Thoughts about 'work ethic', the (dis?)advantages of automation and digitalization, and my plea for being lazy more often! :)steemCreated with Sketch.

in work •  2 years ago

Thanks to a very interesting article[1] of @infovore about the "Future Of Work" I got inspired to write down some of my own thoughts about 'work', its future and the way how most humans consider it as a value in itself, whereas I see work as a 'means to an end' only. (As quite some time has passed since @infovore wrote his text you can see how slowly my brain is working until an idea will finally be transformed into an article :-) ).

Are 'we' replaced by robots soon?

By Phasmatisnox.

Does automation kill jobs or offer the chance to work less? :)

As the caption shows there are different perspectives to view current and future changes.

  1. The fear that and the question if automation and digitalization may annihilate jobs (most politicians, media and people are focusing on this aspect). Also @infovore formulated it in a similar way:

    Although there is a never-ending debate as to whether automation kills or creates jobs ...
  2. The hope - my hope ... :-) - that people will have more free time and need to work less in future. I always wonder about the warnings that automation, utilization of robots, digitalization, AI, ... could (and will) 'kill' jobs! Instead of that (also with the aim to provoke you a little bit and encourage further discussions) I will actually call it the hope that this revolution will 'kill' jobs and offer many people the chance to work less in future! Why do so many people tend to focus on the risks instead to see the opportunities? :)

Originally machines were invented to make our lives more pleasant!

Originally machines were invented to make our lives more pleasant and to give us more time for family, education and hobbies. However they are used to make a few people richer and richer, whereas some others have to work more and more (without earning more money) and the rest has no work anymore and thus no money and recognition.

Consider the enormous heightening of productivity during the last decades!

The immense increase of productivity (by using computer technology and robots) means that the same amount of work can be done in a much shorter space of time. Sooner or later that will inevitably lead to the fact that in average we humans will have to work less (or more exact: will spend less working time to reach the same or even better results than before). Thus society should change in a way that it will be completely normal if not everybody is working in every life phase and especially not so many hours per day anymore. In addition much more people should be able to work at home (which saves energy, relieves transport infrastructure and helps environment). There should be much more freedom for learning new things or just enjoying life. These progressing automation should be considered as a great chance as opposed to a menace.
The question will be if society is already mature enough to recognize and adapt to the consequences of this inevitable transformation which would help to make the process less painful or if people struggle against and try to delay the necessary changes as long as possible (by keeping to the idea of full employment for everybody).

Self-esteem of many people depends on their work.

Discussing that topic with friends their main argument against working less usually is to ask how people could earn enough money if they work less? I will come back to that point later, because in my opinion that's not the biggest problem to solve (due to the rapid increase of productivity I think we can very well allow ourselves to work less hours per day and year).

In my eyes the highest obstacle is more of psychological nature: self-esteem of so many persons is based on their work. In society there is kind of a 'work ethic' that only working people are valuable. Actually I have nothing against hard working people. Always if 'working' has a more positive effect than 'not working' would have, I think it's completely fine to work, but I don't share the thinking that work has a value in itself by definition ... What counts is the result and not the process of working. Sometimes it can be much better not to work instead to work just for the sake of pretending to be 'active'. :-)

One of my preferred examples of work, which better wouldn't be done, are these jobless people who have the order to run around with leaf vacuums because otherwise they don't get any money from the state anymore ... These machines are not only infernally noisy, which damages the ears and evokes stress, but also blow up fine dust (mixed with bacteria and diesel soot), kill useful soil organisms and emit nitrous gases as well as other pollutants, whereas the cleansing effect is very lousy most of the time. Always if I see one of them I am tempted to give him some money under the condition that he stops making noise. :-) Either give these people any useful job or accept that they are just not working for now - but please don't let them work just to keep them busy ...!

Whenever 'not working' has a better (or at least equal) effect than 'working' I would decide not to work, different than people who consider working as kind of a 'moral duty'.

Media and 'work ethic'.

