Main We Will Use Manual Labor In The Future Discussion

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01:27:46 AM Feb 3rd 2014
I recall reading that one of the reasons why certain SF settings still use human(oid) workers for certain jobs is the prestige of having an actual organic being serving you instead of a machine, even an intelligent one—not to mention that in several Star Trek novels, people of various races take pleasure in being able to perform skilled tasks such as actually cooking instead of using a replicator, and enjoy showing off their skills for others (this is also one of the reasons why cosplay can be so appealing—there's nothing quite like being able to reply to the question of "where'd you get that?" with "I made it!" ^_^).

Another, less pleasant, reason why slavery exists in SF is the sheer sadistic thrill some people get from being able to own another sentient being, whether flesh-and-blood or Ridiculously Human Robot. (Unfortunately, this is also Truth In Television, as noted on TV shows or in books about modern day slavery...)
11:41:32 PM Aug 24th 2013
edited by
Moved the natter here to where it belongs:
  • An interesting historical case: Ancient Greece. Towards the later parts of its history, this society seemed to be teetering on the brink of an industrial revolution, but never quite made the plunge, instead sticking with slavery and other traditional, labour-intensive methods of production. Ancient Greece had a great deal of scientific thinkers, the capacity to build complex mechanical devices, and even developed a simple steam engine. The steam engine especially, if developed further and perfected, could have been used to simplify a lot of labour-intensive jobs, as it was when the Industrial Revolution finally did roll around. But the Ancient Greeks saw it as nothing more than a curious toy.
    • Those that did think the steam engine was great tended to not be taken seriously. One guy was pretty sure that Hero's Engine could be used to predict the weather. Given that the boiling point of water varies depending on air pressure, and that quite a bit of the weather is dependent on moving high/low pressure fronts, he was probably actually on to something.
      • Ancient Greece also had several factors working against it that are considered a requirement for industrialization. First, their technology base was actually very low, to the point that they had little access to high grade iron for a good steel industry, and bronze, while a good substitute in many things, is also more expensive than iron and steel. Second, they had no real centralized polity to ram the reforms down their throats. Third, they would not have been able to afford it even if they did have a fully centralized authority. They actually saw the potential, but wrote it off as a case of Awesome but Impractical. Even the Romans, who could have possibly done it to a limited degree, would not have been able to fully pull it off for the first and third reasons respectively. The nations of Europe in the late 18th century which kicked the industrial revolution off actually had more concentrated wealth individually than the entire Roman Empire at its' height.
      • Most of all, their religion condoned slavery. The Industrial Revolution has occurred only in cultures, whose religion has either prohibited slavery or strongly discouraged it. So, yes, Christianity, contrary to the "dark ages" conception of Renaissance philosophers, contributed to the "no slaves" mentality of the Industrial Revolution.
      • YMMV on that last point: Christianity's absolutist moral doctrines may have helped the abolitionist movement, but then Christianity was also heavily used to justify slavery, and slave nations/ states tended to be more religious. Then we have the fact that the industrial revolution started long before the abolition of slavery. Also, there were some small parts of Greek and later Roman society that condemned slavery.
      • Slavery in the Americas became commonplace only during the Age of Enlightenment, and the concept of scientific racism. That movement was pretty much anti-Church and anti-Christian. In the Old Continent, slavery had been abolished already during the Dark Ages and the last vestiges disappeared in the 13th century. On the other hand, Calvinist denominations have always been more lenient towards slavery (because of their doctrine of predestination and the elect) than Catholic, Lutheran or Orthodox denominations.
12:07:59 AM Aug 25th 2013
edited by
For my own part: Slavery by Europeans in the Americas existed before the Enlightenment (1650-1800) by approximately 100 years in some places. That's not even counting the African slave trade, which started in the late 1400s. It is absolutely true that Christians justified slavery, from the Pope (in the bull Dum Diversas, 1452) to Southern Baptists in the US up until the civil war. It is also true that Christian Europe generally forbid the enslavement of fellow Christians (though the last did not do so until the 15th-16th centuries). Even there it seems more a matter of slavery being uneconomic than an ethical issue, as feudal serfdom replaced it. Regardless, they did not oppose enslavement of non-Christians. Justifications for this were based on the Biblical law which sanctioned enslavement of foreigners, but not your own people. Christians were all deemed one nation, while those of other faiths were "foreigners" to it. Along with this, there is nothing in the Bible explicitly condemning slavery, but much to approve it, even in the New Testament (while Jesus appears to be silent either way). The Muslims and Christians frequently enslaved each other in the many wars they waged (Dum Diversas, the papal bull mentioned previously, was aimed at Muslims and pagans, which in the latter case helped sanction enslavement of the soon-to-be-discovered Native Americans). Scientific racism didn't take shape before the turn of the 18th/19th century-even the modern concept of race was basically unknown prior to this. It's more correct to say the African slave trade, where slaves had different physical characteristics from their owners, helped shape later racism, scientific and otherwise. Many ideas, both religious and secular, would be used to justify slavery. It is true that Calvinist doctrine was particularly adept in this. The Industrial Revolution era also correlates neatly with the abolitionist movement and the tail end of the Enlightenment period, for whatever reasons. Slavery can't be solely blamed on any one religion, nor does its abolition seem to be due to any one religion's influence. As usual, it was probably a confluence of many factors.
05:36:22 AM Oct 10th 2011
"Thus, this trope isn't about "no slaves even if you have technology"; it's more about using manual labor even where the people in the series already have something that would be quicker, easier, more efficient, and/or overall better." This is very easy to miss.
09:57:37 PM Feb 22nd 2011
Should we remove the tropes that apply to Real Life past and present? The trope is We Will Use Manual Labor in the Future, not We Used Manual Labor In The Past.
01:05:29 AM Sep 17th 2011
At one point in time, the past was the future. The 40's and 50's were full of ads for labor saving devices. Food processors being the most popular. Does your mom have a Jetson's kitchen? This is the reason why. Altho the slap chop did give us a nifty dance mix...
01:21:27 PM Aug 16th 2010
Deleted this:

[[hottip:* :not that it is seriously possible to mine with just a pickaxe]]

Because it's simply not true. Mining doesn't require heavy machinery and explosives — it's just easier that way.