The Future of Work
We all dream of a future comprised of naps and parties, where anyone can afford every luxury as we’re carried around on hover sofas, being pleasured by sexy robots – don’t we?
Around the turn of the century we were told to prepare for the age of leisure. We were advised to plan for a future overflowing with spare time. A place where we could no longer count on work to fill up the hours of our sad lives. The Internet was going to do everything for us (via dial-up access) and we would be able to just lollop about composing sonnets and drinking Bellinis.
The future may be late, but the work landscape is changing, and so must we. We can expect the following: Retirement to be gradually phased out for all but the rich; high tech to reduce the number of roles filled by humans; job security to be a thing of the past; the advent of an Orwellian level of work monitoring.
Only one of these developments is positive and that one – the increase in computers doing our old jobs – needs to handled with care, lest we face a future without human bar staff.
Clearly the notion of work as central to our worth and indeed, our very existence, will be exposed as folly. The question, ‘What do you do?’ as code for ‘What kind of human are you?’ will become redundant. This will be a massive shock to Americans, less so to the French and met with I-told-you-so’s by Deserters everywhere, if they could be bothered.
But how do we respond to these changes without becoming victims of them? Below are a series of barely thought out strategies that serve as unsolicited advice for future UK governments.
Instead of working all your life to spend your pot of gold when you’re 70, why not have it as soon as you leave education, take 25 years off to find yourself, lose yourself and find yourself again? Then start your first day of work at around 46. By then, you’ve done everything you want to do, been everywhere you want to go and know who and what you are. Trying to sort all that out while you’re working in the straightjacket of full-time employment means you do neither well, both slowly and don’t get that lie-in you so deserve. By 46 you might even be weary of the ashram and relish a good sit down with a cup of tea and a nice spreadsheet.
The current model, that sees us saving our life’s dividends till retirement at 65-70, is too reminiscent of the religious strategy – you will get your reward in heaven when you have no arms to hold a pint, let alone mouth to glory in its deliciousness. But do keep your nose clean, obey, be good, don’t even think bad thoughts. And whatever you do, do not covet thy neighbour’s ass.
The good stuff is promised in the next life, when your ashes are stuck in some Tupperware at the back of your wife’s new boyfriend’s garage. Yes, he’s already collected the deposit on the urn, the cheap fuck. The best thing you can say about your new home is that the previous tenant was some leftover lamb dansak. Mmm. Still, that is not the time we want to the party to start.
So pension now, pay later. But who is going to pay for this madness? Well, you. After 25 years spent enjoying yourself, it’s time to pay something back after enjoying freedom at the right end of your life. Will you resent going to work at 46? Probably, but at least you’ve had a quarter of a century off, plus there’s always sick leave. And, the chances are that by the time this comes to pass all work will be part-time.
Make all work part-time
Employers should be legally restricted from requiring any employee to do more than
20, 18, 14 hours a week. We did think 20 at first but the thought of someone working 20 hours a week made us feel sad.
Robots and computers will soon be doing not just our manual work but also our thinking for us and, while this will give us lots of lovely time to consider life’s inner meaning and where Jenny hid the biscuits, it is vital that part-time work be paid as much as full-time work. After all, productivity will remain the same, if not increase, once the bots take over. If artificial intelligence simply means that employers make larger profits, while everyone else earns less, it only benefits a small, already wealthy group of people. If tech advances benefit everybody, they’re a step forward, otherwise they will be just another footstep of The Man in our faces, which will only result in very cross e-petitions.
Everyone over 18 should spend at least two years working behind a bar, so they can learn the three most important things in life: Beer welfare, making lifelong friends and dealing with wankers. Everything else is fluff.
Deserter Basic Income (DBI)
We’ve mentioned it before, but it bears repetition. Reform the benefits system to pay a universal basic income to everybody, thereby eradicating poverty and bureaucracy in one swoop. If you fancy earning some more, knock yourself out. No really, hit yourself over the head with a heavy object. But if you still want to work, at least it can be something you want to do.
Shadowy South London separatist group, SLAG, believe DBI could be afforded by the legalisation and taxation of drugs. Others, by scrapping Trident and the Royal Family. We’d certainly be happy to trade bombs and toffs for weed and revenue.
Finland are already having a go, trialing a version of basic income, showing, not for the first time, that the Nordic countries are ahead of the game when it comes to civilisation.
There is a school of thought that DBI would make people more productive, as they could choose work they give a stuff about. Others say ‘why would people given money look for work?’ which is an admission that work sucks and should not form the central tenet of humanity’s purpose – that DBI is therefore justifiable. So hardwired has the work ethic become that the biggest obstacle is not affordability but public acceptability. That’s how fucked up we are. Is it any wonder we drink?
But who would do the cleaning, I hear you ask, the grubby jobs that no one wants? Robots, that’s who. Dirty, grateful robots. If we can put a man on Australia, we can surely make a self-driving scrubber-upper.
Elon Musk sees basic income as our future and he’s a bona fide genius, not a wishful slacker like the rest of us. There is enough money in the UK and other countries to afford DBI but a great deal of it is sitting idly outside of the economy, like an unused bar tab. Among many writers on the subject is Malcolm Henry, who believes DBI could be funded using that ‘idle money’, along with negative interest rates that discourage the hoarding of cash. We’ve got our very best people checking the numbers, but unfortunately he doesn’t get out of bed till 3pm leaving such a brief window of usefulness for complex matters.
Regardless, we prefer words to numbers. To misquote Tony Benn: ‘If we can find the money to kill people, we can find the money to help people [put their feet up and have another sausage].’
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Image credits: Main image by Mark Hillary used under this license; Robots by jimbotfuzz under this license; Money by Alan Light used under this license; Bartender by Peter Clark used under this license.