The WTF Economy
Tim O'Reilly

I’ve been a futurist all my life. I first thought about the future of work in 1980, when I opened my first business without hiring a secretary; instead I bought an answering machine (they were new) and an Apple 2. I remember my first outgoing message: “This is Hardaway Connections. Please trust the technology and leave a message; it’s more reliable than a pink scrap of paper.” Not long after, I bought a fax machine. And a cell phone. I used them as business differentiators. But I also realized they were putting people out of work.

All my career I’ve aided and abetted putting people out of work. But I have only recently begun to see the psychological toll this takes on Americans. Unlike almost any other culture, we are unable to see ourselves outside of work; it’s the Protestant work ethic metastasized out of control.

Tim, I hope you are going to discuss this at your conference. I’ve traveled all over the world and watched other cultures deal with what we call “unemployment” and what they consider simply different roles. The public intellectual in France, the activist in Hyde Park, and mother in Africa, the guru in the ashram. How will Americans take on those roles.

If you need someone to lead a discussion about this, just let me know. At your service.

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