You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘Society’ tag.

 

    The dour feminist in me would like to point out that women are still struggling toward full autonomy in society after some 2000 years of ‘civilization’ ( :/ ), but the hot topic of self driving vehicles has crossed my desk and merits a comment or two with regards to society.

A healthy dose of skepticism is always in order when it comes to vaunted new technology promoted by the tech industry.  Because they, like other features of capitalist society, value profit over anything else, the tech industry will often jazz up, embellish, and often outright fabricate their claims to make their product seem like the next “must have” consumer item in society (consider the recent crapple failphone X – now with *twice* the screens to break).

Skepticism in place, we do need to realize that sometimes the technological advance is real and will have serious effects in society.  Consider the case of the elevator operators in the 1940’s.  It was a flourishing job opportunity, and even wielded social power as a 1945 elevator-operator strike in Manhattan severely clogged the engines of business industry.  Within a generation this profession was gone; automatic elevators had all but replaced human elevator operators and ran elevators more efficiently and cheaply ever since.

A shit deal if you happened to train for and be a Elevator Operator – with the phrase “this is progress looks like burning in your ears” you had to go out a get a different job, and most likely one that did not pay as well as being an Elevator Operator.

Fast forward to the present day – Truckers are now facing this very same conundrum as automated vehicles are entering their field of work.  Operating truck driving software and actually driving a truck are two very distinct categories; thus yet another blue collar job opportunity might very well be shut off to the people.  I’m not a Luddite when it comes to new technology in society, but the motivation behind the vehicles (and most of capitalism to be honest) has me worried.  “In Canada 1 in every 100 workers is a truck driver, some 300,000 people – it’s the second most common occupation reported by men.” (The Walrus – Overhauled by Sharon J. Riley).

Are we going to spend the money to retrain these people if the technology for self-driving vehicles actually becomes a standard?  Or do we just turn these people to the wind, like the Elevator Operators of the 40’s, “here’s your last paycheck, sorry about your luck , bu-bye now.”?  I highly doubt that the trucking industry – the prime mover in its quest for ‘automated-efficiency’-  is going to step up to the plate and sponsor job retraining for all the employees that have become redundant.  The responsibility for integrating these now jobless people back into the economic workforce will most likely fall to the government and as valiant as Canadian social services are, a three hundred thousand plus hit on our limited social resources just won’t end well.

So, the case looks like this – Business moves ‘forward’ creating more efficiency and profitability, while the social and economic damage caused by said advances is left to the government to haphazardly repair with the limited resources available to it.  This smells like a looming case of what in corporate culture is known as “externalities” or items that have a tangible economic or social cost but importantly not directly to the company itself (Pollution is a prime example of an ‘externality’).  So really, it will be the common citizen, who will be responsible for keeping society going while business plunges ahead willy-nilly chasing the most effective and profitable supply chain.

I have a problem with these technology driven calamitous ‘externalities’ that we will be facing, not just in the transportation sector but in other sectors as well.  This process is driven by greed, and greed gives no fucks for those who must perish in the process of efficiency maximization.  The argument against me would be such – but with greater efficiency and optimization more people will be better served by the industry at hand, thus society will be better and everyone wins.

It’s just that everyone doesn’t win.  The people put out of work by technological advances and their families are going to lose and lose big because they will have no income to afford the goods being delivered so efficiently and profitably to the stores.  Our profit driven corporate/business sectors almost always seems to ignore that fact that their profitability hinges on condition that people exist in the market that have the capacity to buy their widgets.   You may have the best widgets out there, but with no demand, nothing happens.  Of course you can keep profits going up through dubious accounting methods and the churn and burn of the stockmarket magic – but that is an illusion as you are just moving money around an not creating actual value in society; plus that financial shell game periodically crashes hurting everyone in society (see 1929, 2008 et cetra).

