The “hard” life

When I think of hard work  I think of cleaning the yard, scrubbing the tub or even helping some one move furniture from one place to another.  Yet in my father’s generation “hard work” was making cement pots everyday and painting parking stalls, and it was also different for my grandfather’s generation where he had to work it the pineapple fields.  Why is this so?  I came to the conclusion that it is because back then they did not have the same level of technology that we have today.

What happened? Well advancements in technology happened where as it made it so machines replaced the typical worker in the field making them obsolete.  The only cases that companies still employ  workers  in the field would have to be in countries where it is cheaper to actually pay the workers than to buy farming equipment.  The same could be said about the cement pots my father made.  They now have factories that make pots cheaper and more effective than the pots he once made.

But then that raises the question, what now?  Thinking about what I used to believe was “hard” work to what my parents and grandparents had to do is little to no comparison in difficulty.   In class a video clip of the Jetson’s was shown.  I remember this show from my childhood and thought little of I when we started viewing it in class but when the clip went on I found some of the ideas down right preposterous.  Automated robots that do the work for us? Machines that make everything for us like breakfast lunch and dinner?  It was pretty clear of how people viewed the future and how they wanted it to be in the 1960’s, but is that what we really want?  If robots were to do all of the work for us there would be nothing for us to do and in short people would become lazy which in turn will turn them fat like in Wall-E.  Although the reasons as to why they got overweight are different the message is the same.

But now I wonder, in the near future what new technologies will actually come out.  Will there be robots to do our every bidding making it so we don’t have to do a single thing? Or will things relatively stay the same way as it has always been?  But for some reason the one question that bothers me the most is if my children and grandchildren look back at my time and say that what I had to do was “hard” work?

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Just a student

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21 comments on “The “hard” life
  1. The following is a pretty standard statement:

    They now have factories that make pots cheaper and more effective than the pots he once made.

    The logic behind this statement, as “natural” or “obvious” as it feels, by default places greater value on the factory itself and the economic relationships it maintains than on the people that work in said factory. To date, nobody has a problem with this little bit of what I would describe as misplaced loyalty – it already demonstrates a surrender of humanity in the face of automation.

    Every generation must come to a conclusion about their relationship to this reality. Just because the labor, social and environmental impacts have been outsourced doesn’t disconnect anyone from the relationship. No fairy tale (The Jetsons or Wall-E) has altered this – apparently we now pay for amusing allegories as a substitute for genuinely functional parables.

    So then, ignoring for the moment the rest of the world and focusing specifically on your locality. What constitutes “hard work” today? Do you feel that it is or will be threatened by or relieved by advances in technology?

  2. moebarrett says:

    I agree with you, I think that the definition of hard work is constantly evolving. Hard work is changing from physical labor to working with technology, or mental labor. I think kids these days, as well as kids in the future, aren’t working with their hands or doing physically tough things on a daily basis or for their first jobs. But these kids can operate computers, ipads, wii, smart phones, etc. with out even flinching.
    Where manual and physical labor used to be commonplace, I see technology taking over. Older generations that find operating new types of technology to be hard, while the people who have always had these types of technologies around them wont.

    • But these kids can operate computers, ipads, wii, smart phones, etc. with out even flinching.

      But I ask you… is that “hard work?” It is reasonable to state that modern Americans do far less manual labor than their ancestors, but what then will your grandchildren consider to be the equivalent of picking pineapples?

  3. Advances in technology have made it physically easier for people because of the use of machines, but I think it’s an improvement for the most part. I agree, hard work meant physical labor, but jobs like that also were hazardous to people’s health (I.e. injury, pain, etc). So with the use of technology, work output was efficient and safer for people. But just because technology has taken the place of what others see as hard work, I don’t define hard work just in that sense. To me, hard work also constitutes a person’s time and effort to learn/master something. So I believe hard work is relieved by advances in technology. But to progress as a society, I think it’s the older generations’ job to instill the values of “hard” work to the younger generation.

    • So with the use of technology, work output was efficient and safer for people.

      This isn’t as well thought-through as it could be. Not only did people suffer horribly in factories (breathing foul air, losing limbs, getting cancer over time, etc.) but the closest equivalent to such work today: talking on the phone and typing, gives us repetitive stress disorder and quite possibly brain cancer due to electromagnetic energy being constantly applied to the head.

