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Don’t get me wrong – what I do all day at work is really very important. Really. Important. It is.

But, OK, you got me… if I really thought about it, quite a considerable chunk of my day-to-day could, technically, be automated. Or at least so heavily augmented as to reduce my own contribution to a mere ‘bit part’. I’d make the main decisions. Then some robot would do the writing, the design, the campaign planning, you know, the dull stuff…

Luckily for me, though, at the moment, ‘marketing’ remains a significantly human-heavy industry. Meanwhile, in other industries, the human contingent hasn’t been so lucky. Sectors like transport, logistics, retail and manufacturing have all felt the dawning of a new age in the very real form of a P45.

Since long before the introduction of the cotton mills, we’ve worried about machines taking our jobs. In this early part of the 21st century, however, things are really hotting up. Jobs are being replaced my machine labour left, right and centre.

Even if the job isn’t scrapped entirely, they’re often reduced to rock bottom wage levels because, well, “what else you gonna do?”

The macro view: Why are we still doing 9-5?

The economist John Maynard Keynes predicted, back in 1930, that the working week would soon fall to around 15 hours. Inspired by the freedom to enjoy family live and our own free time, we would begin to throw off the shackles of employment.

…but then along came things like colossal inequality, brutal competition for capital and resulting mass poverty.

Plus, we got a little side-tracked spending our energies producing and consuming a whole load of new luxuries which in 1930s could barely have been dreamed of: from iPhones to skyscrapers.

Think about it, though. With technology, we are (theoretically) vastly more productive. We have at our disposal machines that do the tasks we never wanted to. And yet, despite all this assistance, we’re using the extra time afforded to us to continue doing the 9-5. (Or 8-7, rather!)

What’s holding back the work-free world?

Essentially, political economics hasn’t caught up yet. (And who can blame them, while they’re going off any making smart moves like exiting the EU instead.)

We haven’t even come close, it seems, to an economic model which: distributes newly available wealth fairly; still encourages the work we need; keeps the peace.

Or, perhaps we have. But perhaps it’s just so radical that our ‘teetering-on-the-boiling-point’ societies wouldn’t yet have the head-space to accommodate such an idea.

It’s an idea that needs to be modelled, tested, debated, broken, rebuilt and generally put through the mill. But it seems to me that a universal basic income – or something similar – looks like a very real solution to our work-addiction and spiralling inequality.

Essentially, every single person would receive a base income. Not means tested, not dependent on any qualification. Everybody. For every person, that keeps the wolf from the door.

You’re then able to supplement your basic income with anything extra you do. But rather than needing to work 5 days just to survive, you can work 1 day, then volunteer 2, and have another 3 to spend with your family.

Where does the extra cash come from? Those ‘evil robots’ who ‘took our jobs’. With a proper economic system in place, it seems the robots could be instead just ‘doing our jobs’. As long as we’re the ones getting paid for it, who’s losing?

Yes, we’d need to find stuff to fill our days with post-work. We humans actually quite like work, and the identity/satisfaction/exercise it brings. And yes, the whole system would sure take some getting used to.

But I’m fascinated to see how the UBI conversation pans out – I think we can expect to hear a lot more about it in the coming years.

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