Tuesday, September 02, 2008

A Case for Luddism

Visit Indonesia, and there's one thing that pops out at you. People, lots and lots of people.

Buy a plane ticket for example. One person books the flight, one person swipes the credit card and one person painstakingly writes the details of your ticket onto the actual ticket. Oh and one or two other people sit in the background chatting or whatnot. Fascinating. In Ireland one person could do the whole lot in about the same time or less.

Let's take the "human printer" though. She spends her day carefully jotting down details into a ticket. It begs the question, wouldn't it be better for an employer to buy a cheapo Lexmark printer and do away with her services?

Probably not. Indonesians are pretty cheap to hire, and try asking a Lexmark printer (in painstakingly polite machine code) to fill in as a Visa card swiper!

Many wealthy Indonesian families have maids, drivers, gardeners, nannies etc. etc. Actually on the grand scale of things you don't have to be too wealthy - as servant wages are less than €50 a month (probably significantly less).

In the Ireland we don't do servants, we do microwavable meals, robotic lawn mowers, internet connected fridges, webcams in nurseries and auto-piloted BMWs. In other words we come up with ever more ingenious ways to make our busy lives more convenient -- as long as the batteries don't run out and the operating system doesn't crash.

People in Ireland (and most Western countries for that matter) are missing something -- your brand new coffee maker isn't going to make you freshly squeezed orange juice on a hot summer's day. And you feel like waffles? Well your gonna have to ditch your George Foreman - cos your house is probably already full of these bloody high tech gadgets!!

I'm a geek, the best technology to me is indiscernible from magic. That's why I love coding up small bits and bobs. However, a cook will serve infinitely more delicious meals than a microwave, and a maid will do a much more thorough job at ironing and folding shirts than any number of neural network controlled robots you care to throw at the problem!

I reckon Indonesian servants could earn at the very least 10 times their salary in Europe than at home, it's a such no brainer. Unfortunately Europeans are slightly dim when it comes to thinking outside the box and outside of Europe.

7 comments:

tere616 said...

That is what we called in Indonesia "Gotong Royong" or "Team Work".

I know its in-efficient but maybe that's the only reason to fight with the un-employe reason :-(

M said...

Oh My God. i was about to complain the same about Syrians here. This morning it took me hours just to buy one way flying ticket out from Syria. I am sorry but they were extremely inefficient.

But then i thought..this is an exercise for when i am back in Indonesia. lol.

population bomb. guess this si because we thought (and still think)'banyak anak; banyak rejeki'..

therry said...

M is right.

Which is the reason why Jasa Marga still employs people to work on freeway gates, when there are machines that can do that for humans, or use technology like what the Melbournians have done with Citylink.

But no, they say it will be cruel to replace human beings with machines since it will cause them their jobs - without thinking that it's actually a lot more cruel making people sitting in the midst of car emissions and having them to inhale it every single day.

johnorford said...

Tere616, Therry, Mulia: thing with gotong royong, or teamwork, is that business owners know what they're doing. They're not in business to be charitable, trust me!

tere616 said...

It's not about charity, but it's also about lack of financial support.

This kind of issue actually happen in private or government compay not in the company under JV (joint-venture) or multi-national company.

Instead of putting a lot of money to invest in the latest technology, which also lead to the probability that it won't suit with current culture, they prefer to employ human where the risk were small compare to latest technology.

johnorford said...

risky technology is def a good reason for avoiding it!

amalia said...

Indonesia is quite crowded already. We need to employ those people to decrease unemployment :P :P

Saudis are quite slow too... esp the women. I always hate to go to the women only bank (yeah they do have it there...). they can't speak english well and they're very SLOOOW. but knowing that the "mix" section bank is always crowded and u need to queue for so long... i always end up going to the women section.

the women only section in the particular branch that I went was VERY small. and i saw 2 saudi girls working as "whatever their boss ask them to do".. like searching some files, rearranging them, etc. gosh, i found them to be so ineffective! very slow... and in such a small place and not more than 5 file storage, one girl is enough you know! grrrr...