Sep 04

Future lives of leisure, not work?

Raphael Hogarth asks in The Times:

  • What if AI does destroy most if not all jobs?

  • What if the economy fails to create  a load of new jobs that ordinary folk can do?

Elon Musk, the billionaire owner of electric, some self-driving Tesla cars, warns that: “AI poses a vastly bigger threat than North Korea”

His solution is to redistribute all wealth created via a UBI – Universal Basic Income – it’s now ‘inevitable’ – the state will tax technology and handout the spoils to all citizens so all have enough money to be comfortable

But what of the social impact?

What about personal fulfilment?

Will we be happy as a society of benefit claimants, doing nothing for ever and ever?

Will it be enough just to fill the vacuum with leisure?

John Maynard Keynes, prompted by the mass ‘nervous breakdown’ he saw afflicting the idle rich back in the 30s, resolved that “a life of leisure would instead offer the chance of great flourishing to those who can keep alive, and cultivate into a fuller perfection, the art of life itself”

In other words, ‘the idler of tomorrow will nourish personal relationships with shared experiences and passions’ – for example, learn to play the piano, discover the wealth of literature, appreciate art, acquire knowledge

Ergo, a Keynesian utopia, a life he called a ‘passionate state of contemplation and communion’

But will such a life suit everyone?

In a society where people work, we all have a source of worth – the market values our labour – strip that away and only the cruellest meritocracy is left

Studies show that, overall, the unemployed are far less happy than those with a job – and note that most lottery winners keep working after their success

Much of any happiness we enjoy is derived from ‘our level of earned career success’

So the life of leisure we seem destined for may not be what we want after all


1 comment

  1. Tamsin Stanley

    I wonder if they could measure how much/little of the day/ week needs to be filled with ‘work’ in order for the average adult to enjoy their life and leisure. Perhaps they could study retired folk?

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