With the integration of A.I. into our workflows, eventually, we’ll get to a point where there’s little to no work for most humans to do. As a result, we’ll continue to see companies restructure and freeze hiring.
What does it mean when the same output can be achieved by 20% of the workforce? Well, so far our answer is layoffs. And we see how destructive that has been for Americans.
Another question I haven’t seen a good answer to is, what does this mean for the 20% who aren’t needed for a full 8 hours a day at 5 days a week?
The thing is, we’re all accustomed to this industrialized way of working. I wake up in the morning, go to the same site, and do the same activities for 8 hours. Then I repeat it for 5 days in a row.
Introduce the 4-day work week. But technology is too efficient for that. We’ll eventually have to get down to a 3-day work week. Then 2 days…
What will people do with all of this idle time? We have already designed our lives and ambitions around this 100-year-old industrial work schedule and it’s all about to vanish.
Humans tend to derive meaning from contributing to something greater than ourselves. In modern times we have been trained to exclusively fulfill that desire to contribute with our jobs because we don’t have time for anything else.
What does it mean when that contribution can no longer be exclusive to our work? And how do we create conditions as a society to make sure we can sustain ourselves in the meantime?
Enter a society that is simultaneously experiencing economic destitution AND existential dread in the short term.
If we extend the timeline a bit, I do imagine a world where we can still access many of the conveniences of modern life, but our labor is no longer needed to do so. A world where technology gets the cost of energy to be zero, and machines who never sleep force the supply of goods to outpace demand.
It may sound utopian to have our favorite things be cheap and to only indulge in pleasure, but that’s not how our brain works.
No one really wants to go to the beach and relax all day. We all are in pursuit of significance. But we also have been trained to only get that from work. So what will we do as a society to make sure the least of us are propped up, while also being given a new, productive way to find meaning?
So many questions need to be answered as we go through this fundamental shift of what it means to be a working person. I guess that’s what we can do with the idle time.
If you want to earn money as a writer on Medium or get unlimited access to articles, consider joining with my signup link. I’ll get a small commission and it won’t cost you anything extra.