There are a lot of things that we no longer have to do ourselves.
Machines now do them for us. Of course right now there is still plenty
for us to do, but if the trend continues and the machines we build get
more and more intelligent, sophisticated, and powerful, which is likely,
then there is a real possibility that it will become less and less
necessary for us to do any work ourselves. Automated labour, performed
by machines, will then eventually replace all or most labour performed
by us. If and when that happens, then we will have reached an age of
technological unemployment. Would that be a good thing? Should we
welcome the prospect, or should we dread it?
On the face of it, technological unemployment is an enticing prospect.
In practical terms it would mean that we would no longer have to work to
earn a living. We would have everything we need and want without having
to spend time on activities that we do not really want to do, because
machines would take care of everything. As it stands, many people are
unhappy with the kind of work they do. Even if we are lucky enough to do
something for a living that we like to do and would do even if we didn’t
get paid for it, to get rid of the need to work and sell our labour
and skills in some way is surely a good thing. We would then be
completely free to choose what to do and what not to do.
However, it has been argued1 that, if we are not careful, widespread
technological unemployment may well undermine our ability to live a
meaningful life and that in order to prevent this from happening we need
to develop the right kind of technology and relate to it in the right
way. The problem is that in an age of technological unemployment
machines will have taken over and replaced us as the producers of value.
They will then create all the good stuff and make the world a better
place, while we are reduced to mere observers and passive beneficiaries.
Accordingly, if we want to prevent a loss of meaning, what we have to do
is avoid increased externalisation and, instead, pursue increased
integration, which means that, instead of merely using technology, we
directly integrate technology into our bodies.
It seems to me, though, that increasing technological unemployment would
not necessarily be a problem even if we do not become cyborgs. The
reason why unemployment is often so devastating to those who experience
it is that it usually comes with a loss of a decent income, a loss of
social recognition, and an abundance of free time that they have never
learned to (or, being now unemployed, have not got the means to) put to
If you have little to live on, people look down on you with
pity or contempt, and you have no idea how to fill the long hours of the
day, then you may be excused for losing an appetite for …
Originally appeared on Daily Philosophy Read More