The way forward is clear, at least to me.  Technological advancement needs to examined and fined tuned through the lens of what society as a whole needs, and not just the business sector because the business sector is necessary too short sighted to see beyond the bottom line and what is good for them at the time.

 

Related reading and some of my paraphrase fodder – Overhauled – By Sharon J. Riley found in the Walrus Magazine December 2017.

 

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The fascinating bit here is how easy it is for us to fool ourselves into thinking we’re doing “x”, when in reality we are doing “y”. In this study, all that was required to mirror the bias in our society against women was for a company to have a policy of meritocracy in place. Under the aegis of this policy people in the study tuned out their thoughts and considerations for actual fairness and stopped appraising their actions.

      “When it came time to divvy up $1,000 in bonus money, there was a stark divide between participants in the meritocracy and non-meritocracy conditions. When the fictional company stressed fairness and individual performance, subjects gave men about 12 percent more than equally qualified women on average. When it didn’t mention a focus on merit, there was no significant difference between the bonus for men and women.

     Though the experiment didn’t provide specific insights into the reasons for the different results, based on previous academic work, Castilla and Benard suggest that the variance might have to do with the participants’ confidence in their own judgement. In agreeing with the company’s meritocratic principles, they might have bolstered their sense of their own objectivity or felt they had established their “moral credentials” as non-prejudiced people.

     “An organizational culture that prides itself on meritocracy may encourage bias by convincing managers that they themselves are unbiased, which in turn may discourage them from closely examining their own behaviors for signs of prejudice,” Castilla and Benard write.”

And there be the one of the problems with existing within a society that has normalized patriarchal standards.  It is so very easy to forget that the very societal air we breathe comes with a implicit set of normative attitudes that, when not consciously opposed, take over.  This is why not conforming to patriarchal expectations is tiring because feminists know that the ‘autopilot’ is complete trash and must always be on manual control.

[Source:JSTOR]

A nice example of the different way society treats women and men. And yes dudes, of course you don’t see it.

  Another hurdle for those who wish to change society.

“Social scientists spend a lot of time and effort criticizing, deconstructing and otherwise problematizing various systems, institutions, ideologies and policies. However, it is much less common for researchers to develop alternative social arrangements that could be plausibly implemented in the “real world.” And it is exceedingly rare for social scientists to meaningfully engage with the public and policymakers in order to help translate those possibilities into realities. However, these latter steps are arguably the most important for actually mitigating the social problems researchers identify and analyze.

Again, people tend to stand behind established orders, even ones that are highly dysfunctional, even ones they don’t particularly like or believe in, unless and until there is a viable and attractive alternative they can rally behind instead.  Absent options, critique approaches futility.

Social science could be much more impactful, therefore, if researchers utilized their expertise to not merely articulate what doesn’t work (and why)—but to really push themselves to think through what could work better. And not, could work in an ideal world, or what would’ve worked in a counterfactual past, or what will work in an envisioned future (assuming x, y and z). The focus should be on what practical steps can be plausibly taken, by actual agents, here and now, to make headway on social problems.”

 

Full Article by available on Counterpunch.

 

The sports term for idiocy like this is ‘own goal’. Well done dudes.

A few poignant thoughts to keep in mind. We can also file this under “how women and men experience society differently”.

 

 

It would be nice to believe that we are past the era of patriarchal stereotypes.  Unfortunately, this is not that case.  PSA’s like these three pictures exist because even in the most advanced Western societies many people believe that the length of skirt a woman happens to be wearing determines her sexual availability and moral standing.

Have you noticed that there isn’t a similar standard for men?  I mean certainly we can make biased judgments against fedora wearing, skinny tie and thick rimmed faux-glasses rocking hipsters and what not, but it is not like if said hipster is assaulted his clothing choice will become a major factor in whether the person that had assaulted him goes to jail or not.

Patriarchal double standards still exist because the majority of people consciously make the choice to follow the ‘moral rules’ they enforce.  It is bullshite, and it needs to stop.

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