future

Towards a Post Work Society

Western countries have two problems. Problems, which I suppose may have quite a similar solution to.

The first problem is the constantly looming economical crisis indicated by economic problems especially in the Southern EU and the USA. It seems that we are constantly on the verge of an economic crisis in the West, owing mostly to the offshoring of heavy industry, to the fluctuations in the financial market and to the constantly more skewed demographic structure of our nations.

The second problem is the prospect of automation in the job market. It is practically guaranteed that with the second wave of automation, a huge amount of jobs will simply vanish. Just as no horse cart drivers exist anymore, in the future we’ll have no bus drivers, service clerks or call center assistants. If a job can be replaced by a robot, it will be replaced by a robot.

The first problem is a productivity problem. If we are losing our industry, if we cannot operate in the financial market and if we are running out of able bodied workforce, our productivity is going to tank. And at the end of the day, it is not the hours we pour into our work that create the revenue that makes our pay, but what we get done. So we need to get more done with less legs, with less time to do it in.

The second problem is a social and a moral problem. If we are growing towards a situation where there will simply not be enough work to go around for everybody, how should we treat those who do not get to work?

Like I said, the solution to both problems is probably the same: we need to help our people figure out what they really want to do, and we need to let them do exactly that.

In order to meet the productivity demands of the near future, we need to get more things done in less time. And as studies show, people who are really into what they do can get a huge amount done compared to those who are not. Like the ex-CTO of a major corporation said a couple of weeks ago, an enthusiastic coder can be a thousand times more productive than a frustrated one.

And if we are truly entering a post work world, those people not working are in an even more pressing need to figure out something fun and engaging to do with their time. Right now, people without jobs can tap into welfare, at least in Scandinavia. While that may be enough to pay the bills, if unemployed people don’t find new jobs soon, they’ll become frustrated and alienated. This frustration can, with time, create a massive social problem.

If a post work world segregates people into the valuable people who do work and the not-so-valuable who don’t, we’ll still have a problem. Even if we can get everybody’s stomach full and give them roofs over their heads. But if, instead of economic success, we learned to emphasize the importance of doing interesting things, of passion, of finding one’s vocation, the situation might be different.

By going through the trouble of directing one’s passion towards an immediately pressing need people could, in addition to working with interesting things, also boost their material well being over the minimum provided by the society. But also people who would not or could not contribute in such a way would not only be a welfare burden, but in fact a valuable part of the society in another way.

Much of innovation works like this: in order to create something new and useful, you first have to fool with a lot of old and unuseful stuff. People dedicated to non-work activities might in fact boost the innovative capacity of the human race massively.

A post work society could distribute the labor so that people could tap into what truly interests them and work on that, eventually either producing something of compensatable value or not. We could have generative people who are not immediately productive, and executive people who are, with the two working even in some kind of unison.

By encouraging people to work with what truly interests them, the work itself would be of value, even if it did not immediately enter the marketplace. And by this I do not only mean some intrinstic human value, but also the very bottom line. In a changing world we need to be constantly innovative to keep up with the market.

I believe that the impending productivity crisis will require us to rethink the way we work pretty soon. And while I am not entirely sure as to how we should start to address the moral conundrums involved in letting some people grasshopper their way through their lives, while the ants provide, it is certainly interesting to think about it.

A new world needs new perspectives. Be it a world without jobs, or a world without work.

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One thought on “Towards a Post Work Society

  1. You have the answer, it is all about perspective, or more accurately our perception. We need to stop looking at the world with our selfish, teenage, know all eyes and look at the world afresh with the eyes of good, logical, honest, innocent, empathetic children.

    Humans are good, kind, cooperative beings. Our conscience guides us to do what we perceive to be in the common good. However, our own good nature can be used against us. If we can be united in a common cause we will work towards that cause even to the detriment of our own actual needs.

    The first problem you identified can be wiped out really simply – by stopping believing in it. You perceive there to be a problem because the state want you to concentrate on working hard in the hope you won’t stop and think for long enough to see that we are being exploited by the fat cats and in our turn exploiting those in developing countries. We are all driven and geared up to stockpile wealth so we are safe from economic disaster, but that is what is causing it. If we stopped to think we might realise that we don’t need as much money as we perceive we need, so we could allow ourselves more free time to pursue creative soul enriching activities.

    There is a good reason the Bible talks of resting on the Sabbath. We all need a day off for fun and family. It’s also why we are told that money, wealth and status don’t make you a good person. We truly are working out the same problems that have faced societies for millenia, forgetting all the old wisdom because we think we are somehow better, more advanced people than our ancestors – we aren’t. We are exactly equal.

    The second problem can be solved again by perception and creativity. We need to be creative and feel useful in society and at the moment we believe coming up with new gadgets to give us more leisure is useful. But do we really want to be replaced by robots? Not really. I quite like people thanks, and I know people need to work and have a purpose in life, so spending time creating robots that will take away our reason for living will lead to a depressed society.

    So, what I am suggesting is doing what that old storyteller Jesus suggested. Stop worrying about worldly goods and spend your life connecting with other humans, listening to their stories and telling them yours – not via computer, no energy is exchanged here. In real life, where we can feel and see the difference we make in our own local communities. Keep one eye on the world above to be prudent and ensure you have a roof over your head and food in your tummy, but other than that focus on your family and finding ways to challenge and stretch yourself physically and creatively.

    So long as parents are worried about their children getting work when work is scarce they will encourage their children to focus on activities that will make them more likely to get them work. They won’t encourage their children to discover what they are good at for themselves – millions of musicians, actors, artists etc already live happy productive lives on the bread line. Fear will drive parents to push their children into what they believe is best for them until the child believes it too. Why do you think there’s loads of stuff in the Bible about God having a plan for us? It’s to help us believe our parents don’t necessarily know what is best, it’s also why Jesus then said the same thing about following your own path. Otherwise our parents programme us from birth to become another drone, compliant to the system and free from independent thought.

    We should focus on our inner beings, our hearts and minds so that we can process and apply all the information we have at our fingertips. We can only do that by getting out in the real world, meeting people without judgement – Ooh, you’re just a cleaner, what do you know? Fancy being a bus driver, what a rubbish job, lets replace you with a robot.

    It is our empathy and understanding that we need to focus on as individuals (if we had perfect empathy and understanding we could process all the information of the world and work out the problems facing the whole world, not just our family, our country, our online community) and as a society it is equity and environment that should unite us.

    We have a glut of humans, it makes no economic sense not to utilise them. What is the point of life anyway? To invent the best gadget in the world? Or to share the gifts of our inner soul with those who love us?

    How crazy to believe life would be better as drones to the fat cats. If only we could all unite in our belief of the goodness in the souls of humanity and believe and behave as if we are all of absolute equal worth. Then we wouldn’t care about money, status, robots and wealth, so we could stop competing in this game called life and just enjoy it!

    That’s what all the stories in all religions, cultures, communities have been trying to teach us down the years, but we’ve stopped listening to old wisdom as we believe technology will save us. How silly we all are!

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