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No More Work!

Entry 1588, on 2013-11-11 at 20:13:22 (Rating 2, Comments)

Before I start this blog entry I should explain that you may notice a change in this blog starting today. My plan is to create shorter blog entries (because some people have mentioned having trouble reading to the end, and even losing the "will to live" half way!) and maybe do them a bit more often. So with that out of the way, let's go...

Change is inevitable in modern society, mainly because of technological advances. But the people "in charge" of society tend to want to keep things as they are (because that's the system they have done well in) and the "average person" tends to have difficulty appreciating that change will inevitably happen, maybe through pure lack of imagination.

So what is the specific change I am interested in? I think it is a change to at the very basis of our society: our system of work. I think we are heading to an era where work will be optional and people will only do the work they want to (in which case will it still be work?).

As machines can do more and more of the tasks previously done by humans this change will be inevitable. Currently we have avoided mass unemployment by creating more meaningless jobs (administration and management, for example), but this can't go on forever. As less and less people do anything creative or productive the system will crash.

Work won't go away because people will still want to do things. For example, I would write computer programs whether it was my work or not. But it will become more a recreational thing. Compare it to what happened to horses when cars became cheap and reliable. Horses didn't disappear, they were just used for recreation rather than work.

Of course, this won't happen tomorrow. There are still many things which machines can't do, and even if that wasn't the case our current preoccupation with "productivity" and "efficiency" will be difficult to overcome. But the change will inevitably happen anyway.

Societies with no work have been described in many works of science fiction, both in utopian and dystopian terms. Major societal changes do tend to be for the better, but this sort of change won't be easy.

So that's the end of this shorter entry. Did you get here OK?

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Comment 1 (3699) by Anonymous on 2013-11-11 at 21:49:40:

Ah yes, thanks for the mention. I did read to the end but remind me not to be too concerned, next time your office starts smoking. We administration types have better things to do, than save a lowly programmer !

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Comment 2 (3700) by Rick Harvey on 2013-11-12 at 06:49:03:

LOL - We were told in primary school that Computers and machines would be doing all our work, and leaving us to live lives of relaxed luxury - wait for it - in our life time.

Not quite.

Oh, and the "Paperless Office" - where did that go to?

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Comment 3 (3701) by OJB on 2013-11-12 at 09:01:23:

Yes, I agree there is cause for skepticism regarding the claims that automation will do all of our work for us, but despite it failing to live up to some early optimism I think that long term it will happen. By "long term" I mean about 50 years. Major changes will be necessary in that time frame.

Regarding the paperless office. I have almost achieved that. I still have a few sticky notes around but almost everything is now stored electronically. If someone gives me a piece of paper I take a photo of it with my iPhone and hand it back to them, for example.

It has only been in the last few years that electronic devices have got good enough to read from. In the next few decades paper books will be like horses in my example above (I have bought no paper books in the last 2 years), and work related paper work should also shift to being done electronically (as I have already done).

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