Critical Section

Human Robotics

Wednesday,  05/19/04  12:28 AM

Halley on WorthWhile: Robotics.  Not what you might think, but interesting; Halley is proposing that "we" work too hard:

"I do think our human working culture has turned into a robotic working culture without us noticing.  The statistics on how little time Americans take for vacation, how many hours we work, how productive we are, all this points to one thing -- we stopped being humans with flaws and turned into shiny silver worker robots somewhere along the line."

Asking why we work so much is a bit like asking why trees grow so tall.  Wouldn’t it be easier if all the trees just agreed not to grow so much?  We’ll all share the light, just like we do now, and we’ll expend a lot less effort.  But then what?  Some tree decides to grow a little bit taller.  Bad tree.  Now I have to grow, too, just to get my share of the light.  Then you have to grow, and then we all do.  So trees grow as tall as they can.

I've blogged a bit about Evolutionarily Stable Strategies (ESS).  Not working hard is like trees not growing tall, they are both evolutionarily unstable.  In the sense that, other strategies will supplant them despite their obvious benefit.

Any human society based on everyone scaling back has been a miserable failure.  Communism doesn’t work very well (true communism like Israeli kibbutz’, not the funky stuff they practiced in Eastern Europe, which was really dictatorship wearing other clothes).  Right now the 35-hour work week in France is causing big time problems; their GNP is declining, they have problems assimilating immigrants, etc.

We’re doomed to work hard, just like trees are doomed to grow tall.  So the trick is to make work enjoyable.  The whole premise behind “work is bad” is that there are things other than work which are more fun than work.  Why should this be so?  That gets to the key issue – what makes something fun?  The short answer – happiness comes from liking yourself, so “fun” things are things that make you feel good about yourself.  (See try, or try not for more.)

Last night I was listening to the incomparable Jim Ladd on L.A.'s KLOS, and he was interviewing George Thorogood, who observed: "hey, get a job you really like and you’ll never work a day in your life".

That's an ESS :)

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