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  • The old fear of the end of new work itself


    Joerg Markowitsch

    We all look forward to the end of the working day, but not the end of work itself. The fear of automation and the end of work is an old topos, as evidenced by industrial films from the 1950s.

    Pro­cla­ma­ti­ons of the end of work are incre­a­sing again with the latest tech­no­lo­gi­cal advances. While in the echoes of the first great wave of com­pu­te­riz­a­ti­on it was Jeremy Rifkin (The End of Work, 1995), it is now Daniel Susskind (A world without Work, 2020) who examines the impact of robots and arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence (AI) on the world of work and, pushes the sales figures of his new book up with this well-estab­lis­hed paranoia. While it was pre­vious­ly assumed that only routine and sup­po­sed­ly low-skilled jobs would be impacted by auto­ma­ti­on, Susskind believes that the self-learning algo­rith­ms of the new genera­ti­on of AI (keyword: deep learning) are already vastly superior to us in most cognitive skills and will ine­vi­ta­b­ly replace most highly skilled jobs sooner or later.

    Automated facial reco­gni­ti­on, radio­lo­gi­cal reports, the diagnosis of skin cancer, etc.  The list of already imple­men­ted app­li­ca­ti­ons of modern AI is growing and the fear of losing one’s job is too. If you want to see for yourself, the ‘Job-Futuromat’ of the German Institute for Employ­ment Research (IAB), an insti­tu­ti­on of the Federal Employ­ment Office, is recom­men­ded. Simply enter your own pro­fes­si­on and the machine (in this case based on con­ven­tio­nal intel­li­gent algo­rith­ms) cal­cu­la­tes to what extent you can be sub­sti­tu­ted by tech­no­lo­gi­cal solutions.

    What is usually concealed in the new hype about digi­ta­liz­a­ti­on is that the fear of auto­ma­ti­on and the end of work is a much older topos. For instance, the edu­ca­tio­nal short film ‘The fear of Auto­ma­ti­on’ (tem­pora­ri­ly not available) from 1966 had already dealt with the fear of the potential of punch-card computers and auto­ma­ti­on that emerged in the 1950s to outpace us. The two core counter-arguments, still relevant today, were also already demons­tra­ted in this film. Firstly, auto­ma­ti­on would always result in more although different work and secondly, in the event of an emergency, there is still always a solution, namely: Pulling the plug!

    Further examples of the “con­spi­cuous per­sis­tence of the arguments” in the debate on auto­ma­ti­on are provided by the historian Martina Hessler (2016), who for her part refers to the edu­ca­tio­nal film ‘This is Auto­ma­ti­on’ made by the company General Electric in 1955 and thus provides the reference for the fear of automation.

    Refe­ren­ces:
    Hessler, Martina (2016). Zur Per­sis­tenz der Argumente im Auto­ma­ti­sie­rungs­pro­zess, in: Aus Politik und Zeit­ge­schich­te, 66. Jahrgang, 18–19/2016,  S. 17–24.
    Rifkin, Jeremy (1995). The End of Work, Putnam Publi­shing Group.
    Susskind, Daniel (2020). A world without work, Allen Lane Publisher.
    Job-Futoromat of the IAB, https://job-futuromat.iab.de/

    This is Automation, General Electrics, USA 1955, 29min 

    Fear of Computer Automation?, USA 1966," (3min), temporarily not available 

    Fear of Computer Automation, 1966, Still

    Tags

    The old fear of the end of new work itself

    Joerg Markowitsch

    We all look forward to the end of the working day, but not the end of work itself. The fear of automation and the end of work is an old topos, as evidenced by industrial films from the 1950s.

    Pro­cla­ma­ti­ons of the end of work are incre­a­sing again with the latest tech­no­lo­gi­cal advances. While in the echoes of the first great wave of com­pu­te­riz­a­ti­on it was Jeremy Rifkin (The End of Work, 1995), it is now Daniel Susskind (A world without Work, 2020) who examines the impact of robots and arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence (AI) on the world of work and, pushes the sales figures of his new book up with this well-estab­lis­hed paranoia. While it was pre­vious­ly assumed that only routine and sup­po­sed­ly low-skilled jobs would be impacted by auto­ma­ti­on, Susskind believes that the self-learning algo­rith­ms of the new genera­ti­on of AI (keyword: deep learning) are already vastly superior to us in most cognitive skills and will ine­vi­ta­b­ly replace most highly skilled jobs sooner or later.

    Automated facial reco­gni­ti­on, radio­lo­gi­cal reports, the diagnosis of skin cancer, etc.  The list of already imple­men­ted app­li­ca­ti­ons of modern AI is growing and the fear of losing one’s job is too. If you want to see for yourself, the ‘Job-Futuromat’ of the German Institute for Employ­ment Research (IAB), an insti­tu­ti­on of the Federal Employ­ment Office, is recom­men­ded. Simply enter your own pro­fes­si­on and the machine (in this case based on con­ven­tio­nal intel­li­gent algo­rith­ms) cal­cu­la­tes to what extent you can be sub­sti­tu­ted by tech­no­lo­gi­cal solutions.

