AI “Drivers,” Truckers, and the Long Haul of “Jobless” Training

March 16, 2020

If Senator Sanders wants to eject Trump from the White House on Election Day, then he needs to continue to campaign on issues that will bring a sense of urgency to the platform that the Democratic Party will vote on at their convention.

One problem with Sanders is that he is too caught up in an old post-Fordist economy. The knowledge economy is now extending its grasp far beyond the robotic arm in the factory and the ability to detect and identity incredibly subtle variations in genetic sequences.

Day to day employment is on course to absorb another sucker punch, at least according to a recent news article on “60 Minutes” about the rapid development of driverless trucks. Hundreds of thousands of long-haul truck drivers will be losing their jobs within five years. Eighteen wheelers will be cruising back and forth across the country, never stopping for sleep or for a bite to eat. The only pit stops will be for fuel, and I imagine that the major gasoline companies are already figuring a way to design that aspect so that no human has to pump the gas. Specific stops will be built along the routes so that the trucks can pull off, idle under a hose, and have it inserted into the tank. It will all be done by electronic commands.

This is a predominantly male occupation, and the social challenge will be to develop meaningful work for these individuals. Job loss due to technology is nothing new, of course, and politicians such as Joe Biden will promise “job training” as a matter of a campaign’s rhetorical reflex. To say that he is mouthing meaningless “splatitudes” (platitudes that splat like shit on the ground from an overweight animal) is putting it kindly. Every Democratic candidate promises job training, and every one of them has betrayed the workers who voted for them.

I’ll grant the need for a workforce that can help care for the oncoming generation of aging senior citizens, but what is really needed now is “jobless training” — the retooling of our conscious existence so that each of us has fewer obligations imposed on us as coercion for having space to cook meals and sleep, not to mention the food itself.

Yes, job training is needed, but so is “jobless” training for a society in which time with our families and working in community gardens is given substantial priority.

If Senator Sanders addressed these issues, the Democratic Party might have a chance to win back the allegiance of echelons of the working class that have defected in recent decades. Unfortunately, even with an emphasis on “jobless training,” the ability of some people to vote against their own best interests will prove to be a stronger preference; but until a truly radical shift in our notions of work takes place, very little will change in the allocations of prosperity to the workers who create and sustain it.