A World Without Work: Technology, Automation, and How We Should Respond
A world without work sounds nonsensical. So much of human value--both economic and intrinsic--is, for better or worse, derived from work. But in his dense yet captivating A World Without Work: Technology, Automation and How We Should Respond, Oxford economist Daniel Susskind lays out the reality: automation is replacing human toil. In a matter of years, society could face an unprecedented unemployment crisis.
The culprit, of course, is the technology boom. For decades, technology has loomed in the collective consciousness as the harbinger of civil destruction, and much misplaced noise has been made over individual innovations (Susskind uses the particularly apt example of Industrial Revolution-era Luddites to prove this point). But with the explosive rise of multibillion-dollar tech companies in recent decades, the reality becomes clear: the power of machines (and those who create them) is only growing. Today, computers are finally better than humans at both simple and complicated tasks, whether legal analysis or sorting boxes.
To address this confounding issue, Susskind splits A World Without Work into three parts: context for how this happened; the problem economies and societies face; and how citizens and policymakers ought to respond. Using impressive data and research, tied to a far-from-comprehensive but nevertheless convincing understanding of economic inequality, he explains how "task encroachment"--or robots taking over human tasks--will lead to unemployment. In response, Susskind proposes a number of policy initiatives around education, regulation and taxation. Finally, he moves to "meaning," examining how humans will find fulfillment without work to order their lives. He does not offer a resolute conclusion. There's too much he admits he cannot know. But his wake-up call is urgent. --Lauren Puckett, freelance writer