For centuries, experts have predicted that machines would make workers obsolete. That moment may finally be arriving. Could that be a good thing?
The U.S. labor force has been shaped by millennia of technological progress. Agricultural technology birthed the farming industry, the industrial revolution moved people into factories, and then globalization and automation moved them back out, giving rise to a nation of services. But throughout these reshufflings, the total number of jobs has always increased. What may be looming is something different: an era of technological unemployment, in which computer scientists and software engineers essentially invent us out of work, and the total number of jobs declines steadily and permanently.
Less passive and more nourishing forms of mass leisure could develop. Arguably, they already are developing. The Internet, social media, and gaming offer entertainments that are as easy to slip into as is watching TV, but all are more purposeful and often less isolating. Video games, despite the derision aimed at them, are vehicles for achievement of a sort.
Jeremy Bailenson, a communications professor at Stanford, says that as virtual-reality technology improves, people’s “cyber-existence” will become as rich and social as their “real” life. Games in which users climb “into another person’s skin to embody his or her experiences firsthand” don’t just let people live out vicarious fantasies, he has argued, but also “help you live as somebody else to teach you empathy and pro-social skills.”
Read the entire article “A World Without Work” by Derek Thompson HERE.
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