In my opinion media contribute a lot to spread the mentioned 'work ethic'. Not long ago I read an article in "Zeit Online" with the title "Deutsche wollen durchschnittlich länger arbeiten"[2] (Germans would like to work longer in average) as if working itself was the aim. No, they want to earn more money and therefore have to work longer ... Another claim was that French people work "more" than Germans[3] because they have longer working hours ... yes, maybe they work longer but that is not synonymous with more. Actually it seems that the shorter people are working the more motivated and effective they are.[4]

The art of doing nothing. :)

In evolution these organisms succeed which reach their aims (to subsist, to procreate) without wasting too much energy ... Furthermore doing just nothing from time to time is a precious source of relaxation but actually also of creativity: I noticed that the best ideas are coming to my mind when I am apparently completely inactive, for example lying on a beach and letting my thoughts flow freely without any predefined direction or concentrated thinking.
On the contrary to the 'work ethic' around me I am convinced that being lazy from time to time should be an essential - and not shameful hidden - part of our lives. :-) In case you don't like the word 'lazy' just replace it by 'economic behavior'. By the way from a biophysical point of view it is not possible not to work anyway: even if we don't move, our heart is pumping, our brain is 'burning' glucose and a vast number of biochemical processes are running in our cells. We should be aware that not working for a company doesn't mean not to work at all. I am just working very hard at this moment to compose an understandable text in a foreign language for all my loyal and patient readers on Steemit. :-)
Because of working all the time many people actually have forgotten what to do if finally given free time for themselves: they are not accustomed anymore to be creative, to learn new things on their own and to lead interesting discussions. Instead they are habituated to follow instructions of others ... and if they are free to decide themselves they are feeling bored, have no clue how to kill their time and finally often end up switching on the TV ...

But how to earn enough money if working less?

In my opinion progressing automation of the society will require an 'unconditional basic income' for everybody. Even if that causes additional costs we should bear in mind that already nowadays the state is supporting many unemployed people (and, due to low salaries also a large number of working people, too). However apart from this unemployment assistance there are extra expenses for administration (which is very complicated, bureaucratic and expensive, especially in Germany) and surveillance (for example because of possible clandestine employment) of the recipients of the dole. With an unconditional basic income these costs would disappear.
As @jrcornel already brought to our attention[5] even Mark Zuckerberg pleads for such an universal basic income.

You may legitimately demur that the additional expenses still would outbalance the savings, that means I have to come up with some more ideas:

  • Firstly if machines are the new 'workers', then one idea would be to introduce a robot tax[6] as suggested by Bill Gates which helps to support temporarily non-working people. Companies which are replacing workers by computers and robots are maximizing their profits (the profits of the upper management) by doing so, and I see no reason not to cede a modest amount of this profit to compensate people who lost their jobs or in general to support the society by this robot tax.

  • Secondly the increasing productivity which enables to perform more work in a shorter time leads to higher winnings where part of it could reflow into community.

Would a basic income prevent people from working?

I am sure that even in case of a basic income for everybody most people would try to find an interesting job sooner or later again, because in the long run most humans are not satisfied with a rather low living standard. The advantage would be though that they could afford to wait, to further educate themselves, until they found a job which really suits them instead to be forced to accept just any job because of financial pressure.

At the end I would like to apologize that this time I didn't name many sources, for example concerning the estimated costs of a basic income for everybody or the consequences of a robot tax. The reason for that is, that my aim was to collect some ideas and offer hopefully interesting thoughts which need to be further discussed.
Automation, digitalization as well as life-changing technologies like advanced robotics, artificial intelligence, autonomous vehicles, renewable energies, blockchain technology and crypto currencies will come anyway, if we appreciate that or not. So the question won't be if things will change, but how to handle these changes in the most appropriate way.


