Elias Jevola is momentarily distracted from the diversity and inclusion training on his computer screen as he gazes through the window beside his 42nd floor desk in the heart of the city’s central business district. He imagines all the office workers in that maze of glass and steel bent over their desks as they endeavour to out-busy each other in the hope of securing a bigger share of the year-end bonus pot. There was a time when temples to the Rainy Island God were the tallest buildings in the city, now the tallest buildings were temples to something else. The Big Shift had moved emphasis from the once dominant mining sector to the city with the vast infrastructure which had previously administered the now defunct Rainy Island Empire being repurposed towards less tangible economic activity.
Elias was not particularly passionate about his job as Senior Spreadsheet Operator in one of the major banks but at least he was paid well, got to feel a sense of satisfaction at the impressed looks he received when he told people he worked in “The City” and he had a nice view out the window. He was one of the last members standing of his team having played a role in implementing a flagship project to upgrade the department’s computer systems and processes which had resulted in two thirds of his co-workers being made redundant. Some of the team had found work in other departments or city banks, some had taken early retirement and others, having become complacent working in the bank for many years and finding that their skills had not kept up with the marketplace, resorted to taking lesser stable employment in other areas such as YouTube content creation or Uber driver.
While Elias found these new ideas he had been exposed to, Robotic Process Automation, Straight Through Processing, Lean Six Sigma and other efficiency and labour saving techniques, fascinating, it also made him rather uncomfortable. The young spreadsheet operator had often thought to himself the bank could lose half its 20,000 strong workforce with no discernable impact on productivity. Most of the employees appeared to view work as an opportunity to discuss last night’s episode of Love Island and of the work they did perform much of it was menial, pointless, soul destroying drudgery and prime candidates for automation. The same could likely be said of the entire city and perhaps even Rainy Island’s economy as a whole? What would the future look like as the technology he had witnessed progressed, what of the impact of more advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence and machine learning which were on the cusp of mainstream adoption? Could we see joblessness rates of 40, 50, 60 or more percent as the norm? How many of the displaced workers could “learn to code”, how many weight loss apps do we need?
As a free-market orientated sort of a fellow, a libertarian you might say, Elias saw this as a significant challenge to his world-view. With the vast majority of Rainy Island’s population owning few to no assets they relied on employment by those who did own assets in order to earn a living, so what happens when the market for labour dramatically shrinks? This would be a gift to the socialists over on Team Red in their effort to reorganise Rainy Island society along egalitarian lines. Elias scoured the spergiest of spergy libertarian internet forums for answers but to no avail. This was just like the horse and cart again or the Spinning Jenny apparently. The invisible hand of the market would restore balance because…well that’s just always what happened before and we can’t think of anything in history that just always was until one day it just wasn’t any more. Encountering this deification of the market, incidently, was the end of Elias’ association with libertarianism (there may have been some other reasons too but that is for another time). It did not come across very based, in fact it was rather cringe. The search for answers widened until, like Bilbo Baggins catching first sight of the Ring of Power, in the darkest depths of the internet he encountered a fringe concept called ‘Universal Basic Income’ which was the idea that some of the cost savings and efficiencies created by automation of the economy should be distributed to citizens in the form of a regular income, a sort of dividend. Elias reluctantly conceded that UBI was the inevitable solution and with his curiosity satisfied he did not think about the matter any further.
It was about twelve years later that the matter really entered public consciousness, around the time of the Great Cold although not in the manner it had come to the attention of our friend Elias Jevola. The intense societal division of the Based and Cringe which had emerged during the Ruskiland invasion of Ukuleleland was ever-present on Rainy Island with the dominant libertarian faction of the Based adamant that this talk of UBI was a World Uneconomic Forum (henceforth the WUF, or Whoof) plot intended to enslave Rainy Islanders by giving them money.
Now to be fair there is some truth to this theory indeed however what the Based consistently failed to understand was that the Whoof (in either their present or prior incarnations) did not need to be in the business of creating crises, the Whoof worked on a long enough timeline that they could be confident a crisis to take advantage of was always just over the horizon as long as they were patient and ready. On the potential crisis of the mass technological displacement of labour (which the Whoof had long foreseen) UBI is a perfectly reasonable solution on the face of it but of course the Whoof would inevitably use such a situation to further their own goals. That being said, there really was no need to throw the baby out with the bathwater.
Whoof agents, embedded in governments across the globe, had their opportunity when the efforts to combat The Great Cold had backfired spectacularly and triggered a global economic depression the likes of which the world had never seen. With unemployment queues growing and people unable to afford the basic necessities of life they were willing to accept anything if it meant they could keep a roof over their families heads. With that UBI was implemented.
