No Jobs & No Oil: the unsustainability of full employment and cheap energy
Industrial capitalism functions because of an equilibrium in the supply and demand of two crucial commodities: jobs and oil. Without either of the two, societies based upon such an economy will crumble.
Capitalist society requires new markets and industries which must constantly be found to enable economic growth and to replace jobs lost by technical efficiencies. But what if the supply of jobs cannot increase forever, but the demand for new jobs continues to grow?
Industrial society is also dependent upon the supply of cheap energy. In the 19th Century, following the growing use of coal, an even more dense, cheaper and abundant source of energy was tapped in the form of oil - industrial society flourished. We've now become complacent upon our supply of energy. But what if the supply of oil cannot increase forever, but the demand for more oil continues to grow?
The conclusion is simple: full employment and high energy consumption cannot be sustained. The death of industrial capitalist society as we know it is unavoidable.
* Chapter 1: An Autobiographical Introduction
* Chapter 2: Industrial Capitalist Society: the importance of jobs and oil
* Chapter 3: Why The Supply Of Jobs & Oil Must Continually Grow
* Chapter 4: Emerging, Disruptive Technologies: the unsustainability of new jobs
* Chapter 5: The Peak Of Oil Supply: the unsustainability of cheap energy
* Chapter 6: Conclusions
An Autobiographical Introduction
"technological unemployment... unemployment due to our discovery of means of economizing the use of labor outrunning the pace at which we find new uses of labor... If one believes at all in the real values of life, the prospect at least opens up the possibility of benefit. Yet I think with dread of the readjustment of the habits and instincts of the ordinary man, bred into him for countless generations, which he may be asked to discard within a few decades" (J M Keynes, 1930 cited in Handy, 1985: 12)
"Consumer confidence is actually considered a measure of a country's relative economic strength... Consumption is synonymous with 'growth' and growth is good... Judged by the logic of world economics, the death of the planet will be the zenith of human achievement, because if consumption is always good, then to consume a whole planet must be the best thing of all" (Elton, 1993:125)
I left school after my A-Levels disillusioned and disengaged from the world of education and employment. The single-sex grammar school had taught me that the purpose of school was to get good qualifications which would help me get into a top class university. Hard work at university would then result in a good degree, perfect for the job and career I would then want to enter into. But none of this made sense to me. I've always been interested by technology, and I could see the incredible progress being made and the trends which were developing. There was, in my mind, little chance that any job or career I chose to do would still be the same - or even exist - by the time of my retirement. And even if I was wrong, would that job or career really bring me enjoyment and a high quality of life, or would it merely fuel a life of continual material gratification? Further, I couldn't help but conclude that something about that way of life, that way of organising society was ultimately unsustainable.
Many leave education "alienated by an institution that seems to them oppressive, irrelevant and dismissive of their possible contribution to the world. Truly, for them, it is a disabling system." (Handy, 1985: 137)
Having deferred entry to my course in Digital Business & Ecommerce at Nottingham University, I chose to take a year out - time to reflect upon the world and find a path suitable for my life to take. For the first half of the year I was self-employed developing websites for local businesses. Whilst the money was good, the work was depressingly isolated and unfulfilling. Further, it frustrated me how pathetically businesses dealt with environmental concerns and how slow they were to adopt new technologies, truly highlighting to me the conflict between humans and machines. That is, within the businesses I could always see ways in which new efficiencies could be made both for the sake of the environment and also for profits, but almost always these were at the expense of human labour. Systems could always be developed using new technologies, at relatively low cost, which would ultimately lead to many redundancies unless new tasks were found for the displaced workers.
"'Never mind what work you do, what counts is having a job.' This was the essential ideological message of the wage-based society." (Gorz, 1999: 56)
This dilemma worried me. Previously, my father had been made redundant from the music industry and that had helped me to understand just how devastating the experience can be for somebody who has been educated into the belief that not only is a job for life, but it is also an indication of an individual's worth and respect. The lack of a job can leave one (especially for a family man) feeling impotent, worthless and unable to provide financial security for their family. Also, there is the belief that a job is the primary purpose of life, and without one there is nothing to do all day but search continuously for a new job. Our job-seeker's allowance acts to compound this belief. A job also usually provides a gateway into a social life, and a permanent lack of a job leaves an individual socially excluded in many ways.
"Take away jobs in an employment society... [and you] call in question the whole point and purpose of life without a job" (Handy, 1985: xi)
With power comes great responsibilities, and through my skills as a web developer I had the power and capacity to make people redundant. I felt it was inexcusable for me not to be responsible for the consequences of my actions. The second half of my gap year was spent travelling, but with a constant need to observe society around me, the way people lived their lives, the work they did, the happiness it brought them. In India, although in abject poverty and squalor, the majority of people seemed surprisingly happy - far happier than 'successful' people I'd met in the UK. In the province of Kashmir, I was beavering away making notes on a design for an energy-self-sufficient house and putting the world to rights, when a local man I was living with questioned my actions. "Why do you think so much?", he inquired. "Does it really make you happy? Just enjoy being here, put the book away". Here was a man who lived in a mud house in an isolated village in the war-torn mountains of Kashmir. No electricity, few cars, little need for money. But he seemed happy - and he saw me there, thinking away, and realised that perhaps I wasn't happy. Although I had money and material wealth - the ability to travel around the world without working for months at a time - perhaps his quality of life was ironically better than mine. Recently, this experience was mirrored when a nomadic farmer in the cold desserts of Mongolia responded to the question of "Are you happy?" with a resoundingly indignant and surprised reply "Yes... Of course I am!".
"The UK is succeeding in the Government's aim of 'high and stable growth'... [but] overall it does not seem to be making us happier"1
Over the summer, having returned from my travels, I founded a web-based company with a local business person. It was my job to develop the website. When starting university, I decided that Digital Business & Ecommerce was not for me for several reasons. Partly, I realised that whatever the course would teach me would be out of date anyway, due to the incredible speed at which technology develops, and hence the best way to learn would be through self-teaching. Secondly the course consisted of many hours of class time per week, and with my business being run concurrently, I simply wouldn't have time to do both whilst enjoying university as well. In a spontaneous search for a more enjoyable and stimulating course, I chose to study Sociology instead, and have never regretted that choice.
Through the various modules on the course I've explored many absorbing societal issues. But often, I've found that although the subjects they cover are generally extremely valid, important and interesting, they fail to answer the nagging question within my mind: is our lifestyle, our employment and consumption structures, our ideology sustainable? And in the face of a lack of answers to this question, other issues, questions and conflicts become largely irrelevant and short-termist in nature. What, for example, is the point of irradicating poverty if any solution to it is based upon an inherently Cornucopian and unsustainable framework or superstructure?
