In the Face of Automation, Why Do Humans Exist??



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.



Kowality Jesus

Kowality Jesus

One of the coolest people within a radius of 100 yards.A recent Catholic convert, but longtime witness and believer.
Kowality Jesus
  • emperorreagan

    Kurt Vonnegut’s Player Piano has long been one of my favorite books.

    • Matt Staggs

      Great one. Highly underrated.

  • Brendonius

    This is why we need a universal basic income.

  • Anarchy Pony

    Assumes such technology is sustainable.

  • Gjallarbru

    Although I don’t feel entirely comfortable saying this, maybe we should look at the start trek universe for inspiration. Roddenberry has rethought the entire concept of economy, where people do work, but out of their own volition in their field of interest, as they feel it is worth something to them on an intimate level. If you are going to rethink the role of jobs in society, you have to rethink the underlying economic concepts. Whether Roddenberry’s vision is attainable is irrelevant, the idea is to rethink old concepts.

    • Virtually Yours
      • Gjallarbru

        I completely forgot about that article. It seems it has stuck to the back of my head. Still, if you think about machines replacing us in production, you have to rethink what economy means.

        • Virtually Yours

          “you have to rethink what economy means” We need to rethink lots of things or else our species is not going to survive, let alone thrive.

  • Ted Heistman

    I think technology arises from the desire for power. The technophile wet dream is illustrated in the pop cultural myth of “Iron man.” A human weapon.

    • Ted Heistman

      So what I am saying is, the technospere doesn’t arise from altruistic sentiments. The goal is absolute power over other people, to be completely dominant and impervious to harm. Break labor unions backs, get rid of the need for laborers, beat the competition, make better weapons, corner markets, create monopolies;control. That’s what robotics and automation is for. So I really don’t see utopia springing from this. But Its certainly possible. It wuld have to be some type of dialectic reversal though

  • Virtually Yours

    “How do we get there from here?” Peter Joseph and TZM have a pretty solid idea of how it could work, but the Corportocracy isn’t going down without a fight and – as Ted alluded to in his comments – they currently run the automation. As for Malthus…he’s not entirely wrong. Yes, as you say, the earth could *technically* support a higher population with some necessary adjustments, but eventually we are still gonna bump up against those resource limits which he discussed unless we have instituted unprecedented levels of self-control when it comes to reproducing and/or we have started colonizing other planets.

  • BuzzCoastin

    “How do we get there from here?”

    start by droping out of the system

    • Juan

      Of course, we can all go live under a bridge and eat out of garbage cans.
      Dude, to drop out of the system, ironically enough, requires a nice chunka change. Enough so that you can collect rent or interest and not fucking work.

      • BuzzCoastin

        my experience is converse to your assertion

        the circumstances you describe
        as requisite for leaving the system
        keep most from leaving & encourage their acquiesce

        “A bit of advice
        Given to a young Native American
        At the time of his initiation:
        As you go the way of life,
        You will see a great chasm. Jump.
        It is not as wide as you think.”
        ― Joseph Campbell

        • Juan

          A lovely sentiment, but I don’t buy it.
          Aren’t you living off a nice chunka change you were able to somehow accrue before dropping out of the system?

          • BuzzCoastin

            when I bailed on the system
            I gave away everything I had
            that was 13 years ago
            so far, so good

          • Juan

            Sorry, not convinced.

          • BuzzCoastin

            otherwise you wouldn’t still be pimping for da man

            PS: it’s a process
            it took me at least a decade to get to the jump point
            I was also scared shitless the first 5-6 years
            eventually I began to feel comfortable with uncertainty
            because things tend to invariably work out

          • Juan

            No dude, not convinced by you and what you are claiming.
            I call bullshit.

          • Echar Lailoken

            Instead of a roundabout brag, there’s long term solutions. You could always build an Earthship. An upfront sacrifice for a system that is sustainable. Perhaps tech maintenance costs. If I had the cash and land, this is what I’d do.


