Thursday, November 2, 2017

Work: What Compels Us, Beyond Money?

Even though the modern workplace encouraged us to focus on specific skills sets, these "special" skills that we've sold to our institutions, comprise a mere portion, of an ongoing repertoire of personal routines and work functions. Our regular productive habits often include a lifetime of learning, challenge and inspiration, even if not in a formal capacity.

Now that automation could substitute for a wide range of industry specific skills capacity (in aggregate), can we place more of our personal abilities on sound economic footing? How might we integrate more of our natural inclinations, into economic settings in general? In short: Should we highlight the importance of production and consumption for our mutual time preferences, what would compel us to to make the most of our aspirations, beyond money?

Our desire to be useful or relevant to others, manifests in countless ways. Even one's efforts to find happiness are important for economic outcomes, as Tim Worstall recently noted in a post re bookstore owners. Retail in particular, was a good twentieth century example of our desire to create environments which were also meaningful for others. Even though it is not always recognized as such, the desire to create enticing retail settings, is similar to other creative impulses - be they simple as a tantalizing dinner for a crowd, or as complex as a classical music composition.

Part of today's confusion - especially as retail goes digital - is that it's no longer simple to determine what kinds of physical workplaces and marketplaces have sufficient appeal. What local environment settings would prove worthy of our mutual time and investment? At some point, it becomes necessary to recreate better means of economic interaction, which allow us to once again be comfortable with one another, face to face. I sometimes imagine the popularity of emojis as a temporary digital interlude, so that we might at least remember facial expressions till we gain better means by which to share our destinies with each other.

So long as we remain reasonably strong, and our health good, many of us do everything in our power to continue working with others, particularly to avoid social isolation. Of all the setbacks that can occur in life, isolation tops the list. Yet many individuals end up essentially alone, as too specific skills delineation takes precedence over personal time value. Despite the importance of our limited and exclusive professional roles, we need more inclusive economic means, so that an ever increasing portion of humanity will not ultimately be left on the sidelines.

We could achieve greater economic inclusion, by allowing knowledge to function as a simpler byproduct of our daily economic routines. While there will always be a place for professional knowledge use, these societal roles need not blind us to what could also be accomplished, in regions which presently lack economic complexity. After all, we now have the digital realm to assist with our education, which would readily be enhanced by the active corroboration of our own peers.

Of course these are just a few examples of the work we naturally seek out, according to our own inclinations. Another incentive is honour, and equally important is the enjoyment that comes with utilizing intelligence for personal challenges and problem solving. All of which serve as reminders that no matter how well a robot might be able to do a job, robots won't - at least any time soon - have the mental capacity to enjoy work, as humans can. Why not take advantage of that fact?

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