This dissertation, therefore, deals with that nagging question of sustainability on two interrelated fronts. Firstly, it discusses the possibility of 'the end of work' through technological unemployment. As a freelance web developer, through my web-based company and for personal enjoyment, I keep up-to-date daily on technological developments, and am extremely well-placed to comment upon this field. Secondly, the dissertation discusses the inevitability and impact of a sooner-than-you-think decline in the world's supply of oil. The specifics of this issue have thus far failed to make significant inroads into traditional mainstream media and education, however the online 'blogosphere'2 provided the kick-start which has propelled me on a journey to accept its often depressing and sobering consequences. Thirdly, an attempt will be made to bring these two issues together and discuss their relationship to each other in forming the future of our societies.
"[T]he sooner the general public understands the situation industrial societies are in, the less suffering will occur as we make the inevitable but painful transition to a new energy regime." (Heinberg, 2003: 190)
1. Sustainable Development Commission (April 2004) Shows Promise. But Must Try Harder: an assessment by the SDC of the Government's reported progress on sustainable development over the past five years, online: http://www.sd-commission.gov.uk/pubs/assessment/index.htm [go back]
2. The 'blogosphere' is a term which refers to the world of weblogs ('blogs' for short) which make many individuals publishers at low cost, allowing them to be free from the constraints of pleasing advertisers and other traditional media concerns. In specific, I first heard about 'peak oil' on Marshall Brain's weblog on 11 February 2004: http://marshallbrain.blogspot.com/2004_02_01_marshallbrain_archive.html [go back]
Industrial Capitalist Society: the importance of jobs and oil
"Why should the present economic system, which has evolved largely of itself, automatically be the best?" (Adam Smith, 1776, cited in Roberts, 1982: 19)
Industrial capitalist societies may be plagued with numerous ailments, inequalities and conflicts, yet they are generally coherent - they function. Whilst no doubt not the only aspects which make them functional, their existence is extremely dependent upon two things: wealth distribution and cheap energy.
Without wealth distributed to an individual, it is impossible for them to buy things. If an individual is unable to buy the basic necessities for life, then either they will die or they must reject wider society and provide those necessities in other ways, for example through a subsistence lifestyle. Jobs provide the main form of wealth distribution for industrial capitalist societies. Although benefit systems distribute wealth to a minority of jobless individuals, they are funded by taxing the jobs of others. Unless a completely different system of wealth distribution were adopted, without a high level of employment industrial capitalist society would collapse. Therefore, industrial capitalist society - the society in which we live - is dependent upon jobs.
Without a source of energy, no work can be done. Animals - such as humans - have energy stored inside themselves, which they obtain by eating other animals and plants, which in turn get their energy from the sun. It is energy which enables us to live, and to do work. Before oil was used as a source of energy, people were severely limited in the amount of work they could do, and development was comparatively slow. Although numerous sources of additional energy have been utilized over the years (such as wind, water, wood and coal), all pale in comparison to oil. Oil is the most energy dense form of energy ever found, and particularly in its early days, required little expenditure of energy in order to obtain it. Industrial society requires large and ever increasing quantities of energy in order to sustain compound growth and a rising material standard of living. It is largely irrelevant whether the society is capitalist or socialist. Unless a comparable source of energy were to be found, without increasing supplies of oil industrial society based upon these goals would collapse. Therefore, industrial society - the society in which we live - is dependent upon oil.
It should be observed that an important distinction has been made between industrial capitalist societies and industrial socialist societies. Whilst a lack of oil affects both, it is possible that only a capitalist society is dependent upon jobs.
Why The Supply Of Jobs & Oil Must Continually Grow
"The idea of a society not based on work is so utterly alien to any notion we have about how to organise large numbers of people into a social whole, that we are faced with the prospect of having to rethink the very basis of the social contract." (Rifkin, 1995: 12)
My argument concerning full employment is that it is unsustainable because of inherent weaknesses in the continual supply of jobs coupled with an increasing demand for jobs. The argument concerning cheap energy is exceptionally similar - there are physical limits to its supply but a necessity for an increase in its demand. For both, the necessity for increase in supply has everything to do with the nature of capitalist growth.
It is sometimes difficult not to foresee the end of full employment when there is so much change and conflict within the workforce. Every few days the world's employers make changes to their personnel, creating headlines in the papers - 1,000 employees lost in one place due to 'rationalization', and another 500 elsewhere due to general 'downsizing' and 'cost cutting'. Meanwhile, similar news items track the globalization of jobs with call centre and computer programming jobs being lost from the West and moved to countries such as India and China where wages are lower. The job market is constantly changing - there is nothing new about that - and wherever there's change, jobs are at risk, creating a demand for new jobs. But business-as-usual advocates, the majority of politicians and economists, insist that the change is necessary and sustainable, with near full employment figures providing a statistical weighting to their ideology.
It is also sometimes difficult not to foresee the end of our supply of oil when we use it so quickly. Our demand for oil is insatiable, with new products and lifestyles which consume increasing amounts of the commodity. Whilst a piece of paper may not be manufactured out of oil, its manufacture and delivery does require a sources of energy, and the cheapest and most useful form of abundant energy is oil. It is therefore not just cars which require oil but almost all goods we ever use. Our demand for those goods is not decreasing, but increasing. Whenever new consumer products are invented, industries developed or new markets found and exploited, the demand for oil increases. But business-as-usual advocates, the majority of politicians and economists, insist that the change - the new markets, products and industries - is necessary and sustainable, with ever increasing estimates as to the depletion of the supply of oil providing a statistical weighting to their ideology.
Before debunking in a later chapter the myths of everlasting increases in the supply of jobs and oil, I will first explain exactly why those supplies must - for industrial capitalist societies at least - increase. In short: the increase in supply of jobs is necessary to meet a growing demand for new jobs, which is an inherent features of capitalism; the increase in the supply of oil is necessary to meet a growing demand new markets and industries, again, an inherent feature of capitalism. Whilst a planned socialist society does not necessarily require the growth in either new jobs or oil, in its realised industrial forms it has at the least required a high energy input from oil. This dissertation focuses specifically on industrial capitalism, but should not be seen as an argument solely against capitalism and in favour of socialism. Indeed, in their industrial forms, neither are sustainable.
