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GM’s decline truly began with its quest to turn people into machines

By Quartz

When General Motors announced last month that it was shutting down small-car production and mothballing its Lordstown Assembly plant outside of Youngstown, in northeast Ohio,Read full story

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  • “‘Lordstown syndrome,’ as the media dubbed it, was fueled by the idea that, for American society to thrive, people needed work, yes, but more specifically, meaningful work—a purpose that went beyond the simple act of fastening a spring to a 1,100 Chevrolet’s left rear axel.”

    this captures the AI debate to a tee. AI will kill jobs! These are the jobs that should be killed. Why are people defending mindlessly boring and unfulfilling work? Can you imagine someone working as an elevator operator in

    “‘Lordstown syndrome,’ as the media dubbed it, was fueled by the idea that, for American society to thrive, people needed work, yes, but more specifically, meaningful work—a purpose that went beyond the simple act of fastening a spring to a 1,100 Chevrolet’s left rear axel.”

    this captures the AI debate to a tee. AI will kill jobs! These are the jobs that should be killed. Why are people defending mindlessly boring and unfulfilling work? Can you imagine someone working as an elevator operator in the future?

    With regards to the influx of VW beetles and Corollas that eventually tore through GM’s market — if Apple is today’s GM, who’s going to be the next Corolla? Or will Apple wisen up and release a cheaper utilitarian phone (with a headphone port? Probably not / of course not! That’s exactly the mindset that killed GM, the most valuable company in the world at that time

  • Naveen Jain
    Naveen JainproFounder & CEO at Viome

    We can blame the technology if we want but GM’s decline is simply a matter of losing the innovation edge. Innovation requires leap of faith and strong conviction like Tesla had in building the fully electric vehicle and not half hearted effort in building a hybrid vehicle. You have to be willing to destroy your current business with innovative products and innovative business models.

  • ““We have to compete with the foreigner,” Godfrey told the New York Times. The way to do that, he said, was to cut costs.”

    “Cutting costs” is the mantra that spelled doom for American manufacturing. That and that egoistical swagger of invincibility.

    Education, Innovation and Training... to design & build quality products. That’s how you compete with the foreigner. Not cutting costs, turning your employees into adversaries, stifling human innovation.

    Technological innovations spin the ball faster

    ““We have to compete with the foreigner,” Godfrey told the New York Times. The way to do that, he said, was to cut costs.”

    “Cutting costs” is the mantra that spelled doom for American manufacturing. That and that egoistical swagger of invincibility.

    Education, Innovation and Training... to design & build quality products. That’s how you compete with the foreigner. Not cutting costs, turning your employees into adversaries, stifling human innovation.

    Technological innovations spin the ball faster and cheaper. You can profit from that model for awhile but it’s not sustainable. Like evolution, nature finds a way to do it better.

    Human innovations move the ball forward... changing the dynamics of the game, shifting the competition to play by your rules.

  • We can only hope this is a warning to Google, Facebook and the other tech companies who want to replace us with AI.

    Steve Jobs used to talk about computers as “bicycles for the mind” ... they increased human capabilities. As implemented by Google and Facebook, AI frequently does just the opposite. That is a mistake. They can do better. We should insist that they do.

  • Absolutely excellent article detailing the culture and policy problems that doomed GM in the 70s, and why other companies succeeded where they failed. The short version: policies which distrust and/or dehumanize workers are inherently inferior to pro-worker policies. Strict hierarchy, harsh oversight, repetitive and compartmentalized tasks-- all serve to quash innovation, destroy any sense of loyalty to the company, and generally drive down efficiency.

    It's the same reason that democracies nearly

    Absolutely excellent article detailing the culture and policy problems that doomed GM in the 70s, and why other companies succeeded where they failed. The short version: policies which distrust and/or dehumanize workers are inherently inferior to pro-worker policies. Strict hierarchy, harsh oversight, repetitive and compartmentalized tasks-- all serve to quash innovation, destroy any sense of loyalty to the company, and generally drive down efficiency.

    It's the same reason that democracies nearly always have superior militaries to dictatorships: the soldiers care.

  • A long, but satisfying read about the story of working and automation—and a vision that sees satisfying work itself as essential to the health of American society and democracy

  • Sari Zeidler
    Sari ZeidlerDirector of Growth at Quartz

    Excellent in-depth feature that really gets at the mental toll the assembly line took on workers as GM struggled to compete with foreign automakers the only way management knew how. This story pulls together various cultural, historical and economic threads into a compelling narrative. IMHO, one of Quartz’s best features to date

  • Corinne Purtill
    Corinne PurtillSenior Reporter at Quartz

    Rock star Gwynn Guilford expertly traces the closure of GM’s Youngstown plant to the company’s handling of a 1972 strike, in a fascinating tour of cultural and economic history.

  • Calvin Yee
    Calvin YeeEgon Zehnder

    The hypothesis regarding the Big 3 not researching the small car consumer over the Red State truck buyer is one worth exploring but I doubt it was a conscious decision

  • William Wood
    William WoodOwner at William Wood

    GM’s decline, began with building the Saturn, not buying Nissan...

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