    What is usually concealed in the new hype about digi­ta­liz­a­ti­on is that the fear of auto­ma­ti­on and the end of work is a much older topos. For instance, the edu­ca­tio­nal short film ‘The fear of Auto­ma­ti­on’ (tem­pora­ri­ly not available) from 1966 had already dealt with the fear of the potential of punch-card computers and auto­ma­ti­on that emerged in the 1950s to outpace us. The two core counter-arguments, still relevant today, were also already demons­tra­ted in this film. Firstly, auto­ma­ti­on would always result in more although different work and secondly, in the event of an emergency, there is still always a solution, namely: Pulling the plug!

    Further examples of the “con­spi­cuous per­sis­tence of the arguments” in the debate on auto­ma­ti­on are provided by the historian Martina Hessler (2016), who for her part refers to the edu­ca­tio­nal film ‘This is Auto­ma­ti­on’ made by the company General Electric in 1955 and thus provides the reference for the fear of automation.

    Refe­ren­ces:
    Hessler, Martina (2016). Zur Per­sis­tenz der Argumente im Auto­ma­ti­sie­rungs­pro­zess, in: Aus Politik und Zeit­ge­schich­te, 66. Jahrgang, 18–19/2016,  S. 17–24.
    Rifkin, Jeremy (1995). The End of Work, Putnam Publi­shing Group.
    Susskind, Daniel (2020). A world without work, Allen Lane Publisher.
    Job-Futoromat of the IAB, https://job-futuromat.iab.de/

    This is Automation, General Electrics, USA 1955, 29min

    Fear of Computer Automation?, USA 1966," (3min), temporarily not available

    Fear of Computer Automation, 1966, Still

    Tags


    Superpowers on the job

    Super­powers on the job

    What to do with superhuman abilities on the job? Superheroes don't give much information on this. A troll in one of the most extraordinary Swedish films of recent years (Border, 2018), on the other hand does.

    When pictures of economy went into motion

    When pictures of economy went into motion

    A new book introduces us to the important epistemologist Michael Polanyi as a didactician of economics and recalls his educational film "Unemployment and Money" (1940), which is still worth seeing today.

    Adolf Hennecke - Hero of the Battle of Production

    Adolf Hennecke — Hero of the Battle of Production

    Where labour and the heroic merge: the glorification of labour in real socialism.

    Finding and Cultivating the Self in Hair: On the Wizardry of Hairdressers

    Finding and Cul­ti­vat­ing the Self in Hair: On the Wizardry of Hairdressers

    The key to successfully creating a hairstyle is, of course, the hairdresser's skill. But the art of hair is not limited to instrumental skills, it also includes the 'culturality' of hair. A contemporary critique of a traditional profession.

    The baker's routine gestures: a professional ‘classic’?

    The baker’s routine gestures: a pro­fes­sio­nal ‘classic’?

    In contemporary cinema, we often don’t question seemingly cliché images of bakers at work as seen in Antoine Fontaine's "Gemma Bovery" (2014) or Luke Jin's short film "La Boulangerie" (2017), but perhaps we should.

    Essential Workers vs. Bullshit Jobs

    Essential Workers vs. Bullshit Jobs

    How will the Covid-19 pandemic change the world of work? Will essential workers be more valued in the future or will ‘bullshit’ jobs continue to increase?  

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    About this blog

    By selecting a film or an image, this blog literally illus­tra­tes the vast sphere of work, employ­ment & education in an open collec­tion of academic, artistic and also anecdotal findings.

    About us

    Konrad Wakol­bin­ger makes docu­men­ta­ry films about work and life. Jörg Mar­ko­witsch does research on education and work. They are both based in Vienna. Infor­ma­ti­on on guest authors can be found in their cor­re­spon­ding articles.

    More about

    Inte­res­ted in more? Find recom­men­da­ti­ons on relevant festivals, film collec­tions and lite­ra­tu­re here.

    About this blog

    With picking a film or an image, this blog literally illus­tra­tes the vast sphere of work, employ­ment & education in an open collec­tion of academic, artistic and also anecdotal findings.

    About us

    Konrad Wakol­bin­ger makes docu­men­ta­ry films about work and life. Jörg Mar­ko­witsch does research on education and work. We both work in Vienna. Infor­ma­ti­on on guest authors can be found in their respec­ti­ve articles.

    More about

    Inte­res­ted in more? Find recom­men­da­ti­ons on relevant festivals, film collec­tions and lite­ra­tu­re here.