Imagine a world without work.
No seriously. Imagine a world where you do not have to work, where tech or AI or robotics or whatever takes care of everything and all you need to do is recreate. How would you derive meaning and from where?
While this sounds like a very distant and unimaginable future, the truth is that it is already happening. The most common jobs in the United States are salesperson, cashier, food and beverage server, and office clerk. Each is highly susceptible to automation.
Entire populations may face joblessness in the next 20-30 years. Joblessness may not necessarily mean lack of money. Ideas such as universal basic income may offset this to a certain extent. And remember, up until the 19th century, before factories, humanity used to live on farms and trade barter and yet no one had this “joblessness” data thrown about. People found something to do, and while many suffered, it was not an all-out anarchic situation.
I read somewhere that the word school comes from skholē, the Greek word for “leisure.” “We used to teach people to be free,” said one. “Now we teach them to work.”
As I said in an earlier post, we have transitioned from times when the poor worked and the rich rested, to a time when those who make the most also work the most. It seems paradoxical, and yet it is true. It’s almost as if we are afraid to rest, lest we miss out on something. We are working the hardest in times when humanity is more prosperous than it has ever been!
And now we face a future where rest may not be an option, it may be the norm. Much like studies have shown that senior citizens spend over 50 hours watching TV, we may end up Netflix and Amazon prime junkies, with stuff being delivered to us at our doorstep, maybe even brought to our couches by home robots.
What happens then? How will we continue to find a “sense of purpose?” How long would we be able to “do nothing”? How frustrating would it be to go on a never-ending holiday?
Food for thought…