I once wrote an article Science Fiction and the Economics of Utopia, published in the April 2018 edition of Aurealis magazine, comparing worlds imagined in what might be called “post-scarcity” science fiction—most notably Iain M. Banks’ Culture milieu—with theories proposed by real-word economists interested in what happens if and when technology advances so far as to eliminate all or almost all need for human labour.
Mainstream economists and politicians assure us that such a thing will never happen, pointing to the so-called “Lump of Labour” fallacy and the exciting new jobs—like my own profession of software engineering—that have replaced old-fashioned jobs like blacksmithery and buggy-driving. Yet, from another point of view, it seems perverse to be lauding modern technology for allowing us to produce ever more with ever less work while assuring workers that don’t worry, we’ll find more work for you to do.
A year after Science Fiction and the Economics of Utopia, I took up a fractional appointment at Western Sydney University that happened to pay about the same amount as what I’d seen proposed for a universal basic income if such a thing were to be implemented in Australia. Of course I need to work for a fraction of the week in order to receive this income, so my situation may be closer to John Maynard Keynes’ famous conjecture that we would only need to work around fifteen hours a week by 2030 (one hundred years after he was writing). Or perhaps I’m exercising a stakeholder grant based on the savings that I accumulated during my previous full-time position. Either way, I saw an opportunity to embark on my own science fiction adventure and document the experience through a blog.
My purpose in maintaining this blog isn’t to formally test any particular form of future work (or lack of it), and I’ll probably shift from one to practice to another as circumstances dictate. My primary purpose is to set and monitor some goals for myself, review ideas on how we might use our time if freed of the need to work, and ultimately to find what works for me. Of course I cannot say that what works for me will necessarily work for anyone else, and I can say very little at all about what might result if everyone undertook the same project, but I hope I’ll nonetheless be able to make some observations along the way that are of interest to anyone curious about work in a post-scarcity world.
Finally, in case anyone might think otherwise, all of the opinion expressed on this blog is strictly my own personal view and not the view of my employer, any societies of which I am a member, anyone who might publish my writing, or anyone else.