rosieDo you ever look back and remember what the future used to look like? Remember Rosie the Robot from the Jetsons? We wouldn’t have to cook any more, or do laundry, or clean, or… we could fill pages with the things that we wouldn’t have to do, when Rosie the Robot was real.

Life was going to be so easy someday, when we’d made robots to do everything for us. We looked forward to a life of leisure.

You know what, though? It didn’t turn out that way. We’re there now. We’ve got robots (or computers, or Indians) that can do all of our dirty work for us. We’ve got techniques for getting everything done faster, easier, more efficiently. Where is our life of leisure? Where is our Utopia?

Right now, there are over ten million unemployed persons in the US. Ten million people are out of work. They’re having trouble finding a source of income because there’s not enough work to go around. Isn’t that what we were looking forward to? We’ve got machines that can do some of the tedious jobs so we can lean back and… and what? Wonder how we’re going to feed our children next month because some corporation found a cheaper way to get the job done?

I’m not going to write a conclusion to this tonight. I’ve got someone who needs tucking in and, frankly, I don’t have the depth of insight to say what ought to be done (that is always the problem, isn’t it? It’s easy to see what’s broken and sometimes even to imagine a better way, but how on earth do we get there from here?). What are your ideas? Please, comment away, or just write me.

This planet has–or rather had–a problem, which was this:  most of the people living on it were unhappy for pretty much of the time.  Many solutions were suggested for this problem, but most of these were largely concerned with the movements of small green pieces of paper, which is odd because on the whole it wasn’t the small green pieces of paper that were unhappy.

— Douglas Adams

P.S. This article is the first place I encountered the idea of unemployment recast as “not enough work to do.” It’s worth reading.