Dog Workers

  • May 24, 2024

Doug Casey – the columnist – was interviewed recently about (among other things) artificial intelligence. He was asked whether he thought AI would be good or bad for most of us – and answered that he thought it would be better for most of us, because (among other things) it would free all of us from what he styled “dog work,” by which he meant – I think – physical rather than brain work.

No more factory workers. No more working in the fields. Nor more making things or driving things from where they’re made to where they’re sold; no more people at stores handling sales.

Just machines – with artificial intelligence – doing all of that “dog work.”

The people who used to work will thus be freed from having to work. But is it a good thing for people to not have to work? To have nothing productive to do? To no longer feel the feelings associated with earning one’s daily bread? And who will provide their daily bread once it is no longer necessary to work to earn it?

Well, the machines, of course. But who will control these machines? And will they provide what the machines create and distribute for free?

Perhaps yes, in the monetary sense (as well as the freedom from having to work for it sense). But to imagine, as Doug appears to imagine, that it will all be free is another thing indeed.

There will be the cost of dependence, for one.

On the machines, at the least. People will forget how to do things. The rising generation will never learn. People will stagnate – and regress. H.G. Wells described this in his novel, The Time Machine. People with no work to do tend to have nothing to do other than have fun all the time, which is what children like to do.

Adult “children” who never grow up.

And there will be dependence on those (the few) who will inevitably control the machines and by dint of that be in a position to exercise a degree of control over the people who used to work for to earn their independence heretofore unimaginable. In order to be allowed your daily bread, the people will be obliged to do as they are told. And they will probably mostly do exactly that as the helplessness and passivity that will attend the loss of their own value as productive people will engender the dull obedience of the slave, who has no control over his life or his daily bread.

Only this time, the masters will be those who control the machines. Or – even more daunting – the machines themselves. Imagine being at the mercy of an intelligent machine that calculates your value and assigns your destiny as a human keeper of bees might.

Without the humanity.

Doug also makes the mistake that many people like Doug make in that Doug is a brain worker who thinks (apparently) that everyone else is one also. Or could be one. Here we get into one of the Untouchable topics of our era – which is that millions of people are not capable of brain-work of the type that Doug does. The kind of work that can’t be done by smart machines, such as the creative work of individuals gifted with a unique talent not (yet) easily replicated by or performed with equivalence by a machine. This is not to say – by any means – that physical workers are brainless. It takes brains to do almost any productive work, including menial work.

Honorable, productive work is often denigrated by brain workers, however.

Some style it “dog work.”

Meaning, they would rather not have to do it and thank God they don’t have to do it – because they are able to do the “brain work” that enables them to pay others to do the “dog work.” They imagine – understandably – that everyone else would like to be in the same position.

But while brain workers can do “dog work” if they have to – assuming they’re not too old or otherwise physically unable to do it, which can apply to anyone regardless of their brains – it is foolish – it is dangerous –  to believe that most “dog workers” can become the kind of brain workers that are lauding the end of “dog work.”

Many will not just have no work to do.

They will have nothing to do. Put another way, they will have no purpose – other than to exist and consume. They will require something to do. More finely, something will be required to keep them interested in proportion to the degree to which they become jaded and bored by having nothing to do except consume – and play – just like little children who are provided for by their parents. With the difference being these “children” will never be expected to grow up – because growing up will no longer be necessary.

Aldous Huxley wrote about this superficially appealing vision of The Future in his novel, Brave New World – in which things seem easy but are in fact rather hard precisely because everything is soft.

Or so it seems.

But Huxley’s novel presented a kinder version of the future than the one that may be in store for “dog workers” when they are no longer needed because they no longer produce and so constitute a burden on the few remaining brain workers, who may decide they don’t need to keep so many “dog workers” around (let alone reproducing new ones).

When a thing is no longer needed that no longer has any value, what does one usually do with that thing? One throws that thing away. When human beings no longer have any value – when their existence constitutes a drain on resources – what do you suppose will be done with them, by machines with intelligence but without humanity?

Machines, put over humanity, by people lacking it.

. . .

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