To understand change within job markets and the need for an increased supply of new jobs, it helps to have a basic understanding of the mechanics of capitalism. Under capitalism, companies are in competition with each other and must find ways to maximize their profits. If it is cheaper for a company to go about its business in a new and innovative way - possibly through the use of new technologies - then it is in the company's interest to do that. If a company is the first to save costs in such a way then, presuming all else remains equal, that company will be able to make profits on the cost savings. But over time, the profits made by that company will diminish as new companies enter the market and existing companies follow the market leader in its new methods, forcing the innovating company to lower prices for consumers in order to remain competitive. Diminished profits for all then encourage companies to look for new ways to innovate, new cost saving methods. Investment and profits are crucial - without investment or retained profits, there is no money to finance innovations, and hence a company will lose its competitiveness.
One way for a company to innovate and become more competitive is to use new technologies, and often those technologies can replace tasks previously done by human labour. But the labour theory of value, which was first developed by Adam Smith before being adopted by Karl Marx, suggests that value is appropriated from human labour. Because of this, and the fact that companies invest more and more in technologies rather than human labour over time, Marx "concluded that the rate of profit would fall even as the economy grew"1 for capitalist economies. Marx held that it is this which leads to the economic boom and bust cycles, and which would - presuming a revolution does not bring about socialism sooner - eventually lead to the crisis of capitalism as profits collapse almost entirely, with the boom and bust cycle experiencing increasing amplitude and frequency.
Capitalist economies function in a similar way to pyramid schemes, and money is created through borrowing. Imagine a startup company. That company may raise finance through the issuing of shares, even though the company doesn't yet have any valuable assets. The company will borrow money from investing shareholders who hope that the company will soon be making a profit, so that they can make a return on their investment. Today, regular currency works in a similar way and in direct competition with these shares. When the Bank of England issues a promissory twenty pound note, they "promise to pay the bearer on demand the sum of twenty pounds" (Chief Cashier of The Bank of England, front of an English twenty pound) - this is what gives money its value. If an investor knows that a share in company x is likely to make a 5% return on their investment in a year, then they would be foolish to buy British pounds instead if the interest rate on the pound was much lower than 5%. But the Bank of England needs people to buy its currency in order to keep inflation low. Because of this, perpetual growth and compound interest is a necessity:
"Currently all nations have a type of financial system in which virtually all money is created through the making of loans. Thus, nearly all of the money in existence represents debt... If new loans are not being made, then somewhere in the network people will be finding it impossible to pay the interest on their existing loans... Thus the necessity for growth in the money supply is a structural feature of the financial system." (Heinberg, 2003: 170)
Having exhausted possibilities in one market, in order to stave off diminishing profits and return on investments, companies must find new markets to exploit and saturate, or new industries, products and services. If the world was as big as solely US or Europe, and no new industries, products and services could be found, there would be no new level to attach to the bottom of the pyramid. The result would be a collapse of the entire financial system, in a similar way as would happen if a successful pyramid letter scheme was to saturate across an entire population. Fortunately for industrial capitalism though, partly through necessity companies have developed a formidable system of global trade, something we now call globalization. This has enabled numerous new markets to be found, enabling continuous growth and interest.
Energy must come from somewhere to produce and transport goods for new markets and industries, and also to sustain the population. Population growth is encouraged by industrialisation as it creates larger markets for products. Without large quantities of energy, and regardless of the source of that energy, it would be impossible to sustain large populations. Excess energy remaining after the sustainment of large populations can then be used to fuel the energy requirements of new markets and industries. But with almost any new good, industry and market, more energy is required. The cheapest, most dense and most abundant form of energy to meet the requirement is oil. Importantly, there is currently no viable alternative to oil. Equally, there is perhaps no viable - at least within a regular capitalist framework - alternative to jobs.
The Alternatives To Jobs
"If a society makes jobs the pivot of existence and then cannot provide enough jobs, or share out the available jobs more fairly, or find alternative pivots for life, it is practicing deceit." (Handy, 1985: 15)
We have now established the importance of increases in the supply of new jobs because the demand for them will increase. If, as will be explained later, the supply of new jobs is not likely to increase, then an alternative to new jobs must be found for the survival of industrial capitalism.
There is much confusion over the use of the words 'work', 'job' and 'employment'. Handy (1985) states that "[w]e have, to put it crudely, made the job the only legitimate form of work" (1985: xi), and Robertson (1985) views employment as "a way of organizing work" which is part of an "employment empire" (1985: xii). Both of these individuals, along with many others over the years, are of the belief that full employment is not sustainable and that we should try to look beyond full employment, at least as we know it, to a new basis for society, perhaps one in which 'employed' work forms only one part of our working lives.
Part of Handy's (1985) proposal is that if we cannot increase the supply of jobs, then perhaps we could instead reduce the demand for them. Examples he offers include keeping people in education for longer, rationing to one job per house and work sharing or part time jobs (1985: 3). But later, he condemns the rationing of jobs as being "crazy, given all that needs to be done in the world" (1985: 38). However rationing, in the form of shortening the working week at least, is an often recommended left-wing policy. Following high rate of unemployment at over 10% at the turn of the millennium, a socialist French government reduced its working week from 39 to just 35 hours, receiving loud and mixed reactions2 3. According to the (now past) government, this policy has helped create 350,000 jobs between 1998 and 2001 - although these figures are widely disputed and criticism flies at the laws for being too restrictive and complex, with proposals by the current (and more right wing) government to abolish them4. But, in the context of my argument at least, measures such as the reduction in the working week are not sustainable under business-as-usual industrial capitalism. Whilst they may provide short term answers within a geographically confined area, they do not provide for a global solution. Industrial capitalism inherently requires growth, and by reducing the working week, unless growth is sustained in other geographical regions, capitalism would fail and our financial structures would collapse.
Robertson (1985) suggests that we compliment and eventually even replace our regular employment with what he coins 'ownwork', an "activity which is purposeful and important, and which people organise and control for themselves" (1985: x). One reason suggested for this is that "employment now seems to be becoming an uneconomic way of getting things done" (1985: 23), drawing a parallel with slavery which equally became uneconomic. Robertson's alternative, in the form of 'ownwork' would see "a move towards a more self-reliant society, more decentralized, more equal as between men and women, better equipped with effective small-scale technologies, more committed to a high quality of life" (1985: xiii). Such a society sounds highly desirable, but also arguably idealistic and unobtainable. But 'ownwork' alone, unless entirely based upon subsistence - which is not Robertson's argument - does not solve the problem of wealth distribution.
