Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Robots, Anyone?

Testimony of Walter Reuther to the 1955 Joint Congressional Subcommittee Hearings on Automation and Technological Change (p. 124):
"Every tool on every operation has a green light, a yellow light, and a red light; and when all the green lights are on, it means that all the tools at each work station are operating up to standard. When a yellow light comes on, on tool No. 38, it means that the tool is still performing, but the tool is becoming fatigued and that is a warning sign, so that the operator sitting there looking at these panels will know that he has to get a replacement tool for tool No. 38. He stands by at that position on the automated machine, and at the point the red light would kick on, on the board, he walks over — the machine automatically stops — he puts the new tool in the place of the tool that is worn out, and automatically the green light comes on and the machine goes on. 
"When I went through this plant the first time I was told by a top official of the Ford Motor Co.: 'Mr. Reuther, you are going to have trouble collecting union dues from all of these machines.'
"And I said: 'You know that is not bothering me. What is bothering me is that you are going to have more trouble selling them automobiles.' That is the real significance. We have mastered the know-how of mass production, and what we need to do is to develop comparable distribution know-how so that we will have markets for the tremendous volume of production that automation now makes possible."
That was 1955. We “solved” the distribution know-how problem with something called “credit” a.k.a. debt: credit card debt, mortgage debt, government fiscal policy. How is that distribution know-how solution working out for you? Meanwhile that tremendous volume of cars has contributed to a tremendous volume of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere leading to a tremendous volume of seawater lapping at the NYC and Jersey shores during Sandy.

In 1956, Time magazine published a report titled, “One Big Greenhouse” and the Nation published an essay by Kenneth Burke titled ,”Recipe for Prosperity: ‘Borrow. Buy. Waste. Want.’” Those titles speak for themselves.


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