Identify this half remembered parable
May 7, 2014 8:25 PM Subscribe
I have a half remembered parable about the outcomes of automation of work, that is as stated, half remembered. I'd like to make that memory whole and know the source.
posted by borkencode to Writing & Language (2 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
As I remember it the parable goes something like this:
Two workers work at a factory producing matchsticks. Between the two of them, they produce all the matchsticks that are demanded. One day an improved method of production is invented, and they can produce the needed matchsticks in half the time. But rather than both workers splitting the new free time and both becoming happier, one worker still works full time and the other becomes unemployed, leaving both unhappy.
When I posed the question to my wife, she suggested that maybe they made toothpicks instead. In either case I've found it impossible to google for a source.
On one hand I feel like it's a very Vonnegutesque piece, but my remembered sense of the language feels more formal than how Vonnegut would write, but I haven't found anything in that vein, so it could be misleading.