By Bob Shimabukuro
“What’s an industrial engineer?” I asked my sister Toki. “You read Cheaper by the Dozen*, right?”
“Well, the dad is an industrial engineer. His work is studying how to make things more efficient. Remember the chapter on how to take showers? That’s what he does.” I would be interested in seeing how fast people could take showers?
The rebellion against high stakes testing in the public schools, and against Common Core, reminds me of a test I took in my high school over 50 years ago. It wasn’t a “high stakes,” test but a test that all students had to take.
The Kuder Preference test measured students’ personal likes and dislikes with a wide variety of preferences and interests, which suggested what kind of profession the student might be interested in.
“You not going do that,” my dad answered, when I asked him. They ‘efficiency experts.’ Tell bosses how to get more work out of workers in less time so bosses make more money. They no think about workers. Anyway, they goin’ get robots pretty soon.”
“Toki, what’s an actuary?” That was another “occupation” that was suggested to me by Kuder.
“Insurance man,” she answered.
A few years later, in my first week in college, my dorm roommate suggested we should have a study group for Ayn Rand’s book Atlas Shrugged. For me, her “Objectivism” came from the mind of an imbecile. Think about a “red diaper baby” being raised on “from each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs,” to having to conceptualize Rand’s belief that the super elite are entitled to all, damn the needs of anyone else. I brushed the book and my roommate aside. Nobody in his right mind would embrace this. Or so I thought.
In fact, “Objectivists” have now taken over the world economy. The One Percent really believe that they are superstars, and deserve all the fruits they can steal. They’ve used all the creativity and invention of the last four decades, not to create a better, safer world for all but to increase their own advantage. And they’ve done a lot of it with efficiency experts and statistical geniuses who have been greatly aided by the new technology with the ability to crunch some big numbers quickly.
Their experts have driven most familywage jobs from the economy. The Big One Percent have found that robots are faster, more reliable, and don’t talk back. They have robots that put together cars, kill folks with absolute precision, spy, load cargo, mix medicine, drive.
And these robots can find ways to make money without making or doing anything tangible. They connect a service or a product to a person or corporation who wants it and take a cut in the action. An online robot pimp.
Actuaries also are a lucrative profession, because they now work in almost every type of business doing evaluation and research: science, food and health, professional athletics (think sabermetrics), genetics (all about probability and statistics), and Wall Street “financial products” (steal money out of other people’s retirement funds).
These experts also chip away at Social Security and Medicare, cutting benefits or actually stealing from trust funds surreptitiously (e.g. $700 million is going to be taken away if Fast Track passes).
They raid state education money by privatizing public schools in the 50 states, all the while privatizing our prisons. We’ve got a problem with private “public” schools and prisons with no public accountability provisions.
The “philosophical ethics” battle rages on— a few people are trying to continue/increase their dominance of the world’s population with the belief that the rest of us don’t matter, that we are just leeches, we are but a pipeline to confinement of black and brown Kids, immigrants and elders.
Thinking about it, I guess Kuder must have been wrong. There’s no way I could have been happy being on the One Percent side of this battle.
Remember the slogan I’ve been repeating in previous columns? Well, I’ve added a line to it:
We’re not crap!
Scrap the cap!
* Cheaper by the Dozen, written by Frank Gilbreth Jr and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey, 1948.