The more I think about my own short life thus far, the clearer it seems that the dream was about a technological future that would launch us into an age of prosperity in which we would do very little work and enjoy a great deal of leisure time. It would be a denial of gigantic proportions if we were to argue that we not incredibly prosperous now and, yet, leisure has become scarce?
To economists, this is no surprise. Because, to them, leisure in prosperity means that there is much higher opportunity cost in terms of income that is not earned by doing nothing. The more the income, the more the opportunity cost of sitting around. So, people work themselves to death?
It is a strange world in which we live. Ask yourself what exactly are we working for, and what exactly is it that we want to get out of the incomes that we earn? Go ahead. Do that first and then resume reading this post.
Yep, we earn in order to consume. Our highly productive lives--as in economic productivity--are not about working fewer hours and creating leisure time that we can enjoy, but are about consumption.
It is almost as if we set aside the golden years for leisure. When we can no longer do anything "productive." What a wasteful approach to life!
There is one other problem, a nasty one:
Most people haven’t been taught to find fulfillment in their free time. To the contrary, rather than learning how to cultivate lifelong interests, students—both in primary and secondary schooling—are increasingly being educated to meet specific labor-market demands, demands that may also disappear or be automated away. Meanwhile, “It just is assumed that everyone knows how to handle their free time,” Henderson laments. “Not true!”Yesterday, during a conversation with a student, I yet again heard the familiar: "I pack a whole lot of classes and activities because I am at a loss if I don't have things to do."
Oh, do not for a second think of people spending time on the likes of Facebook as those enjoying leisure. Nope. As I have blogged in plenty, people are "raw materials" in those activities, with the businesses making money out of them. And, these businesses work on making addicts out of their users.
Over the past decade, more people have been spending more time on Facebook, whose business model is not all that different than the tobacco industry—it addicts its users, denies its own harmful effects, and expands its user base by targeting children and developing countries.So, where do we go from here?
Commercial leisure and entertainment industries are undergoing a technological transformation that will be just as profound as the changes in work. But if the prevailing market incentive is to manufacture addiction, then the future of leisure could be bleak indeed. It remains to be seen if those designing social-media platforms, video games, virtual- and augmented-reality applications, and other technologies will feel pressured to do so responsibility.
Nowhere. We are screwed.
Not me though. Ask my neighbors--they will tell you that I rarely work. Ask my colleagues--they will tell you I am goofing around and my work is mere mashed potatoes. Mine is a life of leisure! ;)
- What is this life if, full of care,
- We have no time to stand and stare.
- No time to stand beneath the boughs
- And stare as long as sheep or cows.
- No time to see, when woods we pass,
- Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.
- No time to see, in broad daylight,
- Streams full of stars, like skies at night.
- No time to turn at Beauty's glance,
- And watch her feet, how they can dance.
- No time to wait till her mouth can
- Enrich that smile her eyes began.
- A poor life this if, full of care,
- We have no time to stand and stare