Last week we discussed here on States Chronicles the social unrest in South Africa, how metallurgy workers decided to strike and, consequently, provoke General Motors to halt the production. The co-founder of Google offers us a compelling reason to continue the debate on how work is organized.
Larry Page has recently provided a fascinating opinion on how work should be organized. The advent of the computers, software, and internet era have been long associated with technological progress. IT managers have hitherto focused mostly on talking about some pure scientific progress and less about the political consequences of the implementation. Generally, the discourse about what will follow next resided in ideas about a better life and more freedom. Sure, the technological progress has to potential to provide these characteristics, but not on its own. The technological improvements do not occur in a social and political vacuum. How a society, or widely put, humanity, decides to distribute resources to education and research is tightly linked with scientific success. Or better yet, what is a scientific ‘success’? Some would argue that success is engagement with science and implementation of its products in a manner which produces social benefits, a higher quality of life.
Larry Page Solution for improving future labor relations
Larry Page reads the social script in a very educated way. He seems to know very well that scientific progress alone does not provide a better life. Most importantly, how work is organized and rewarded is for Page an indicator of scientific success. As any other actor from the high tech arena, Page is fully aware of what technological unemployment is and how it affects people. It appears to be a moral dilemma for recent well-intended tech entrepreneurs – producing some of the greatest achievements in the human history on the one hand, and seeing how their work affects millions of people. Fortunately, Page is not shy in taking a more adequate political stance on the matter:
“If you really think about the things that you need to make yourself happy — housing, security, opportunities for your kids — anthropologists have been identifying these things. It’s not that hard for us to provide those things. The amount of resources we need to do that, the amount of work that actually needs to go into that is pretty small. I’m guessing less than 1% at the moment”, Page answered to an inspired question from Vinod Khosla on the matter of technological unemployment. As many analysts already pointed out, the question of labor time and productivity has been addressed similarly by the economist J.M. Keynes in the first half of the twenty century.
Larry Page solution is this: offering part-time jobs should provide an adequate answer to the problem. It is exciting to see one of the most powerful digital entrepreneurs having a more comprehensive approach on the matter of technological consequences. Bill Gates is already known for doing extensive charitable work, but the views are very different. While Gates emphasizes the search for technological solutions to social problems, Page understands that technology is a social product and looks at socio-political solutions. It’s not enough to solve the problems for now, but the Larry Page solution is a solid ground for further debates.