(The action figures of Michonne and her pack-bearing zombies--kinda strange if not disturbing these action figures really
I will apologize up front to the readers who might find this topic gruesome. If you find descriptions of zombies inherently disturbing, please don't keep reading. But this post is just an exploration of story ideas, of the sort, "If this is true then that should also be true." I hope it inspires some original takes on what have become standard zombie tropes.
As per Michonne in The Walking Dead using zombies as pack-bearers, in a world with real walking dead, why wouldn't you use them to power all kinds of things? (Note that somebody else may have already thought of the ideas in this post, but if so, I haven't heard of it.)
Zombies with their teeth removed (or lower jaw, as Michonne did) and hands either removed or fingers shortened (cutting off their arms altogether seems rather excessive), would be generally unable to harm anyone. But since they move around without needing to eat and do so for an indefinitely long period of time, why not put that energy to good use?
A cart with zombies yoked to it could provide free, albeit slow, transportation--though it would be a good idea to put the walkers behind the cart or carriage, pushing poles they were chained to. So as they tried to get at you in the cart, they would move forward, pushing the cart down the road. (Which means you'd need a steering wheel for the cart, because you wouldn't be able to steer the zombies.)
Zombies at a water wheel with a similar setup would pump water as much as you need, literally moving as long as a human was placed in front of them to go after. A plow with as many zombies as you would need to move it could plow fields, following farmers as they walked out their rows of crops.
You could hook them to an generator to make electrical power. Or have them pull major road construction gear, if you used enough of them.
In fact, the uses are so plentiful, you'd think that all areas in which people managed to build protected enclaves would use zombie power for at least some things.
This would create a strange world wouldn't it? Perhaps the zombie-fed industry would become so standard that it would be like Southern plantations were before the Civil War--a fixed piece of the economy. Perhaps people would even deliberately turn MORE ordinary people into zombies, to keep their machines running.
Or if a means were invented to cure "zombieism" (zombieitis?), perhaps the plantation owners would resist any cure that turns their labor pool back into free human beings, adding a sinister twist that would parallel actual slavery (though of course enslaved people were 100% human).
And if you imagined an alternate reality where a massive zombie outbreak as is so commonly portrayed in fiction happened earlier in history, then you could make the parallel even stronger. ACTUAL zombie plantations (though I don't know how you'd get a zombie to pick cotton).
Anyway, back to the original idea--if zombies were really around, instead of being a perennial threat, wouldn't people soon convert them into a pool of labor? Isn't it human nature (as demonstrated by history) to do that?