This is something I’ve thought about a lot, especially considering the next fifty years or so. I find Rushkoff’s answer in the final paragraphs a little hazy, but I guess it’s asking a bit much of a “media theorist” to solve the future.
So the question is this – if we manage to develop to such a state of existence that most means of earning money are extinguished…what’s left to do with our lives? This is such a terrifyingly fundamental question, especially since so many people define themselves by their work. My grandad refuses to retire, despite being well into his 80s just because he wouldn’t know what to make of himself afterwards. It’s not about the money, it’s about finding value in your existence through a job. That’s why so many people I know are obsessed with job status, and end up working in media.
Rushkoff’s suggestion that we dedicate ourselves to creativity and live off the quality of ideas, not the labour of our hands is, at best, a stop-gap and at worst no solution at all. 30 million people working in these isles can make 30 million movies, but it doesn’t mean we’ll all watch them. So when most work is done by machines, do we tack to a hard line libertarian wind and adopt a true survival of the fittest ideal when it comes to work. Not smart enough? Don’t have the right contacts? Hit the road, buddy, and die there. Or a quasi-commie, provide for everyone on a basic level, and let every shiny thing you want be a reward for anything you can scratch together?
When those are your options, The Matrix doesn’t look so bad after all – I think people would volunteer for it. Use my body for power, oh Machine Overlords, just give me a purposeful life…