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Breaking Things at Work

Alex Schroeder quoted this review:

“Breaking Things at Work is an innovative rethinking of labour and machines, leaping from textile mills to algorithms, from existentially threatened knife cutters of rural Germany to surveillance-evading truckers driving across the continental United States. Mueller argues that the future stability and empowerment of working-class movements will depend on subverting these technologies and preventing their spread wherever possible.”

WTF???! The human compiler at work?! As I argue in UBI Europa we need the right to laziness.

No matter what tools we have, fancy machines or cozy traditional hand tools, the enemy is the 40h workweek.

Then you have all the time in the world to do your rural knife cutting as a hobby. And I can paint my disgusting nightmare visions that no one wants to buy.

He went on to quote a longer review:

What they have perfected are technologies of domination, surveillance, and atomization, keeping workers isolated, monitored, and tethered to the inhumane rhythms of a machinic edifice. Always low prices depend on always low wages. High-tech capitalism … has selectively deployed automation and other technologies precisely in order to intensify exploitation.

Huh? I did write in my UBI Europa article:

The purpose of tech is to make our lives easier and cozier, but the forces of the quid-pro-quo labor market means that people still need to break their backs or hearts to put food on the table.

Without UBI, at best, we could invent better tools. More efficient shovels and hammers and rakes that let us dig deeper, hammer harder, rake faster. Without UBI, tech would let us get more done in a day, but it would not let us cut into that 40 hour workweek.

With UBI, the cornucopia might finally get within reach.

So yeah, I do know how tech intensifies exploitation.

What I question is how having to scrub the floors by hand for 40h is gonna be significantly “better” or more intrinsically rewarding than using an auto-floor-scrubber for 40h.

(To the extent that de-tech/low-tech is needed for sustainability purps, that’d be another story. I’d give up my auto-floor-scrubber to save the planet.)

I’m not disputing that tech has made labor conditions worse on some axes but it’s within the same order of magnitude. It’s not as if manual labor was all happy happy joy joy in the medieval ages.

The core enemy in exploitation is of course exploitation itself. Ownership of means of production. When the people are being beaten with a stick, they are not much happier if it is an artisanal hand-crafted heirloom manual stick. It’s not that much better than the flog-o-matic 2000.

Don’t get me wrong. I do hate tech. Seeing rando C code being compiled and executed in the browser, which is what started this discussion in the first place, does creeps me out and is prob the biggest reason why I use the web less and less.

I don’t disagree with ludditism, often calling myself one (haha, only… serious? a.k.a. “kidding on the square” as Aviatrix calls it), it’s just… I want to be very careful that we don’t drop our eye from the ball which is to end exploitation and create a fair and, above all else, lazy world.