Hyperemployment, or the Exhausting Work of the Technology User
J Thoendell stashed this in Tech
In 1930, the economist John Maynard Keynes famously argued that by the time a century had passed, developed societies would be able to replace work with leisure thanks to widespread wealth and surplus. “We shall do more things for ourselves than is usual with the rich to-day,” he wrote, “only too glad to have small duties and tasks and routines.” Eighty years hence, it’s hard to find a moment in the day not filled with a duty or task or routine. If anything, it would seem that work has overtaken leisure almost entirely. We work increasingly hard for increasingly little, only to come home to catch up on the work we can’t manage to work on at work.
Staring down the barrel of Keynes’s 2030 target for the arrival of universal leisure, economists have often considered why Keynes seems to have been so wrong. The inflation of relative needs is one explanation—the arms race for better and more stuff and status. The ever-increasing wealth gap, on the rise since the anti-Keynes, supply-side 1980s is another. But what if Keynes was right, too, in a way. Even if productivity has increased mostly to the benefit of the wealthy, hasn’t everyone gained enormous leisure, but by replacing recreation with work rather than work with recreation? This new work doesn’t even require employment; the destitute and unemployed hyperemployed are just as common as the affluent and retired hyperemployed. Perversely, it is only then, at the labor equivalent of the techno-anarchist’s singularity, that the malaise of hyperemployment can cease. Then all time will become work time, and we will not have any memory of leisure to distract us.
Something has got to change.
My hope is that the change is peaceful and natural, not violent and hurtful.