Friday, December 18, 2015

Podcast - Does Life Have Meaning in a World Without Work?

I recently had the pleasure of being a repeat guest on the Review the Future podcast. I spoke with the hosts (Jon Perry and Ted Kupper) about a topic close to my own heart: the meaning of life in a world without work. You can listen at the link below:

The set-up for the discussion was a simple one: suppose the predictions about technological unemployment come true. Humans are no longer required for economically productive work. Suppose further that the gains from technology are shared among the general population. In other words, technological displacement from work does not result in hardship. Instead, we live in an age of abundance: everyone can have what they want thanks to machine labour. Would it still be possible to live a meaningful life in such a world? That's the question we explore in this podcast.

The discussion is rich, with many interesting diversions and offshoots. It's really a conversation between all three of us, not an interview in the traditional sense. Four main themes emerge:

The Anti-Work Critique - I introduce the arguments from various left-wing critics of capitalism suggesting that we would be better off if we didn't have to work. These arguments are applied to the debate about technological unemployment.
Philosophical Theories of Meaning of Life - We discuss different philosophical theories of meaning in life, their strengths and weaknesses, and how they may or may not survive in a postwork world.
Games, Art and the Good Life - We consider the possibility that the best life of all is the life of games (triumphing over unnecessary obstacles) and art. This offers some hope because these things could survive (and flourish) in an era of technological unemployment.
Racing Against Machines and Integration with Technology - I close by suggesting that increased integration with technology may be the best way to address the 'meaning deficit' that could arise in an era of technological unemployment.


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