The Curse of Efficiency

Everybody with a working brain knows about the paradox of efficiency. Production processes have to become more efficient in order to stay competitive, but that greater efficiency may *never* result in giving people longer vacations. Instead, workers need to work even harder because the increased efficiency means competition has increased, too. Instead of enjoying the fruit of their ongoing creativity, workers enslave themselves more, are more afraid of being laid off (which becomes more inevitable the more efficient they become) and the toxic fumes of the system keep them dumbsmart enough to keep refusing any alternative.

Sounds like Marx, doesn’t it?

All the poor have to offer is their labor, and the value of that labor is irreversibly racing to the bottom. The result of that race will be a perfect class system. Perfect because it doesn’t allow for transgression between the classes because all that counts is raw power that clumps together like ferrous dust particles on magnets.

A world in which there is no work. The system is simply so efficient that there is no demand for the contribution of average human beings. *And economically spoken, demand will be taken care of by high net-worth individuals, that “sustain” the economy like the Maldives, banning every traditional culture to slums. So not their labor nor their consumption matters. Their skills will have been far surpassed by machines. No factory hires anything made of fragile flesh, no supermarket lane employs error-prone human cashiers, no logistics company lets soft grey tissue intervene in their state-of-the-art supply chain, and so on. The result is mass unemployment and a most urgent need for social change on a scale exponentially more radical than any past “revolution”.

Doing these things efficiently will throw people out of jobs faster than they can ever be replenished. Yet the point is of course that the revolution is radical enough to do away with the whole concept of “job” along with some other obscure remainder of past inefficiency. The idea is indeed a leisure animal like Ernst Bloch described in “Das Prinzip Hoffnung”, which has generated all thinkable counterarguments so that I don’t need to do that here.

But tell me what do you think? Is there a fundamental problem in a society where technology becomes more potent than the human brain? Will those in control of that technology form an elite that has something close to absolute power, with privileged access to the rapidly depleting resources of the planet? Or will a supercomputer calculate that equality among the human strata is the optimal outcome? Outcome for what? The rise of Intelligence?

Read: “The Singularity is Near” by Ray Kurzweil for a discussion of the adaptability of the social system to the exponential surge in technological capabilities of society.
Watch: “In Time”, movie with Justin Timberlake.