We live in a world where we’re given a thousand different choices, all designed to make us as happy, contented and comfortable as possible. For many people, comfort can become a Dominant Value. Everything from ready meals, to escalators, to one-click shopping is designed to make our life easier. But at the same time we are living in a world that is rapidly cognitively stratifying. As manufacturing is taken up by developing countries, in the first world we expect that everybody should be capable of, and interested in doing, ‘value-added’ cognitive work instead.
The importance of motivation
While on paper this sounds good — working with our heads sounds easier than working with our hands — we are finding we are having to work harder and harder, and study longer and longer even for the simplest job. Electric lighting and caffeine have extended the hours during which we are supposed to perform at our peak. There is simply more competition and more demand for us all to perform at our cognitive potential for more of the time. And unlike with physical jobs, we are finding that we can’t just shut off from cognitive work either.
Automation is now coming for professional jobs too: if you think you can go to university and get a good white-collar job and be safe from automation, think again. Repetitive mental tasks are easier to automate than labour is. There’s a reason why we have accounting and legal software but no robot ...