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Automaton workers enslaved by machine networks: The 21st Century digital Metropolis.

We have not been reminded of the degrading experience of being micro managed by machines since the days of Fritz Lang’s 1927 film, Metropolis.

The automated unfeeling monotony of an insensate compound of silicon, tin and electricity that conducts so much of our daily activity is at its most dehumanising in our post-industrial society. The frighteningly rapid advance of technology driven by a few American super-Corporations has enslaved the modern workforce in a much more heartless way than the clocking-on machine of the industrial age.

In the mid-1980s, personal computers infiltrated the offices of businesses large and small and immediately changed the work profile of the workforce. Subsequently, these computers were linked together first locally and then globally. With the advent of mobile phones, the die was cast for ordinary people, they became worker drones managed by the Corporate Queen Bee computer.

With the dissolution of Britain’s traditional manufacturing base by the Conservative Government and their subsequent failure to convince significant foreign manufacturers of technology products to establish factories in the UK, the country became primarily service-based economy. This only strengthened the grip of technology on the workforce.

The terrifyingly swift advance of computers as a means of saving fixed costs, now means that an alarmingly large number of the workforce is constantly monitored by a machine, every second of their working day.

Our computer-controlled service-based consumer economy has brainwashed society into believing they are entitled to receive an immediate response upon ordering a product or service. The Corporatists cash flows must never stop, and so this business model, of immediate consumer gratification, must itself consume. It feeds on an overlooked army of worker-drones operating in subterranean conditions twenty-four hours a day, three hundred and sixty five days a year.

Such is the pressure of work enforced upon these benighted people that it matters not they labour in warehouses or call centres or glitzy shopping precincts. They are pressurised to focus on the task in hand so much they develop tunnel vision, unable to rest long enough to raise their head to see the world outside their bubble.

The unrelenting craze for technological ‘advance’ exemplified by Artificial Intelligence, nano-technology and robotics makes real the nightmare vision of Walter Schultze-Mittendorf’s Maria, the Maschinenmensch in Metropolis. Just as Orwell’s 1984 vision of a dystopian future has become manifest, so it seems likely.

The dark Satanic Mills of the Industrial Age has given way to stygian warehouses, delivery vans and call centres. A backdrop of constant surveillance causes the mind-set of the workers to focus entirely on their task so that the outside world is blacked out. Homo sapiens is ill equipped to endure this torture for extended periods of time, explaining high employee turnover rates as the workforce suffers burnout and mental exhaustion.

How could the corporations, the modern equivalent to Industrial Age Iron Masters, continue to source a supply of pliable workers? The majority of Britain’s workforce is now cooped up in ubiquitous three-story “Town House” style boxes. In fact, everything comes in a box nowadays, houses, furniture, food deliveries. The most important box though, is the one sitting in the corner of the living room, the gogglebox. The ultimate stealth weapon of the corporatists, designed to desensitise the workforce, gull them into believing the fantasy world of advertisements and glossy celebrity soap operas. Such an easy distraction from the reality of the unbalanced fiscal relationship between them and their employer. Its other function is to facilitate the requirement for them to participate in the consumer ritual by consuming other employer's products. The worker is a cog in the techno-capitalist machine, greased by gratuitous credit. Producing goods or services for one corporation and buying the same from other corporations. The workers are vital to the whole scheme and yet they are pitilessly used and abused.

The dark underbelly of this veneer is exemplified by reality TV ‘entertainment’. Enticing guileless participants into degrading acts of self-abuse or genital exposing acts for an indulgent voyeuristic audience for whom very little is too obscene. It degrades the participants and the onlooker and yet both have been conditioned by years of creeping licentiousness they no longer have the wit to make a moral judgement.

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