Feb 3, 2017

After Robots Take Our Jobs, What Will We Buy in a Society Without Money?

Posted by in categories: economics, employment, robotics/AI

After labor, not all of us will want to explore inner consciousness. Abundant leisure will not turn everyone into the Buddha. Many of our tastes are in the gutter, and I have no objection to leaving them there. I’m not a fan of shopping per se, but buying stuff is deeply satisfying and motivating for many people. Is it possible to rethink the pleasure of conspicuous consumption in a way that decouples it from the competitive labor economy? The post-work world I’m imagining will have little surplus money for unnecessary shopping, even if robots and computers can dramatically lower the overhead of such production. So, a non-consummatory form of shopping will have to be cultivated.

Some people marshal all their evolved predatory skills to hunt down the perfect sweater, shoes, or watch. Could we redesign shopping as a system of “catch-and-release,” so that, like sport fishing, it’s the adventure and not the prize that becomes central? Maybe we will hunt for luxury items, but then instead of keeping them, simply photograph ourselves wearing the items (like a fisherman holding a giant pike). It’s an unlikely adjustment, I’ll grant you, but I never thought catch-and-release fishing would be fun until I did it, and it was. The way some people already buy and return items suggests to me that catch-and-release shopping is not impossible.

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