When technology provokes questions of philosophy and ethics, Motherboard’s LOGIC CIRCUIT activates to provide assessments of possible futures which might occur as a result.
Labor Day is a strange holiday in present-day America, and it gets stranger with every passing year. Its current iteration has arrived in close proximity to the country’s rate of job creation grinding to a halt following a Congressional hijacking so crippling that even political optimists have begun to lose faith in the government’s desire or ability to enact policies which benefit the average citizen.
With union-busting quickly becoming a trend and bailed-out corporations continuing to cut jobs, pay no taxes and stash wealth overseas, one would think that nearly every possible corner has already been cut to maximize profits at the expense of a struggling workforce. Unfortunately, it is still not enough.
As such, the practice of devaluing labor has become an art form unto itself since the 2008-2009 recession. And now, there’s an app for that: Corporate task management software is a new generation of productivity applications that hope to streamline the micro-management process by utilizing nuanced technologies that have risen from the creation of ubiquitous information networks.
Tracking hours worked and tasks completed, there is nothing outwardly insidious about the idea behind apps like these, several of which are designed with the retail business in mind. Is more efficiency in the workplace always a good thing? Perhaps.
The other side of it is that this could serve to catalyze that other, morally questionable kind of efficiency — the workplace-consolidating, cost-optimizing, ‘see how much we can get away with’ management mentality that has trivialized worker’s rights, leaving in its wake a cold, dispassionate model of human resources based on empirical data.
The development and evolution of such software could mean that details relating to human efficiency will be more easily quantified, accessed, contextualized and ultimately, exploited.
Like many of humanity’s most successful engines of oppression, it would be part of a slow and invisible process. Over time, vast catalogs of data would be held against existing standards of efficiency. Eventually, the physical limits of a single human worker would be ascertained, and with it, more of the same: Hours increased, positions reduced, profits enhanced. A system bent on achieving its own perfection without concern for the cost to human quality of life; first-world citizens optimized into third-world laborers.
Corroborating with information gleaned from background checks and social media, enhanced biometric technologies might one day link performance data gathered by this kind of software to fingerprints, retinal scans and DNA. This information could then become a commodity itself, traded among companies to more quickly and effectively screen job applicants for undesirable traits. Humans will have depreciated as a resource, replaced by an emergent market based on rapid, computer-assisted processing of their qualifications.
With 9.1 percent of the American population unemployed and in some cases desperate for work, some might question the wisdom of giving so-called “job creators” the means to gain more leverage amidst an artificial labor scarcity that in many cases they themselves have created.
But this has just been a simulation; a simple idea processed to its logical extreme. Sleep sound, and work hard.