Authors get paid when people like you upvote their post.
If you enjoyed what you read here, create your account today and start earning FREE STEEM!
Sort Order:  

There will always be pros and contras regarding revolutionary or non-mainstream ideas as well as innovations, and there are indeed good arguments for both.
However we tend to ignore the fact that concerning the topic of innovation in technology: it's most of the time only a matter of time, when it completely play the significant role in the society.
If we look back into our history again, you would realise that it could only be a little bit delayed, but finally unstoppable anyway.
Talking about the increase of unemployment rate in some areas caused by digitalisation and automatisation for example, it's actually nothing new anymore.
When cars were still newly invented, people had exactly the same fear...
Low educated people, who could only work in any business related to "horse-drawn carriage", would all lose jobs.
So there were big resistance too.
But we all see what eventually happen, don't we?
So our homework now is actually no longer to think about "how to stop scientist and engineers" from constantly creating innovations but how to deal with all the unavoidable consequence, which are implicated by those new technologies.
Like it or not, those sitting in top management level would always devotedly holding profit maximisation and cost minimisation principle, and they generally see worker as expense factor.
And that only means one thing: "they would cut human worker who are replaceable by AI as many as possible."
Especially because robot will never be exhausted nor lose concentration.
They need no vacation, never be sick and have no emotion either ==> means no jealousy nor unproductive competition among colleagues, additionally we have no sexual harassment problem, :-D and many more problem which only happen among human workers.
The expected regular expense would be just for maintenance and energy ressource, but those alltogether are comparably small to human expenses... even with the probability of "robot tax" implementation.
Robot tax and unconditional basic income from the state as compensation are only two possible solution... if it's still considered not good enough,
then we should try to find other better solutions or perhaps seek the methods how to tackle problem such as the abuse of social benefit.

Wow, interesting and very detailed post. I'm also a huge fan of the unconditional basic income and support the noble cause of promoting it by resteeming your article. ;-)


Thanks for your thoughts and resteeming! :)

Guten Morgen Jaki01!
Das Grundeinkommen ist ein sehr wichtiges Thema, aber wie du richtig schreibst ist unsere Gesellschaft nicht darauf vorbereitet. Nichts zu tun ist eines der schwierigen Dinge, die man erst lernen muß um es zu einem Vorteil zu machen :)


Selbst mit Grundeinkommen wäre das für mich kein Grund auf der faulen Haut zu liegen, wenn man zuviel freie Zeit hat tut einem das erstens nicht sonderlich gut, zweitens wird ein Grundeinkommen vermutlich die Grundversorgung abdecken. Ich denke viele Leute würden erstmal 3,4 Wochen Party machen und sich dann eine Beschäftigung suchen.


Nicht (im jetzigen Ausmaß) erwerbsmäßig zu arbeiten, tut "einem" nur dann nicht gut, wenn man nicht gelernt hat, Freizeit sinnvoll zu gestalten - sie mit 'kreativem Nichtstun' und Genuss, aber auch dem Erlernen neuer Fertig- und Fähigkeiten auszufüllen und damit, für andere Menschen da zu sein.
Dass viele Menschen weiterhin arbeiten würden, ist etwas, was ich im Artikel selbst prognostiziere.


Interessante Gedanken im ganzen Artikel und auch hier. Wenn mir gerade wieder alles auf den Keks geht, wünsche ich mir ja auch manchmal, dass ich im Lotto gewinne und nur noch das machen muss, was ich will.
Aber ein bisschen "Angst" hab ich ja dann schon, dass ich nach 3, 4, 8 Wochen auf der faulen Haut liegen nix mehr mit mir anzufangen weiß und mich langweile. Vielleicht ist es natürlich nur Gewöhnungssache und man findet dann noch andere Dinge außer lesen und Sport und spielen und keine Ahnung.

Auf der anderen Seite birgt so ein Grundeinkommen meiner Meinung nach eine Menge sozialen Zündstoff. Da ja jeder dann das Gleiche bekommt, stellt man sich vielleicht die Frage, warum jemand, der viel gelernt und geleistet hat (z.B. Schule, Aus-/Weiterbildung, Studium) das selbe bekommen soll, wie jemand, der vielleicht gerade seinen Hauptschulabschluss geschafft hat (ohne jetzt jemandem zu nah treten zu wollen) und sein Leben lang noch nichts gemacht hat.
Auch jetzt geht es teilweise den Leuten, die nichts haben und gar nicht arbeiten wollen, ja gar nicht so schlecht. Wenn man bedenkt, was alles vom Staat bezahlt wird (von Schulbüchern über Waschmaschine, Wohnung etc. - und mutmaßlich noch nicht mal immer nur das billigste Modell). Nur dort weiter kürzen und die Leute verhungern lassen, ist natürlich auch nicht möglich.
Natürlich gibt es wieder solche und solche Leute - die einen, die sich sehr unwohl fühlen und aus der Spirale rauswollen und andere, denen alles egal ist, die sowieso nicht ansparen wollen, den Staat (bzw. die Solidargemeinschaft) ausnutzen und es sich den Umständen entsprechend gut gehen lassen.

