Will technology eventually eliminate the need for human labor? Without work, will we finally have all the free time we want to pursue our hobbies and passions? Or do we need work to give our lives a sense of purpose and achievement?
What is it
Work: a lot lot of people do it, and a lot of people don’t seem to like it very much. But as computers and artificial intelligence get increasingly sophisticated, more and more of our workers will lose their jobs to technology. Should we view this inevitability with hope or with despair? Without the order and purpose that meaningful work provides in our lives, would we end up bored and restless? What obligations does government have to deal with these changes? What about providing all citizens with a basic income? The Philosophers work hard with Juliana Bidadanure from Stanford University, Faculty Director of the Stanford Basic Income Lab.
Debra and Ken begin debating whether the rapid growth of robot capabilities is something to look forward to or something to fear. Will robots take our jobs and free us of daily drudgery? Or will they deprive us of one of our major sources of meaning? How far-fetched are any of these futures anyway? Is it just a matter of technological advancement, or can politics and government feasibly regulate how these technologies are implemented?
Stanford Professor Juliana Bidadanure joins the show and begins talking about how her upbringing got her interested in issues of employment and income. Juliana expresses some skepticism that automation will be able to replace all human labor. Still, Juliana acknowledges how much of the workforce is prone to automation. Debra and Ken go back and forth about the role of government in shaping how these technologies will affect society. Could the state play a bigger role in directing technologies to socially important goals? Well perhaps it’s possible, but is that really going to happen?
Ken asks Juliana whether people would struggle to find meaning in life without work. Juliana isn’t convinced that work would ever go away—jobs may be eliminated, but communities and societies will always need work to be done. The conversation turns toward how a universal basic income may provide a necessary social safety net, especially given how demeaning some jobs can be and how many jobs automation could eliminate. A listener calls in and asks about how little democracy and communal decision making goes into what work we want to be seen done. The conversation explores this rich intersection of questions.
- Roving Philosophical Report (seek to 3:29): Liza Veale discusses cultural depictions of advanced artificial intelligence and robots doing all of our work. The movies Elysium and Things To Come serve as two examples.