According to German critical theorist Hartmut Rosa, accelerated technological developments have driven the acceleration in the pace of change in social institutions.
Noticeable acceleration began more than two centuries ago, during the Industrial Revolution. But this acceleration has itself accelerated. Guided by neither logical objectives nor agreed-upon rationale, propelled by its own momentum, and encountering little resistance, acceleration seems to have begotten more acceleration, for the sake of acceleration.
To Rosa, this acceleration eerily mimics the criteria of a totalitarian power: 1) it exerts pressure on the wills and actions of subjects; 2) it is inescapable; 3) it is all-pervasive; and 4) it is hard or almost impossible to criticize and fight.
The future of work is no work. Workers made of bits instead of human cells will occupy all the jobs. In the case of Uber, for example, “once you take the brain out of the driving, it’s just a person following a map,” explains the author Ryan Avent in his new book The Wealth of Humans.
The digital revolution is the modern day industrial revolution, except you can substitute big data and intelligent machines for human labor. Humans, like washing machines, are too abundant–supply exceeds demand.
People identify with their jobs, even if they hate them. Jobs not only give us a sense of purpose, they fill the day. No one wants to feel useless and bored. So it begs the question: when the machines are doing all the work, what are humans left to do?
Avent believes the rich will be the only ones to hire human labor, as if humans become cherishable objects like vinyl. Perhaps more people will go into the arts and put on their philosophical thinking caps again–the last ‘metaphysical club’ met in 1872. Or will government prop up manual labor like it once did to regalvanize the American automobile industry? Anything is better than twiddling our thumbs. Says Avent:
“It is disappointing to think that we’d have to create make-work for people, but it may be the hard truth.”