25 January 2012

The Technology Gap

A while back I theorized that government intervention in the market causes labor disruptions in that it pulls demand for technology forward in order to reduce the costs of unskilled labor.  It turns out that I may be on to something:

Parlier earns about $13 an hour. She’d like to become one of the better-paid workers in the plant, but, in today’s factories, that requires an enormous leap in skills. It feels cruel, Davidson writes, to mention all the things Parlier would have to learn to move up. She doesn’t know the computer language that runs the machines. “She doesn’t know trigonometry or calculus, and she’s never studied the properties of cutting tools or metals. She doesn’t know how to maintain a tolerance of 0.25 microns, or what tolerance means in this context, or what a micron is.”
A good attitude and hustle have taken Parlier as far as they can. It’s hard, given her situation, to acquire the skills she needs to realize the American dream.

But skills aren’t always necessary.  A dumbed-down UI can serve as a substitute for knowledge, particularly if a firm can hire a technician to know the technical aspects of the technology in use so other workers don’t have to.  In fact, the trend of technology has generally been to serve as a substitute for knowledge and ability.  Why learn Trig if you can run a fairly simple program on a computer?

Anyhow, this story is evidence of my claim of a technology gap.  If labor were allowed to compete freely in a deregulated economy, technological growth would be slower and technological innovations implemented less frequently.  This in turn ensures that labor is not stagnant or regressive, and also gives less intelligent laborers a chance to remain on the market longer as technology remains relatively expensive. In order to make technology more appealing, then, technological innovators will find it useful to dumb down the UI to make the device more readily accessible by lower-intelligence labor.

The point in all this, then, is that the government has basically set policies in place that pulls demand for technology forward, leaving less-intelligent laborers in the lurch.  And since less-intelligent laborers tend to also be poor, it can be said that the government hates poor people.

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