September 13, 2015

SO WORK HAS BEEN A PUNISHMENT FOR THE ENTIRETY OF HUMAN EXISTENCE...:

The Future of Work: But What Will Humans Do? : The latest entry in a special project in which business and labor leaders, social scientists, technology visionaries, activists, and journalists weigh in on the most consequential changes in the workplace.  (MOSHE Y. VARDI  SEP 11, 2015, Pacific Standard)

It is instructive to recall the biblical story of the Garden of Eden in the book of Genesis (Chapters 2 and 3). God places Adam and Eve in the Garden and tells them: "But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it." The Serpent then tempts Eve, who, in turn, tempts Adam, to eat from the Tree of Knowledge. This leads to the expulsion of Adam and Eve from Eden. Furthermore, God metes punishment on the Serpent, Eve, and Adam: "And unto Adam he said, cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; in the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread." So, according to this biblical story, our need to work for a living is an outcome of the failure of humanity to follow the word of God.

But let us contemplate humanity before and after the expulsion. Before the expulsion, Adam and Eve spent their time frolicking naked in the garden, where food is amply available without work; one could say they were no better than apes. One could even see the story as a metaphor for the roots of humanity in pre-human primates. After the expulsion, humans had to work for a living, but they have eaten from the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge. They were inventive. They have learned to hunt, mastered fire, invented agriculture, and eventually launched the Industrial Revolution. We are about to launch another Industrial Revolution, where work will be almost fully automated.

In a sense, humans used the knowledge they gained from the Forbidden Fruit to overcome God's punishment; they will no longer need to work for a living; no more "by the sweat of thy face." But can humanity go back to the Garden of Eden? Will we be happy just frolicking? Furthermore, human progress has been driven to a large extent by our desire to eliminate work or, at least, to lighten the toil. What will drive humanity once that goal has by and large been accomplished?

Thus, even if we manage to solve the economic implications of the complete or almost-complete automation of work, the question of the consequences to quality of life remains wide open. The classical Greek philosophers, starting with Socrates, discussed "Eudaimonia," often translated as "the good life"--in other words, human flourishing. Aristotle viewed this question as one of the most central in philosophy. So the question facing us today is whether we can achieve the good life without work.


...but now people are trying to save it?  How would you expect that to turn out?

Posted by at September 13, 2015 7:54 AM
  

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