Gorz (1999) is more radical than either Robertson or Handy, writing "[l]et us make no mistake about this: wage-labour has to disappear and, with it, capitalism." (1999: 77). Here Gorz is astute and forthright in realising that the disappearance of wage-labour would also see the disappearance of capitalism. Gorz's alternative to wage-labour centres primarily around the provision of a basic income from the state, a tool of wealth distribution on which almost all such writers appear to agree.
One reason why full employment is so necessary for our societies to function is because of the distribution of wealth it provides. If jobs cannot be provided for all, then an alternative means of wealth distribution must be found. For this reason, almost all writers who look past full employment appear to advocate, or at least analyse with no solid conclusion in favour or against, the possibility of introducing a basic income scheme. A basic income scheme - although existing within theory in several flavours - generally consists of the government providing a certain level of income unconditionally to all of its citizens regardless of their financial situation and employment status. There is no such scheme currently in existence, although in Alaska profits from oil exploration are divided amongst its citizens in a similar way through the Alaska Permanent Fund. Fitzpatrick states that a basic income "is no more unrealistic than the state pension was before 1908 or health care free at the point of treatment was before 1948" (1999: 70), giving hope to its plausibility. But the introduction of a basic income is politically extremely sensitive - suggesting its economic necessity rejects mainstream Cornucopian visions of full employment forever and is inevitably scorned by individuals citing that it would encourage people to work less and scrounge off the state. The Liberal Democrats committed to a basic income scheme until 1992 but dropped it due to its political sensitivity. Nevertheless, the British Green Party continue to advocate a basic income, which they call a 'Citizen's Income'5.
As well as providing a solution to a decrease in the supply of new jobs, a basic income would also provide many other benefits.
"[A basic income] will make it possible to re-establish a free market in labour. Employers will no longer be responsible for paying their employee's basic income and will therefore be free to pay them as much or as little as they think they can afford. Employees, on the other hand, will already be receiving their basic income from the state, and will be free to accept as much or as little pay as they may decide." (Robertson, 1985: 168)
This, is a crucial point: a basic income would severe the link between employers and their employees for the basic provision of human needs. By doing so, the role of governments could be changed. No longer to "stimulate demand in order to maintain production, but to encourage production in order to meet demand and to maintain the balance of payments" (Roberts, 1982: 20). Roberts finds an answer to the question we must ask if the demand for new jobs keeps growing whilst the supply does not increase: "the purpose of growth would be to increase the standard of living, not to increase demand in order to create jobs." (1982: 20).
The provision of a basic income, along with other schemes such as reducing the number of hours we work under employment, and increasing the amount of work we may do for ourselves, may well be a viable alternative to today's full employment. However, such changes are so drastic that the resulting society could not easily be referred to as capitalist, but perhaps a socialist-capitalist mix. Regardless, the lack of a viable alternative to oil would make all attempts to sustain industrialism futile.
The Alternatives To Oil
"There really aren't any good energy solutions for bridges, to buy some time, from oil and gas to the alternatives. The only alternative right now is to shrink our economies."6
Earlier we established the importance of increases in the supply of oil because the demand for it will increase. If, as will be explained later, the supply of oil is not likely to increase, then an alternative to oil must be found for the survival of industrialism.
Of course, business-as-usual advocates argue as follows: a fall in the supply of oil but a continuation of the demand for energy will encourage investments in alternative energy sources such as nuclear, hydrogen and the renewables. Economists' supply and demand curves solve the problem because low supply and high demand means high prices, making investments in alternatives attractive. Or, if politicians consider that supply and demand alone is not sufficient, they can subsidise investments in the alternatives through grants, funds and direct investments. But that is to presume that there is an alternative to be found and that it is scientifically possible to find a new energy source to provide as much energy has oil has provided so far. Whilst necessity has been the mother of inventions in the past, it would be folly to extrapolate that it will unquestionably provide an alternative energy source. It is theoretically plausible that the laws of science and nature do not provide for such an energy source - that one does not exist.
Oil is a suitable energy source for various reasons, but perhaps the most fundamental and important is that oil provides a high net energy level. Heinberg (2003) explains:
"It takes energy to acquire or develop energy resources. A potential source that contains more energy than was expended in the effort to acquire it yields an energy profit. One that takes more energy to acquire than it ultimately yields is not an energy source at all, but rather an energy sink." (2003: 138)
Oil has an incredibly high positive net energy value. In the early days of oil exploration, the net energy gained from oil was of astronomical proportions - the oil was being kept underground at immense pressure, and would rush to the ground when discovered, with very little energy expended by the extractors. Today, oil still has a positive net energy value, but this is far lower than it used to be because most oil now needs to be sucked out of the ground. This, in part, explains the diminishing returns which create the 'peak oil' situation discussed in a later chapter. Heinberg (2003) argues that it is primarily the fact of the high net energy levels of oil - and to a lesser extent the significantly smaller net energy level of coal - that gave rise to industrialism.
The buzzword regarding energy today is hydrogen. Jeremy Rifkin, who also wrote about the 'End Of Work' in 1995, released a book on 'The Hydrogen Economy' in 2003. In it, he provides an extremely optimistic outlook for hydrogen7. But proponents of a hydrogen economy should take note: hydrogen is not an energy source but an energy store, little more than a glorified battery. That is, the production of hydrogen (it needs to be produced because it is not freely and naturally available in its non-bonded, energy useful form) as a usable energy costs more energy than the useful energy that can be expropriated from it. Although hydrogen (chemical symbol H) is a component of water (chemical symbol H2O), separating they hydrogen from the oxygen requires a process of electrolysis which ultimately costs more energy than it gains:
"The most developed form of hydrogen isolation through electrolysis requires electricity to separate the hydrogens from the carbons in the hydrocarbon molecule, and within that reaction the net energy produced is positive. However, the electrolysis reaction also uses a catalyst to increase the energy release in the process. The catalyst typically used in hydrogen electrolysis is platinum. Mining and processing platinum is incredibly energy intensive, using fossil fuels such as coal to drive machinery that makes platinum available for the electrolysis."8
An alternative to using electrolysis is to use methane (natural gas). Again, however, more energy is expended in producing the hydrogen than is gained. Methane would be better used, in terms of net energy, directly rather than being transformed into hydrogen first.
Non-renewables such as methane and coal fail to provide a long term solution either. Over time, they will suffer the same fate as oil, which will be discussed in the next chapter. Also, with a fall in the supply of oil reserves they may prolong the industrial period by a number of decades, but their net energy levels are drastically lower than that for oil. Environmentalists would also question the use of such non-renewables for their possible damage to the planet.
