ingrained – second nature. There are times when it fails, and the music stops. This was one of those days.

I have this cartoon in my head. There’s an endless plaza full of people, standing in silence. Overhead drones pull banners reading… “It’s all right. There’s nothing to see, it’s all over. None of this is actually happening.” 



Ford to the crowd – Douglas Adams “The More Than Complete Hitchhiker’s Guide”


Ford’s galactic words from Douglas Adams, The More Than Complete Hitchhiker’s Guide, seem a fitting toast to the future and to Machine World, given our circumstances.

Frak – This is stage two.

Why so soon? Why now? I had a placeholder on the timeline for the summer of 2016 for stage two.  Let’s look at some of the events of May 2014.

May 27th Larry Summers in a Financial Times article commented about technological unemployment, robots and automation already taking jobs. Earlier in May, David Fuller speaking about US Fed Chair Janet Yellen, said; “Yellen will know that smart machines are the main reason for the “elevated” unemployment rate and the huge number of people who are working part-time rather than full-time which they would prefer.” On the 28th it was Bill Gates comments about robots stealing our jobs, and early in the month the Dallas Fed published an economic letter, which cited technological unemployment as a cause of “disappearing jobs”.

Nevertheless, changes in the composition of the labor force cannot explain why middle-skill jobs are disappearing in the first place. The leading explanation is automation of routine tasks. The increased availability of computing power and a rapid reduction in its cost over the past three decades has led to computers replacing a large number of workers performing routine tasks. 

The transition to Machine World is underway. This is stage two. The machines are here (and, not to worry, more capable machines are on the way).

All that’s left is the gallows humor, the knowledge that this can’t possibly go on forever, and the thought that forever can be a long long time. The good news is, it’s DIY. The transition to Machine World is not covered in the operating manual. We are going off plan.


You may also be interested in MWA – Machine World Anxiety Stage One.



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