50th St. Gallen Symposium "Freedom Revisited": 7–8 May 2020


Work as an homeopaticum, or: Will we share the (blessed?) destiny of horses?

In line with Nietzsche, it has to be said and it cannot be repeated often enough: The God of economics is dead. This God is non-existent. There is no invisible hand. There are only our hands, right hand and left hand, and they can do good and evil. With these hands – enhanced and empowered in our times of digitalisation, the initial stages of transhumanism and final stages of economic growth – we will rebuild our world.

The God of economics is dead.

Work will – in some form – remain. Even Tolkien's Elves work, and the extraterrestrial civilisations of Star Trek still work as well, though there are drastically different from ours. A big part of our jobs today did not exist a generation ago, and a similar trend is to be expected, perhaps even in an exponential form. Work, in the classical meaning of the word, will most likely turn into an homeopaticum – a (dubious) medical concept, which holds that a small portion of something unhealthy is considered healthy. We no longer toil in agriculture like we used to in ancient times, but a “little bit of agriculture” (like home-grown tomatoes) will be very popular. It is considered healthy and soothing, it connects one with nature and many other hipster properties. These home-grown tomatoes are much more costly than store-bought versions, so one is actually paying extra for the luxury of being able to work on them ourselves. Another example would be hard work in the forest which has been replaced by its homeopaticum: shaping ornamental bonsai trees.

Work will – in some form – remain.

“Will we go the way of horses?” In other words, will we be used for pleasure and sports but no longer for work? This is an ongoing debate among economists, but not so much among tech-entrepreneurs and our fellow geeks, who are restlessly working on AI, blockchain, gamification, and virtual reality – or, as philosophers call it – real virtuality. We once lived and worked in the forest. Today, we visit the forest once or twice a year, to sort of relax, but we don’t live there anymore. Our habitat is in cities. And maybe in 10 or 20 years, we visit reality in the same way. It will be like going to the forest today: once, twice, three times a year, just to feel “more real”.

“Will we go the way of horses?”