Being as I am an eclectic and habitual reader of practically anything under my nose, I happened upon a rather odd and unusual magazine way back in 1977. If memory serves it was called PM or Personnel Management Magazine. In size, it was smaller than LIFE; smaller than TIME, but just a bit bigger than JET Magazine. I found it in the break room at work.
An article in the magazine posed an intriguing question:
“Economically, What is the most valuable part of a woman’s body?”
Give it a moment’s thought. Revisit the question above.
The correct answer to your first response is an emphatic “NO!” – and it’s not her brain, either.
According to the article it is her thumbs.
The Industrial Revolution begat what used to be commonly known as Efficiency Experts. This scientific field, by any other name, was developed to increase factory productivity. The Efficiency Expert was paid to observe workers and their interactions with tools and machinery on the Mass Production Assembly Line, doing minute and detailed Time and Motion Studies to eliminate inefficiencies and speed up production.
Utilizing mathematics, kinematics, spreadsheets and stop watches the Efficiency Experts studied everything: the ergonomics of hand tools, the steps in the Assembly Line, the motion of machines, lighting, etc.. But they also studied people and their movements. A veritable mountain of data was collected and picked over. Efficiencies were implemented.
The magazine article centered on a single fact: women generally have superior fine motor skills. Being petite, women’s thumbs were more dexterous when handling small parts, and were therefore more productive and thus more profitable in per unit light assembly work. The larger, ham-handed men, even with their naturally superior gross motor (or large muscle) skills were much slower.
As of this writing, there is no robotic machine so facile or dexterous as to be able to replicate, keep pace with or out perform the work of the human thumb. Especially not that of a woman.
The intro to the old television series Medic starring Richard Boone stated that a surgeon had to have “the eye of an eagle, the heart of a lion, and the hand of a woman.” (i.e., fine motor dexterity.)
The Efficiency Experts, especially the Efficiency Engineers, are still hard at work developing a robotic thumb equal to or better than that of a human. When they ultimately do accomplish this final efficiency, you will then know, you will come to fully realize what it means to be redundant.
In another time or another place the Industrial Capitalist’s desire for a woman’s thumbs might be construed as synecdochical or some kind of sick, perverse sexual fetish.
The term “personnel” fell out of fashion as being too, well, personal. It was replaced with the term “Human Resources”, which conjures the more palatable image of a heap of coal or a load of timber.
We do not desire you as a whole, complete, feeling human being. We just want your thumbs.