Life After Work

What will people do without jobs? With the threat of robots taking more and more jobs, this question has suddenly become much more compelling. One report suggests that robots could take of 38% of US jobs by the early 2030s. This a serious problem that affects the lives of millions.

One proposal for dealing with fewer jobs is something called Universal Basic Income, or UBI. Put simply, this is the idea that the government would offer a basic floor income to everyone, regardless of whether or not they had a job. The idea has been around since the 16th century, but recently it’s started to be noticed more and more as a possible solution for easing the transition between when everyone has jobs (a scarcity-based society) to when no one has jobs, because there’s no work that needs to be done (a post-scarcity society).

Finland recently finished a serious study on the effectd of Universal Basic Income and found that it appeared to be good for social cohesion – and those receiving the money were neither more nor less likely to get a job. Meanwhile Andrew Yang, a Democrat running for president in 2020, is proposing a $1,000 basic income for all citizens. He’s raised $1.7 million in campaign fundraising. He’s not alone either – in India the Congress party is promising a 12,000 rupee basic income for every family, and the UK’s Labour party plans to add UBI to their next manifesto for a general election.

It seems like, sooner or later, working a job to pay for basic living expenses is going to go the way of the dodo. So what are folks going to do all day? Can people even be happy without jobs? A lot of people worry that without a career to base their life around, they’d be unhappy or bored. Actually, by giving up the 9-to-5 we may be returning to the original way of life rather than embarking on some crazy anthropological experiment. Humanity spent 90% of its history as hunter-gatherers, and evidence shows that hunter-gatherers may have averaged about 4 hours of work a day. Not to mention that rich and or noble have managed lifestyles with very little work for hundreds of years, and seem to be quite happy that way – after all, if they wanted to get back to working, they had the opportunity.

If you can’t stand the idea of a life of leisure, I can’t imagine anyone is going to stop you from working. There will always be opportunities for people to make a difference. So what would you do? Would you volunteer for projects, start a club, take up that hobby you never had time for? You could spend more time with your friends and family, or dive in to learning all the things you ever wanted to know. You could read every literature classic, travel the world, finally start paying attention to politics. We spend our lives thinking there’s not enough time in the day, but that might change. Could you build a meaningful life for yourself, if there was no pressure? Ultimately, it’s up to you to make the best of the circumstances.

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