A World Without Work? Technology Automation, and the Future of Work
A compilation of essays written by Kevin Brown, Mary Manjikian, Steven McMullen, and Peter Meilaender
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For those who believe in the biblical narrative, work is a fundamental aspect of human life. Even before the Fall, “the Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it” (Gen. 2:15). We are called to be productive, to develop things, to use our powers to make order out of disorder—in other words, to mirror our Creator. Of course, after the Fall work remains, but it becomes more difficult: “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life” (Gen. 3:17).
However, we now find ourselves at a new turning point in history, in which the future of work as we understand it is in jeopardy. Since the Industrial Revolution, improvements in technology have led to the automation of many jobs that could once be done only by human hands and minds. This largely happened incrementally, but today, advancements in technology appear to be coming in leaps and bounds. All these developments have led (and will almost certainly continue to lead) to a more prosperous society—but they have also fundamentally decoupled productivity and job growth.
In light of these realities, what is the future of work? Will job growth come in new sectors that we cannot yet imagine? Will people use increased leisure time in productive ways? Most importantly, what are the social, political, and spiritual implications of a world without work?
The following essays, written by members of Values & Capitalism’s Academic Network, offer thoughtful responses to these questions. They certainly do not give us all the answers, but because they come at the topic from various perspectives—economic, political, theological, and literary—they provide helpful insights into the opportunities and challenges of an ever-innovating world.