      To me, hard work also constitutes a person’s time and effort to learn/master something.

      This is a valid comparison; You’re writing about mental labor. But are picking pineapples and working a difficult problem such as algorithm-building actually comparable? You’ve all put in a little effort in algorithm design… is it repetitive, dangerous (pineapples are sharp) and possibly mind-numbing?

      If you could run a piece of software to solve a mental problem set before you, would you do it? Would you then be necessary any more?

  4. fishbonium says:

    Advances in technology allow us to put more time in other tasks, and I think the idea that technology eliminates work is moot; it simply moves the work around. The physicality of our work will constantly change, but the fact that we must work hard to maintain success will always exist. It’s been said in the above post, the time we spend to master techniques, knowledge bases, or processes is a great measurement of “hard” work, and mastery remains a necessity for success and productivity. On the other hand, McDonald’s workers probably don’t need very much mastery, but they sure are productive! Perhaps I’m a bit too positive, or a bit too blind, but I believe technology allows us to work hard in other areas.

  5. It is possible a time will come when it is no longer economically or socially feasible to keep putting machines in place of humans, macroeconomically speaking. From firm to firm, there are many instances where machines in place of humans makes the most sense, however, there may be a time where the government takes action to reinstate human labor. This would be a result of the deteriorating state of the country’s citizens due to a high unemployment rate, lower household income, and lowered spending power. But, if the government does nothing to fix it, perhaps the people of a society can band together to make changes themselves. Hopeful? Yea probably. But possible? Definitely.

  6. brynosaurus says:

    I think that what we consider as “hard work” will inevitably change with the improvements of our society. If I had to define it, I’d say hard work is something that leaves someone, in a way, exhausted. The level of exhaustion should correlate to the person’s regular level of activity as well as the average level of activity of that person’s society. As the requirements of society change over time, the baseline of what we deem “hard work” changes accordingly. As the requirement for physical labor lessens, so does the amount of physical labor we consider to be hard work. Sure, technology plays a huge role in this, but that isn’t anything new. What did people in the past consider “hard work”? They had people working in fields for forever, but what about other classes?

    Taking my previously stated definition of hard work, I believe that in the future, “hard work” won’t be considered in terms of physical work, but mental or emotional. It doesn’t necessarily have to benefit society as a whole, as farming did, but perhaps benefit oneself. We may, in fact, turn into fat blobs in Wall-E, but that doesn’t mean hard work would be diminished. Although hopefully it won’t be limited to button pushing… Now that I think of it, button pushing is rather primitive, maybe it’ll be even less than that! (There are currently companies creating games where you can control things with your mind already.) It seems that the goal of our society now is to eliminate everything we consider to be hard work with cool new gadgets and inventions. Even learning is now “easier” and people can go buy software like Rosetta Stone instead of taking language courses!

    Typing this made me really curious what people will think of as hard work in future generations. As long as people put effort into trying to better either themselves or others, I guess that’s all that we can hope for! We’ll let the future generations figure the rest out.

    • I believe that in the future, “hard work” won’t be considered in terms of physical work, but mental or emotional.

      Now this is an interesting angle. As you’ll see from my earlier comments, I’m not sure there’s a real or conceptually productive equivalence between physical and mental labor; It’s hard to compare the challenges faced by a high-end trial lawyer and the illegal immigrant working in a Foster Farms slaughterhouse… or a typical construction worker building a house.

      But this idea of emotional labor fascinates me and feels like it has a lot of possibilities. Perhaps in the future we will be assessed based on our capacities to suffer, experience joy, pain, or fear. Even though I think the rampant use of mood-stabilization drugs play a large role in helping people to avoid the work of having to feel, there is something significant about your grandchild thinking about how much you had to bear emotionally in our era of environmental destabilization, warfare and economic turmoil.

      Perhaps emotions are all that will distinguish humans from their machines in the future.

