Réseau d'Activités à Distance


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Contributions to ETODL

the European Telework On-line Discussion List


Contributions during December 1996

On 15-12-96


Horace Mitchell wrote:< the world of work is changing again. The very conditions that created jobs two hundred years ago are disappearing. Technology enables us to automate the production line, where all the jobholders used to do their repetitive tasks. >

HH: This historical point of view is usefull. It allows a distinction between the apocaliptic "end of work" and the realist "end of job".

Horace:< Big firms are unbundling their various activities and farming them out to little firms. >

HH: It's important to understand what pushes the large companies to do that. Will they be replaced by a number of small firms? I don't think so. A small company exists when she is able to sell some products. A large company exists and maintains when she is able to create and promote a large catalogue of compatibles products. It's the reason why many companies tried to sell IBM-compatibles products or Microsoft-compatibles softwares. A large company get difficulties when her products are not really compatibles (like it was for many IBM products). Some big firms will be no longer able to maintain a large catalogue of innovatives products. They will be replaced by small ones.

On 16-12-96


Robert Wagner wrote: <Do we really (have to) search for jobs/work or do we most of all search for income?>

I agree with income.

< people started to invent new tools, new machines... to make life easier and reduce their efforts>

I agree with reduced efforts.

< Let new technologies be modern slaves and let's try to think about a more polypolistic distribution of income>

I agree with the artefacts slaves. I agree with general distribution of income, especcially for those whose handicap prevents usual work. So, the question remains:

"Have we, today, a sufficient productivity to largelly suppress work?" Does the actuall lack of job is due to an excess of productivity? In this case, we have to suppress jobs and to distribute income to everybody. (For me first, please). Does the actuall lack of job is due to a lack of productivity? In this case, we have to improve, first, productivity? This is certainly explained in your german book.

On 17-12-96


Robert wrote: (Hypothesis) < everybody is worker and capitalist >

HH: OK. Do you mean everybody is self-employer or more generally everybody is worker somewhere and shareholder anywhere? In the first case, we have a theorical model (small marketed production giving quickly a capitalist system). In the second, we have not. But, as you pointed, this is not too different of what we can see in USA or Sweden. The fact is, we have not any theorical model of the world in whitch we live. It's the reason why I find some difficulties to give precise answers.

Robert wrote: < If we go work half the time because we have enough machines doing the same work easier, quicker and more cheap, what has it to do with "USSR Goss Plans"? >

HH: Sorry. I was too laconic. The problem is the adequation between "needs" (or demand) AND "products" (or offer). If the matching were automatic, there will be not any problem. I would agree with your "physical" argument. In USSR, this matching was organized by the State Planification...

In our countries, this is regulated by many and many markets. The actual regulation "requires" a large development of financial activities and markets. As a result, the mass of money is 100 times this required for the movement of wares (products and services). The movement of this mass of money is sometimes uncontrolled. Here is ONE of the problems.

Robert wrote: < the (market-) price is nothing else than alternative cost. >

Yes. But it's not an exact information about needs and uses.

Robert wrote: <"Voluntary co-operation on the market allows us to remain egoists and still be able to serve others.">

HH: The well-known "invisible hand"!

Robert wrote: <-Accordant decision alternatives (goods) must exist.

-The decision alternatives (goods) must be evaluated comparably.

-The decision makers must have the greatest possible amount of information.

-The decision makers must have the greatest possible degree of freedom to make decisions.

-The acquisition-rights about the chosen decision alternative (goods) must be guaranteed for the long run >

HH: Gerard Debreu, a rare French Nobel in Economics. Another formulation would be: "If everybody is able to know and to respect during all his live the same set of preferences about all the details of his life... a mathematician can demonstrate that an equilibrium is possible for all the concerned markets." I'm not sure this is a realist model of the way we live.

Robert wrote:

< Many goods are improperly or incorrectly evaluated >

< Many people do not articulate their preferences >

And many others reasons, so:

< There is a contradiction between individual and collective rationality.>

Condorcet, J.K. Arrow...

So, don't you see a contradiction between:

< The market, as a process, has neither a certain goal nor a certain purpose, and that is why it cannot fail. > OK


< a market exists on different levels as a mechanism for finding decisions> NOT OK

HH: The knowledge given by the market mechanisms is very poor. Informations are based upon prices. We have to organize a real partnership between producers and customers. This is compatible with the market. But this is exactly the contrary of competition. Most of the economists confuse Market and Competition in their arguments.

