A Jobless Future? New Learning Models Make It Look Less Bleak

This one here says “Extra strong. For Mondays.” He smiled. You don’t get it, do you? A man was talking to a young kid. They had found a bunch of old coffee cups. The kid looked puzzled. People used to hate Mondays, the man explained. On Monday it was the hardest to go to work. That’s why they needed the extra boost from coffee. Back then people had conflicting notions about work… What happened next I don’t know. This was part of a dream I had. My mind was probably mulling over an article about A World Without Work.

We live in “a period of technological displacement” – the article said. “Sooner or later we will run out of jobs…What would a world without work look like?” It gave me lots to think about.

We see work as an obligation. It’s something we do primarily because we have to, not because we like it. It’s duty, not pleasure. If we like it, we consider ourselves lucky – it’s a bonus. So, what would happen if we didn’t have to work anymore? Let’s say our essential needs were covered – How would our lives change then? Consider this statement from A World Without Work.

The paradox of work is that many people hate their jobs but they are considerably more miserable doing nothing

If that’s the case, if we didn’t have to work, our lives would change for the worse. Without jobs, we wouldn’t know what to do and would wither away, do nothing. To some extent, this makes sense. Having a job gives us a sense of purpose; at a minimum, our ability to support ourselves makes us feel good. And if no job means no sense of purpose, a jobless life would be worse – I agree. But why should “no job” mean “no sense of purpose”? Why is it that, without jobs, people do nothing? And if that’s the case, can it be changed?

Our concept of job and our sense of purpose are both shaped early by our family and school. We see our parents toiling at their jobs, and longing for the weekend. School is your job, they tell us. People ask us, what do you want to be when you grow up? You need to do well in school to get a job, they say. Etc Etc The bottom line is, the job becomes the purpose. But also a chore. It’s twisted. And, if jobs disappear, we’re doomed. Either way, it would be good if our sense of purpose wasn’t tied to our job. Here is another quote from the same article.

One theory of work holds that people tend to see themselves in jobs, careers, or callings. Individuals who say their work is “just a job” emphasize that they are working for money rather than aligning themselves with any higher purpose. Those with pure careerist ambitions are focused not only on income but also on the status that comes with promotions and the growing renown of their peers. But one pursues a calling not only for pay or status, but also for the intrinsic fulfillment of the work itself

In light of this, it would be better if we pursued our callings rather than jobs and careers. Then, if jobs disappeared, we’d still be ok. Our callings are intrinsic to us and can’t disappear alongside jobs – we wouldn’t be left with nothing. You may claim that most of us are already pursuing our callings, but that’s just wishful thinking. If we were, more of us would be enjoying our jobs. And we wouldn’t be talking so much about work-life balance, since work and life would be intertwined rather than on opposite sides. Toward the end of the article the author muses:

When I think about the role that work plays in people’s self-esteem—particularly in America—the prospect of a no-work future seems hopeless

But I’m hopeful. Some of the new school models and maker spaces may already be taking care of this. Making learning meaningful, engaging and personalized has been gaining traction in education lately, especially in the K-12. New, learner-centred approaches to schooling, which emphasize intrinsic motivation, creativity and resourcefulness, could resurrect the concept of work. These models are designed to empower students to discover and pursue their individual callings. This should help them lead fulfilling and productive lives even without jobs. The prospect of a jobless future may not be so bleak after all.

Maker Ed

Back then people had conflicting notions about work, the man told the kid in my dream. It sounded like those conflicts were a thing of the past. The scene in my dream looked peaceful.

With the right government provisions, post-work proponents believe, the end of wage labor will allow for a golden age of well-being

A golden age of well-being? I dreamt of it.




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