Today I came across a new TED video that poses the same question, and seems to have an answer for it as well.
"As much as 80% of people hate their job... that's 4 out of 5 spending most of their useful lifetime doing something they don't particularly enjoy." [...] "We are in a kind of work paradox. Because we work long and hard hours on jobs we hate to buy things we don't need to impress people we don't like."
This reminded me of an article I read recently, Your Lifestyle Has Already Been Designed:
"We’ve been led into a culture that has been engineered to leave us tired, hungry for indulgence, willing to pay a lot for convenience and entertainment, and most importantly, vaguely dissatisfied with our lives so that we continue wanting things we don’t have. We buy so much because it always seems like something is still missing... The 8-hour workday is too profitable for big business, not because of the amount of work people get done in eight hours (the average office worker gets less than three hours of actual work done in 8 hours) but because it makes for such a purchase-happy public. Keeping free time scarce means people pay a lot more for convenience, gratification, and any other relief they can buy. It keeps them watching television, and its commercials. It keeps them unambitious outside of work."
Many people might think this all smacks of conspiracy theories and lofty ideals not grounded in reality, and I wouldn't necessarily disagree. And I'll reiterate that I count myself as one of the lucky few people who enjoys my job, or at least the creative aspects of it. But, as people do, I often find myself dreaming of the things I could do if my life were free to pursue what I wanted. The article continues -
"I’ve only been back at work for a few days, but already I’m noticing that the more wholesome activities are quickly dropping out of my life: walking, exercising, reading, meditating, and extra writing. The one conspicuous similarity between these activities is that they cost little or no money, but they take time."
I think I could safely call myself addicted to learning. Obviously I'm passionate about art, learning to draw and paint - but there's so much more I'd like to achieve with my life. I'd love to learn to play an instrument, or two or three. I'd love to learn several languages. There are so many books I want to read. I want to learn to sew and make my own clothes. I'd love to really get to know food... grow my own fruits and vegetables, bake fresh bread, create great meals. Animation. Photography. Sculpting. Woodworking. Archery. But I know I'll never truly have the time to learn any of those things to the extent and level that I'd like.
Federico Pistono makes the transition to a fully automated society sound very simple in his TED Talk - and perhaps it COULD be that simple - if only all of society hopped on board at the same time. However, I doubt it will be the case, for the simple reason that money exists. Not only does it exist - our entire society is based on it. Speaking generally, people love free time - but they love money more. I feel like one of the only people I know who have realized that time is infinitely more valuable than money.
Watching that TED Talk actually made me sad - because I had the crushing realization that I don't think this will happen in our lifetime. I think the people in power will fight tooth and nail to keep our society based on money. Full automation probably won't happen for 100 years or more. And I'll probably never be a crackshot with a bow and arrow. But, I suppose worse things have happened.
© Gina Florio 2013