“But the gods, taking pity on mankind, born to work, laid down the succession of recurring Feasts to restore them from their fatigue, and gave them the Muses, and Apollo their leader, and Dionysus, as companions in their feasts, so that nourishing themselves in festive companionship with the gods, they should again stand upright and erect.” — Plato
Josef Pieper, in his classic book Leisure: The Basis of Culture, notes that the word “school” comes from the Greek word skole, which literally means “leisure”. Leisure was the school of life.
The fact that the educational-industrial complex (which we now call school) is associated with so much work — homework, standardized tests, the work of getting into college — is curious, then.
Work and thinking go hand-in-hand now. There is the modern phenomenon of the knowledge worker, who presumably gets paid just to think and solve problems.
Things became even more complicated in our digital world in which practically everyone online is a knowledge worker: news pundits, research analysts, cultural critics, twitter threadbois.
In the words of Oliver Bateman, it’s all just Work. On social media, for instance, it’s the Work of Content. But it’s all hard work.
But why hard? We live in a world where information is easier than ever to come across. It is claimed that generative AI will eventually remove most of the work that humans had to do to find answers. In the future, that will leave us all more time for leisure, for contemplation…right?
No. I believe the opposite is true. People are contemplating less, not more — and the trajectory that we’re on will only continue toward a lack of leisure, an inability to contemplate anything at all. We are learning to mimic the machines that are the entities really doing the thinking — and even learning to “serve” them in some way by training them, or orienting our own work around making good “prompts” for them to work…