Reconsidering the Value of Jobs

Obsoletion's To Do List

Obsoletion’s To Do List

This article by Douglas Rushkoff, Are Jobs Obsolete?, offers some really intriguing food for thought. He posits that with technology rapidly eradicating so many livelihoods, society at large has an opportunity to reconsider the importance of a job and its corresponding valuation.

As he points out, “Our problem is not that we don’t have enough stuff — it’s that we don’t have enough ways for people to work and prove that they deserve this stuff.” So how do we go about redefining ‘worthiness’? Is there a way to cull out the contributions to society from the wasting of resources? Do the two not often go hand in hand, at least in part?

While some of his conclusions seem to be a bit too convenient, I heartily agree that our country’s growing obsession with creating jobs (jobs, jobs, jobs!) is perhaps addressing the symptom, not the root of the problem. Attempting to inorganically re-establish jobs for the sake of employing people feels like putting a band-aid on a gun shot wound. Is it not far better, in both the long and short terms, to focus on quality over quantity?

But of course, with record unemployment numbers and piles of other disappointing economic data, it is easy to see why politicians and those most desperate for monetary compensation are favoring any work over meaningful work. So the question remains, what makes work meaningful and how do we re-assign value to it to encourage a more natural creation of ‘jobs’? What would happen if we had a fundamental shift in our valuation system and more fairly compensated our disappearing middle class? What is the path that will take us to a future where the majority of our citizens do not work solely to support themselves, but rather to fulfill themselves, to better the lives of others, and contribute in a meaningful way to their communities. As Rushkoff asks, “how can we organize a society around something other than employment?”

The further we move into the digital age and the more technology rewrites our daily lives, the more pressing these questions become.