Nuclear power, which creates concerns surrounding safety and the environment, is also extremely unlikely to provide a viable alternative to oil. "The [net energy] for nuclear power - when plant construction and decommissioning, waste storage, uranium mining, and all other aspects of production are taken into account - is fairly low" (Heinberg, 2003: 137).
Heinberg sees greatest hope in wind power - although solar power also offers a partial solution - which is renewable and also provides a fairly high net energy return. However, he also explains that the "challenge for industrial societies is to scale up production quickly enough to avert economic and social calamity... but it would require a significant reallocation of economic resources" (2003: 141).
Of course, there may be an energy source out there which we don't yet know of or haven't yet been able to harness. Fusion power, perhaps. One man even claims to have found a source of 'free' energy which 'harnesses the power of magnets'9. But the reality is this: at present, there is no energy source which is a viable alternative which can provide us with as much cheap energy as oil has done since the late 19th Century. Without such an alternative, and presuming a decrease in the supply of oil, one realises that industrialism is unsustainable.
1. Wikipedia (5 April 2004) Karl Marx, online: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karl_Marx [go back]
2. BBC News Online (12 March 2002) France's Workplace Revolution, online: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/1859891.stm [go back]
3. Triplet & Associes (accessed 20 April 2004) French Law: The Standard French Working Week, online: http://www.triplet.com/50-10_employment/50-20_workingtime.asp [go back]
4. Guardian Unlimited (16 April 2004), online: http://www.guardian.co.uk/international/story/0,3604,1192884,00.html [go back]
5. Green Party (accessed 20 April 2004) Policy Pointer: citizen's income, an end to the poverty trap, online: http://mirror.greenparty.org.uk/leaflets/policypointers/citizensincome.pdf [go back]
6. BBC News Online (16 April 2004) When the last oil well runs dry, online: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/3623549.stm [go back]
7. I am basing Rifkin's optimism on hydrogen based upon Amazon's synopsis and reviews of his book ( http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/1585422541/202-5691885-9274243). Due to its recent release date, I have regrettably not yet had a chance to read 'The Hydrogen Economy: The Creation of the Worldwide Energy Web and the Redistribution of Power on Earth'. [go back]
8. Lynne Kiesling, (24 March 2003) The Science Of Hydrogen Fuel Cells, online: http://www.rppi.org/scienceofhydrogen.html [go back]
9. Japan.com (2004), The Techno Maestro's Amazing Machine: Kohei Minato and the Japan Magnetic Fan Company, online: http://japan.com/technology/ [go back]
Emerging, Disruptive Technologies: the unsustainability of new jobs
'"What have you got against machines?" said Buck,
"Well, what the heck," said Buck. "I mean, they aren't people. They don't suffer. They don't mind working."
"No. But they compete with people."
"That's a pretty good thing, isn't it - considering what a sloppy job most people do of anything?"
"Anybody that competes with a slave becomes a slave," said Harrison thickly, and he left.' (Vonnegut, 1952: 243)
For as long as machines have existed, there has always been friction between machines and humans. Technological unemployment, which increases the demand for new jobs, has been occurring since before capitalism began and is not a new phenomenon. However in the past, new jobs have always been created to replace jobs lost elsewhere. But new and emerging, disruptive technologies are severely limiting the supply of new jobs and simultaneously destroying existing ones. Whilst they may be providing a number of temporary and a few permanent placements, the net long term result is a negative impact on the job market. The need for an increased supply of new jobs has already been highlighted in an earlier chapter. If, as my argument goes, the demand for new jobs is increasing whilst supply levels off or falls, then a purely capitalist society becomes unstable and unsustainable.
It is a selection of new technologies, fuelled by the compound growth economics of industrial capitalism, which are to create a shortage in the supply of jobs.
Change in technology is rapid. In the second half of 1995 Microsoft released Windows '95, and personal computers were becoming popular both within businesses and also the home. The Internet was in an embryonic stage, limited to governments, universities and the 'geek' niche. That's less than 10 years ago. Today, over half of all homes in the UK have a PC - sometimes more than one1. Increasingly, these computers are connected to the Internet with always-on broadband becoming popular, enabling users to have instant access to millions of other Internet users across the globe. There are an estimated 100 million broadband connections globally, 3 million of which are in the UK2. In 1995 a PC with a 75MHz processor and 8MB of RAM and a 1GB hard drive cost well over £1,000. Today a 3,000MHz PC with 512MB of RAM and a 80GB hard drive can cost less than half of that price3.
Increasingly powerful computer hardware coupled with the necessary software to harness it, bolted onto a formidable global communications network in the form of the Internet is putting more and more jobs at risk. Need a song? Well, just download it - either illegally for free over a P2P network, or for around £1 from one of the new pay-per-download sites popping up around the world. If all music was transported in this way, then we wouldn't need record shops and much of the music industry any more, putting tens of thousands of people out of work. This is already happening - EMI recently announced 1,500 jobs to go worldwide, blaming poor CD sales due to Internet piracy4 5.
The public sector is also using disruptive technologies to replace human labour. In his 2004 budget speech, Gordon Brown announced massive employment cuts - the Department of Work and Pensions alone seeing 30,000 jobs axed by 20086. It is of little surprise that a recent survey found that one-in-three of the people asked were worried about losing their jobs7.
Without our cheap and fast communication networks it would be impossible to have a call centre in India answering calls made from the UK. Without powerful networked computers, world stock markets wouldn't function at anywhere near their current capacity - hindering the global flow of finance. Similarly, downsizing is partly made possible by replacing humans with machines which can perform the same tasks at a fraction of the price.
But somehow - according to the official statistics at least - the UK manages to keep unemployment at extremely low levels. The latest data shows unemployment at only 4.8% (1.43 million), "the joint lowest since records began in 1984"8. The story appears more muddled in the US though, where the March 2004 unemployment rate sits at 5.7% after a huge upturn in employment in February, but a surge in unemployment benefit claimants in March9 10. However the figures are taken, unemployment rates are nowhere near as high as past doom-sayers have predicted. Regardless of the exact current trend though, business-as-usual economists, business leaders and politicians would argue that full employment within industrial societies can be sustained in the long term - that new industries, products and services can always be created to soak up unemployment, with economic growth continuing at an exponential rate. Where unemployment does exist, they argue that this may be due to short-term adjustments or failing Government policies. Generally, they do not foresee the supply of new jobs running out.
