George Deane aptly writes for The Institute of Ethics and Human Technology:
“We must do away with the absolutely specious notion that everybody has to earn a living. It is a fact today that one in ten thousand of us can make a technological breakthrough capable of supporting all the rest. The youth of today are absolutely right in recognizing this nonsense of earning a living. We keep inventing jobs because of this false idea that everybody has to be employed at some kind of drudgery because, according to Malthusian-Darwinian theory, he must justify his right to exist. So we have inspectors of inspectors and people making instruments for inspectors to inspect inspectors. The true business of people should be to go back to school and think about whatever it was they were thinking about before somebody came along and told them they had to earn a living.” Buckminster Fuller
In an age of ever-accelerating technological advancements, a fear that goes back to the early 19th century – that machines will take our jobs – seems more pertinent than ever. Automation promises to give us more leisure time, but it is uncertain what a society without work would look like, and whether a desirable social and economic structure can be preserved.It is not just unskilled labour, like supermarket checkouts or factory work that is becoming automated. Domains of skilled labour previously thought to be immune, like translation, legal research and data analysis are becoming increasingly threatened.
If machines reduced the amount of work that needs to be done by human labour to a small amount then it makes sense that humans share this amount of work among them. It seems absurd, then, that all the hard work being done for us could actually incur worse living conditions due to economic collapse.