Craft guilds answer to techno-exploitation

But will it happen?

The Internet could see workers scurrying to Medieval-style guilds for protection, according to Government-appointed crystal ball gazers. The Department of Trade and Industry's (DTI) Future Unit outlines two possible scenarios on the effect that technology will have on workers. First up, is the Wired World, a Utopian vision where everyone is online and many people are self employed... rather like readers of The Register. The alternative is Built to Last, depicting a future where large corporations control the knowledge of their staff with incentive packages and so on... rather like employees of ZDNet. The DTI futurologists say the outcome will be a mix of the two, but admit they don't know which will be the dominant work style. The Wired World model will have important implications for employees, who will increasingly need to protect their work. As the role of the government declines, unions, community groups and professional associations could stand in for large employers to protect the interests of large groups of freelance workers, according The unit. It describes this as a parallel to medieval style guilds. "If Wired World becomes a reality, we might expect these types of activity to expand." the Future Unit says. The new guilds would have to be financially self sustaining: probably through "a combination of membership levies and service based income". In other words, they will be like Unions (except that union is a dirty word in Tony Blair's Britain). Do we really want to see the return of craft guilds? Do we want a world where the International Wibbly Webbly Wobblies evolve into the new freemasonry (the first sprang from stonemasons craft guilds)? A world where there are rules about what colour clothes you can wear, depending on your occupation. A world where you pay your master for the privilege of getting an apprenticeship -- and then work for nothing for seven years, a world where everyone in the same occupation has to live alongside each other in the same district -- a world like -- God forbid -- made flesh. ® See related stories: IBM workers start trade union IBM attacked in staff Web uprising Web workers to get own trade union Flying pickets turn to Internet to wage war on factory owners

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