Relief at having food on the table turned to horror as all of the Based’s worst fears were realised. Those who questioned the politically correct dogma of the day soon found that their UBI was a bit on the short side that month. In times of a “climate emergency” they found they could only purchase ze bugs and no meat, travel was restricted, they found that their UBI expired after a month thus preventing them from saving for the future. All this while the automation of the labour market continued apace and more and more Rainy Islanders found themselves reliant on UBI as their sole source of income.
Increasingly the old ale houses and other small businesses were closing down as they were unable to compete in the technological arms race. There was a revolving door situation between the state and the major corporations who were continually increasing their market share. Eventually the corporations were merged and became mere arms of the state, the Rainy Island Food Corporation, The Rainy Island Transport Corporation, The Rainy Island Energy Corporation and so on.
The Based sprung into action. There was no time to lose as they formed a new political party intended to turn the clock back thirty years (truth be told they would need to multiply that number by at least ten to get to the root of Rainy Island’s problems), it was named the Gisajob Party. There was no mass technological displacement happening, this was a pure power grab by the Whoof. No UBI and jobs for everybody!
At the inaugural meeting of the Gisajob Party the leader, Bob, having outlined the party platform and the need for jobs for all was now, taking questions. A man in the front row, Mr. Jevola is called upon to speak:
“Thank you Bob. I believe with this platform we are fighting yesterday’s battles. We should embrace UBI and automation but make them serve the people, recognise they present an opportunity to free the common man from the drudgery of labour and reach his true potential. Did you know Sparta made money so heavy and unwieldy that it was almost unusable, to discourage trade and speculation so that men could engage in higher pursuits, primarily the art of war. Sounds pretty ba…”
Bob was incensed and cut Elias off:
“Poppycock, I shall hear no more of this Luddite mischief. There is plenty of work to be done, the human desire for frivolities is limitless and must be satisfied. The fact of the matter is we need millions more muh based hard working Sundlanders to do all the jobs we don’t want to do! Yes their descendants will call our descendants racist for the next hundred years, ultimately dispossess us of our ancestral homeland and write us out of our own history, but think of the boost to GDP! Rainy Island is an economy and all the men and women merely economic actors.”
Rapturous applause was accompanied by chants of “unfathomably based” and “line goes up”. That was that. Four years later the Gisajob Party narrowly scraped a victory over the incumbent Team Blue Party riding a wave of public fear of Whoof tyranny. Bob having assumed his role as Prime Minister of Rainy Island got straight to the tasks at hand, first purging the state machinery of Whoof agents and then addressing the issue of UBI and jobs for all to which end he set up a meeting with the CEOs of the various corporations.
Bob: “Right lads, how do we get everybody back to work?”
Rainy Island Food Corporation CEO: “The fact is Prime Minister that with the great strides we have made in automation in recent years there is little need for additional workers in the Food Corporation”
Bob: “Surely people will always desire more stuff?!”
Rainy Island Food Corporation CEO: “That may well be the case; however, labour is no longer a constraining factor”.
Rainy Island Electronics Corporation CEO: “It is a similar story in electronics. having fully automated our warehouses we need to get rid of a few thousand if anything.”
Rainy Island Social Media Corporation CEO: Social media took on 500 diversity and inclusion hires to meet our Kalergi KPI last quarter. We just have them making endless TikTok videos of themselves playing table football and having lunch in the canteen while talking about how great it is to work here.
Bob: “What about software developers? There is always demand for coders!”
Rainy Island Energy Corporation CEO: “We have a thousand monkeys tapping away in the low-code/no-code sandbox environment. On the odd occasion they come up with something useful we merge with production. They are paid in bananas”
All CEOs murmur and nod approvingly with some jotting down notes.
Bob: “Listen to me carefully. We cannot have people not going in to work. We cannot have them wasting their lives spending time with their families, getting involved in their communities, exercising, engaging in their hobbies, reading books and pondering the great questions of the universe. It’s just not based. We need to give them meaning in their lives, give them a sense of purpose, make sure they are contributing to society, and that means sitting at a desk forty hours a week pretending to be busy!”
Rainy Island Finance Corporation CEO: “Shall we have them dig holes then fill them up again?”
Bob: “Don’t be ridiculous, we are in the Information Age. Have them enter data in spreadsheets, delete it, then re-enter it.”
All CEOs: “OK.”
Bob: “Let’s get to work.”
© Zombie_Ramboz 2023