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Work and meaning in the age of AI

26.01.2023
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According to B.Nicker

It is quite obvious that work is not only a source of income, but partly the meaning of human life. However, this relationship is not as stable as it is usually assumed: by its nature, there is a noticeable heterogeneity both among workers today and in past times. However, this relationship is extremely important for policy makers and economists who are concerned about the impact of technology on work. In the short term, this is important for predicting the future state of the labor market. For example, the relationship between profitability and the employee's sense of self-importance is important for understanding how artificial intelligence (AI) affects not only the quantity of work, but also its quality: new technologies can undermine the meaning people get from their work.

In the medium term, if jobs are lost, this interconnection also has implications for the development of bold policy projects such as Universal Basic Income and Job Guarantee Programs: their design and any choice between them depends heavily on -often tacit - Assumptions of politicians about the nature of the relationship between work and its meaning for a person. Labor policy makers must decide whether to simply focus on making up for lost income (as is the case with the Universal Basic Income) or, if they believe that work is an important and irreplaceable source of meaning, on protecting jobs and their social role. . The key question here is whether it is enough for an unemployed person to simply compensate for the income lost along with work, or whether this will not be enough to maintain his social adequacy. Moreover, such questions are relevant in the age of AI, when many functions will be automated and even busy workers can perform actions whose meaning is not clear to them.

The new situation that is emerging in the labor market, and more broadly, in society, associated with an increase in the level of well-being and new technological opportunities, may challenge fundamental liberal values, when even a sufficiently prosperous life cannot compensate for the lack of a person’s right to a meaningful life, the right to be a full participant of social process.

 

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