Second Call for Academic Articles for a Special Issue of “Ethics and Social Welfare”

untitled

SECOND CALL FOR ACADEMIC PAPERS: Ethics and Social Welfare  Special Issue on

Technology-driven unemployment:

dilemmas for ethics and social welfare

Guest editors:  Antonio Marturano (University of Rome, Tor Vergata, Italy)     and                                   Jana Vizmuller-Zocco (York University, Canada)

Rationale: In Praise for Idleness (1935), Bertrand Russell claimed that “We have the technology and infrastructure to greatly reduce the forced workload of the average human, and that should be our goal—to liberate people from excessive work so that they can freely pursue the things that bring them intrinsic joy and happiness.” Russell’s optimistic vision regarding the role of technology advocates for work reduction which would increase human welfare and liberate people to be able to devote their time to culture and leisure. His optimism does not seem to be justified in light of recent economic and technological developments which lead to serious unemployment rather than cheerful work reduction. The loss of jobs due to technological innovations is starting to reach crisis proportions as many scholars (such as David F. Noble, Progress Without People: New Technology, Unemployment, and the Message of Resistance, Between the Lines, 1995) and popular press warn (for ex., Eduardo Porter, “Jobs Threatened by Machines: A Once ‘Stupid’ Concern Gains Respect”, The New York Times, June 7, 2016).   There are indeed many voices which decry the unemployment situation exasperated by the replacement of humans by machines, and apparently no job is likely to be immune. The World Technology Network forecasts that “Accelerating technological unemployment will likely be one of the most challenging societal issues in the 21st Century”. Although the scholarly work published on the topic focuses mainly on the technical, technological, and market side, assessments which consider the ethical and social welfare implications of technological unemployment are still to be addressed in detail. The submissions to the special issue will contribute to setting the agenda for this serious and timely discussion. Topics to be explored from theoretical as well as practical perspectives include, but are not restricted to, the following:

  • The role of governmental institutions in technological unemployment
  • Jobless future: is unconditional basic/universal income the answer?
  • Social, political, and economic approaches to welfare in a jobless future
  • New ethical dimensions of work originating from the technological unemployment crisis
  • Political and social inequality created by a jobless future
  • Strategic plans for skills, education, re-deployment for the technologically jobless
  • The political control of technological unemployment
  • Welfare, leadership and jobless future
  • Technological displacement vs technological innovation from the perspective of social welfare
  • Historical visions on the ethical impacts of workload reduction
  • Creating new values for a jobless future
  • Political values in welfare and technological disruption in the job market
  • Work as human value
  • Conflicting values in a jobless world (for ex., the refugees crisis in the EU)
  • Religious values and technological unemployment

Brief for contributors: In line with the editorial aims of the journal, this call for papers focuses specifically on the relationship between ethics, welfare, and values implicated in the policies and political strategies on the one hand and technologically-driven unemployment on the other. The editors welcome academic papers which are interdisciplinary in character. Contributions may combine wider ethical and theoretical questions concerning technology-driven unemployment with practical considerations leading to social policies and professional practices (especially the existing and future policies of local/national governments and international institutions, such as EU, UN, WTO to cope with the problems of technological joblessness). The special issue, as with other issues of the journal, welcomes material in a variety of formats, including high quality peer-reviewed academic papers, reflections, debates and commentaries on policy and practice, book reviews and review articles. Academic papers should be between 4-7,000 words long, and practice papers should be between 750-2,500 words long. Please consult the style rules laid-out on the journal’s website: http://www.tandfonline.com/resw. All academic papers will be double-blind peer- reviewed in the normal way.  Practice papers will be considered for publication by the editors. 

Procedure and timelines

  • Call for Papers and invitations disseminated starting from the 1st of October 2016.
  • Completed first drafts of papers are due by the 23rd of July 2017 and must be submitted to https://mc.manuscriptcentral.com/resw. Author’s instructions for academic and practice papers can be found on the journal website at: http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/resw20 .
  • Final (revised) versions must be submitted by the 18th of June 2018.
  • Final confirmation of paper acceptance by the 30th September 2018.
  • Papers published in the first issue of Volume 13, 2019.

 

Technology-driven unemployment: dilemmas for ethics and social welfare

This is a call for articles to be published in a Special Issue of the journal Ethics and Social Welfare.

untitled 

In Praise for Idleness (1935), Bertrand Russell claimed that “We have the technology and infrastructure to greatly reduce the forced workload of the average human, and that should be our goal—to liberate people from excessive work so that they can freely pursue the things that bring them intrinsic joy and happiness.” Russell’s optimistic vision regarding the role of technology advocates for work reduction which would increase human welfare and liberate people to be able to devote their time to culture and leisure. His optimism does not seem to be justified in light of recent economic and technological developments which lead to serious unemployment rather than cheerful work reduction. The loss of jobs due to technological innovations is starting to reach crisis proportions as many scholars (such as David F. Noble, Progress Without People: New Technology, Unemployment, and the Message of Resistance, Between the Lines, 1995) and popular press warn (for ex., Eduardo Porter, “Jobs Threatened by Machines: A Once ‘Stupid’ Concern Gains Respect”, The New York Times, June 7, 2016).   There are indeed many voices which decry the unemployment situation exasperated by the replacement of humans by machines, and apparently no job is likely to be immune. The World Technology Network forecasts that “Accelerating technological unemployment will likely be one of the most challenging societal issues in the 21st Century”. Although the scholarly work published on the topic focuses mainly on the technical, technological, and market side, assessments which consider the ethical and social welfare implications of technological unemployment are still to be addressed in detail. The submissions to the special issue will contribute to setting the agenda for this serious and timely discussion. Topics to be explored from theoretical as well as practical perspectives include, but are not restricted to, the following:

  • The role of governmental institutions in technological unemployment
  • Jobless future: is unconditional basic/universal income the answer?
  • Social, political, and economic approaches to welfare in a jobless future
  • New ethical dimensions of work originating from the technological unemployment crisis
  • Political and social inequality created by a jobless future
  • Strategic plans for skills, education, re-deployment for the technologically jobless
  • The political control of technological unemployment
  • Welfare, leadership and jobless future
  • Technological displacement vs technological innovation from the perspective of social welfare
  • Historical visions on the ethical impacts of workload reduction
  • Creating new values for a jobless future
  • Political values in welfare and technological disruption in the job market
  • Work as human value
  • Conflicting values in a jobless world (for ex., the refugees crisis in the EU)
  • Religious values and technological unemployment

Brief for contributors: In line with the editorial aims of the journal, this call for papers focuses specifically on the relationship between ethics, welfare, and values implicated in the policies and political strategies on the one hand and technologically-driven unemployment on the other. The editors welcome academic papers which are interdisciplinary in character. Contributions may combine wider ethical and theoretical questions concerning technology-driven unemployment with practical considerations leading to social policies and professional practices (especially the existing and future policies of local/national governments and international institutions, such as EU, UN, WTO to cope with the problems of technological joblessness). The special issue, as with other issues of the journal, welcomes material in a variety of formats, including high quality peer-reviewed academic papers, reflections, debates and commentaries on policy and practice, book reviews and review articles. Academic papers should be between 4-7,000 words long, and practice papers should be between 750-2,500 words long. Please consult the style rules laid-out on the journal’s website: http://www.tandfonline.com/resw. All academic papers will be double-blind peer- reviewed in the normal way.  Practice papers will be considered for publication by the editors. 

For any further information, contact Prof. Antonio Marturano (marturano@btinternet.com) and Prof. Jana Vizmuller-Zocco (jvzocco@yorku.ca).

Procedure and timelines

Submitters will be informed about the outcome as soon as possible after this date.

Abstracts should include 1. The essential content, argument, and methodology of the submission, 2. The submission’s aims and conclusions, 3. The relationship of the submission to the aims and scope of the journal.

  • Completed first drafts of papers are due by the 23rd of July 2017 and must be submitted to https://mc.manuscriptcentral.com/resw.
  • Final (revised) versions must be submitted by the 18th of June 2018.
  • Final confirmation of paper acceptance by the 30th September 2018.
  • Papers published in the first issue of Volume 13, 2019.                                                                                                                                                                       

‘Technological unemployment’

The World Technology Network forecasts that “Accelerating technological unemployment will likely be one of the most challenging societal issues in the 21st Century”. (http://www.wtn.net/technological-unemployment-summit). Although in the last 10 years or so various scholars have tackled the issue of technological joblessness from technological, political, and psychological perspectives, the language used to refer to this type of unemployment has as yet to be analyzed. What follows is then the first attempt to make sense of this topic from a roughly semantic point of view as illustrated by English usage.

Technological unemployment and its synonyms

The most striking linguistic process is the birth of the meaning of the phrase technological unemployment itself. At a first glance, the meaning of the phrase is relatively simple: “unemployment caused by technologically-driven labor-saving or efficiency-saving processes”. But the adjective “technological” normally does not carry a causal meaning:   other phrases, such as technological change, technological advancements, refer to change in/of technology, or advancements in/of  technology. The adjective in these instances then refers intrinsically to technology itself. In  the phrase technological unemployment, the meaning of “technological” does not refer to “technology” in the same way, i.e., it is not “unemployment in/of technology”. Clearly, it is the meaning of “unemployment” which begs for a causal sense. Some of the phrase’s synonyms are technological joblessness, disruptive technologies, replacement of workers, reduction of job classification, technological efficiency. Whichever side of the debate one is on, it is clear that these phrases carry within themselves positive and negative connotations: it is usually the technologists who believe that yes, “technological unemployment” creates unemployment, but it also drives the search for other types of jobs;  “disruptive technologies” disrupt, but may also create other jobs; “replacement of workers” causes joblessness but also “amplifies people” (Sikka), “complements workers” (according to Irving Wladawsky-Berger quoted in The Wall Street Journal http://blogs.wsj.com/cio/2015/11/06/technological-unemployment-and-the-future-of-work/)  . It must be pointed out that it was customary to refer to blue-collar, unskilled or semi-skilled work as bearing the brunt of unemployment caused by technology, as human manual labor is being replaced by machines. But examples of AI encroaching on professional types of work (surgeons, instructors, lawyers, etc.) illustrate that no occupation or profession is “safe” from being replaced by machines . It is also interesting that many publications deal with the “future of unemployment”, which means basically types of jobs that will be less prone to be replaced by machines, i.e. relying on the accepted notions of employment.

Meaning, function, and nature of work

Anyone interested in “technological unemployment” cannot but muse about the meaning, function, and nature of the concept “work”. In what is hoped will become a decisively seminal work entitled The Refusal of Work (London: Zed Books, 2015), David Frayne dissects the nature of our present meaning of the term “work” and analyzes those cases of “workers” who themselves decided to work less.

refusalThis, of course, is yet another take on “unemployment”, and, in many ways, contradicts the logical bases of both the neoliberal capitalist  system and furnishes more fuel to that aspect of postmodern culture which underlines the fact that “the burden is on the user/worker/individual”.

If we identify ourselves by the job we hold, then it is a tragedy to lose this job and become unemployed: we lose our identity, our life-purpose, our Weltanschauung. This work-based perspective of human life is so ingrained in many cultures that it is even enshrined in at least one country’s Constitution (the example of which Frayne could have used to bolster his arguments): Article 1 of the Italian Constitution states that “L’Italia è una Repubblica democratica, fondata sul lavoro” (Italy is a democratic republic founded on work).

Notwithstanding this incorporation of the function of work in one way or another in all societies, it is clear that the notion of  “work”/ “job” /”remunerated occupation” belongs to yet another of the “big narratives” which are being shattered in late modernity/postmodernity. Clearly then even those philosophical views which take into account work as something different from leisure (for ex.,  Bertrand Russell), start being insufficient.
Even if it is obvious that the notion of the meaning of “work” is dramatically being transformed, many urgent questions remain which await clear answers. These answers should assist humans rather than bypassing them. Here are just three which deal with “technological unemployment”:
1.  What types of employment are necessary for humans to thrive?
2.  What role (if any) does education play in creating “the good life?”
3.  Is the concept of “work” a useful cognitive tool?

These questions, unfortunately but excitingly, lead to reconsidering the meaning of the term “humanity” which, crucially, is totally lacking in discussions using  the phrase “technological unemployment”.

___

Additional material which insist on efficiency (economic and technological side) only rather than looking at the problem also from a human point of view:

http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-36376966?utm_content=buffer2a746&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer