Thursday, June 28, 2007

Work Days of Two Hours (1923)

Today's section of the February 12, 1923 article, "Thinking Men and Women Predict Problems of World Century Hence," was written by engineer Walter N. Polakov and predicts a future workday of just two hours.

The engineer lives and works for tomorrow; today is but a stepping stone. The dreams of engineers - Frontinus, Da Vinci, Jules Verne, Prof. Bethelot and others - came true; water power is converted in non-substantial form, flying is a reality, submarines and heavier-than-air ships are here, synthetic food and artificial rendering of barren soil into fertile gardens are no longer dreams and ideals. Indeed, the engineers are warranted to dream; nay, more, without the dreams, without ideas beyond immediate reach, the engineers are merely gravediggers.

The problems of 100 years hence will flow from the solutions of problems of today. What are they? There is but one engineering problem today, around which all others hinge: physical, intellectual, moral and spiritual welfare of man. Nothing else matter; everything else in the field of engineering is either contributing or damaging the attainment of this goal of engineering.

Nineteenth century was chained to matter; twentieth century is one of emancipation from matter and of direct control of energy devoid of bulk. This gives us a starting point.

By 2022 we shall be free from pounds of space. Thus, miles, acres, dollars will be terms the meaning of which would be looked up in dictionaries. The units in general use will be second, measures of time, energy and life. Petroleum and coal will nearly be exhausted and means will be [unreadable] to utilize directly the radioactive energy of solar rays. This will not be conducted by cables and wires but secured at the place of its utilization, much as radiograms are received today. Aerial transportation will be revolutionized as air ships need not carry the bulk of power-generating materials and equipment - it will be supplied in transit, and mode of motion will be that of gliding through attraction, with gravitation compensated.

Work will gradually become more and more mental and less physical; hours of work that 100 years ago were sixteen per day and today eight, in 2022 will be not over two hours a day because of the advance in technique. Considerable leisure created by highly specialized experts will call for regenerative recreation and play thus compensating for narrow specialization by broadest development of human personalities in all directions without the tint and sting of mercenarism.

See also:
Thinking Men and Women Predict Problems of World Century Hence (1923)
Pictures Stately Edifices (1923)
Thinks We'll Do Our Reading on Screen (1923)


artbot said...

The shorter or non-existant workday is such a pervasive theme in paleo-futurism that I wonder if it wasn't a tacit way to infiltrate the labor class with technology. Physical laborors were probably (or still are) in fear of losing their jobs to machines, so the best way for big industry to market their machines to a fearful public was with the promise of shorter work days and more leisure time.

Sure, some jobs are best left to machines and many people's lives are the better for it. But globalization seems to be assuring us that nothing's really easier, cheaper or more flexible than cheap foreign labor.
Yes, I am slow to have come to this realization just now. Perhaps I should have been replaced by a machine long ago.

Mark Plus said...

Since this article brought up shorter work days, lately I've wondered about the paleo-future reportedly instantiated for real in France: pervasive nuclear power, 35 hour work weeks, eight weeks paid vacation, univeral health coverage, bullet trains and an early form of the Internet (the Minitel). I guess the French didn't get the memo that the real 21st Century wouldn't have all those silly things envisioned by 20th Century futurists and science fiction writers.

Jess said...

Silly French. They should read more memos.

Anonymous said...

I wish we had 2-hour work days! It'll never happen though. The more our technology can do, the more we are expected to do. So yes, computers have made some of our jobs a lot easier, but then you're just expected to produce more with all the extra time you have now. I say, fake it! if technology makes it easier for you to do something, don't let your boss know that, pretend it took just as long as it used to and cherish that free time.