  7. I feel that some cultures and societies take technology for granted. Like is mentioned in the blog; young adults of the 21st century think they know what hard work is. In comparison to what our parent’s generation had to go through when they were growing up it seems they had to work harder to make a future for themselves unlike young adults of our generation. I won’t completely say that all young adults from more contemporary generations have everything easy either but it seems that contemporary parents VS. older generational parents seem to be able to give their children more than let’s say what parents could give their kids in the 60’s. I feel I come from a generation where our parents lived in a consciousness to give anything and everything to their kids as much as possible.
    It seems that the more technology cultures develop over time the less the mass majority of the population get their hands dirty. What I mean by people not getting their hands dirty is that less and less people of contemporary generations stay home and are inside playing on their computers and immersing themselves in virtual worlds like playing videos games and messing around on facebook. I remember growing up when I was in grade school and spending a lot more time outdoors and getting my hands dirty playing in the woods or doing chores. It seems that with more technological advancements comes less natural interaction. We are slowly becoming our computers and soon these computers we are becoming will take on consciousnesses of their own.

  8. digitalamericachanging says:

    I think we have gotten a little ahead of ourselves. Throughout the US and many other areas of the world there is still “Hard Work” being done on a daily basis. I agree that with the advancements in technology we do have a lighter manual labor demand but for the most part there are still a great number of people throughout the world that put in a full days “Hard Work”. In addition, these individuals are also learning about technologies that make life easier. In fact, isn’t this is what we work hard for? Don’t we want our children will have an easier life we do? This is a significant part of “The American Dream” and the motivation for our fathers and grandfathers “Hard Work”. Despite your fathers aspirations, would you say that your life is significantly easier? With these new technologies are we not expected to have increased production? Please don’t pretend that if given the option of automated parking space painting and manual parking space painting our fathers would have chosen the later. At the same time take a pineapple harvester and place him or her in front of a computer with the proper knowledge and support and see if they can create algorithms for computer software for ten hours a day.

    Fear not…….Hard Work is not going anywhere. The context may change and our perception may change but this is an evolutionary story that begins with “When I was your age………”, and will continue forever.

    • Fear not…….Hard Work is not going anywhere. The context may change and our perception may change but this is an evolutionary story that begins with “When I was your age………”, and will continue forever.

      This is wonderfully romantic. Does an ant, termite or bee know how hard it is working?

      The important thing to consider is is that changes in perception are not like ratchets – that is, they are not one-way transformations that cannot spin “backwards.” Just as feet can turn into flippers and back to feet, and the eye has evolved independently multiple times across various species, human consciousness and various configurations of perception can probably evolve in both “directions.”

      The ancient Egyptians believed in (perceived?) seven souls. How many do you have?

  9. julishinn says:

    I agree with you that technology has made our lives much easier. We now have all these appliances to do the cooking and cleaning. Doing the laundry has now turned into putting the clothes in the washing machine and pressing the on button. Washing the dishes has changed from by hand to by dishwasher. However, when I have to “do the laundry” or “do the dishes,” I don’t consider it hard work; I just consider it a pain in the butt. I think this is just because our generation is lazy, but I agree that we can blame it on the increase in technology.

    As we discussed in class, robots are created because we want them to do our jobs. Thus, technology will get even better and more advanced so we’ll end up having to do less. It seems like a dream come true, but is it?Thinking about the video in class of The Jetsons makes me laugh. It kind of relates to our generation and how life is so much easier, yet we complain when we have to do simple household tasks. I do think that in the future we will become even more lazy and probably more people will become overweight/obese.

    • However, when I have to “do the laundry” or “do the dishes,” I don’t consider it hard work; I just consider it a pain in the butt.

      Riiiiight! See my comment above, and cross-reference with brynosaurus’ seed idea of emotional work.

  10. digitalamericaorangesky says:

    I agree that technology is progressing in such a way that definition of hard work is constantly changing too be relative too the work we see others doing. I think that the Jetson’s prediction of a change in the threshold of what would be considered “hard work” was quite some foresight and your critical analysis on what that change would mean too society brings up some valid questions.
    There is an idea, such as in star trek, that the advancement of technology would create more time and opportunity for a human to better himself in other way’s. Of course, physical work in this idealized future would still be a space where someone would participate in too improve themselves just though the pure experience. I really hope that we can take advantage of the time saved but this dose not seem too be the way we are headed. Limited world resources as well as a society valuing leisure over self-progression is what i think is holding us back from that ideal, which is what makes your Wall-e example perfect. The potential is there if we can pass along a drive for self-progression and sustainability.

