The item below is a letter we have just received, which I think offers an interesting slant on a topic that seems to be on many minds at present. Editor
It occurs to me that you may be willing to publish details of an idea I have been playing with for a while. It started when I conflated two pieces of information I gleaned from listening to my radio. Perhaps there is no good reason why I should have fused the two, but I did so and came up with a notion that I think may give us all a pointer to the future.
The first item was a report that a man in France had sued his employer – a public body – for what he claimed was distress caused to him because his job gave him a total sinecure. In order to be paid, he was required to be at his workplace each workday, though he had no duties, to do nothing but pass the time until leaving for home. His employer was aware of this and quite happy about it.
The second item arose during a programme about the future of employment in general. An expert in this field stated that the advance of technology would soon put millions of people all over the world out of work. Even those now doing professional and senior executive jobs would be replaced by machines.
My reaction is that it is a pity this did not come along earlier. I am not suggesting that the people affected should be put onto scrap heaps, but rather that they should continue to be paid, in most cases as before but perhaps from different paymasters, say new national bodies.
What I envisage is that the displaced workers should be required to turn up for work somewhere, much like the Frenchman mentioned above, and occupy themselves according to their inclinations and abilities, on condition that their labours are directed to the good of society as a whole. They should not be allowed to fool around with pointless games and similar pastimes, regardless of how they might try to rationalise such activities.
My notion here is that if a number of people are placed in a given spot where they must stay for a working day of average length, most of them are likely to cooperate and exchange ideas that benefit them and others. I suppose one could liken this to the atmosphere of universities. Perhaps we might even call these places multiversities. There would of course need to be some kind of supervision, the nature of which I have not yet thought through. Spice could be added by rewards for anything deemed socially useful, to be determined by judging panels.
In putting forward this proposal I am mindful of my own long career in the mills of industry and commerce. I don’t believe that my country derived much benefit from my efforts, whereas had I been set free to occupy myself as I wished, I like to think the outcome would have been better for my contemporaries and for future generations.
When I took the opportunity to retire somewhat earlier than expected, my boss, the company’s chief executive, asked me what I intended to do with my time. My reply was that I wanted to indulge my long-held desire to produce works of fiction. I was not too pleased when he retorted that most of my work for the previous ten years had comprised writing reports for him and his fellow directors, and that the nature of those papers was such that my proposed future efforts would not represent much of a change. The cheek of it! But never mind my disillusionment after that decade of toil, or the fact that I have not yet done what I had in mind. Let me just hope that you will put my scheme before your readers and I would like to hear their reactions.
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