The Guardian posted an animation called The last job on earth accompanied by the alarmist subtext that machines could take half of our jobs in the next three decades, “according to scientists”.
Predictions of rampant joblessness are amazing to me. Robot farmers, drone pizza delivery and self-driving cars somehow conspiring with universal basic income… Walhalla, Nirvana and Heaven all served fresh each day by clever technology.
Seriously? The overblown aspirational pep talk about there being no more work is unimaginative, simplistic and not at all visionary. It’s actually occluding what is interesting about the future of work.
Domesticating horses did not end walking. Domesticating crops did not end hunger. Taming fire did not eliminate cold and discomfort from our lives. Antibiotics have not obviated disease. See a pattern here?
Yes, technology improves quality of life. Yes, pizza delivery guys and cab drivers had better find out what else they are good at. So what? There are no more spinsters in England anymore either. There are programmers, who are working with an evolved version of the technology that eliminated the spinsters in the first place.
Mark Twain: “a favorite theory of mine — to wit, that no occurrence is sole and solitary, but is merely a repetition of a thing which has happened before, and perhaps often.”
Work is doing something that adds value for yourself or others on a structured basis. This will always be a thing and always have economic value, no matter how good our technology becomes.
There will be jobs and economic models we don’t know about yet, much like Nero did not, could not, know about Keynesian economics and drone repair men.
What there won’t be is an utopian future without work. What would be visionary is imagining what work there will be once we replace our current occupations. Make an animation about that, by all means! I’d like to believe there is an amount of agency, creativity and empowerment available to future humans that makes my job look like peon farming by comparison.