          • BuzzCoastin

            that’s why your stuck

            no belife required
            only the courage to try

          • Mr B

            Me too (well, dismantled and recycled most of it) back in 2008.

            Also: became Vegan, teetotal, (never use pharmaceuticals) and removed the logos from virtually all my personal effects.

          • BuzzCoastin


            Once a sheikh and a disciple were walking quickly toward a town where it’s known there is very little to eat. The disciple says nothing but he is constantly afraid of going hungry. The teacher knows what the student thinks. How long will you be frightened of the future because you love food? You have closed the eye of self-denial and forgotten who provides. Don’t worry, you’ll have your walnuts and raisins and special deserts. Only the true favorites get hunger for their daily bread. You’re not one of those.

            Whoever loves the belly is brought bowl after bowl from the kitchen. When such a person dies, the bread itself comes to the funeral and makes a speech. “O corpse, you almost killed yourself with worrying about food. Now you’re gone and food is still here, more than enough. Have some free bread. Bread is more in love with you than you with it. It sits and waits for days. It knows you have no will. If you could fast, bread would jump into your lap as lovers do with each other. Be full with trusting, not with these childish fears of famine.

            Rumi, trans Coleman Barks

          • InfvoCuernos

            You don’t need to give up making money, just making it for the corporate overlords, and you won’t really be giving that up completely, just as much as you possibly can stand. I recommend finding a hobby you love, and then figure out where the money is at in the hobby. With the internet, you can squeeze a living out of almost anything-the internet will even teach you how, just ask my sister’s boyfriend’s parole officer. He works 3 days a month and drives a new BMW! But seriously, there’s somebody making furry costumes for a living somewhere, on their own schedule, with their own terms(and you didn’t hear it from me, but you can even screw a certain uncle out of what he thinks you owe him). Now, go quit your job and grow some dreads!

      • Earthstar

        Turn off your TV. Don’t use credit. Don’t buy so much useless shit. Bike, get to know people, grow your own food, and stop polluting your body.

        If you can’t do these things, then maybe you should fight to do so.

        • BuzzCoastin

          you don’t need to fight with anyone butt yourself
          in order to accomplish those goals

        • Juan

          Doing pretty much all of those, except growing my own food.

          • InfvoCuernos

            Don’t forget drum circles on tuesdays at the park!

  • BuzzCoastin

    Why Do Humans Exist??

    humans are the reproductive organs of machines
    nannies to machines as well

  • erte4wt4etrg

    I find it hard to imagine a world without wage slavery. All you ever hear from day 1 is job job job job like its the panacea to everything in life, that and the great god EcOnomY. Fuller was right, we hate ourselves, we have to prove that we’re not absolutely worthless wastes of space to each other. Stupid Christian shit.

  • BuzzCoastin

    Gardener Watering a Ditch

    When Tzu Kung went south to the Ch’u State on his way back to the Chin State, he passed through Han-yin. There he saw an old man engaged in making a ditch to connect his vegetable garden with a well. He had a pitcher in his hand, with which he was bringing up water and pouring it into the ditch,— great labor with very little result.

    “If you had a machine here,” cried Tzu Kung, “in a day you could irrigate a hundred times your present area. The labor required is trifling as compared with the work done. Would you not like to have one?”

    “What is it?” asked the gardener.

    “It is a contrivance made of wood,” replied Tzu Kung, “heavy behind and light in front. It draws up water as you do with your hands, but in a constantly overflowing stream. It is called a well-sweep.”

    Thereupon the gardener flushed up and said, “I have heard from my teacher that those who have cunning implements are cunning in their dealings, and that those who are cunning in their dealings have cunning in their hearts, and that those who have cunning in their hearts cannot be pure and incorrupt, and that those who are not pure and incorrupt are restless in spirit, and that those who are restless in spirit are not fir vehicles for Tao. It is not that I do not know of these things. I should be ashamed to use them.”

