Why will AI never replace ‘work’?
I have a simple theory.
Human is a social animal.
This social animal is animated by the need to influence the other, to exercise some power over another.
We are nobody if we can influence noone. Our misery stems from our powerlessness to influence another human being. Our joy comes from impressing, helping, overpowering, conquering, asking mercy from… some other human. In a sense, domination and submission are sides of the same coin. Either way, you can influence someone else. As long as we elicit a reaction from someone else, we exist, we matter. The day we stop attracting reactions, even the slightest response from another human being – we evaporate, we become ghosts; Ghosts with an unquenchable thirst for eliciting reaction. Perhaps that is the greatest fear we have, don’t we, of becoming living ghosts. that’s why perhaps ‘likes’ and ‘shares’ became so addictive.
Resources and riches mean nothing if they can’t be used to influence someone else. All the gold in the world is useless, if you can’t sell it, wear it and impress someone, hear someone appreciate you for having it, etc.
What does all this have to do with work & AI?
Essentially, all work is influence in action – either directly in the form of employer-employee dynamic… Or in the form of work as mediation to influence someone (why did Zuck make fb? Perhaps to feel powerful over girls who had rejected him? The original Facebook? or at least that’s what the movie suggested.)
So what happens if we dehumanize work, literally? Imagine all conceivable work is outsourced to various machines – physical robots, AI thinking robots, emotional robots, and so on. imagine there are replicants too, ala blade runner.
What will this do to humanity?
Work gives meaning and influence to us. We can’t live lives without meaning and influence. So we will seek to find/ create meaning and influence somewhere else.
We create sissyphean see-saws. never-ending opposition between two opposing camps –
My country/ religion/ music/ lifestyle/ food…etc is better than yours..
I am richer/ smarter/ beautiful/ funnier/ spontaneous/more patriotic than you…
The way to get away from this dying planet is through aliens/ planting trees/ cryptocurrencies/ teleportation/ worshipping cows/ bathing in mythical holy water… and so on.
Society might become less/more equal, less/more human friendly… but there will always be some exchange between one person and another. and that will create work.
That is why, perhaps rituals exist.
Religious rituals employ priests, construction workers, missionaries, artists…and so on.
Social rituals employ elder aunties and uncles to squabble over and establish a pecking order.
Modern-day office rituals lubricate the social machine that is an organization. As such, rituals of ppt making, reviews, rounds, awards, parties… and so on are essential for the social exchange extant in corporate houses, even if counter-productive to stated goals.
So, even if AI takes over all conceivable ‘work’, humans will manufacture new kinds of ‘work/ rituals’ to keep other humans busy.
So ‘work’ in some form or another, will always stay.
And you aren’t really powerful if you can’t push someone else to make some sacrifices for you. So ‘overworked‘ too, will always exist.
Future/ as was past, is about being overworked in establishing/ maintaining/ rebelling against the pecking order of status & power structures. For better or for worse, we will remain overworked.
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