Sunday, March 05, 2006

The Occasional Bliss of Being Useless

I’ve been reading a lot of books lately (notably Player Piano by Kurt Vonnegut and Mockingbird by Walter Tevis) in which technology takes over the function of humans, taking away livelihoods and making humans useless. In these worlds, some of the humanity is replaced at the same time. However much I understand the authors' concern, which was/is a valid one in some respects, most days I find myself wishing something I’ve wished for years: that is, I wish I allowed myself a bit more time off in compensation for how much faster I can do things because of technology.

I can tell most of these types of books were written pre-personal computer and pre-Internet. Since then, I remember related concerns that surfaced around the beginning of these and other technologies that have emerged in the last twenty-five years. People were concerned that they would take away jobs, that the unemployment rate would go up.

It’s true that some jobs have gone away because of various technological devices. But it seems that what's happened is more that the job market has shifted, not lessened. And somehow, work days (at least in North America) have not, for the most part, gotten any shorter because the technology works so much faster. We just expect more of ourselves and each other. Even an older invention—electrical lights—has changed things more than we realize. With the use of a few watts, we can stretch our work hours as long as we want. And some people do.

That said, I think I’m going to post this so I can do something completely “useless” and unproductive and non-mechanical (and profoundly, enjoyably human) with my late-night electricity. There’s this great mystery novel I’ve been reading…

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

i saw that no one comments on your work. Good stuff