What is money? What does it represent and measure?
First, let's think about how society worked before money. People traded, typically with items that they procured themselves such as food, clothing, or furniture. Why didn't that last? Partially because it wasn't always convenient to carry around a goat to trade, you couldn't depend on having what someone else wanted for a trade, and partially because some commodities like fruits would have a limited shelf life even though supply and demand fluctuated.
Enter money. You could carry a lot of it on your person, the people you dealt with didn't need to purchase whatever particular commodity you produced, and it couldn't expire. That said, money was representative of what you had.
Fast forward a bit and we find ourselves in the middle of the industrial revolution. Here, factories began to create the same goods faster and cheaper, rendering homemade goods obsolete. As this shut down small, independent manufacturers, workers were funneled into these factories where they were paid for their labor, and this is a big change. Money no longer represented something that you had created individually, but rather it was a metric for the amount of work you had done.
The problem is, this metric isn't consistent. The conversion factor between time and money - namely the salary - varied from company to company and from person to person. Sometimes you could determine how hardworking someone was by how much money they had, but oftentimes not.
This also raises the question of what you're really being paid for. Are you paid for the time spent, regardless of productivity, or are you paid for how productive you are, as is the case with commission? This makes a huge difference when you talk about technology like the cotton gin, which increased the efficiency of cotton production. Who should benefit from such inventions? The inventor that created them, the company that purchases them, or the workers that use them?
Look at it this way. You work 8 hour shifts for $20 an hour. Suddenly a machine comes along that doubles your productivity. If you continue working the same amount, your employer gets twice as much work out of you while you work the same amount. Alternatively, you could work the same amount for $40 while the company's productivity stays the same. Or, you could work for the same amount, but the company gives the additional $20 to the inventor of the machine rather than purchasing it outright.
I understand that these are false dichotomies; certainly happy mediums could be found where all three parties benefit, but I frame them in these terms for the sake of illustrating the overall impact of such technology.
This raises a philosophical question about what technology does to labor. Who benefits? Who should benefit? Most technologies in the vein of the cotton gin or the personal computer were invented for the sake of convenience. In their conception, some naively believed that such inventions would mean that the average worker would only have a three day week.
Technology isn't the only factor in play here. We also decide a salary based on a person's training and responsibilities. Under communist rationale, these people work the same amount and all roles are necessary, which is why everyone should be paid the same amount. The capitalist rationale places incentive on ambition and training, hence skilled labor and management positions offer greater benefits, even for the same amount of time put in.
On some level, people still want these technologies to lessen the extent to which we have to work, approaching a Utopian model where everything is taken care of for us. But in practice, the opposite seems to have happened. Why?
Reason 1: The Protestant work ethic is still alive and healthy in our society, which is likely why we have opted to use technology to increase productivity at constant labor rather than maintain constant productivity and decrease labor. Laziness is seen as morally reprehensible. This might also explain why so much work is required to earn a living wage even with the aid of our technology. After all, if you aren't working hard, you don't deserve a living. This mentality has not yet assimilated the impact of technology.
Reason 2: Ego and self-esteem likely play roles in this as well. When technology allows us to execute complex tasks at the cost of almost no work, being paid a living wage for doing so little is going to feel emasculating. If you define yourself by your work, working less (or not at all) might give you an existential crisis.
Reason 3: Employers. To the surprise of absolutely no one, CEOs and managers want to increase productivity because that directly reflects their own income.
So my question to all of you is this: What does money represent? What can a person's income say about them? What SHOULD money represent? Finally, who should technology benefit?