On 19-12-96


Jeremy Millard wrote: < the human, cultural and not least economic networks and horizons of individuals and groups are no longer locally confined. >

HH: In my opinion, this is a very deep change. It will give a lot of characteristics to the Information (or Knowledge) Society. Probably it remains an Industrial Society in which automated and connected devices will play a very important part. But for the human, knowledge acquisition and information exchange will take most of our time. In this new kind of activity, the unpaid part of the work will be most important than it is for (employed) jobs. First, because a self-employed has to be his own seller. Secondly, because if you want to sell informations you have to publish a lot of free informations, showing your skills. Thirdly, because the exchange of knowledge requires a most important psychological involvment than material production for a market. For that reason many a worker tried to get sens whith a second activity (church, party, love, family, sport, ...). It seems that three kind of barriers, who inclosed "our" life, are going to fall: space, time, values.

On 18 and 19-12-96


Robert Wagner wrote: < There are too many decision-makers, too many decisions and too many reasons for these decisions so that the system is so complex that it is difficult to create a model which helps you predicting >

HH: We have reached the kindom of "complexity". We have to forget this of "prediction".

Robert: In our countries, this is regulated by many and many markets. < Please replace the "many, many" with "only few, only few" markets. >

I have not any power for that. In your argument, you need a market for polution-rights, a market for low-wages-under-the-social-powerty-rights, a market for children-enroling-rights, a market for...

Robert: < There is exactly the money the economies need, of course more than you need for the movement of wares, but the money are mirrors of risks, expectations of shareholders, inmaterial goods, rights, etc..> < we cannot predict the results >

HH: I agree. Nevertheless, Pareto and Paretians speak about an Optimality. How can we qualify an attribut for something impredictable? Does the meteorologist says "tomorrow, the weather will be an optimality"? No. Why do economists want to speak about a social optimum ?

Robert: (Market) < shows exactly the preferences I have. >

HH: Market shows the result of the preferences We HAD.

Robert: < The knowledge is very high, but often we ignore the information we get. >

HH: Because this information runs after the battle. When the price of tomatos is too low, the products are already lost, and the french producers "on the road again".;-))

Robert: < To organize a partnership, both have to wish such a partnership, but I do not see the incentives for doing that. >

HH: However, without any economical reasoning, many firms do such partnerships.

From my own experience, 4 times in 6 years:

The reason? Companies want to reduce uncertaincy and risks by a discussion, when prices are dumb. AND, SUCH A DEVELOPMENT OF PARTNERSHIP BETWEEN FIRMS WILL IMPROVE THE NEED FOR TELEWORK. It was my own evolution.

Robert Wagner:

Robert: < we can try to predict tendencies >

HH: In my opinion, markets have reached a rate of complexity in which knowledge and action become inseparables. I was a specialist in simulation. I try to become a partner.

Robert: < I am not a fan of Paretians optimality >

HH: This theory is historicaly dated. When K. Marx pushed the classical theory to her social consequences, his enemies (Pareto was an italian fascist) tried to change the battle field. They built a theory of prices without any concept of value. Their purpose was: to demonstrate that market is a better information system than integral planification. The "optimality" is this result.

All this discussion was more ideological than scientifical. In the real world, the USSR gave the factual demonstration. Today, the more the economists will try to explain that market will give an optimum, the less they will be listened. The opposite "devil" has desappeared. The argument is without objet. (except in USSR, ..., ex-RDA?)

Robert: (Information runs after the battle) (Market shows the result of the preferences We HAD.) < That's true. >

HH: My point of view is very practical. In the real word, industrials need a lot of information and knowledge they connot obtain from the price structure. It's the reason why they contract more and more partnerships, between competitors, between customers, among competitors and customers.


We generally put the focus about telework on Commuting or Not-Commuting.

Teleworking is explained by:


Such explanations forget a very important fact: Many people commute (go to work) to an office in wich they telework. This fact is determined by the exploding need for partnership, communication, adjustment, risk reducing... This tends to transform the firm from a castle (where secret is the king) to an extended-entreprise (where dialogue is the servant), without precise boundaries. I have explained some experiences in:

To my opinion, it would be a pity to forget this important kind of telework. Many tools (EDI) have been designed for this purpose.

All the best


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Horace Mitchell

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Alan Mc Cluskey

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