I don’t know about you, but I have spent the past couple of days thinking through the implications of recent media reports referenced by Rust columnists suggesting that the recent spate of forest wildfires in Portugal and California and the current all-out drought destroying the farming industry of New South Wales (as featured on the BBC News) are nailed-on evidence of the increasing pace of global warming and climate change.
When you add that to the theory that the Homo Sapiens is inevitably doomed and probably going to be replaced by artificial intelligence (AI) entities within the next fifty to one hundred years – a notion that has received something of a boost nearer to home with last year’s revelation on this organ that one of our regular columnists in a ‘strong and stable ‘relationship with a sex robot – things might not seem to be too rosy these days for the future of mankind.
Mid-afternoon yesterday I was driving home from the coast and listening to an interview with a union shop steward broadcast on Radio Five Live who had been invited to give his view upon the breaking news that Mike Ashley had bought House of Fraser about an hour after it had been announced that said high street stalwart had gone into administration.
The exchange took me right back to the halcyon days of Red Robbo and the loony left Luddite shop stewards of the 1970s – when the unions practically ran Britain by threatening to go on strike at the drop of a hat whenever they weren’t round at 10 Downing Street trying to sort out a deal with the Government in a series of smoke-filled rooms over trays of ‘beer and sandwiches’ (which happened about two days per week, i.e. those in the working week when Ted Heath’s Tory Government hadn’t imposed a Three Day Working Week in order to try, unsuccessfully, to teach someone a lesson).
The interviewee plainly had zero understanding of how business or capitalism works. His sole line was moan, moan, moan. He was worried about the fate of the House of Fraser staff and the implications of Mike Ashley having got involved at all because of the way he had historically treated his own workers in Sports Direct and other businesses – low wages, few employee rights, zero hours contracts etc.
What was going to happen to the House of Fraser and more importantly the jobs of its employees? What was going to happen to their pensions?
Why had we heard nothing of Mr Ashley’s plans – (well, other perhaps than he’d been reported as saying that he was going to see just how many House of Fraser stores he could keep open and that he’d boldly stated that he wanted to turn House of Fraser into ‘the Harrods of the high street’)?
The unspoken but very clear implication of what our hero was saying was, of course, that Mike Ashley was the kind of spiv opportunist entrepreneur that gives capitalism a bad name (and keeps union shop stewards like the interviewee in business as the last true guardians of workers’ rights).
The Radio Five presenter – in the interests of impartiality no doubt – pushed back on the shop steward’s thrust by pointing out the glaringly obvious, i.e.
Mr Ashley could hardly be expected to come out with definitive statements about his medium to long term plans for the House of Fraser, or how many jobs were going to be saved, or indeed what was going to happens to such niceties as the pensions of House of Fraser employees, when he had stepped in save the company by shelling out £90 million only about two and a half hours previously;
Was it really the case – because logically this seemed to be the gist of what he was saying – that the speaker regarded Mike Ashley as such an unacceptable representative of the British capitalist class that he (the shop steward) was effectively suggesting that he’d prefer House of Fraser, together with all its employees and pensioners, to go down the ‘administration’ plug hole – and effectively to the wall – rather than take the chance of accepting the potential saving of the company that Mr Ashley’s intervention might bring about?
Our shop steward hero was somewhat stumped for answers to these points.
He seemed to live in a happy comfortable cocoon of existence and belief in which employers, entrepreneurs, the capitalist system (and indeed all means of production themselves) existed only to provide employment, safety and security for the ‘working classes’ – and that any other motivation, particularly any that smacked of personal self-interest, was morally unacceptable.
And … er … that’s really the point of my blog today.
Without further ado or ceremony, let’s go flying forward into the future, when AI robots will rule the world. Of course, they never tire, nor take sick days and can just get replaced every time they wear out. Plus, they don’t even need paying.
Meanwhile, no need for any human beings to work, of course.
We can all be paid a minimum of £140,000 per annum and each have a brand new (electric) Ferrari supercar every year to get about in.
And we could play endless online computer games of FIFA Football World Cup or Premiership Football (or whatever the latest ‘hot’ soccer computer game is called) with fellow fans around the world – and bet upon the outcomes – ad infinitum.
Of course, there’d be no need for a real FIFA Word Cup or indeed a real Premiership Football competition.
Or even any real footballers, or track and field athletes, or Tour de France cyclists, or golfers, or cricketers, or rugby players.
(Again) you’d only have to pay them – and their agents.
How much simpler would it be to play sports-specific computer games in which your 3-D glasses and the high-definition quality of the CGI players is far more realistic than any real-life player, pitch, stadium or even stadium crowd?
Plus, think of the ‘player welfare’ issues that would disappear overnight: no more ‘burnout’ issues from playing too often, or the concussive impacts of heading the ball or (rugby) tackles to the head.
We could all sit at home on our ‘couch potato’ sofa, playing sporting computer games safely all day, whilst our sex robots bring us top-rated delicatessen club sandwiches and delicious glasses of ice-cold Chablis regularly on the hour.
Bring on the year 2050, I say!