Insgesamt meiner Meinung nach ein ganz schwieriges Thema und ich bin nicht unbedingt überzeugt, dass sich solche Probleme lösen lassen, indem jeder einfach eine bestimmte Menge Geld bekommt. Übrigens wäre ja auch die Frage, wie viel das sein sollte. Für einige wären vielleicht 1000 € schon viel, andere würden bei 2000 € sagen, dass das zu wenig ist...


Congratulations, excellent post. Upvote and resteem.

Trying to answer the initial question with my own experience.
Twenty-five years ago, when I started working in a multinational plastic parts manufacturing company, I worked with 8 people and no robots. Some years later the robots arrived, all the machines had one! We all thought that with robots the jobs would decrease, wrong !! 25 years later the plant has evolved a lot, growing 500% in business volume, and the teams have 25 elements each, and all machines have robots. The work of all employees has become lighter, and less tiring.


Thanks for sharing your experience and resteeming! :)

Nice job on the article. That would be awesome to have robots doing all our jobs! As long as a have something like a universal income than we should be able to make it to the singularity. Than no one will have to work at all! We do have to have a UBI and we have to make sure AI actually helps us though for that to work out. If want you can check out my article I wrote recently where I talk about that. :)


Upvoted your linked article. It contains many interesting thoughts. You focus on questions I didn't deal with, for example which kind of work will be replaced first. That will be repetitive, fatiguing, boring workings or also activities in health-damaging environments. Preliminary there will still remain enough intellectually or technically challenging work which has to be done by humans.

“In the beginning, there was man. And for a time, it was good. But humanity’s so-called civil societies soon fell victim to vanity and corruption. Then man made the machine in his own likeness. Thus did man become the architect of his own demise.” (Zion Archive Computer in “The Second Renaissance”)


Truth in movies, lies on the news.

We're already making a transition to an attention economy, as witnessed by steemit and youtube and many other platforms. Already 60% of all workers will be in other than traditional, full time employment by 2020. It may be the end of physical labor for sustenance, but hardly the end of work. We can now get down to things that matter, like actually working toward a peaceful world.

I was happy to read your thoughts on this. I recommend you check out the short story called Manna :

It covers much of your topics in detail and is a great thought experiment about where we might be going for good or ill.

wouldnt mind having a robot running around the house to pick up the slack lol

Less work equals more time for steemit ☺

Although machine makes easier our life. But it is a reason behind a large number of jobless people


Yes ... and one of the (somewhat provocative) theses of my article is, that it is actually desirable if many people work less or (temporarily) don't work at all.

You trust the government? That's a huge mistake. They will sell you out as soon as the robots walk. If you think this ends well for humanity, I dunno. watch.,.. any movie these days .. the purge, hunger games... total recall (new) .. lol wake up. you were a conspiracy theorist for warning of '1984'.. now we are way past it, all those 'nuts' were right, and society is more brainwashed than ever.


I also don't know the future, especially not how it will look like for the average person, but I am sure that the processes of automation and digitalization will further advance. I hope we will make the best out of it ...

Omg, you should check out the robot that said she wants to destroy humans, this problem can be waaaaaay bigger brothers !!


Maybe (I know there are discussions concerning that topic) ... but for now I fear the bigger problem is that we may erase ourselves by leading war or pollute the environment ...


Yes, you're right, humans will probably erase themselves before the robots try to do that !!