Over the years, there have been many who disagree with these mainstream business-as-usual economists, business leaders and politicians. The dissenters' exact arguments and approaches vary, but the general consensus is that whilst full employment may indeed be a current reality, in the long term we will run out of new industries, products and services which provide sufficient jobs to keep unemployment at bay. I'm not referring here to individuals who solely suggest that we purposefully change the goals of society from full employment and economic growth to the pursuit of enjoyment and a steady-state economy - although often they think this too - but more specifically to those who suggest that full employment is fundamentally impossible to maintain. Jeremy Rifkin is currently the most popular and respected such individual, with 'The End Of Work' (1995) detailing his view that full employment is coming to an end, with "[t]he service sector... probably approach[ing] a nearly automated state by the mid-decades of the next century." (1995: 291).
Such arguments are often dismissed for being proven wrong time and time again throughout history, based upon a flawed understanding of basic economics and simply acting as lucrative scare-mongering propaganda which is all-to-quickly propagated by progressive-leftist educators and journalists. Indeed, in a recent long and heated email conversation which I had with a staunch business-as-usual advocate in the US, it became clear to me that a belief in the eventual end of full employment is often ridiculed and dismissed off-hand. An analysis of how unemployment is kept low in the UK and US is needed.
Firstly, many of the current jobs are temporary jobs in which some individuals are working on fairly simple tasks whilst others are employed as programmers or in research and development to find a way to automate those jobs or find alternatives to them. For example, web developers such as myself are programming complex database driven websites which replace some time consuming but rule-based - and hence potentially programmable - administrative tasks within businesses. In the short term, the result is more rather than less employment - rather than just employing the administrative staff, the programmer also has to be employed. But once the automated systems are in place, the administrative staff are no longer necessary unless new tasks can be found for them. Similarly, unless new tasks can be found for the programmer, then they will also lose their job. Once in place, the technology which has replaced the administrative staff usually only requires minimal hours of maintenance, and whilst that maintenance may currently be relatively expensive, as more individuals become capable of the necessary skills, they compete with each other and prices fall. Hence, although currently there may even be a net job gain, it is only a matter of a few years before there is a significant net job loss.
Secondly, globalization creates new jobs in the UK and US. Whilst the factories to create products for international markets may often also be abroad, there are some jobs which remain in the UK and US, such as administration, research and development, advertising, marketing, management and operations. But, again, over time many of these jobs which are rule-based can be replaced by technology, and the world is not of infinite size - eventually, we will run out of new markets. Gorz explains that "the return to virtual full employment through the creation of hundreds of millions of new Westernized consumers is a mirage" (1999: 23).
The near future offers more possibilities for the destruction of the supply of new jobs. Whilst the digitization of data and its transport around the Internet have been the main disruptive technologies of past 10 years, it appears likely that robotization will increase the pace for the next 10 years and more.
"Mankind's centuries-long quest to build artificial creatures is bearing fruit. Machines are now becoming autonomous in areas that bypassed them in the industrial revolution. Machines are starting to make the judgments and decisions that help kept people in the loop for the last two hundred years... we are starting to see intelligent robots that can operate in unstructured environments, doing jobs that are usually thought to still require people" (Brooks, 2002: 11)
Robots are no longer merely a feature of science fiction. Further, given a sufficient energy source, it would appear as though there is little that robots will not eventually be able to do instead of humans.11
It is my argument that our current situation is unique because of our new and emerging disruptive technologies: full employment will not return without drastic change to our economic model. The only way to maintain a functional society would be to find a new way of distributing wealth, and doing so would be an adjustment away from a purely capitalist society.
1. BBC News Online (18 March 2004) Computer ownership 'on the rise', online: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/3523350.stm [go back]
2. BBC News Online (6 January 2004) Global broadband keeps climbing, online: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/3369323.stm [go back]
3. 1995 PC based upon personal purchase, today's PC based upon various PC vendors' websites [go back]
4. Guardian Unlimited (1 April 2004), EMI jettisons 1,500 jobs and 200 acts , online: http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/story/0,3604,1183126,00.html [go back]
5. Times Online (1 April 2004) EMI cuts 1,500 jobs after CD sales slump, online: http://business.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,9071-1058912,00.html [go back]
6. Guardian Unlimited (17 March 2004) Civil servants shocked by job cuts , online: http://politics.guardian.co.uk/whitehall/story/0,9061,1171463,00.html [go back]
7. BBC News Online (14 January 2004) Workers 'haunted' by job fears, online: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/3394351.stm [go back]
8. National Statistics Online (16 April 2004) Employment: up again to record rate of 74.9%, online: http://www.statistics.gov.uk/cci/nugget.asp?id=12 [go back]
9. Scotsman.com (16 April 2004) Blow as US unemployment claims soar, online: http://business.scotsman.com/economy.cfm?id=427232004 [go back]
10. US Department of Labour (18 April 2004), online: http://www.dol.gov/ [go back]
11. A fantastic source of information on areas into which robotics are making advances is Marshall Brain's blog called 'Robotic Nation Evidence' at http://roboticnation.blogspot.com/ [go back]
The Peak Of Oil Supply: the unsustainability of cheap energy
"The world is about to change dramatically and permanently as a result of oil depletion... We are entering a new era as different from the industrial one as the latter was from mediaeval times." (Heinberg, 2003: backcover)
In schools we are taught how fossil fuels, such as oil and coal, are non-renewable resources - we use them, they run out, and they're gone forever. I believe my school text book claimed there were about 40 years of oil left, meaning that oil will run out in around 2030. But soon, we learn to forget about this because 2030 is many years away, and capitalism is fuelling progress in science and technology at such rapid rates that by the time oil has run out, we will no longer require it. Business and consumer life, as we are used to, can continue as usual.
But the hard facts suggest otherwise. In the mid-twentieth century, Marion King Hubbert found that the production of oil follows a bell-shaped curve. That is, production increases, reaches a peak which it will never reach again, and then falls over many years, rather than suddenly decreasing to zero. For this reason, predicting the date of oil depletion is largely irrelevant as it will occur many, many decades into the future - far more important is to predict when oil production will peak. After that peak, the supply of oil decreases and the basic laws of supply and demand contend that a decrease in supply will lead to an increase in prices. Following this find, Hubbert successfully predicted the date of peak oil in the US (or, more accurately, the US Lower-48 - that is, the 48 states which exclude Alaska and Hawaii) as being between 1966 and 1972 (the actual peak occurred in 1970)1. More recently, The Association for the Study of Peak Oil (ASPO <www.peakoil.net>), founded by the oil expert and geologist Dr Colin Campbell, have made predictions for the peak of world oil supply through the Uppsala Hydrocarbon Depletion Study Group (UHDSG <www.isv.uu.se/uhdsg>). Their findings see the world peak oil supply as occurring no later than 2015. Similar studies have predicted peaks as early as 20002, with a more common range of between 2006 and 2015. The graph below illustrates UHDSGs findings3.
Most predictions for "40 years of oil" etc. are based upon world production to reserve ratios and as such are absurdly ignorant of scientific reality. A recent article by BBC Online is a perfect example of the propagation of this myth (see graph, right)4. The accompanying text on the BBC website reads:
How long will it last?
The short answer is no-one knows, but even the oil industry suspects the world "peak" is now approaching.
It says it has 40 years of proven reserves at the moment - but it also said that 30 years ago.
In fact, the estimate has actually increased in recent years as production has fallen. Cutting consumption would prolong oil's life. 5
A casual reader would presume this: we have over 40 years worth of oil left, and probably more thanks to the last paragraph above. But that interpretation would be fundamentally wrong. The text on the graph helps explain the situation better: "Reserves-to-production ratio is the remaining reserves divided by that year's production, and assumes production continues at the same level" (italics mine). As has already been explained and historically proven by scientific study, production will not continue at the same level. As an oil well dries, the rate of extraction - and hence production - from it decreases, as it becomes more and more difficult and hence expensive to extract the oil. Further, whilst new oil wells are being found periodically, giving optimists hope about more cheap oil, their size is dwarfed in comparison to past finds. If the graph was to be extended into the future then the number of years of oil remaining would increase, but that wouldn't be due to newly found reserves, but due to falling production.
The peak of the discovery of oil wells has unquestionably passed, as demonstrated by the graph, left6. This means that current oil production is primarily from oil wells discovered decades ago. To suggest for a minute, as the BBC has done, that oil 'will last for 40 more years' is inexcusably inaccurate and misleading. The BBC redeems itself at least partially through its extremely recent (19 April 2004) edition of a new expose on a potential oil crisis. Called 'A World Without Oil', "BBC News Online is taking an in-depth look at the future of oil. Will it run out? How will we cope?". The various articles within this expose, include data and quotes from ASPO as well as Matthew Simmons (whose answers to peak oil related questions can be downloaded and listened to in MP3 format7, along with other peak oil experts), the former US government adviser who understands the peak oil situation all too well. Whilst there is no new data per se within this expose, it finally shows that mainstream media may well be beginning to pay attention to the issue. Before this, the only other recent true mention of peak oil within the mainstream online press in the UK which I was able to find after much searching was a lone article in the Guardian on 2 December 20038.
So, presuming global oil supply is about to peak, what will happen? Presuming demand doesn't decrease, then prices will rise. Demand is extremely unlikely to decrease, but instead grow into the foreseeable future. Within industrialised countries such as the US and UK, the consumption and demand for oil continues to increase. Concurrently, globalization is encouraging dozens of countries around the world to become equally dependent upon oil, with their consumption levels rocketing. China, the largest country in the world by population, is industrialising at a phenomenal rate - I was able to experience this first hand whilst in Beijing in March 20049. In 2003, China overtook Japan to become the second-largest oil consumer after the US. By 2020 China's demand for oil is expected to more than double10.
Of course, it's easily foreseeable that the peak of the supply of oil can be delayed, as it probably already has been. An increase in demand for oil inevitably encourages an increase in supply of oil as oil companies increase investment into oil exploration and extraction. However, experts suggest that it is virtually impossible that massive conventional-oil wells remain undiscovered, as the exploratory tools at their disposal would have already found them by now. Secondly, oil companies are experiencing diminishing return on investment - for every dollar expended, less and less oil is being pumped. Whilst some suggest that non-conventional oil holds the key, experience has found that it is extremely expensive and environmental damaging to extract. Prices are already reflecting this truth - crude oil prices are the highest they've been for over 13 years11.
So, presuming demand for oil does not decrease but supply does decrease, then oil prices will soar to astronomical levels as demand will outstrip supply by an ever increasing rate. It is of little wonder that the US and UK-led coalition is increasing its presence in the Middle-East - under the guise of humanitarian 'liberation' - when one realises that it is home to approximately 65% of remaining conventional-oil reserves12.
The price of energy is the most critical price of any commodity for industrialised societies. Currently, and for the period of industrialism, oil has provided us with a cheap and abundant supply. The price of almost every other commodity relies upon it. A rise in oil prices will obviously result in higher prices at the pumps for consumers, but the consequences of that pale in comparison to the rise in prices for businesses, and the associated cost rises for all products which they produce. Modern agriculture makes heavy use of oil, as Heinberg explains:
"Traditional forms of agriculture produced a small solar-energy surplus: each pound of food contained somewhat more stored energy from sunlight than humans, often with the help of animals, had to expend in growing it... Today, from farm to plate... a typical food item may embody input energy between four and several hundred times its food energy. This energy deficit can only be maintained because of the availability of cheap fossil fuels." (Heinberg, 2003: 175)
Unfortunately, the fact of the matter is blunt. There is simply no long term solution, which is currently foreseeable, which can provide anything even approaching the current levels of energy to sustain and please the population. The only long term solution is to curb our energy usage - and that doesn't just mean using energy efficient light bulbs and taking the bus to work. Energy is required in the production of all manufactured goods. In order to reduce our energy consumption, it follows that we consume less products. But of course, such a course of action is in direct conflict with our economic models of compound growth and full employment. More specifically, a reduction in energy consumption may bring about the collapse of all industrial society.
