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A growing number of people think their job is useless. Time to rethink the meaning of work

越来越多的人认为自己的工作毫无用途,是时候重新思考工作的意义了

A great deal has been written in recent years about the perils of automation. With predicted mass unemployment, declining wages, and increasing inequality, clearly we should all be afraid.

近年来,自动化所带来的风险不断被提及。显然,我们应该为此感到恐惧,因为人们预言,自动化会造成大规模失业,减少工资,以及加剧不平等现象。

By now it’s no longer just the Silicon Valley trend watchers and technoprophets who are apprehensive. In a study that has already racked up several hundred citations, scholars at Oxford University have estimated that no less than 47% of all American jobs and 54% of those in Europe are at a high risk of being usurped by machines.

如今,观察员和科技预言家们已经不再只忧心于硅谷的趋势了。一项研究已经取得了上百个例证,牛津的学者们估计至少有47%的美国岗位和54%的欧洲岗位会被机器取代。

I admit, we’ve heard it all before. Employees have been worrying about the rising tide of automation for 200 years now, and for 200 years employers have been assuring them that new jobs will naturally materialize to take their place. After all, if you look at the year 1800, some 74% of all Americans were farmers, whereas by 1900 this figure was down to 31%, and by 2000 to a mere 3%. Yet this hasn’t led to mass unemployment. In 1930, the famous economist John Maynard Keynes was predicting that we’d all be working just 15-hour weeks by the year 2030. Yet, since the 1980s, work has only been taking up more of our time, bringing waves of burnouts and stress in its wake.

我承认,以上这些消息我们早已见怪不怪了。从200年以前,雇员们就开始担心不断发展的自动化,雇主们也不断说服自己会有新的工作应运而生,取代他们的位置。让我们回顾一下,1800年,那时美国的农民大约占总人口的74%,而到了1900年这一比率降到了31%,到了2000年农民只占全美总人口的3%。然而农民的减少并没有造成大规模失业。1930年,著名经济学家约翰·凯恩斯曾预言:到2030年我们一周只需工作15小时,而自从20世纪80年代开始,工作在我们生活中所占的比重只增不减,还带来了过度疲劳和压力过大等一系列问题。

Meanwhile, the crux of the issue isn’t even being discussed. The real question we should be asking ourselves is: what actually constitutes “work” in this day and age?

但同时,我们甚至没有讨论到问题的核心。我们需要扪心自问的真正问题是:如今,是什么驱动着我们继续“工作”?

What is “work” anyway?

到底什么是“工作”?

In a 2013 survey of 12,000 professionals by the Harvard Business Review, half said they felt their job had no “meaning and significance,” and an equal number were unable to relate to their company’s mission, while another poll among 230,000 employees in 142 countries showed that only 13% of workers actually like their job. A recent poll among Brits revealed that as many as 37% think they have a job that is utterly useless.

2013年,《哈佛商业评论》杂志对12000名专业人员进行了调查,感觉自己的工作“既无意义也不重要”的人约占50%,剩下的50%则不能将自己的工作和他们公司的使命联系起来。而在另一项调查中,来自142个国家的23万的人中只有13%的人真正热爱自己的工作。最近一项对于英国人的民意调查显示,37%的人认为自己的工作是毫无用处的。

So, will there still be enough jobs for everyone a few decades from now? Anybody who fears mass unemployment underestimates capitalism’s extraordinary ability to generate new bullshit jobs. If we want to really reap the rewards of the huge technological advances made in recent decades (and of the advancing robots), then we need to radically rethink our definition of “work.”

几十年后,世界上是否还有足够的工作?那些担心会出现大规模失业现象的人低估了资本主义创造新工作的卓越能力。如果在近几十年,我们想从科技的巨大进步中捞取好处,就必须主动地重新思考“工作”的真正含义。

The paradox of progress

进步的悖论

It starts with an age-old question: what is the meaning of life? Most people would say the meaning of life is to make the world a little more beautiful, or nicer, or more interesting. But how? These days, our main answer to that is: through work.

一切都要归为一个古老的问题:生命的意义是什么?大部分人会回答说生命的意义在于使生活变得更美,或更好,或更加有趣。但是,如何实现呢?如今,大部分人会回答说:“通过工作。”

That’s one of the biggest taboos of our times. Our whole system of finding meaning could dissolve like a puff of smoke.

那是我们这个时代最大特征之一,我们寻找意义的理论体系可能会如烟般散去。

The irony is that technological progress is only exacerbating this crisis. Historically, society has been able to afford more bullshit jobs precisely because our robots kept getting better. As our farms and factories grew more efficient, they accounted for a shrinking share of our economy. And the more productive agriculture and manufacturing became, the fewer people they employed. Call it the paradox of progress: the richer we become, the more room we have to waste our time. It’s like Brad Pitt says in Fight Club: too often, we’re “working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don’t need.”

讽刺的是,科技进步正在加剧这个危机。过去,社会之所以能够提供更多的工作正是由于我们的机器人越来越先进。随着农场和工厂变得越来越有效率,它们在经济中的所占的比重也随之减少。农业和制造业效率越高,它们所需要的人力就越少。这就是进步的悖论:我们越是富有,可供挥霍的时间就越多。正如布拉德·皮特在《搏击俱乐部》中所说,我们经常“干着自己不喜欢的工作来买自己压根不需要的东西。”

I believe in a future where the value of your work is not determined by the size of your paycheck, but by the amount of happiness you spread and the amount of meaning you give. I believe in a future where the point of education is not to prepare you for another useless job, but for a life well lived. I believe in a future where “jobs are for robots and life is for people.”

我相信,一定会有那么一天,我们工作价值的大小不再取决于薪资的高低,而是取决于你散播了多少快乐,给世界带来了多少意义。到那时候,教育的目的不再是给你一份毫无用途的工作,而是为了让你过上更好的生活。有那么一天,我们会实现“工作是属于机器人的,而生活才是属于全人类的”这一理念。

And if basic income sounds Utopian to you, then I’d like to remind you that every milestone of civilization – from the end of slavery to democracy to equal rights for men and women – was once a Utopian fantasy too. Or, as Oscar Wilde wrote long ago: “Progress is the realization of Utopias.”

如果最基本的工资对你来说是一个空想,我可以提醒你:人类文明进程中的每一个里程碑——从废除奴隶制到实现男女平等——曾经也都是如空想一般的存在。或许,正如奥斯卡·王尔德所说:“进步就是将一个个不切实际的梦想实现的过程。”

图文来源:沪江英语

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