Between 1811 and 1812, skilled craftspeople staged rebellion through sabotage in England. The use of unskilled labor at newly invented industrial cotton processing depressed wages for the skilled craftspeople, who were called Luddites after Ned Lud—a word that stays with us today to describe someone who opposes technology.
This is an important period in the history of commerce. Labor was becoming mechanized. Now, since the invention of the computer chip, it is possible for labor to become automated, as well—humans were and are becoming less needed in manufacturing as machine and automated complexity grew by leaps and bounds over the last century. One of the few things keeping oppressed colonized people employed by neocolonialists is the cost/benefit ratio between sometimes literate and poorly treated labor and cheaply made goods that can be shipped around the world at low cost—the rate of exploitation (profit) is still higher than mechanizing and automation in a more capitalized society.
Our economy is planned for achieving maximum profit. A socialist economy is planned for achieved maximum distribution of goods and services to maximize individual potential across the board. The process of mechanization and automation plays out very differently in these two methods of planning.
In an economy planned for profit, machinery is used to cut down on expensive and variable human labor—which gets sick, has family obligations, and needs to rest and eat. Machines can work for as long as you can maintain them with spare parts and lubrication, without lunch or bathroom or sleep breaks. They can be upgraded and replaced without resistance. And, perhaps most importantly, they do not unionize.
Even something as seemeingly trivial as a Blackberry or iPhone increases productivity. Yet this increase in productivity is not followed by a decrease in labor time. More people are working longer hours for less pay than any time since the dawn of the age of post-World War 2 American consumerism. Telecommunications alone could do for planned economics what print did for reading.
The haphazard implementation of automated production in and new, more efficient machines puts workers out of a job. It takes less and less skill to manufacture goods as machines become more specialized, even for complex machines like cars. Even in the best case scenario—decrease in average labor timeper worker as opposed to layoffs—means that workers will earn less per paycheck simply because they work less, although their productivity per labor hours has increased. In a socialist society, pay would at least remain the same until wages could be abolished altogether.
Private property relations are the root problem of the issue. The capitalist, as the sole owners of the factory and its tools (together known as the means of production) has the final say over the implementation of machinery, unless bared so from by a union contract which bargained for some say-so over the use of automated machines. Like the Luddites of the early 1800s, laborers now sometimes oppose introduction of automated machines over job security issues, and rightly so. They have a family to provide for. Yet the capitalist has littlie if any social responsibility to halt his search for maximum profits.
In fact it is their labor which generates the wealth which is used to purchase and design new automated machines, an issue to be discussed in an entry about surplus value.
In a socially planned economy, that is a society that is democratically controlled by producers, the introduction of automated machinery would not pose such problems. Since the ultimate purpose of socialist planned economies is individual development and wellbeing, automation could be planned to increase leisure time and produce more goods more efficiently for better distribution.
But, you might object, what about the USSR, China, and Cuba? Why aren't those socially planned countries materially superior to the imperial world?
These counties, after their revolutions, were blockaded. The USA in particular made it extremely difficult for technology to be exported to the USSR and Cuba, often citing secutity concerns that the Soviet bloc would develop new weapons. I won't touch on China because I am not quite so familiar with it.
To demonstrate, the USSR was planning to build a gas pipeline from Siberia to sell to Western European markets, and had already arranged this when the USA, under Reagan, decided to not sell the turbines and compressors needed by the USSR for this project. In the end the pipeline was completed anyway, and under record time, but the technological blockade the USSR suffered since the 1917 revolution did retard its technological development.
It is not hard to speculate what the societies that actually grew during the Great Depression and beat the most capitalistic country at the space race after one of the most devastating world wide wars (which it fought on all sides) would have accomplished with the most modern computers and machinery, despite its often bumbling bureaucracy, something that the USSR struggled with throughout its existence—and something that could have been easily rectified with modern telecommunications equipment.
The state of the art factories brilliant minds co opted by the imperialist war machine could be better utilized to develop even more efficient automated machinery.
It is entirely possible that the 21st century could see the birth of a society that could for the first time and in short order in industrial history have more leisure time than our hunter-gatherer ancestors.