1. Heinberg (2003) The Party's Over: oil war and the fate of industrial societies, pp 87-89 [go back]
2. It is entirely plausible that the peak oil production date has already passed, but we just don't know about it yet. The US's peak was not accepted until two years after its occurrence. Indeed, with oil prices currently at their highest levels for years, it is highly likely that the peak has already been reached. [go back]
3. graph source: ASPO Newsletter No 38 - February 2004, online: link to www.peakoil.net [go back]
4. BBC Online (19 April 2004) At-a-glance: the world's oil, online: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/shared/spl/hi/pop_ups/04/world_the_world0s_oil/html/1.stm [go back]
5. ibid [go back]
6. source: ASPO Newsletter No 38 - February 2004, online: link to www.peakoil.net [go back]
7. source: Global Public Media (2004), online: http://www.globalpublicmedia.com/INTERVIEWS/MATT.SIMMONS/ [go back]
8. Guardian Unlimited (2 December 2003) Bottom of the barrel, online: http://www.guardian.co.uk/oil/story/0,11319,1097672,00.html [go back]
9. Arriving into Beijing by train from Mongolia, at one point 25 construction cranes could be seen at the same time. The city was immense, yet growing at an incredible rate. No doubt, however, part of this growth is in preparation for the 2008 Olympic Games. [go back]
10. Reuters (20 April 2004), China oil demand to soar to 12.7 mln bpd by 2020, online: http://www.forbes.com/markets/newswire/2004/04/20/rtr1337396.html [go back]
11. BBC News Online (20 April 2004), The world's overflowing oil reserves?, online: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/3590137.stm [go back]
12. BBC News Online (2004), Where The Oil Is, online: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/3623549.stm [go back]
Having established the importance of jobs to industrial capitalist society; and oil to any industrial society, the argument continued with a supply and demand analysis. It was found that the supply of both jobs and oil must continue to grow, presuming alternatives could not be found for them. A failure for their growth would not be compatible with the economics of industrialism - and specifically for jobs, capitalism. It was suggested that alternative commodities could provide an alternative to jobs and oil, but no viable and implementable alternatives were found. Finally, the uniqueness of the current period of history was explored to understand why the supply of jobs and oil have been sustainable thus far, but will be unsustainable in the future.
Through a logical and coherent argument, this dissertation has concluded that industrial capitalism is unsustainable on two fronts: firstly, that full employment cannot be sustained; secondly, that a source of cheap energy cannot be sustained. Those conclusions stand separately and in isolation to each other. However, an interesting dynamic occurs if one accepts both conclusions, then makes an attempt to bring them together. They are incompatible.
The reason for this incompatibility is that the machines and new technologies of the first conclusion require a cheap source of energy which the second conclusion deems unavailable. Without a supply of cheap and abundant energy, it would be highly undesirable to have robots competing with humans for what limited energy can be found. One would hope that technology would instead only be used in areas in which it is more energy efficient to use technology than it is to use humans. For example, to deliver a letter from London to Edinburgh by foot would require an enormous amount of energy in the form of food for the courier. Far less energy would be used in transmitting the contents of that same letter digitally, by email. Conversely, the energy required to produce and deliver food by human hand, with the aid of hand-tools, is comparatively small when compared with the energy which would be required to produce and deliver the same quantity of food by machines.
Numerous books could be written on the exact consequences of the two conclusions made within this dissertation, offering social policy guidelines, plans of action and visions of alternative societies. Most would be based upon guesswork and speculation, and such scope is beyond the aim of this brief dissertation. The conclusion of this dissertation is that industrial capitalism is fundamentally unsustainable. As a conclusion, that will act quite sufficiently by itself.
Note: please see individual chapters' endnotes for specific news items etc.
* Bard & Söderqvist (2002) Netocracy, London: Pearson Education
* Bix, Amy (2000) Inventing Ourselves Out Of Jobs: America's debate over technological unemployment, 1929-1981, London: John Hopkins University Press
* Bocock, Robert (1993) Consumption: Key Ideas, London: Routledge
* Brooks, Rodney A (2002) Robot: the future of flesh and machines, London: Penguin
* Elton, Ben (1993) This Other Eden, London: Simon & Schuster
* Fitzpatrick, Tony (1999) Freedom And Security: an introduction to the basic income debate Basingstoke: Macmillan
Friedman, Thomas (2000) The Lexus and The Olive Tree, Harper Collins: London
* Gorz, André (1999, trans. Turner, C) Reclaiming Work: beyond the wage-based society, Oxford: Polity Press
* Grint, Keith (1991) The Sociology Of Work: an introduction, Cambridge: Polity Press
* Grint, Keith (2000) Work And Society: a reader, Oxford: Blackwell
* Handy, Charles (1985) The Future Of Work, Oxford: Basil Blackwell
* Heinberg, Richard (2003) The Party's Over: oil, war and the fate of industrial societies, Forest Row: Clairview
* Illich, Ivan (1978) The Right To Useful Unemployment: and its professional enemies, London: Marion Boyars
* McLellan, David (1971) Marx's Grundrisse, London: Macmillan
* Meade, J E (1995) Full Employment Regained? an agathotopian dream, Cambridge: CUP
* Merritt, Giles (1982) World Out Of Work, London: Collins
* Moore, Michael (2002) Stupid White Men: and other sorry excuses for the state of the nation, London: Penguin
* Moore, Michael (2003) Dude, Where's My Country?, New York: Warner Books
* Parker, Stanley (1972) The Future Of Work And Leisure, London: Paladin
* Petit, Pascal & Soete, Luc, ed. (2001) Technology And The Future Of European Employment, Northampton: Edward Elgar
* Roberts, Keith (1982) Automation, Unemployment And The Distribution Of Income, Maastricht: European Centre For Work & Society
* Robertson, James (1985) Future Work: jobs, self-employment and leisure after the industrial age, Aldershot: Gower
* Tapscott, Don (1996) The Digital Economy: promise and peril in the age of networked intelligence, New York: McGraw-Hill
* Vonnegut, Kurt (1952) Player Piano, New York: Delacorte Press
Periodicals & Journals
* Labour Market Trends (March 2003) A Century Of Labour Market Change: 1900-2000 Online: Office of National Statistics
Additional Internet Sources
* Marshall Brain (www.marshallbrain.com):
- Robotic Nation Evidence, URL: http://roboticnation.blogspot.com/ (weblog, accessed frequently)
- Manna (2003), URL: http://marshallbrain.com/manna1.htm (online novel, accessed 2003)
- Robotic Nation (unknown date), URL: http://marshallbrain.com/robotic-nation.htm (online essays, accessed 2003)
* Honda Motor Co. (world.honda.com):
- Asimo http://world.honda.com/ASIMO/ (accessed Dec 2003)
* Sony Corporation (www.sony.net):
- QRIO: sony dream robot http://www.sony.net/SonyInfo/QRIO/ (accessed Dec 2003)
* BBC Online (www.bbc.co.uk):
- various news items in the business and technology sections
* Usenet Archives/Google Groups (groups.google.com):
Dozens of discussion threads.
* Various other refrence websites, including: slashdot.org, theregister.co.uk, mini-itx.com, news.com, hushtechnologies.net, winamp.com, via.com.tw, betanews.com.
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