The hypothetical future end of work is a dream that has been around since the earliest days of human civilization– yet the information revolution (paired with an ongoing period of economic recession) has been cause for a renewed and newly believable consideration of the idea that some day– we may simply run out of jobs.
At the heart of it, there can be no doubt that the technological changes wrought in the past few decades have radically changed the workforce and will continue to change the nature of our daily work. Indeed, I recently found myself asking exactly what it was that people *did* before email, given that so many desk jobs seem to primarily entail reading and answering emails.
While this is partially meant to be taken in jest, I think it does indicate that an equal if not larger impact of new technologies has been to reformulate and change the exact nature of the work that we now do in conjunction with computers. The theory of technology replacing work seems to assume a finite amount of work to be done…which of course is not true. The issue seems more likely to be that in the current moment, a sudden influx of efficient machines has eliminated a good number of jobs, and we haven’t quite figured out the new roles that can be created- roles that look more like “thought partners” in a technologically supported environment rather than the number-crunching workhorses.
These are just some preliminary thoughts on an extremely complicated topic, inspired by a few recent interesting pieces around the topic:
The Atlantic’s detailed exploration about the theoretical causes behind the end of work, and interesting thoughts on what this new era may look like. While I think it is misguided in the simplistic analysis of the changes wrought by technology, it is certainly an interesting read with many interesting data points and insights from various fields.
Planet Money has done a series of podcasts on the end of work, but I was particularly captivated by a recent episode which used a science fiction audio drama to explore the idea of a workless future. A very interesting listen, and raises some interesting questions and hypotheses about what it would be like to really live in a world without work.