  11. pebbles says:

    I have a friend that always says “work smarter, not harder.” Humans are malleable beings and because of that, constantly adapt to their environments. Like you’ve said already, “our” generation is already doing less work than previous generations. Have we grown lazier? Perhaps. But there is no sure way to measure laziness. If robots were to do all the work for us (implying physical labor), there would not quite be nothing for us to do. Some people are doing less physical labor or aren’t spending as much time fixing something, like my “smart” friend who puts in less effort for the same result, but that does not mean that they are not working. My friend simply puts in effort where effort is needed to get the desired result. For those who are doing comparatively less work because they have the technological means that helps them “work smarter,” hopefully they are filling that void (time gained) with information that inspires them to do something positive with what they have. Humans aren’t doing nothing…they’re just doing something different.

  12. cksaito says:

    I agree that advances in technology have made it so that our generation and generations to come are becoming lazier. Every little mundane task that we do, can now be done and is even done by machines. Smart phones are one big thing that has changed the life of many people. We are now able to look up any information that we can possibly need, do your work, and even video chat with someone in another country. It has essentially enabled us to not have to move out of the comfort of our own home.
    Not only is technology making our generation lazier, but it has also allowed for many of us to become alienated in our worlds. Many technological advances allow us to just sit at our computers and not have to do any of the work. Take for instance online dating, which allows us to connect with people all over the world with just a click of the button. We don’t even need to go out to get food or shop for clothes, as this can all be done by technological advances. I do believe that one day robots will essentially be able to do all of the tasks we must do in our everyday lives. But the question is, will anyone actually object to having machines and robots do these things for us?

  13. digiamerica says:

    I definitely agree with what your point is. The definition of hard work changes so dramatically from generation to generation. My grandparents would laugh at what I consider hard work. Sometimes just getting my laundry done is hard work. With all the technology we have access to, its so easy for us to be lazy. Were so use to having short cuts for everything that doing hard work is foreign. The Wally example you used is so perfect for this point of view. With the way we look at hard work now, a Wally world in a few generations could be a possibilty. We’re all just be fat, lazy and not even know what hard work is anymore except for what our grandparents claimed to have done. We will probably have some similarity with the jetsons too. By then we will definitely have a machince to do everything but instead of having to work hard and push a button, maybe we’ll just say what we want done or even better we’ll just think it and it will happen.

  14. You’re touching upon some tough issues. Technology has clearly rendered labor unnecessary for vast numbers of people. In a twist of irony, however, technology may not be able to assist in more complex intellectual domains that have surfaced as a result of the free time provided by technology.
    The products of our physical labor have been extensions of our physiology. In order to provide food, shelter, medicine, etc., as well as the logistic networks to sustain them, we have had to fabricate tools, structures, substances, communicative systems, etc. that interface well with our physical selves. Hard work has been a necessity because the physical body is a priority.
    Though we are attempting to grow in more intellectual domains, our bodies still require foundational support. I think what we have been seeing for some time now (for thousands of years, that is) is the mechanization of humans as well as computers (as far back as measuring sticks) to attend to these foundational needs, thus allotting time and space for some to seek intellectual aspirations, entertainment, rest, and even innovative ways by which work for everyone may be somewhat reduced.
    Nevertheless, a major problem that we are currently encountering is the emergence of labor that caters to entertainment and intellectual desires. Take branding, for example. Needless to say, labor is systematized to support this trend.
    So, the question becomes: will machines be able to assist in domains that are apparently beyond their current functional capacities—like art? Or will the work of humans persist in this domain. My tendency is to say yes, machines will be able to assist. Whether they will be able to create (a mode of work), or even surpass our artistic sensibilities is questionable, however.

  15. alfaro7 says:

    I agree with the opinion that technology is making us lazy in many ways. I don’t see the world that “The Jettson’s” depicts very outrageous, it seems like that is the way we are headed. The breakfast Mrs. Jettson prepares seems to be 100% produced by machines, with absolutely no humans involved in the process (except pressing that damn button of course). With the advancement of tv/microwave dinners we have minimized the involvement of people in preparing our food. It only seems logical that we will eventually cut out people from the equation entirely.

    New technology only gives us more free time, which we fill with consuming as much as we can.
    I think the role of humans is becoming to either consume, or to be creative. It is a very crucial role today to come up with products and media for people to consume with all their free time.

    What is really scary is when/if technology becomes so advance that it can take people out the these creative and artistic roles too and we turn into all-consuming creatures (as portrayed by the wall-e clip).

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