Work in the Future..


True, you could, but in practice, that is not how the overwhelming majority of people have behaved.
Perhaps I should have phrased it as “the only piece of modern technology that has reduced workload and increased leisure time is the television”. The emphasis was on events, not capabilities.


I dispute the washing machine thing. I remember the days before we had a washing machine. With a family of four and as little as we washed/changed clothes in those days, I remember my mother doing two wash days a week. Minimum two hours hand washing clothes, wringing them out on the taps then the ins and outs of hanging them on the line/taking them in when it looked like rain/hanging them out again. Add to that ironing required and you are up to a heap of time spent on laundry. A heap more than Mrs. YM spends on laundry for our equivalent family of four even allowing for being cleaner and wearing clothes to less dirty.

edit: PS there’s also a world of difference between stuffing a wash in the washing machine/transferring to the dryer and washing by hand/hanging out laundry. In the former, you can do other stuff while the washing is on (ours runs overnight), in the latter, it is hard graft…


And while it’s running, you can also use all your other domestic appliances, to fit in some extra housework, that you wouldn’t have had time to do in years past…or maybe watch a little TV. :wink:


I think dish washers have been just as big if not bigger in terms of helping the whole lifestyle thing. My whole childhood seemed to be spent not just cleaning up the kitchen but wading thru a huge mountain of cutlery, crockery… Wash dry put away. Christmas Day it was a more cheery affair but it still had to be done


If you are manually doing it, the key thing is to have a separate basin for rinsing, and then let them drip dry on a rack
cook in a cast iron pan, little washing


This wiki page has pre columbian north america life expectancy at birth to be between 25-30.
The industrial revolution seemed to mark the start of improving life expectancy in Britain.


It’s the high infant mortality rates that usually skews those figures, if a person survives childhood there was a good chance of living to at least 50.



edit: ps I take your point about averages…


The natives were busy enough in Mexico City, one of the world’s largest cities at the time.


That may be partly true.
But when I look at how I work at home, and how my mother-in-law works, and how my friends work in the house, there are other factors. Like attitude, and habits and other changes.

Like the fact that many homes have no carpets. Most homes don’t need solid fuel - and all the work that goes with it. Anti-bac wipes and sprays mean you don’t need hot water to clean. You can send out the washing, or the ironing, or both.

We routinely eat out.
You can heat a carton of soup in the microwave and so there’s minimal cutlery/delph use and no pans, chopping, waste. You don’t have to catch your hare before cooking it, nor do you spend time using or preserving every last bit of it. If any invention changed life, it was the TV dinner.

And all of that comes with a cost that we have to work harder to pay for. You can fill the freezer with food you won’t use and will eventually throw out, the chemicals the ads convince us we have to have are wildly expensive, and there’s every kind of doo-hickey for cleaner windows, skirting… it’s the JML effect.

And we are also in the era of disposability beyond our wildest dreams. Clothes are designed to last a season (and I don’t mean fashion, I mean materials), Ikea has made furniture cheap, replaceable and fashionable, and the list goes on.

So even if you think you’re saving time on the actual work, the cost of doing that work time-effectively is not cheap, imho.

And beyond that there are other choices to be made, personal and I suppose generational. My mother-in-law, who hasn’t worked outside the house since she got married, spends all her time at laundry, cooking and cleaning, and does far, far more work than she needs to. I don’t. My sister and friend obsess about the state of their skirting board. I don’t. Neither could sit and read the pin as I am doing now, while there’s drying to be folded, a floor to be washed and a pair of rubber boots to put out. I think advertising has a lot to answer for.

I don’t love housework. It’s a drudge that I’ve tried to go all Zen about but can’t. The opportunity cost of housework distresses me so I keep it to a minimum. I’d pay someone to do two hours a week - it would pay me if I spent that time on work of my own, but I’d rather not have the commitment or a stranger in my home.


Good post and agreed with everything except the above. I would have said that practically everything is cheaper, relative to wages, than - let’s say - twenty years ago. Electrical appliances are cheaper (and better). Cars are cheaper. Clothes are much cheaper. Food is cheaper and more varied.
One thing is more expensive – accommodation. For most families it more than compensates for the reduction in costs of everything else. And on top of it you can add costs like childcare which are part of the same phenomenon whereby housing is only affordable if two parents are working.



I was thinking in terms of the cost of housework, etc.
Have a read of Superwoman, by Shirley Conran.
She has a whole section on cleaning materials - the kinds our grandmothers used - that cost a fraction of the snazzy, expensive ones today. And a mind-boggling section on laundry. It was written at a time when washing machines were coming on stream, at a time when the domestic workload was multiples of what it is now.