    At this Tzu Kung was much abashed, and said nothing. Then the gardener asked him who he was, to which Tzu Kung replied that he was a disciple of Confucius.

    “Are you not one who extends his learning with a view to being a Sage; who talks big in order to put himself above the rest of mankind; who plays in a key to which no one can sing so as to spread his reputation abroad? Rather become unconscious of self and shake off the trammels of the flesh,— and you will be near. But if you cannot govern your own self, what leisure have you for governing the empire? Be gone! Do not interrupt my work.”
    Zhuangzi (aka: Chung Tzu)

  • Chaos_Dynamics

    I am self obviating by my very existence and will do whatever possible to accelerate the process whilst in this corporeal state.

  • Simon Valentine

    (“future?” = “time to politicize over an aesthetic”) = null

    f(x) = work

    ….the physicist said “work. you’re defining it wrong. it’s not a vector.”
    ….the prophet said … err sorry there was a babel exception
    ….the mathematician said “you can’t do it right – here’s the proof.”
    ….the programmer worked on the prophet AI
    and on the fifth day, witches.

    • BuzzCoastin

      ΔpΔx ≥ h/4π.

      • Simon Valentine

        the variations of/on/as conversion within a circle of 2nd magnitude are more than or equal to the smallest unit … translated as “they are equal and where there is greater than there is illusory knowledge perhaps manifested” … example being the drama of Pythagoras … or more appropriately another windows-breaking fest … “what, we can’t stone people anymore?” … “*stones people*” …

        genus >= speciation >= eating illusions for breakfast and shitting kingdom epiphany hearts

        …or the void converts also into me and i have no idea what Max of the Plancks was up to

        Heisenberg as the physicist version of the mathematical Pythagoras? i wonder why they didn’t notify the TVers that there was going to be re-runs… … anyway …

        time to think about delta p delta y <= h/16 … as an integral. (and wonder if that's a drinking game)

  • Echar Lailoken

    Start by using the system to transform it, essentially a synthesis. I feel that we’d have to shed light on the archetypes that inform society.

    • Oginikwe

      Hmm. Like Karl Polanyi and his bottom-up, environmentally-based economic ideas instead of the top-heavy, trickle-down, financial and extractive economy we have now?

      • Echar Lailoken

        Absolutely… The ovoid egg must follow the natural course and transform into the sphere, if we are to effectively keep on rolling.

        I mean, have you ever seen an egg roll from top to bottom? You gotta put it on it’s side, but then the top is no longer. It becomes the smaller side.

  • Mr B

    I don’t comprehend this article.

    As somebody living in The West without a money tree: if I don’t work, I don’t eat.

    There’s no option to have robots harvest apples for me.

    • kowalityjesus

      Well, the idea is “what happens when 1/10,000th of the population is producing the innovations behind the necessities for life?” Does everyone perish, in a purge of the unnecessary human laborer? Or does the increased overall wealth merit some contrived redistribution, i.e. stealing from the rich. It has implications around eugenics again, and nobody wants to talk about it.

      • Mr B

        But technology hasn’t brought even the cleverest of us effortless, free nourishment.

        Agricultural land is owned, tilled, watered, crops harvested, inspected, processed, packaged, labelled, perhaps chilled, transported, advertised, retailed, legislated etc etc etc

        Requiring multiple workers; it is not all automated.

        • kowalityjesus

          Dis true, but if there were a theoretical baseline of man-hours required to satisfy a persons reasonable needs, we are swimming in man-hours in the lifestyle of the modern era thanks to innovations and automation. This is continuing process of what happened when we no longer needed people to hoe tiny farms in the beginning of automation during the industrial revolution, which produced a substantial glut of labor.

          • Mr B

            Imo, if we’re honest, far from being obliterated by our technological ingenuity, the labour’s merely pushed out to the poor sweatshop worker/exploited immigrants.

            Dishwashers neither load themselves nor spawn tablets.