Tag Archives: Sara C. Kingsley

Matrix Algebra: How to Be Human in a Digital Economy

By Sara C. Kingsley and Dr. Mary L. Gray

Ray and Charles Working on a Conceptual Model for the Exhibition Mathematica, 1960, photograph.  Prints & Photographs Division, Library of Congress (A-22a)

Ray and Charles Working on a Conceptual Model for the Exhibition Mathematica, 1960, photograph.
Prints & Photographs Division, Library of Congress (A-22a)

“Certainly the cost of living has increased, but the cost of everything else has likewise increased,” H.G. Burt, the President of the Union Pacific Railroad, asserted to railroad company machinists and boilermakers.  For Burt, the “cost of everything else” included the cost of labor. His remedy: place “each workman on his [own] merit.”  In 1902, “workman merit” to a tycoon like H.G. Burt squarely meant equating the value of labor, or the worth of a person, to the amount of output each individual produced.  Union Pacific Railroad eventually made use of this logic by replacing the hourly wages of workers with a piece rate system.  Employers switched to piecework systems around the turn of the 19th century largely to reduce labor costs by weeding out lower skilled workers, and cutting the wages of workers unable to keep apace with the “speeding up” of factory production.   Read more