If you spend much time (as I do) with your head shoved into a computer, you can’t avoid the whole “artificial intelligence armageddon-is-coming” (or is already here!) bruh-ha-hah. What’s always fascinated me—I’ve always irritated everyone even as a precocious little tike—is what happens when people no longer need to do any work?
Everyone’s always pushed back when I ask that question. For forty years (and why is there no U in forty?!) I’ve conceded that, yes, today there’s an enormous amount of work that needs to be done and people do that work. But I keep waiving my arms and asking: But the current amount of work is not always going to be the case. What happens when people no longer need to do much, if any, work?
The final point to make here is to emphasise that such a post-work world is indeed viable. Perhaps a better way of phrasing it is a post-labour world. Work is an essential part of the human condition; not only is it logistically necessary for social life, but it also provides us with purpose and a sense of self-respect. The thrust of post-labour thinking is not that this must be done away with, but that we can retrieve precisely these positive features—purpose, fulfillment, social value—from the tyranny of wage-labour, in which those are so often undercut by arsehole bosses, terrible working-conditions, and an alienation from the purpose of the work. A post-labour world just means that those types of self-directed activities we usually relegate to hobbies become the fount of meaningful social activity […]
~ Trey Taylor from, https://publicfuture.com/blogs/news/non-market-contributions
I particularly like Taylor’s use of the distinction between labor and work. There’s a lot of work I want to always be able to do, as he points out, because I derive meaning from doing so. There’s also some labor that I continue to do, which I’m happily looking to offload.
Nothing is infinite. (Not AI’s intelligence. Not our time, nor any software AI’s time. Not our energy, nor AI’s energy. Not resources, not willpower, etc.) Therefore we (people, AIs, animals, all “agents”, everyone and everything) will always need to negotiate to get what we want. Some things the robots or AIs will do, and some things they won’t want to do.
Maybe a better question is: As the quantity of labor that humans must do falls, where is the new equilibrium? Will the decreasing (vastly decreasing, if I’m right) amount of labor that humans must do be valued sufficiently highly so that people can still obtain sufficient resources to pursue meaningful lives?