By nature Human like to work and have adventures...Machines and Digitization and more advanced technologies like Robot and Artificial intelligence can not change this nature of Humanity...Machines can help us and can lead us to our goals in an easy and fast ways ... In previous eras only kings have to use Palaces and Luxuries lives but now a common man can live like kings due to Machines...Suppose a man like Billgates is the richest man of the planet he has each and every thing but still he will work more than a poor man...Its doesn't not depend on the needs it depends on the human nature...that he can not remain idol...Machines, Computerization Robot and Artificial Intelligence will create more jobs opportunities and will give us more new directions that we will work, work and work..


We will see ... :)

Wow, sehr gut geschriebener und interessanter Text :o

Ich denke auch in die Richtung, dass Roboter bzw. Der Industrielle Fortschritt viel gutes mit sich bringen könnte, aber leider spüre ich es am eigenen Leib, dass manche Führungskräfte nur in die eigene Tasche wirtschaften...
Allerdings das mit dem Bedingungslosem Grundeinkommen, habe ich mit einem Arbeitskollegen schön öfter durchgesprochen.
Ich fände es äußerst interessant wie sich dieses System in Deutschland durchsetzen könnte.
Mein Kollege hat auch andere "ältere" Kollegen damit konfrontiert und diese meinten nur "Dann würde doch niemand mehr arbeiten gehen". Darauf hat er die Frage gestellt "würdest du denn noch arbeiten gehen?" Alle befragten sagten ja 🙈
Da stellt sich mir wieder die Frage, warum sollte man den anderen Unterstellen nicht arbeiten zu gehen, wenn man unter solchen Umständen selbst doch gewillt ist etwas zu Arbeiten?
Ich bin selbst der Überzeugung dass du Recht damit hast. Viele Würden ihre eigentliche Berufung finden, die sie ohne das Bedingungslose Grundeinkommen nie erreichen könnten, da sie auf das Geld in dem Job angewiesen sind...
In meinem Fall würden auch Hobbys oder selbst ein Studium wieder viel mehr Zeit in Anspruch nehmen.
Es würde einfach so viele neue Möglichkeiten schaffen :)
Danke für deine Post ich freue mich dich entdeckt zu haben ;)

Posted using Partiko Android


Da stellt sich mir wieder die Frage, warum sollte man den anderen Unterstellen nicht arbeiten zu gehen, wenn man unter solchen Umständen selbst doch gewillt ist etwas zu Arbeiten?

Exakt. Und: Warum wäre es 'schlimm', wenn nicht alle stets danach strebten, (erwerbsmäßig) zu arbeiten, wo doch die Maschinen generierte Produktivität in enormem Maße ansteigt?

Danke für deine Post ich freue mich dich entdeckt zu haben ;)

OK, freuen wir uns, uns gegenseitig 'entdeckt' zu haben. :)


Exakt. Und: Warum wäre es 'schlimm', wenn nicht alle stets danach strebten, (erwerbsmäßig) zu arbeiten, wo doch die Maschinen generierte Produktivität in enormem Maße ansteigt?

Genau so ist es :)

OK, freuen wir uns, uns gegenseitig 'entdeckt' zu haben. :)

Wird lustig werden :D

Posted using Partiko Android

Very good post. While reading I knew that you are pro basic income even before you mentioned it ;) My thoughts on this subjects are sometimes more pro libertarism and sometimes more pro basic income. After thinking about the subject a lot in the last few months I came to the personal conclusion, that wether the one nor the other will happen in a way we were imaging it. Right now I'm pro ressourced based economy as presented by Jaque Fresco (who btw. died this year on 18.05.).

The libertarians are missing the point that we are depending on ressources first of all and also they think that the free market they are imaging is able to take the responsibility for the wellbeeing of our society so we won't need laws agains pollution or the exploitation / waste of ressources anymore. I think their political philsophy is a huge error in reasoning.

As for the basic income. There I see problems like: What if people who receive the basic income won't spent it in Germany but instead in a much cheaper country like Thailand for example? Or what if the companies stop to produce here (since people would want to work less or would demand more money) and relocate their factories abroad?

So my hope and my wish is, that through technology these problems, as Jaque Fresco imagined it, will solve itself. I think that crypto currencies are a first positive sign of that.

By the way, I also recently made a Youtube video in German concerning the question wheter people would still work if they got a basic income: