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Work Futures Daily - The Integral Accident

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Paul Virillo | Erin Winick of MIT Tech Review | Phoneless Phone Booths | GM Plant Closings And Youngs
 

Work Futures

November 29 · Issue #1038 · View online
The ecology of work, and the anthropology of the future.

Paul Virillo | Erin Winick of MIT Tech Review | Phoneless Phone Booths | GM Plant Closings And Youngstown | Fair Workweek Law in Philly | AI v. MD

Beacon NY - 2018-11-29 — For obvious reasons – the furor around Facebook and other tech giants’ cavalier treatment of our personal data, for example – I think that the Paul Virillo quote, today’s quote of the day, is apt for our time.
Virillo is, I confess, new to me. But I find that he was an influential French cultural theorist. He died only a few months ago, in September. He is generally grouped with other notables, like Marshall McLuhanJean BaudrillardGilles DeleuzeFélix Guattari, and Jean-François Lyotard.
Virillo espoused the notion of the integral accident, that any technology is paired with the accidents it can create:
The integral accident wikipedia
Virilio believed that technology cannot exist without the potential for accidents. For example, Virilio argued that the invention of the locomotive also contained the invention of derailment. He saw the Accident as a rather negative growth of social positivism and scientific progress. He believed the growth of technology, namely television, separates us directly from the events of real space and real time. In it he suggested we lose wisdom and sight of our immediate horizon and resort to the indirect horizon of our dissimulated environment. From this angle, the Accident can be mentally pictured as a sort of “fractal meteorite” whose impact is prepared in the propitious darkness, a landscape of events concealing future collisions. Aristotle claimed that “there is no science of the accident”, but Virilio disagreed, pointing to the growing credibility of simulators designed to escape the accident— which he argued is an industry that is born from the unholy marriage of post-WW2 science and the military-industrial complex.
I will have to read more of his work.
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Quote of the Day
When you invent the ship, you also invent the shipwreck; when you invent the plane you also invent the plane crash; and when you invent electricity, you invent electrocution… Every technology carries its own negativity, which is invented at the same time as technical progress.
Paul VirilioPolitics of the Very Worst
Links
Work Awesome: Interview with Erin Winick of MIT Tech Review | I had the chance to ask Erin Winick, Associate Editor Future of Work at the MIT Tech Review, a few questions about the panel she will be moderating at Work Awesome on December 6 in NYC:
Stowe Boyd | In the past, I have characterized the split in the discourse about AI’s impact on the workforce as a face-off between the ‘Anotherists’, those who say ‘AI is just another wave of technological advance, like those in the past, and ultimately new jobs will be created to employ those initially displaced by AI’, and the ‘Otherists’, who say 'AI is different from earlier waves of technological advance, since AI seeks to substitute for human reasoning, and so, it may not be the case that those displaced will find new work’. Where do you fall in this debate?
Erin Winick | I think it depends on the area of work we are talking about. AI is not a one-size-fits-all technology. There are certain things it is much better at than others, meaning different categories of jobs will be affected at varying speeds and scales. Some people, like writers who wrote data based simple stories like sports or financial reports, have already been replaced by technology in many areas. Other like politicians or artists haven’t seen too much change to their work yet.
For me I think some people will definitely be out of work, while in other categories, people will migrate to new jobs. Companies often tout that they are excited these new technologies will allow people to move into new more creative roles. But the question is whether the companies will see economic benefit from that or if letting the workers go is the better option for them. We have yet to definitely see what their choice will be. In a tight labor market, they are more likely to try to hold onto them.
I think investing in training the workers that want to be trained for new roles now is the right choice. I’ve learned firsthand that not everyone will want it, but beginning to prepare now for increased technological change is the right move.
Go read the whole thingSign up for her newsletter, Clocking In.
The Best Spot in the Office Is a Phone Booth—If You Can Get Into One | Sarah Needleman chronicles the battle in open offices to snag a 'phoneless phone booth’ for a private call.
GM’s Job Cuts Reopen Old Wounds in Youngstown, Ohio | Sherry Linkon and John Russo write about the probable impact of GM closing the Lordstown plant just outside of Youngstown Ohio. From 2001 to 2010, the region had the largest population decline of any of the nation’s 100 largest metro areas, and Youngstown continues to be one of the fastest-shrinking cities in the United States. Deindustrialization of the region has strip-mined the local economy.
The fall of Youngstown since the 1970s offers a textbook illustration of what happens when a significant portion of local workers lose their jobs. Businesses across the community suffer—not just suppliers or service providers who directly supported a closed plant, but also restaurants and bars and retailers of all kinds. Stores close, windows get broken, storefronts get boarded up, and downtowns empty out. Cities lose the tax dollars to pay for street repairs, police patrols, fire departments, and more; crime rises, the built environment deteriorates, and populations decline. Between 2001 and 2010, the population of Youngstown dropped from 82,026 to 66,982; the Mahoning Valley had the largest population declineof any of the nation’s 100 largest metropolitan areas. Since then, the region has lost another 23,000 people, 4.1 percent of its population. In May, the Wall Street Journal listed the area as one of the fastest-shrinking cities in the United States.
A must read.
Philadelphia Service Workers May Get Fair Workweek Law Sarah Holder reports on a planned vote by the Philadelphia City Council on December 6 on a fair workweek bill that would restrict the practice of on call scheduling in the city.
For the nearly 130,000 service workers employed in Philadelphia, finding a job is only half the battle to stability. Once hired, many must contend with constantly shifting schedules and variable hours each week. Some keep their schedules open just in case a shift pops up; others avoid taking second jobs or college classes because of their unpredictable call times. For parents especially, “on-call scheduling” makes organizing childcare and other family responsibilities an ongoing nightmare.
This isn’t just a Philadelphia story—on-call scheduling is legal in most U.S. cities, where it wreaks similar havoc on the lives of those in the service industry. But according to a recent survey of nearly 700 Philadelphia service workers conducted by U.C. Berkeley, the problem is particularly rampant in that city: 66 percent report irregular schedules, and 77 percent ache for a change.
An important trend toward making the lives of hourly workers, which is especially important in Philadelphia, which is the poorest big city in the US, and one with a minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, the Federal rate.
From the Archives
A.I. Versus M.D. | Siddhartha Mukherjee investigated the progress being made by AI medical diagnosis, back in 2017, and wondered
What happens when diagnosis is automated?
crossposted from workfutures.org.
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Stowe Boyd, 17 South Cedar Street, Beacon NY 12508