Many people, many futurists, tend to bring “the future of work” as one of the most important topics to create a perspective of tomorrow's predictions.
Once again, I insist, work, one of the foundations of the industrial mentality (along with the logic of consumption and money), cannot be considered just an extension of what the industrial mentality has developed for us. Of course, when we are talking about nearer, more emerging futures, it does mean that extension. But is that what the long-awaited post-digital future is all about?
We are going to take a walk on the future of work from a new perspective, no longer questioning what the future of work will be, but “is there a future for work?”
You see, not wanting to incur Godwin's Law, but already incurring it, I begin this article like this: "Arbeit macht frei" (work sets you free, in German), stamped the entrance to the Auschwitz slavery and extermination camp - and so many others in Nazi regime. But well, anyone who has never heard "work dignifies man" should throw the first stone.
Who also never heard phrases like “find a job that is made of what you love. Love your work. Serve with love. ” or, best of all: “work with what you love and you never have to work again”, feel free to continue stoning.
These are capital prayers. They are current daily prayers, ideological mantras that echos in everyday life, in the deepest bowels of the social organism, from the big to the small talks - like a “does it rain today?” said randomly at any bus stop.
However, they are not historical premises, they are not immutable premises, much less they are part of human nature and biology.
They are only the moral and ethical argumentative maintenance of the capitalist logic that currently exists. So powerful that the mere fact of receiving any kind of criticism automatically twists the nose of almost all readers.
“Now you're going to tell me that working is wrong” - chill!
This logic is about to change, to evolve and I am not saying that it is wrong, only that it is wrong to impose itself against its natural transformation. Capitalism, by its very nature, requires evolution.
Is it ready for a change in its most important bases, pillars, and arguments that constitute its logic?
Work is one of them.
Today, for example, it has become literally impossible to dissociate the person from his work: if you desagree, try to answer me who you are, without telling me what you do!
Until the mid-1800s, however, this was not the case.
Some form of "work" has always existed, of course. Generally speaking, work must mean everything where we deposit our individual time and energy due to the obligation of physiological or social survival.
First of all, work comes in a personal way - work for direct survival EVEN, based on nature's time: the same work that a leopard does every morning upon waking up. The same job that the baboon that runs away from the leopard does every morning when it wakes up.
Then we move on to work for the collectivity, that is, for any collective organization that humanity has already developed, from the primordial family nuclei to the States.
Work for the State or for state outsourcings has been the great human work for millennia since we stopped being a hunter-gatherer society around 15,000 years ago, with the advent of agriculture.
When the State was monopolized, work, although disguised as “a job for the whole” was, yes, to favor the whim of some - we can never forget that - it is that with the passage of time the State itself starts to outsource- if in the hands of conceptual, intersubjective, and non-personal elements - at least technically not - such as laws and mechanisms for checks and balances, and then this situation eases a little.
However, it is only with the industrial revolution and the “Britishization” of the world, that work starts to control our time and energy - pocket watches, wrist watches, minds appear: punctuality is the slavery of capital's time: although the first pocket watch appeared around 1500 in Nuremberg as an invention by Peter Henlein, it was only after the 19th century that they ceased to be an eccentric luxury of the aristocracy and became a mandatory item in daily use, of course, because we outsource our work (our time and energy), no longer to states, but to individuals, through (literal) slavery or employment, and gradually work has become the greatest asset of our current social morality , a pain and an opium.
work has become the greatest asset of our current social morality , a pain and an opium.
It is really difficult to think of revolutions when you cannot afford to take a day to cut off king's heads without risking losing your daily livelihood.
Work has become an ideal so monstrously great that it has gained status synonymous with other great moral and ethical values such as honesty, honor, justice.
In Brazil today, for example, the term "honest" almost always follows the noun "worker" in the phrases where it is quoted. Variations of this are found throughout the western world.
It is not uncommon, in police approaches, that suspects soon find a safe preliminary conduit to escape any abuse: “I am a worker, sir!”, They assure the policeman as the first proof of innocence for any crime.
The subject attacks his wife, is a terrible father in the face of his emotional responsibilities, etc. - a common character in Latin America as a whole - “but he was a worker, you see, a good man? Nobody can complain about that!” - they comment, affectionately at their wake.
The question is, how long will work remain as the “summa virtus”, the highest virtue in the world? Some values such as inclusion, tolerance and generosity and well-being have apparently grown a lot in the world ranking of virtues of the capital time, but the big question is that work is changing and the way we, as a society, look at it too: it says respect to how we want to live.
New forms of work emerge all the time, but for many years they have only masked the same mythological tendencies of capitalism, even using terms like "entrepreneur" for work in precarious situations and on the verge of informality.
The future of work, of course, will require new work values. Moral human skills and greater participation in the systemic management of the business as a whole will become a standard, but we do not stop there.
Work as one more part and no longer the whole - or almost all - of human life will be a common reality in a world where a new mentality is emerging every day. There is no longer tolerance for the individual's full-time work and substantial energy expenditure (physical or mental), and this implies that work and time tend to break apart in the calculation of their valuation, changing the assumptions of surplus value .
We have to understand this change as generalized for all capital guidelines, and not just for work for others. Work for you, entrepreneurship, that also comes into play.
We are not talking about a change in working hours, or a change in the value of wages or even a change in the “humanization of work management”, no. We are talking about a profound change in the perception and understanding of what it is as far as we allow the existence of work in our society.
Intrapreneurship, deforditization, fragmentation of the work object and the reversal of worker hyposufficiency are just some of the elements that grow within the birth of the new job, this new argument of capitalist logic, which yes, inflates and expands before the eyes each day.
In addition, the outsourcing of “work for a human” (existing in the private world) to “work for a concept”, where even the figure of leadership (even more and more horizontal, including), will occur with the same relevance as occurred within the universe of state work.
The future of work is fluid, fragmented and gives less importance to the entire labor universe itself, but this depends on a large number of variables, including those that occur with the other arguments of capitalist logic.
Therefore, work is one of the greatest foundations of capitalism, one of its greatest rules, one of its three pillars, if it changes, the whole game changes too.
Who is prepared for this?
For example, in an article published in The Guardian, called “The Meaning of Life in a World without Work”, Yuval Harari, author of Sapiens, comments on a new class of people that should appear by 2050: the useless.
"They are people who will not only be unemployed, but who will not be employable", says the historian.
According to Harari, this group may end up being fed by a universal basic income system. The big question then will be how to keep these individuals happy and busy. “People must be involved in activities with a purpose. Otherwise, they will go crazy. After all, what will the useless class do all day? ”.
In other words, with the advancement of this human expression called technology, very possibly machines will actually perform human work, especially any work that can be automated.
An unequivocal prediction about any future is that everything that can be automated, will be.
In this way, man will be left with non-automated work, quite possibly linked to the humanities in general, to thought, intersubjectivity and non-factory creation. The human mind must understand that the population will not be ready for it as quickly as it will be ready for it. What will happen to the thought of a world without work?
Harari coined the term “unemployed” because he is a person of his time. Unoccupied is a term that refers to being unemployed or of no use working within an industrial world.
In the post-digital mentality, even this term may be highly mistaken, but even so, even here in our comfortable present so full of pasts, one thing is certain, in the medium and long term, if we speak of a post-emergency future for ahead, the work itself may have its days numbered.
I don't mean "work as we know it" but work itself.
The most interesting thing about all this is to imagine where the human mentality will be, what will we be able to discover about us, what will we dream and create once this becomes reality?