Cyber View; January 1997; Scientific American Magazine; by Browning; 1 Page(s)
Fear of computers is creeping back into political debate. Sure, lawmakers still thump about the Internet to show how much they love progress. But underneath the enthusiasm is a fresh emergence of an old fear. In France, politicians are discussing shortening the workweek to share a pool of jobs, which, they say, is being steadily shrunk by the progress of automation. In Belgium, the economics minister proposed that computers be taxed and the proceeds used to subsidize threatened blue-collar jobs. And in the U.S., author and rabble-rouser Jeremy Rifkin is echoing the French call for a shorter workweek.
Like all bad ideas, these are not just wrong but also counterproductive. Computers don't destroy jobs; they create them. But they do so by changing the nature of work beyond all recognition. In that transformation, the notion of the workweek becomes about as accurate a measure of work and opportunity as the erg is a measure of financial success.