On first thought it seems incomprehensible, and on second thought as well: in the places where progress has progressed the most, people work the longest hours. The illness caused by too much work leads to death. It is called karoshi in Japanese. Now the Japanese are adding yet another word to the dictionary of technological civilization: karojsatsu is the name given to suicides caused by hyperactivity, an increasingly frequent occurrence.
In May of 1998, France reduced the work week from 39 to 35 hours. Not only did such a measure prove effective against unemployment, but it also provided a rare instance of sanity in a world that has got a screw loose--or several, or all of them. For what is the use of machines if they can't reduce the amount of time humans spend at work? But the Socialists lost the elections and things in France went back to normal, so a law that had been dictated by common sense is already on its way out.
Technology produces cubic-shaped watermelons, featherless chickens, and a lifeless labor force. In a few hospitals in the United States robots already take on some nursing tasks. According to the Washington Post, robots work 24 hours a day, but they cannot make decisions because they lack common sense--an unwitting portrait of the ideal worker in the world to come.
Monday, December 8, 2008
Paradoxes by Eduardo Galeano on ZMag (a 'classic' reprinted from 2002.)