The thinking of physical labor in the digital age. @marykissel @vdhanson @hooverinst



(Photo:File:A farm worker at al-Biruni University shovels dirt to help with the )

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The thinking of physical labor in the digital age. @marykissel @vdhanson @hooverinst

Physical work, in its eleventh hour within a rapidly changing Western culture, still intrigues us in part because it remains the foundation for 21st century complexity. Investors may know the oil trade better than oil drillers, but buying and selling based on intimate knowledge of Indonesian politics or the nature of the American automobile market are still predicated on someone’s knowing how to feed down steel casing to follow the drill bit. If there is no one to pump oil, there is nothing to sell. Selling plums to Japan is not the same as pruning a plum tree. Both aspects of the oil and plum industries are critical to their success, but the commercial tasks are cerebral and secondary, the physical ones elemental and primary.

Before any of us can teach, write or speculate, we must first have food, shelter and safety. And for a bit longer, at least, that will require some people to cut grapes and nail two-by-sixes. No apps or 3-D printers exist to produce brown rice for the tables of Silver Lake and the Upper West Side. The almond farmer outside my window uses a computerized machine for seemingly every task — irrigating, cultivating and harvesting. But this morning, two men are cutting out diseased limbs in the orchard, selecting their cuts with the help of an Echo chainsaw, whose basic tenets of portability, gasoline power source, and chain running on a guided frame have a 100-year pedigree.

It is astonishing, the degree to which a high-tech, post-modern society still depends on low-tech, pre-modern labor, whether that is a teen in constant motion for eight hours as a barista at Starbucks or a mechanic on his back underneath a Lexus, searching to find a short that popped up in a computerized code on his tablet.

Physical work, moreover, has an intrinsic satisfaction in that it is real, in the primordial sense that nonphysical work is not. The head of the Federal Reserve may be more important to our general welfare than the city road crew patching asphalt roads, but there remains something wondrous in transforming material conditions through the hands, an act that can be seen and felt rather than just spoken or written about. Changing the physical landscape, either by building or destroying something previously constructed or altering it, lends a sense of confidence that the human body can still manifest one’s ideas by concrete action.

Jul 14, 04:05 AM
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<user-5006573> - about 1 month ago

Great info