Sunday, August 24, 2008

The promised contentment


In its November 1968 issue, Mechanix Illustrated informed the world, "People will have more time for leisure activities in the year 2008. The average work day is about four hours."

The sixties was a time which Prime Minister Lester Pearson described as one of "rising expectations." This spirit of optimism carried on through the primeministership of Pierre Trudeau.

Then what happened? What is now happening?

How would the Wright brothers react if told that within 60 years of their first flight, man would set foot on the moon?

How would Graham Bell react if told that in the next century people will communicate around the world and into space?

How would Henry Ford react if told that in his century there would be millions of cars around the world available at reasonable cost?

How would John Maynard Keynes react if told that between 1950 and 1975 the Gross World Product would double?

How would people still living today react if told when they were still young that in their lifetime there would be machines to wash our dishes, to wash clothes and dry them, to offer instant world-wide communication, to record music and make it available to all, to help diagnose and help cure diseases which then even had no names?

No doubt, they would all think enviously of us. How great life will be. What luxury these devices will bring with the reduced the work week. With the drudgery abolished, work will be more interesting. Life will be great. What else could result with all those time-saving devices but more time to relax and enjoy life?

Instead of easing the burdens of life, each technological advance seems to increase stress in our lives. We work overtime to produce time-saving devices. What has happened to the time saved by these devices? It is estimated that the caveman worked no more than 20 hours a week to produce the necessities of life. Today, some of work three times those hours and produce less.


1 comment:

Stephen said...

Someone didn't connect the dots when they made that prediction. The profit from the extra time, I believe, goes to the employer, and is eventually passed on to the consumer through free market competition.

If someone suddenly has less to do at work because of some time-saving device, a responsible boss will find something more for them to do for the same pay. Did secretaries have a lightened load after they were given computers at their desks? No, of course not. They were simply asked to get more done in the saved time for the same wage, or stopped hiring new secretaries. It's a good business decision, like replacing labour with machines in factories -- exactly what one should expect.

The four-hour workday was a silly prediction. Of course any business person would prefer to have two employees working full-time, rather than four working half-time, but getting paid for full-time. People will ALWAYS work about a 35-hour week, at best.