Netflix and Chill for Life: What Happens When AI Takes Over Our Jobs?

Technology

Netflix and Chill for Life: What Happens When AI Takes Over Our Jobs?

Illustration: Arati Gujar

It may only be Tuesday, but chances are, you’re already starting to grow tired of dreary office life. Don’t worry, a well-deserved weekend is only three days away — three days until you cancel your dentist appointment and pretend to clean out your closet; three days before you end up sitting around in your sweatpants, binging Netflix shows and shame-eating pizza.

Look, I don’t mean to come across as judgmental. After all, my weekends, too, are filled with grandiose ideas for my own productivity and self-improvement. But when Friday rolls around, they are nearly always sacrificed at the altar of doing sweet fuckall. Most of us blame burnout, screen fatigue, or the fact that being a good conversationalist now requires you to have a meme-level understanding of six seasons of Brooklyn Nine-Nine.

My theory on our shared social laziness, however, is a little more high-falutin, involving, as it does, a perfect storm of technology, labour, and evolution. The case for automation at work has been made many times by very smart, scientific people, and by now, the prospect of robots and AI taking over an alarming number of jobs is an inevitability. This paradigm shift in production is the main reason why countries from Canada to India are floating the idea of minimum basic income, realising that there one day simply won’t be enough work to go around for humans.

But what does it mean for our own ideas of productivity? Technology has already saved humanity from tons of shitty, repetitive labour, like doing the laundry by hand, and cooking over fires that we have to build ourselves. Now, we’ve only got to press a few buttons on an app to get any food we can imagine delivered to our doorsteps, cooking be damned. A reasonably priced robot vacuum can do your housecleaning. We have phones to keep track of our appointments, schedules, and our to-do lists that somehow, are ever-growing, even as more of our work is taken up by technology.

Still, the four-day week is already coming into fashion among social scientists, and surely it’s only a matter of time before work becomes optional altogether.

And other, formerly essential life skills are dying out, too. If you’re under the age of 30, can you imagine having to read a map, without a calm AI voice telling you where to go? How about handwriting, or even typing out an email when you could just dictate it to your virtual assistant? How long before the friendly voice in our phone morphs into an AI hologram, like in the webseries A.I.SHA? Self-learning and capable of answering any question you could think of, A.I.SHA is objectively better than us squishy, mediocre humans at 99 per cent of life. With a virtual assistant like A.I.SHA, it won’t be long before even your thinking can be outsourced to a robot.

But this is a distant vision of the future. For the moment, most of us are stuck slogging through the work week just to finance our weekend indolence. Still, the four-day week is already coming into fashion among social scientists, and surely it’s only a matter of time before work becomes optional altogether. So in a world where robots run shit and humans have unlimited free time, will every day be like the weekend — a snoozefest where we do nothing at all?

Maybe that’s where civilisation has been destined to go all along. Human progress has always been a journey towards doing the least work possible, whether it’s the invention of the convenient, easy-to-use wheel, or the robots who will swab our floors and spoon-feed us our cornflakes each morning. The real pinnacle of human achievement, then, is the ability to sit at home without a thought, munching on pizza and binging Netflix.

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