The Obsolete Man

Work. In its simplest case, you hunt or you gather and you eat. The tribe works together to make sure everyone is fed and clothed and protected. That’s one of those self-reinforcing unwritten laws that works fine until the tribe gets to a certain size.

To grow to that certain size you have to have agriculture, which requires specialization, and that’s when you’ve got a problem: People without skills. It’s a small problem at first because there are two default jobs in society that almost anyone can do: women can have babies and men can take a spear to the chest at the front of a charge.

But over time that percentage of people who are necessary to keep society running shrinks and the pool of unemployable people grows. This is really exacerbated by industrialization which seems to create jobs just so they can be replaced by machines within a single generation.

Now robotics and AI sweep in to finish the job and what’s left? Seven billion people all standing in line to apply for one million jobs.

Part of that problem is in how we define work.

The equation is pretty simple. You should help society if you want to benefit from society. And we can extrapolate that out to say that the more you help society, the more you should benefit.

Suppose we take out the concept of “work” and eliminate the word “job” and instead talk about how “citizens” add “value” to the economy. Now extrapolate the current advances in software and robotics out to the logical conclusion and what value is left for citizens to add to the economy?

Entertainment and war. Although, with drones taking over for human soldiers, I would imagine the latter will soon fall under the heading of the former much like the entertainment division took over the news division in the movie Network.

The value that citizens can add to society in that case has to do with the fact that entertainment cannot exist in a vacuum. It has to be enjoyed for it to be worth making.

My prediction is that those who don’t create will consume. Full time. And they will drive the world economy more with Likes than with money.

The Creator Class, as I’ve talked about previously, will spend their time making stuff designed to stand out from the ocean of other stuff so they can garner as many likes as possible. And if you don’t have talent or vision or a functioning sense of shame then your creation can be yourself, Kardashian style.

But, in any case, we are already seeing the end of the traditional definition of work just as we’re also seeing the end of the traditional workplace and the very idea of full time employment.

What the strident capitalists out there refuse to acknowledge as they hang on to the old world by their fingernails is that with most of the jobs gone and the rest on the chopping block, there won’t be any customers for their products unless things like universal healthcare and universal income are implemented to keep people in a position to buy things.

Welcome to the brave new world. It comes with a universal remote.

Picture Attribution: Vintage Every Day


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