A Jobless Utopia?


Time is a nonrenewable resource. We’re comfortable with giving away the majority of our waking hours to labor, but what happens when that labor isn’t needed any longer? Many have predicted the rise of the machines and their replacement of workers. This article looks at a place where the future has already started to happen — a village where automation has left residents without jobs.

Now reformers everywhere may have to resolve the dilemma of toilsome versus leisurely Edens. Much of the world is approaching what Jeremy Rifken calls “the end of work” and, more recently, “the zero marginal cost society.” In a zero marginal cost society, machines and computer algorithms replace virtually all human effort in the production of goods and services.

Rural Andalusia never had much retail, but its interior villages used to grow a variety of crops under the laborious conditions described by Blasco Ibáñez. In the last two decades, however, an almost effortless form of green energy has moved in. Wind turbines now crowd the terrain and there are few jobs, agricultural or otherwise. As an anthropologist, I began visiting a village familiar with these machines, hoping to see how people live with unemployment within a landscape that has been transformed from fields into electrical infrastructure.

Boston Review

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3 thoughts on “A Jobless Utopia?

  1. Very interesting article; makes me wonder if in the long term the presence of so many wind turbines might have some kind of environmental consequence in the form of inhibiting or frightening local wildlife, preventing their natural life cycle. In many ways our history has been marked by cycles of technology creating a problem, which new technology resolves, only for a new problem to become apparent decades later.
    The question of how to distribute wealth, and the idea of someone gathering wealth without actively doing anything, reminds me an episode of a TV series called Kino’s Journey. The episode was called 3 Men on the Rails (Episode 05). In it the main character tells the story of a place he once encountered where no one had to work; everything was taken care of by advanced machines. The reality of such a society was very interesting, and a little humorous.

  2. Maybe there will be a time when people will be assured minimum basic income and work will be voluntary. As predicted leisure time has not increased though.

  3. I think it’s very unlikely that people will be given money without some form of service or product. Most of those who are earning without working are still providing, just through their possessions instead of the sweat of their own brow.

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