While appliances are cheaper, there’s not mending. We spend more on machines that don’t last as long, because obsolesence (sp?) is built-in. It’s harder to get your car serviced outside a dealership, because the technology means only certain mechanics can fix electronic faults. And the repair industry is virtually non-existent. Recycling centres are full of functioning, out-of-fashion stereos (can I use that word anymore?), desktops, TVs. Phones are upgraded. TVs are replaced… It’s a costly way of living.

Disposable clothes are cheap, there’s no doubt about that. But you get a season out of them, a year at most and then they have to be dumped - not donated - because they’re unusable. Now maybe it’s true that people have far more clothes/items than they might have in the past. High St clothes are expensive and not great quality. Principles used to be good. Warehouse, River Island, Next - all charge well for ‘cheap’ clothes, Dorothy Perkins (particularly), Penneys (even more particularly) and Dunnes sell generally very poor quality clothing.


Well, I’m not sure that’s altogether true.

As I sit in my 2 year old Dunnes jeans that primarily get used for gardening (but get worn all the rest of the time when I’m not in the garden), still fine, not a bother, looking at the mid-top range white goods that I also expect to last (I’ve never worn out a fridge, washing machine, or tumble dryer. The last TV I had before this one lasted 15 years, but got dogs abuse in that time including being moved about eight times and dropped many more times than that (it was a huge monster of a CRT). The current one will probably not last as long, being LCD, but I’ve never worn out an LCD screen either, despite having had one that is in daily use for seven years.

One thing I think has changed is that the ‘abuse’ fittings have become flimsier, so the buttons on the TV or the remote are weaker than they used to be, the drawer in the fridge is feeble, good quality clothes are not good quality in the wear points (M&S has become flimsy, CK jeans used to last a lifetime, now they don’t etc.). So I think there is somewhat of a decline in the quality of, er, quality.


Ok, have to somewhat agree with you there. There’s a lot to be said for baking soda, vinegar and lemon juice, and if people were a bit more chemically literate they’d save themselves some money. On the other hand there is genuinely useful stuff that wasn’t around in our grandmothers’ day. Isopropyl alcohol impregnated non-lint wipes for one thing. Useful for everything from toilet seats to computer screens, and they just go in the trash when you’re finished. Granny never had those. Don’t know about you but our house no longer has a cupboard full of cloth rags made from ripped up clothes after their fifth time being “handed down”. I wouldn’t want to go back to that either. Some parts of the disposable lifestyle are much more convenient. The trick is to know what’s useful and what’s a gimmick. In this regard, advertising is the great enemy.

This I disagree with. Things are way more reliable than ever before. I am talking about cost of ownership in inflation-adjusted euros per hour of reliable use. We threw out our forty year old fridge not too long ago. It was German made and very robust, God bless it. The new fridge is a lot less solid feeling – basically a large plastic and cardboard box. But it’s much bigger, cheaper, incredibly more energy efficient, and more eco-friendly in terms of refrigerant gases as well.

Entertainment appliances offer much more choice these days. For a while there were really expensive gadgets like LCD and plasma TVs, before the technology matured. Now they’re cheaper than CRTs used to be for the same size but vastly better. If you want, you can still pay more if you want a giant screen format, 3D, higher refresh rates, internet connectivity, 6-channel sound, digital music, photo and movie playing capability, and so on. The amount of choice is stunning. Again, it’s about being sensible and knowing what you need.

I don’t know why the quality of clothing is so bad in this part of the world. My practice for the last couple of decades has been to take empty suitcases to the states every couple of years, and buy armfuls of inexpensive, decent quality clothes. They used to be all made in Mexico, but they’re more likely to be Indian these days. At any rate, the cloth tends to have a bit more heft than here, and quality and durability is generally much better. (I’m not a New York shopping weekend kind of person, and admit to being pretty much fashion unconscious). Anyway, my point is that it’s more than possible to get decent, cheap clothes, although we seem to be a bit shortchanged in Ireland.


But you still have to pay the exam fees :slight_smile:

I just checked and my honours degree in pure mathematics does not exempt me from anything, but someone with an MSIS degree gets exempted from “Fundamentals of Business Mathematics”. Go figure.


Is it not the case that most of the items you mention are cheaper because companies have retained the productivity benefits afforded by technology (and six sigma etc) whilst at the same time relocating much of the manufacturing base to
low wage economies? So it is possible we are consuming these goods at an artificially discounted price and an unsustainable one at that.

If geographical cost advantages are eventually eroded then we may well have to work a lot harder in order to pay the Chinese (or whoever) for the erstwhile cheap i-pads and washer-dryers.


Just look here for a good comparison of prices with 1985 … 206330728/
OK no Ipads but many other products that are still in use today.

The way wages are going, they’ll soon be as expensive as they were 26 years ago relatively speaking.


I would like to know what the average wage was back then?


Yes, but you will find the exam easy to pass.


Probably not any more :frowning:

I recently was given a vintage copy of Mathematics Made Difficult and it’s quite accurately titled but a great read :smiley: