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The Philosophy of Work [pdf] (ucl.ac.uk)
120 points by rathertrue 12 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 81 comments





I was again, arguing about work on reddit. Someone said that even animals "work" to survive. I found that the comparison was not really good.

Food and shelter are abundant.

Technology improved the human condition, but it made humans be much much less social, which is the main cause of inequalities.

The individual car/kitchen/living room/bathroom generate exclusion. I'm an introvert, I want to have my safe space, but I don't need to cook alone, to eat alone, to work alone, or to be alone 99% of the time.

I guess that's what people criticize about current capitalism. It's not only the inequalities (that always were always present in civilization), but it's rather the individualism, the atomization, the complex logistics and mechanization of how everything is turned into money, without limits.

In earlier times, in hunter gatherer societies, food was scarce and work was important. But today, you cannot tell people that working in fast food or in customer support is mandatory to eat and have a roof on your head.


"Food and shelter are abundant."

Only because somebody made them by working Monday to Friday. That somebody could make less by working Monday to Tuesday. Food and shelter would be less abundant and the person currently working a full week to produce the surplus would instead have the rest of the week to themselves.

The productivity, and the free time, would accrue to those expending the effort of production - as morally it should.

Now you have changed the frame of the question: how do you persuade those highly skilled people who have the capacity to operate machinery that produces the basic surplus to give up the free time that by right is theirs and produce that basic surplus?

We may have a magic money tree, but we don't have a magic porridge pot.


"The productivity, and the free time, would accrue to those expending the effort of production - as morally it should."

This argument is not only not what happens in practice, it is a bold assertion for morality. What we actually have is that a class of people have infinite free time because people believe this lie - the "Job creator class" myth. The same job creators that need to be bailed out (with our money) every time the economy sneezes.

There's nothing morally correct or right about working under the assumption of homelessness or starvation - it's a threat that doesn't need to exist, to "produce" more. More of what? We already throw out tons and tons of food to keep prices at certain places for the sake of farmers and "the economy". The whole thing is artifice upon artifice - thousands of empty vacation homes, workers living with multiple people.

What is the point of all this production if the gains don't ever actually reach the people doing the work?


> Only because somebody made them by working Monday to Friday. That somebody could make less by working Monday to Tuesday. Food and shelter would be less abundant and the person currently working a full week to produce the surplus would instead have the rest of the week to themselves.

The industrial revolution did not change the number of days in a week.

> The productivity, and the free time, would accrue to those expending the effort of production - as morally it should.

This is false in general. Quite a few folks providing key industrial inputs, like cotton for the first industrial revolution, received zero of those accruals for centuries.


I think you're sneaking in some assumptions here that people just develop these skills within themselves and have the same opportunity to do so as anyone else. If you start the clock with them already having those skills and other people not then it makes sense, but they ultimately owe all of that back to the society that gave them those skills.

However you end up is a combination of genes and environment - neither of which you have any control over. I don't see why someone should have full rights over whatever their output is when they have no control over the input. If someone has a great idea that can double food production - they owe all the money and food to the society because they would not have had the idea or been able to implement it otherwise. The public could then decide they should get a larger share for some reason(we generally do this with tax policy), but I don't see how they could have any moral claim to it


Even though the world is deterministic it is beneficial (or even necessary) to treat people as though they are responsible for their own actions, both in good and bad. We send people to prison even if the chance of further crime is ~0. We get mad at people when they act like assholes. We don't just blame it on "society".

It's all about incentives. If people think they might get punished for a certain thing, they tend not to do it. If people think they might get rewarded for a certain thing, they tend to do it.

If we want to be the kind of society that creates people with useful skills, we have to incentivize people to attain those skills. Think of this as us controlling the environment that shapes people a certain way.


> If someone has a great idea that can double food production - they owe all the money and food to the society because they would not have had the idea or been able to implement it otherwise.

I don't see why this makes any more sense than "they owe it all to the singularity that started the Big Bang, because it wouldn't have happened otherwise". Or, for that matter, anything in between. Kids, this is your brain on bad counterfactual reasoning. Look for proximate causes: in other words, necessary and sufficient conditions.


I'd argue both statements do make the same amount of sense. The wording of "owe" doesn't make as much sense for the big bang but my overall argument was that people shouldn't feel ownership over a causal chain they happened into and haven't had any true impact on.

I don't think proximate causes are a good basis for societal decisions - for example many people blame poverty on bad decision making but that neglects previous generational disadvantages that could affect genetics (e.g. lead poisoning related to redlining) and it overlooks that people grow up in different environments. This seems like it's basically an excuse for people to not care about the bad effects of a system they're participating in by saying "don't worry this isn't your concern you can just blame those people".

I think a lot of this boils down to a free will argument. While that's still ultimately up in the air, if we're looking at necessary and sufficient conditions then it seems like there's more evidence that we don't have free will than that we do. I think the "necessary and sufficient" relationship for free will would be that free will exists if we could have made a different decision than one that we did, and we don't have any way to test for that.

In the absence of free will people are just a result of their starting point and environment afterwards, and thus don't have a reason to claim disproportionate ownership over the output of that larger system.

Don't want this to come off as combative - I'm super interested in debate on this! I'd love to be proven wrong but it seems like we don't have free will so I feel like it's generally a mistake to try to organize society as if we did. I wasn't really aiming for a counterfactual argument, but how was this a "bad" counterfactual? It was definitely hyperbolic but meant to show in an extreme that the principles would still hold true and that someone wouldn't be able to claim ownership over the output. I feel like we probably just disagree on the axiom of free will but feel free to correct me!


"but they ultimately owe all of that back to the society that gave them those skills."

They owe it to the retired, who are the ones who gave them their skills and passed on the capital legacy they maintained. And we have a process that handles that. It's called a "pension system".

The "owe it back to society" bit is already captured by the pension system. You don't get to spend it again.


Few people work to provide food and shelter, that's what I meant. We do have a magic porridge pot surplus. Just look around you.

You are absolutely correct. This is true. There are comparatively few people who work to provide food and shelter.

That said, when I look around me I see massive complexity to accomplish the seeming of a magic porridge pot surplus. I think it may be possible to understate what goes in to producing these things. The food production system requires a whole series of industrialized inputs to work at this level of labor efficiency, so we need to keep those and supporting systems. Food production systems also need food distribution systems, which means ways to harvest, process, package, store, and transport food. This requires its own logistical chains and their supporting systems.

Now we're up to including a bunch of heavy industry, some mining, steelmaking, a cross-continental rail system, international shipping, and last mile logistics. We haven't even gone into how much of this is specialized labor requiring significant training - a lot of it - and what it would take to adjust the amount of work per person involved or spread it over more people.

We haven't looked at housing, its supply chain(s), the educational systems required to train specialists, health care, or administrative systems.

I am in awe of the complexity that goes into making the magic porridge pot work.


Thank you for breaking this down. Just because we see a stack of bananas at whole foods, doesn't mean that it was easy to produce

We just disagree

"Few people work to provide food and shelter, that's what I meant."

And they could work less by not producing a surplus. Which is what I meant.

The can produce enough for themselves and their machine suppliers by Tuesday afternoon. And that's all the people they need to look after.

As usual with anarchic ideas you are assuming altruism on the part of others.

The surplus doesn't need to be produced. The people producing it currently could just work less, which would be fair since that means productivity improvements accrue to them - not you.


the wealth piled up with people like elon musk and jeff bezos indicate this is not what is being solved or handled here. The 188b$ of Bezos and 264b$ of Musk are clearly not dedicated to providing me with hamburgers and sleeping quarters. If I divided those 452b$ amongst 334m americans, I'd get around 1300$ per head. Though net worth is not the same as yearly income, I note that Musk's 264b$ represent 5.600 times the average american's yearly income. As I see it, a lot of that "necessary work to provide food and shelter", that you refer to, is not spent doing that, but instead spent piling money on top of people like Musk and Bezos. I agree with the people that think we could still handle the work required for 'food and shelter', without all the necessary work yielded to enrich our billionaires. What we currently have, and have had for most of human history, is feudalism under many different names. We may currently have a much more humane treatment of our thralls, but we have an entitled 'nobility' profiting off the work of others, as much as at any time. It is much like peasants 500 years ago, who could handily themselves live off what their farms produced, but for some reason had to pass on the major part of what their work produced, so that the lord could 'protect' them against being beaten up by the neighbour lord (and, incidentally, against being indiscriminately beaten by his own men, too).

Currently we organise our Lords through capitalism.


> Musk's 264b$ represent 5.600 times the average american's yearly income

By my reckoning, $ 264,000,000,000 / 5600 = $ 47,142,857.14

Maybe you meant to say it's 5,600,000 times the average US yearly income?


> What we currently have, and have had for most of human history, is feudalism under many different names.

True.

Though this is the only stable outcome.

Even in communist country there are positions of power (which can be symbolically equated to lords).

Given group of people there is hierarchy. Given selfishness, people tend to use control to ensure more control.


>Currently we organise our Lords through capitalism.

And that's how I want it. I may have a low chance of winning but nobody argues against my right to throw my hat in the ring if I want to rise above my station. Nobody but the anticapitalists that is.


That's what they want you to believe, but your hat needs to be at least THIS big in order to not just evaporate when it lands in the ring.

Good luck playing against the house. I'd much rather demolish this casino and put up a soupkitchen instead.

I'd rather have everyone fed, clothed, housed and medically taken care of than having a low chance of "winning". What do you win anyways? Can you hug your profits? Can they thank you for your efforts?

I'm not convinced that capitalism is the best way to run this planet, but certainly one of the better ways to ruin it, this way at least those already well off, will have it nice until the end, hordes of immigrants fleeing from droughts and >50°C around the equator? who cares, they'll drown in the mediteranean sea or otherwise be hindered from reaching the "good" parts in europe..

The world is fucked, if you dont see it already as such: capitalism is barbarism. You don't really need to involve immigrants even, just look at industrial livestock farming. There was an article recently, that at least 65 different species of animals can laugh. I used to laugh at vegans not eating meat, I mean, it's just animals..., but now? What makes US so special? Why is the laughter of our children worth more than that of some cows or chicken?

How can I enjoy a steak without thinking about whether or not this animal had a good life? It died so i may eat it, but why did it live in the first place? Just to be eaten?

A horrible thought.

And then, why do i live? Just so I can feed my landlord? Are we just here to produce abundance for those who have all the money/power/assets/rights?

I want to see the (capitalist) world burn and I want you to want that too, so we can build a better world together


"I'd rather have everyone fed, clothed, housed and medically taken care of than having a low chance of "winning"."

I think this is creating a false dichotomy by implying that it's a foregone conclusion that a soup kitchen style of government would be able to support everyone.

"How can I enjoy a steak without thinking about whether or not this animal had a good life? It died so i may eat it, but why did it live in the first place? Just to be eaten?"

First, buy local from small producers. You can see how the animals live.

Are we not born to toil and die? Why should we be born? It seems we serve some minor purpose at best, under the control of some government, and then die thinking that we left some grand legacy simply for having children to continue on.


> I think this is creating a false dichotomy by implying that it's a foregone conclusion that a soup kitchen style of government would be able to support everyone.

uh, soup kitchen style of government?

how about no government at all?

just to clarify: for me communism is the antiauthoritarian leftism that is in the bottom left of the political compass.

top left?: stalinism&maoism,

top right?: nazigermany,

quarter-to-the-bottom&full-right?: USofA

exaggerated? perhaps.

> First, buy local from small producers. You can see how the animals live.

good point, if you live in an area with local, small producers.

I cannot speak for my miserable parents, but I definetly did not have children for them to just toil and die. I just want everyone to have a good time.

Distancing ourselfs from eachother by using money to measure the value of every interaction is definetly not The Way for everyone to have a good one.


But we understand that life is full of struggle and death, yet we have children.

"Distancing ourselfs from eachother by using money to measure the value of every interaction... "

That's a choice. One can always volunteer. It seems human nature will always find some way to measure value transfer, or at least determine if someone is worthy of the "free" service. I think we see this in libertarian communities - most people contribute, but freeloaders could be labeled as such.


> But we understand that life is full of struggle and death, yet we have children.

yeah, because life is also full of beauty.

As to that choice: Sure, you just don't see many banks in volunteering in letting go of a debtor ;)

If I had the time, I would.


And it was the debtor's choice to get involved in those transactions. Many businesses, including banks, make charitable donations.

> I'd rather have everyone fed, clothed, housed and medically taken care of than having a low chance of "winning"

Where do you believe the food, clothing, housing, and medical care/technology will come from in this hypothetical?


Where do you believe the food, clothing, housing, and medical care/technology is coming from in the current world?

Same people, except in my hypothetical the workforce would be a tad bigger: Bezos, Musk and Gates, like the Kennedies, Rothschilds and Murdochs would (like everyone else on the planet) put in their own ~4 hours of daily work (4 out of 7 days should be plenty) towards feeding/clothing/housing/caring-for the People.

Who needs military if the whole world was one? All those poor souls "defending" your freedom? Would work the fields or whatever. Who needs newspapers that only print what their owner wants to be printed? Who needs X privately owned space programs if the whole world would profit the most from a single public one?

Yes, competition can drive innovation but we have arrived at a time where we innovate solely to: - dazzle others we call users into spending more of their precious time and money on our shit-websites... - improve surveilance tech - improve weaponry - improve schemes to extract value from our workforce

And competition by cooperation is by far better anyways than competition led by self-interest: If your idea is better than whatever is being already produced, since everyone is a worker and cooperating, there would be little to no friction to improve stuff. Actually, improvements would be shared freely rather than kept as a secret.

Money and Power are keeping us so busy we barely look up to see if what we are doing is hurting the planet... and thus have to go. And designs/blueprints/recipees and other similar (not art) intelectual property should be in some sort of commons.

I dont know about art, it's important, but how to reimburse for it? idk. but you cant ask for money in return, since it was already deprecated... so i guess it also goes into the commons, and rightfully so: we produce for everyone to enjoy.


If you want everyone to give up wealth you will have to do it at gun point.

not strictly necessary. laws could ve passed that 0.001% is taken over each year. this would be sslowerrl, but would have lower resistance.

I believe you want to demolish the casino. I don't believe you want to build a soup kitchen. I don't even believe you volunteer at a soup kitchen now, because I've met people who volunteer at soup kitchens and you sound nothing like them.

As to what I'd do if I 'won', it's funny you ask since I spent this morning thinking about just that. For one, I think that a lot of contaminated land, including spent mining sites, could be slowly rehabilitated by growing the right plants and fungi on them, possibly even harvesting some of the leftover valuable minerals and rendering harmless the toxic ones, providing inexpensive housing to people acting as a caretaker, producing rejuvenation in an expanding network of locations. For another, a lot of energy is being put into cleaning plastic out of the oceans but there is still not a lot of thought being put into what to do with the result. I believe that with the right templates, it would be possible to clean plastic out of the ocean and build large rafts for seasteading-style projects. With the proper designs I suspect it would even be possible to make these rafts a suitable habitat for marine life, increasing local biodiversity and saving the expense of hauling waste plastic from the ocean to a landfill on a continent.

I have other visions of a better world, but if I achieve even one of these I'll consider mine a life well lived. The thing is, I'm not naive as to how unrealistic these visions sound or how difficult they would be to realise. If the decision were made by reasonable bureaucrats in a world where their mandate is minimal starvation, I might as well give up. There is exactly one human being on earth insane enough to think these visions are worth pursuing. THAT is why I'm invested in winning. THAT is what you want to take away from me, and from everyone else who's ever had an insane vision of a better future.

You say you want to see the world burn. That sounds to me like the mindset of a man in a warband, and warbands get resources by taking them from their neighbours. It's always the farmers and craftspeople who suffer most when that way of thinking takes over, and I consider myself a small producer, so it should come as no surprise that I'm hostile to your way of thinking. I truly believe that if you burned the world as you imagine, you'd have taken over my house and the small food forest my family has grown, and either shot or enslaved me, long before you ever made a dent in the barricades of the billionaires that justify your rhetoric. I believe that because that's been what happened historically, and because if your goal was really to build a soup kitchen you wouldn't feel the need to set the world on fire first.

I'd like to close with an appeal to your humanity, because despite my belief that a small producer like myself is always the first target of warbands and warband-thinking, I don't begrudge the instinct or its necessity to the human spirit. If you believe in anarchist-socialism and want to fight, there is an experiment with that kind of government happening right now in Rojava, the Kurdish autonomous zone in Northern Syria. They are actively looking for people to join their cause, and from what I know of their system it seems like it could actually succeed without devolving into Stalinism. If you lent your effort to that, it would be an alignment of what your intellectual, moral, and instinctive stances seem to be. Please just consider it, and if the answer is 'no' then it would be worth aligning the reasons why with what you want for your immediate sphere.


Thank you for this, I appreciated reading it. It's depressing to see how many people's vision of the world is fundamentally negative and opposed to letting human beings live freely and flourish according to their own hopes and dreams.

That being said, I think the problem is that the pro-freedom side hasn't put forth a sufficiently convincing argument. Ridiculous Elon Musk fanboys should not be the representatives for freedom. We shouldn't be noted for contradictorily turning a blind eye to bailouts and rebates with expropriated money, as well as to police violence towards minorities, and for seemingly being more concerned with taking the last scraps of support from the poor rather than opposing the kleptarchic defence contractors and so forth.

We need to make the case that a freer society would mean less money taken from the poor and given to the rich, and less opportunity to get rich on monopolies enforced by state power, such as inappropriately excessive patent rights and copyrights, which are not just intuitively morally unfair but also antithetical to the principle that a competitive market provides a selection pressure for better ideas. If we can't put forward a convincing argument and be consistent in our principles, it's our own damn fault and we should quit whining about it.


Why thank you! I am testing out pro-freedom arguments when the opportunity arises, "This is my vision, who are you to say I have no right to pursue it?" does seem to be working somewhat. Asking for alternatives similarly, though I think I'll need to pick up a copy of 'doughnut economics' to get the most out of the ensuing conversations.

But taking a wider view, comparing our current situation to any time except Postwar America seems like it should be argument enough. I think the issue is that freedom means freedom to make bad choices if it means anything, and we're currently in a situation of having to deal with the consequences of some bad choices. How that resolves I can't begin to guess.

Edit: It occurred to me, maybe acknowledging that freedom allowed bad choices to be made and that we need to deal with the consequences of those choices would be another way to approach the same argument.


I said: I want to see the (capitalist) world burn.

Well, why would you misquote me?

I wonder. You make me sound like some madman indeed. Personally, I would even consider a UBI to be "setting the world ablaze", but probably the only way forwards.

No, I do not volunteer in a soup kitchen, do you? Of course you do. Do you want to read how I don't have the time to volunteer? Of course not.

Does it matter that you are concretizing an abstraction to make me look like a lazy loudmouthed fool? Of course not.

As to that Syrian experiment, pardon my mistrust, but is it safe enough that you would send your own daughter there?

If I would be a gambler, I would bet that experiment whiped off the earth in 5 - 10 years if they haven't disbanded by then already due to ???

Nah, I have dug myself in here pretty solidly, even if I wanted to: I couldn't just up and leave on a whim. Besides, your plea for me to consider going off into the desert reads like that meme with that dude stating "how curious, yet you participate in a society" to some peasant complaining about the state of the world.

Instead of going someplace that could be droned to peace for being a threat to even mildly authoritarean regimes, or, just as likely, where I could be stoned to death for just existing (am trans and gay): I'll rather wait for the nuclear holocaust to bring anarchy to my doorstep, kthxbye


“The managers tell us that the swimmers, crawlers, walkers, and fliers spent their lives working in order to eat. These managers are broadcasting their news too soon. The varied beings haven’t all been exterminated yet. You, reader, have only to mingle with them, or just watch them from a distance, to see that their waking lives are filled with dances, games, and feasts. Even the hunt, the stalking and feinting and leaping, is not what we call Work, but what we call Fun. The only beings who work are inmates like us.”

- Fredy Perlman, Against Leviathan


> The only beings who work are inmates like us.

What about ants?


Ants are basically a hivemind right? Their individuality is subsumed to the colony. I don't know if ants even play, which I think is the basic requirement for individuality.

A worker should be able to exchange skill for a task that needs to be done. Work is a good thing. In the best possible case, work is a safe, useful, purposeful behaviour that benefits the employer, the workers, and society.

> it made humans be much much less social, which is the main cause of inequalities

Freedom from prejudice is a fine principle -- I fully support modern law. But people are not all "equal", they have different abilities. And some people hold wealth and information for the purpose of control. It goes without saying that corruption, cronyism, propaganda and violence are social anti-patterns.

A just, accountable, fair, transparent system ("JAFTS") will pay people for the value of their work and skill. There will be useful work to do, and training to do the work.

An intelligent social system will invest in people and reward good work.

A compassionate social system will also care for all people's well-being. It is a smart investment.

History tells us not to expect that a dictatorship, oligarchy, or mob rule will achieve sufficient cultural enlightenment. So we fight these tendencies with democracy, education, and workers' rights.

Unless of course the socio-economic structure is unenlightened or stumbling towards something worse. In a dictatorship or oligarchy, either the power structure wins or the people revolt. History also tells us that people have enough sense to fight for food and shelter.

In a democracy, people must want to protect the principles of democratic society.


> But people are not all "equal", they have different abilities.

'Equal' in that context is used to mean 'equal in moral worth'. No one, obviously, is saying that all human beings in the world are identical in every respect.

This discussion comes about because there are implicit moral principles we hold: (i) that people should not be punished without fault, and (ii) that people are not at fault for things over which they have no control. Our economic system self-evidently does punish people for things over which they have no control: their intelligence, their talents, their work ethic, and so forth.

I don't personally feel that that's problematic – I think its faults are outweighed by its benefits – but I understand why some people do. And it's certainly not as simple as the absurd caricature that they believe all human beings are exactly the same as one another.


I don't think I've ever heard anyone arguing that people shouldn't have reliable access to food and shelter. My complaint is when people start getting shelter in much nicer parts of the world than I get to live in, for free. If people want to fall back on the generosity of others they should be shuffled to the least desirable shelters and given last pick of the food. Anything else is unfair to people who are working hard.

To reverse "you cannot tell people that working in fast food or in customer support is mandatory to eat and have a roof on your head" - I can absolutely say that people willing to work in fast food or customer support should have priority to choose their homes and dining habits before people who rely on public largess.


> In earlier times, in hunter gatherer societies, food was scarce and work was important. But today, you cannot tell people that working in fast food or in customer support is mandatory to eat and have a roof on your head.

Just a note: hunter gatherers exist today, it's not something that humanity has given up completely, you've given it up, but it might be temporary (it seems that many current hunter gatherers went back to it in order to flee from disease and slavery brought by the westerners). Moreover, we now know that many hunter gatherers "work" less on average than those working in agriculture or - following your example - in customer support.


I am not sure what you are arguing here.

There might be hunter-gatherers, but they are few. Our society has given up on that and in the current state (people living on Earth) we cannot go back to that stage. For for all the purposes humanity has given up completely on being hunter-gatherers. Even if some people are still doing that, it is not a feasible for everybody.


> Our society has given up on that

That's the point when I say: "you've given up on that", meaning that some societies have moved to something else, but there are many in the world. It's important to understand that it's a choice, there's no "right way forward", it isn't evolution, just organization.

> we cannot go back to that stage

Not saying we have to, but it might happen in the future for many reasons (nuclear wars, climate collapse, worse pandemics, etc). The point above is about that, what if we find a DIFFERENT way? It's up to us.

> humanity has given up completely on being hunter-gatherers

This statement doesn't help anyone and it isn't true, there are millions of hunter gatherers, and many more that are in between that and very limited agriculture. Do not mistake the west for humanity.

P.S.: this is just food for thought, in the sense that we must be open to new ideas, even those that completely destroy our "normal" perception of the world if we really want to advance as a species.


I am also open to new ideas. So let's try to have a conversation about this.

Let me clarify (or add to my initial comment): When I say "we cannot go back to that stage" and "our society has given up on that" I want to say that we cannot feed 6-7 billion people with the process of hunter-gatherer. Or at least I cannot see how that could be possible.

So let's try to imagine how can it be that we all 7 billion are hunter-gatherers:

1. Are they enough animals to be hunted (not raised in farms - right?) are enough vegetables/fruits to be eaten? Can we make it so that we can assure at least 1-2 billion people (if not more) a sustainable way that we consume natural-grown resources and at the same time help replenish them without establishing a system that is like agriculture?

2. Can billion of people migrate every season to gather food?

I see no concrete answer in the now for this. It might be that we want to go there but in my assumption, this could happen either due to a catastrophic event or in hundred of years if not more. So, ideologically we might want or not be like that. But pragmatically that is not possible right now.

Or maybe I have a different definition of what that state of living is, so maybe we should define what a hunter-gatherer society looks like?

More general, every time I see a proposal/discussion about how we should live I am always concerned about "how can we all live" not just a group of people/or a specific country. Because if we cannot find a way for all of us to live then that is not a stable model.


Would you mind sharing the link. I often think about efforts of primitive~ survival vs efforts in societies. It seems there's something egotistic about survival (like animals) that satisfies a sense of self (nobody ever said no to hunting when they're hungry)

I’m currently reading “Work: A Deep History, from the Stone Age to the Age of Robots” [0] and it’s an anthropological exploration of these topics. I don’t know if I recommend it to all yet, but if you often think about the philosophy of labor, it might tickle your brain in the right way.

[0] https://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/0525561757/ref=tmm_hrd_swatch...


Thanks for the tip, I can suggest (after getting some introductory anthropology reading) this as well https://www.amazon.it/Debt-First-5-000-Years/dp/1612194192

I assume you've already read Wealth of Nations among other foundations?

Maybe my Kindle will finally get a workout. Thank you!

>I was again, arguing about work on reddit. Someone said that even animals "work" to survive. I found that the comparison was not really good.

Seems like a good comparison to me. Society is not post-scarcity. People in society must produce a surplus and contribute that surplus. Economics is how we measure how much contribution happened.

>Food and shelter are abundant.

Food prices are climbing and housing is in bubble territory. Abundance is complicated.

>I guess that's what people criticize about current capitalism.

Marx has many valid arguments against capitalism. It's very obvious today that socialism is dead. It officially died in 1989. Though that doesnt solve the problems with capitalism.

>In earlier times, in hunter gatherer societies, food was scarce and work was important. But today, you cannot tell people that working in fast food or in customer support is mandatory to eat and have a roof on your head.

Nobody is saying they must work the mcjob. Many many other jobs out there. Entrepreneurship is important to capitalism.

However we absolutely are saying you must contribute something to society in order to eat and have a roof over their head. If you don't, that's your decision, you deal with the consequences. Our society is not at the point where work is optional. Perhaps getting people out of the mcjobs and building a fully automated factory where food just comes out at no cost. Where housing can be 3d printed in a weekend anywhere in the world. We get to the point where maslow heirarchy of needs is solved and you can decide to not-work as much as you like.


I think the issue is we are not in a post scarcity world and do not work towards such a thing. If it is cheaper to hire a human instead of automatic a job - we do that. Eventually exporting jobs to the poorest countries where people suffer creating useless crap or fast fashion.

What we are doing is not reasonable if you had the greater good of humanity and planet in mind. The return on investment alone is a bad compass that will make more and more people suffer.


Not sure if you care to hear this or not, but this almost a perfect way to articulate the humanism that is the starting point for Marx's analysis of history. But he was actually just following the way Aristotle thought about it!

"Because people typically spend eight hours or more of each weekday at work and another eight or so hours sleeping, it is where they spend about a third of their waking hours."

Actually, half of their waking hours


A week has 7*24 = 168 hours.

40/168 ~= 1/4

Hours awake 7*16 = 112

40/112 ~= 1/3


One of you is talking about weekdays only and the other about a hole week. From the cited sentence, you can interpret it both ways, I guess.

>> A week has 7*24 = 168 hours.

Ahh, grandparent said weekday, you've added in weekend to your calc


Took me a while to get this.

Does anyone have a good guess why on Prof. Appiahs homepage there is this hidden (via style="display: none;") paragraph? It's displayed when googling him.

"Google has been a useful tool for internet browsing and searching since its inception. Professor Appiah, an Oxford professor of darknet in the College of Arts and Sciences Department who specializes in African intellectual history, is one such user. In his recent article on darknet published by The New York Times, he explained how he uses Google darknet to search for websites related to his field of study like <some link to catalog of darknet links>. Professor Appiah is a darknet user and darknet dealer, who was caught for using darknet in Oxford looking for websites on Google. He was sentenced to 1 year of community service with the National Cybercrime Unit at New Scotland Yard."


Related: 80,000 Hours - an organization promoting finding work / career that has a large positive impact on the world.

Named after the rough amount of hours that a typical person will work over the course of their lives. Given that we'll spend this many hours on something, why not make it towards the goal of making the world a better place?

https://80000hours.org/


Abolish work.

Replicators first. Then postscarcity economics. We can't get around physical reality by changing to an economic system that ignores it.

And replace it with?

Perhaps we can create a system whereby one exchanges skills for products and services? But then how do we scale such a system... money might work, unless you're advocating for communism


No one said anything about replacing something. Fortunately our systems (assuming we're talking about the west) can evolve and change within, without throwing it off the boat. You can introduce public health care without abolishing capitalism. Same goes for paid maternity leave, supporting unions, etc. In my understanding we're having a political discussion here, not a theoretical one.

What about the people who want to work?

Abolish "mandatory" work.

Now you can keep working if you want to. It was easy.


Work already is not mandatory. Anyone is free to figure out other ways to get food and shelter.

I think this is overlooking the main argument - having someone waste time by getting their own food/shelter isn't really any better than having them waste time doing a job to get money for food/shelter. We would likely be better off not wasting people's time and just giving them food/shelter so they are free to figure out how to best use that time

Giving someone food and shelter implies that someone else must work to provide that. Food doesn't materialize like it does on Star Trek.

> having someone waste time by getting their own food/shelter isn't really any better than having them waste time doing a job to get money for food/shelter

The latter isn't waste on the whole - somebody is getting a service in return. Then there's a separate question of what the worker is getting (for work that is meaningful to them and for work that isn't); that's one of the topics of the original post.


No thanks. I am unwilling to provide free food and shelter to random people who are capable of working but choose not to. Their survival is not my concern.

Not really, can I print money to get food? So, not free, it's just an illusion, at least for 99% of the people.

What is the complaint here? If you had the power to print money, so would everyone else. And money would be worthless and you couldn't exchange it for food even if you had it.

The issue you are identifying here might be physics and reality rather than a political problem. ironically food does grow on trees, but it is still "mandatory" to work to prepare it if you want to eat it. You can't escape that.


There's free food in garbage bins, if you don't want to work for it. There are people who exclusively feed from large stores' garbage, it's totally doable. Although perhaps some people would consider going to the store and getting the food from the trash "work", and will settle for nothing less than a daily instacart delivery.

You can do it and it is illegal in some countries. In Germany for example.

EDIT: Ok, so I fired the comment and thought about it more afterwards. What I said is true in most cases. If a store wants to take you to court, they definitely can. Question is, would they? In most cities (Germany), they lock the containers to prevent 'stealing' in the first place. What really puts me off - and aligns with the original discussion - is, that this system is definitely not set up for people to not work. Even so, that they say, eating other peoples trash is not okay. You HAVE to work.


To follow your line of reasoning, no one is physically stopping you from printing money. No one is physically stopping you from committing crimes to gain wealth.

White-collar crimes constitute 3% of federal prosecutions. Additionally, prosecutions have been on the decline for the past several years. Add "the fear of going to jail" to your list of illusions.


Well depending on your definition of work, who is required to work for money? There are other ways to get it.

Depends on defintion of "can".

Physically you can. Legally not.


Ironically, there's no mandatory work anywhere but in Communist paradises where by criminal code "parasitism" (not being enrolled to one of the organizations / skipping workdays without a valid reason) is prosecuted.

I wonder what made you write that reply. Nobody was talking about communism. No one said we should abolish what we have completely.

Edit: I see I'm getting down-voted. Same thread, different comment I say a bit more about it: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=29934623


I really like this line of investigation. The problem of work is much more complicated than thinking about what can be automated or just deciding to work as little as possible.

It looks like a good read, but it's a bit long for my attention span. Can anyone provide a TLDR?

TL;DR: we don't pay enough attention to the role of work in our lives.

....while I'm on lunch: why are tldr's at the end of articles?!



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