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What Happens If Workers Become Obsolete?

Precision fitters and assemblers at work in the Ministry of Labour Training Centre at Waddon, England on May 19, 1931. Here, in a large factory building, miners from the depressed mining areas all over the country are being trained for entirely new jobs in a scheme which aims to cut unemployment figures. (AP)
Precision fitters and assemblers at work in the Ministry of Labour Training Centre at Waddon, England on May 19, 1931. Here, in a large factory building, miners from the depressed mining areas all over the country are being trained for entirely new jobs in a scheme which aims to cut unemployment figures. (AP)

The rapid rise in technology and machines has some experts predicting that workers could become obsolete. As Derek Thompson writes in a cover article for The Atlantic, futurists have often looked at this in a positive way — with people having more free time for leisure.

But there are of course questions of what it would mean economically, and also culturally. Thompson writes that it would bring about a great social and cultural transformation.

“Industriousness has served as America’s unofficial religion since its founding,” he writes. “The sanctity and preeminence of work lie at the heart of the country’s politics, economics and social interactions. What might happen if work goes away?”

Thompson speaks with Here & Now’s Jeremy Hobson about some of the implications.

Guest

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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