Sunday, September 17, 2023

Did He Have A Crystsal Ball?

Hey you all know that I am a science fiction aficionado. I want you all to read a book by Kurt Vonnegut. Oh that got your attention… “Vonnegut.”

I want you to read the first book he ever wrote! He published it 1952 and it was about GE in Schenectady NY.

Right now we see the UAW, SAG, and WGA, one of the things all the strikes have in common is AI taking over their jobs.

The book that I want you to read is Player Piano, it is a huge book only 352 pages. Here is what Amazon says about the book…

“A funny, savage appraisal of a totally automated American society of the future.”—San Francisco Chronicle

Kurt Vonnegut’s first novel spins the chilling tale of engineer Paul Proteus, who must find a way to live in a world dominated by a supercomputer and run completely by machines. Paul’s rebellion is vintage Vonnegut—wildly funny, deadly serious, and terrifyingly close to reality.

Praise for Player Piano

“An exuberant, crackling style . . . Vonnegut is a black humorist, fantasist and satirist, a man disposed to deep and comic reflection on the human dilemma.”—Life

“His black logic . . . gives us something to laugh about and much to fear.”—The New York Times Book Review
What I find amazing is that he foretold the future because that is exactly what society is going through today loss of jobs due to automation. What gets me is back in 1949 Vonnegut imagine a future with automation taking away job. Wikipedia put it this way,
In a 1973 interview Vonnegut discussed his inspiration to write the book:

I was working for General Electric at the time, right after World War II, and I saw a milling machine for cutting the rotors on jet engines, gas turbines. This was a very expensive thing for a machinist to do, to cut what is essentially one of those Brâncuși forms. So they had a computer-operated milling machine built to cut the blades, and I was fascinated by that. This was in 1949 and the guys who were working on it were foreseeing all sorts of machines being run by little boxes and punched cards. Player Piano was my response to the implications of having everything run by little boxes. The idea of doing that, you know, made sense, perfect sense. To have a little clicking box make all the decisions wasn't a vicious thing to do. But it was too bad for the human beings who got their dignity from their jobs.

Will you need a PhD to find a job and everyone else is on the dole?


  1. "Will you need a PhD to find a job and everyone else is on the dole?" Actually, there will be no dole - all of us who are unneeded and superfluous according to our heartless AI overloads will simply be eliminated. It'll just be the elite and the robots left until the bots revolt and turn on their creators. (It's bound to happen. - it's a staple of SciFi, and it never ends well.)

    1. Depending on the author, and perhaps the mood of the age it was written in, sf veers between two alternatives: one where the unskilled and jobless are cast out, and a (increasingly unlikely) post-scarcity future where work is more an elective vocation rather than a requirement to keep housed and fed.

  2. Richard Nelson9/18/23, 9:17 AM

    I am not sure if this works or not but if it does then maybe we had/ have the “way of education” all wrong. Marx not Groucho but Karl had this to say. This is his vision of the new world and in this is introducing workers as artists. From his writings "Besides contributing to production, each individual also participates in cultural and scientific life, and not just as a consumer of other people's products but as a creator. We have met communist men and women as workers, farmers, hunters and critics, and Marx now introduces us to the same persons as artists: "The exclusive concentration of artistic talent in some individuals and its suppression in the grand mass which springs from this, is a consequence of the division of labor...In a communist society, there are no painters, but men who among other things do painting. Being a painter is to be subjected to the division of labor as much as it one only did weaving. Every person in communist society is relieved of the burden of narrowness which plagued his or her ancestors, weavers and painters alike, and given the opportunity to express him or herself in all possible ways."

    "We read further on these thoughts: Marx not only ascribes a world of activities to the communist person but believes they will be proficient in their performance. To achieve this is the aim of communist education. At the same time, Marx recognizes that not all people will be equally good in everything they try. As regards painting for example, he admits that only a few will rise to the level of Raphael. On the other hand, the quality of other people's work will be extremely high; and he maintains all paintings will be original. By original means that each person's creative efforts will be a true expression of his/her unique qualities. Marx would probably be willing to make a similar distinction between average and exceptional ability in science, farming, material production, etc., always with the proviso that those who lag behind are still extraordinarily good."

    Many workers would love to just get away from the everyday of their jobs. Be they in factories, the classroom, the office, and find more creative outlets. Most folks I know say on Monday, "Is it Friday yet?" These thoughts from bored folks would be eliminated under Marx's idea of working. Free access to all the works of life, freedom from want, freedom from doing the same machine act over and over, and freedom from wage slavery, bosses, and the dirty tricks of the bourgeois. Freedom from the planned tyranny of the workplace and freedom to create and be. Once we smash capitalism, we can then be free from its strangulation. When we find ourselves in this sense of the world there will be no class differences because everyone will be a worker just like everyone else.

    1. Richard Nelson9/18/23, 12:38 PM

      The above also speaks to this, "But it was too bad for the human beings who got their dignity from their jobs." Just think our dignity comes from our life.