“All unintellectual labour, all monotonous, dull labour, all labour that deals with dreadful things, and involves unpleasant conditions, must be done by machinery… while Humanity will be amusing itself, or enjoying cultivated leisure — which, and not labour, is the aim of man — or making beautiful things, or reading beautiful things, or simply contemplating the world with admiration and delight, machinery will be doing all the necessary and unpleasant work.” — Oscar Wilde, 1890
In any discussion about AI technology, it’s inevitable that we also address its swift and transformative impact on the workforce. As an AI Educator and CMO of Remote Skills Academy, I’ve spent a significant portion of my time exploring the intersection of technology, work, and education. Wilde’s words, written over a century ago, resonate with the current discourse on the future of work. The rapid advancement of AI and automation has brought us to the edge of a new era, where machines could potentially take over not just the monotonous, but also the complex tasks that currently form the backbone of our economies.
The Changing Landscape of Work
The narrative around automation has often been one of fear — fear of job loss, fear of societal disruption, fear of an uncertain future. However, as Daniel Susskind explores in his book “A World Without Work,” this narrative can be reframed. Instead of viewing automation as a threat, we can see it as an opportunity to redefine the very concept of work and to reevaluate our relationship with it.
In my experience as an AI educator, I’ve seen firsthand how AI is changing the nature of work. I also heard from a friend who runs a freelancer platform that a specific job category has completely reduced in demand. Tasks that were once considered the exclusive domain of humans are now being performed by machines. But rather than leading to a dystopian future of mass unemployment, these changes are creating new opportunities for human creativity and ingenuity.
Embracing the Machine
The key to navigating this transition is not to resist automation, but to embrace it. As Wilde envisioned, machines can take over the “unintellectual labor,” the “monotonous, dull labor,” the “labor that deals with dreadful things.” This will free us, humans, to focus on tasks that require creativity, empathy, and complex problem-solving.
In my role at Remote Skills Academy, I’ve seen how remote work and digital skills can open up new avenues for people, allowing them to engage in meaningful work regardless of their geographical location.
But the future of work isn’t just about work. It’s also about leisure. As Wilde suggests, the ultimate aim of man is not labor, but “enjoying cultivated leisure,” “making beautiful things,” “reading beautiful things,” “simply contemplating the world with admiration and delight.” In a world where machines do the “necessary and unpleasant work,” we can devote more time to these pursuits.
However, cultivating leisure requires more than just free time. It requires a societal shift in how we view leisure and a personal shift in how we engage with it. It’s about seeing leisure not as a luxury, but as a necessary part of a fulfilling life. It’s about recognizing the value of rest, creativity, and personal growth.
The Road Ahead
The road to a world without work, as Susskind describes it, is not without challenges. It will require visionary policies, such as a universal basic income, to ensure that the benefits of automation are shared by all. It will require a revolution in education, to equip people with the skills they need in a rapidly changing job market. And it will require a shift in societal attitudes toward work and leisure.
But as we stand on the brink of this new era, I am optimistic. I believe that we have the tools, the knowledge, and the creativity to navigate this transition. Humans are resilience being. We’ll find a way to adapt to this as we always did. Let’s envision a bright future where machines do the necessary and uninspiring tasks, and humans are free to enjoy their time in their own preferable way, while continuously building meaning in a million different ways throughout their life. The future of work is play. And it’s a future worth striving for.