Chapter 1

This Thing We Call Work

Once upon a time, long, long ago, we humans made our living working the land. We labored for ourselves, and the effort we put into our work was clearly tied to what we got out of it. If we planted seeds, we’d harvest a crop. But life then was tough, often grueling. When things went well, we could see our hard work pay off—though, too often it didn’t; droughts and storms and unrelenting cold weather would come along more often than we could bear, wreaking havoc on our crops and destroying all we’d worked so hard to create.

As we evolved, we became more sophisticated. We designed massive production assembly lines to manufacture everything under the sun. By now, more often than not, we worked for someone else, earning wages by the hour, which dramatically improved our economic outlook and offered security and consistency. And we took pride in our work; we could see that the wheels we built or the chassis we helped to assemble produced a beautiful car down the line. It wasn’t a rich life, but we were no longer impoverished.

But, alas, we evolved again. Rather than working with our hands, we started working with our minds. Our minds dreamed up a grand new reality, one in which the world was connected as never before. We built robots to assemble our cars, developed methods to modify the crops to become more weather resistant, and invented countless ways to automate our lives and make things profoundly easier. We organized the world’s information, to ...

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