The future of work as previously
Thousands of newspaper column inches have
been written about the current state of work/jobs (eg excessive
working hours) and likely future scenarios. One thing
usually missing is the historic perception that technology
would free us from labour. Perhaps this perception is uncomfortable
to bear, as it implies massive failure of our economic system
to distribute the benefits of technology.
In the late 1700s, Benjamin Franklin predicted we'd
soon work a 4-hour week.
George Bernard Shaw predicted we'd work a 2-hour day
In 1933, the US Senate passed a bill for an official
30-hour work week. (President Roosevelt killed it.)
In 1935, W.K. Kellogg introduced a scheme to cut 2
hours from the working day, yet pay the same wages. It was
cost-effective morale and productivity rose; accident
and insurance rates fell.
In 1956, Richard Nixon predicted a 4-day work week
in the "not too distant future".
In 1965, a US Senate subcommittee predicted a 22-hour
work week by 1985, 14 hours by 2000.
In the 1960s, Paul and Percival Goodman estimated
that just 5% of the work being done would satisfy our food,
clothing and shelter needs.
In 1981, Buckminster Fuller claimed that 70% of US
jobs were unnecessary: "inspectors of inspectors,
reunderwriters of insurance reinsurers, Obnoxico promoters,
spies and counterspies
See also: The end of work >