In praise of idleness

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Bertrand Russell on work & idleness - and link to AI?

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Now, let's jump into it...

Work for work's sake is a virtue in our society. When we say 'I'm busy' we're often subtly showing off.

On the other hand, our leisure time has either become a compensation - we need to relax from work. Or, it's been infected by work-like busyness.

I read Bertrand Russel's article 'In Praise of Idleness' last year.

Russell's argument:

  • Work for its own sake should not be the highest goal of society; it's a means for leisure
  • The value of leisure has been underplayed by elite stories of the virtue of work
  • Work should be limited to 4 hours a day
  • More leisure will lead to more happiness, original ideas, peace

In a sentence:

"I think that there is far too much work done in the world, that immense harm is caused by the belief that work is virtuous, and that what needs to be preached in modern industrial countries is quite different from what always has been preached."

I've re-read his article recently and, this time, I read it like a pamphlet for how society could work in the age of AI. It's a debate I'm missing in politics and society at large.

At the very least, it's a question we should ask ourselves. AI will disrupt our work and we'll need to reconsider how much we value our work and leisure - and how to fill each one up.

What are your thoughts?

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📚 What I read & listen to

In Praise of Idleness, by Bertrand Russell

🖋️ My favourite quote

"What fools call 'wasting time' is most often the best investment." - Nicholas Taleb in The Bed of Procrustes