Preamble

I took the opportunity of this post to play around with AI-driven automatic translation tools. Therefore, two different English versions of this blog are available. In summary, I followed this process:

  • First, I wrote the post in English
  • Then I rewrote it in Italian
  • I automatically translated the Italian text into English
  • Before publication, I reviewed both English versions with a native speaker tutor.

For the sake of completion, I have published all three texts.

Human-written English version

Right before the explosion of the Covid-19 pandemic, I was triggered by my friend Marco to talk about some aspects of current Italian society. Specifically, we discussed the effects the elders have on the “general mood” of our national community. In our country, this cohort weighs significantly in the overall population [1] and seems to feel very uncomfortable and disoriented. In essence, I argued the discontentment snaking among elders is due to a fact that is inherently connected to the information age and its crazy technological development. I mean that modern technologies and devices, on one hand, are almost indispensable to do ordinary things and to be an active member of the community. On the other hand, they are often so complex to use that these people may feel marginalized and useless because they are afraid they can not be of any help any longer. This is a huge problem, which would be worthy of a dedicated blog post, but it is not what I want to talk about today. Marco and I, in fact, ended up talking about another thought-provoking issue, which is what kind of society awaits us. In particular, we chatted about the role of work — as we have known it — in the future. In this regard, I think that we are asymptotically heading toward a workless society, i.e. a society where very few people must work in order to keep it functioning.

Doing more with less — being it people, energy, natural resources, or anyelse — is an irreversible process, which is inherently part of technology and, after all, human laziness too. Artificial Intelligence and related technologies are further boosting this process, which is already marching at an unprecedented pace. The economist John Maynard Keynes even predicted a 15-hour working week by 2030. Nevertheless, the workless society will not become reality tomorrow. Technically, economically, and politically, it will require a true revolution to be arranged. Countries would need to engineer a clever wealth redistribution mechanism, for example. But what I think will be the most challenging issue is how human beings will deal with such a lifestyle from a psychological perspective. At first sight, everyone is amazingly happy when they are told they will not have to work anymore at some point in the future. It really sounds like heaven on earth. Would it really be so awesome? I am not that sure. I believe that, if not properly planned and governed, it could be a nightmare. How many of us would be able to keep our balance, physical and mental, if we did not need to work for a living? Think about it: you wake up in the morning and it is like a day off. Everyday. Three hundred sixty-five times a year. I am sure there are people who would find brilliant and exciting ways to spend their time: learning a lot of new things, volunteering for good causes, devouring tons of books they have never had time to read, etc. Are we all like this? I am afraid we are not. And what about those who would be replaced overnight by a stupid machine? How would they feel when realizing abruptly the job they were doing is not worthy of a human being anymore? Even in the society we have known for decades, we have blatant examples of how challenging it can be to live without working or rather without an activity that engages our mind. Think about how retirement works, for instance. Overnight, your daily routine is turned upside down. You start a sort of permanent vacation for which not all retirees are prepared. Many of them do not know how to keep themselves entertained throughout their days and end up spending the rest of their lives in front of a slot machine that engulfs their hard-earned pension. But the consequences may be even more dramatic. In some cases, retirees who attained self-achievement through their jobs die a few months after their last day at work because they experience retirement as a shocking loss they can not recover from [2].

These considerations lead to a more general question, which is philosophical/spiritual in nature and regards the purpose of our lives. In this respect, religions are very effective as they provide humans exhaustive, reassuring answers to the questions “Why am I here?” or “What is the purpose of my life?”. On the other hand, atheists usually argue that it is silly to ask ourselves those questions, and we do not need to necessarily have a metaphysical purpose to live well. Even if they are right and we can truly live a satisfying existence without a noble purpose, I believe everybody should start wondering how to manage their lives in a workless society in order to prevent a very insidious state of mind. Philosophers and thinkers have cautioned us about it because it might cause serious social issues — this state of mind is boredom.

If all the year were playing holidays, having fun would be as tedious as to work.

William Shakespeare

Work is less boring than amusing oneself.

Charles Baudelaire

[1] The median age in Italy is high (47.3 years at the time of this writing), but it is even more impressive how the Italian population has aged in the last 50 years.

[2] In this regard, the partial retirement mechanism available in Switzerland seems extremely smart.

Human-written Italian version

Poco prima dell’esplosione della pandemia di Covid-19, sono stato stimolato dal mio amico Marco a discutere su alcuni aspetti della società italiana contemporanea. Nello specifico, abbiamo parlato degli effetti che gli anziani hanno sullo stato d’animo generale della nostra comunità nazionale. Nel nostro paese, questa coorte anagrafica ha un peso significativo e sembra che si senta davvero a disagio e disorentata. In sintesi, ho sostenuto che questo malcontento diffuso serpeggi tra gli anziani a causa di un fatto connaturato all’era dell’informazione e al suo folle sviluppo tecnologico. Intendo dire che le tecnologie e i dispositivi moderni da una parte sono quasi indispensabili per fare anche le cose più comuni e addirittura per essere un membro attivo della comuità di appartenenza. Dall’altra parte, però, essi sono così complicati da ussre che queste persone possono sentirsi emarginate e inutili perché hanno la sensazione di non essere più in grado di contribuire alla comunità. La condizione degli anziani nella società contemporanea è chiaramente un problema enorme che meriterebbe un post a sé, ma non è questo questo di cui voglio parlare oggi. Io e Marco abbiamo infatti finito con il parlare di un’altra stimolante questione, ovvero che tipo di società ci aspetta. In particolare, abbiamo chiacchierato del ruolo che il lavoro — per come l’abbiamo conosciuto fino ad oggi — avrà nel futuro. Su questo tema, credo che stiamo asintoticamente tendendo verso una società senza lavoro, vale a dire una società in cui sarà sufficiente che pochissime persone lavorino perché essa possa continuare a funzionare regolarmente.

Fare di più con meno — che questo meno siano persone, energia, risorse naturali o altro — è un processo irreversibile, parte intrinseca della tecnologia e, dopo tutto, pure dell’umana pigrizia. L’intelligenza artificiale e le tecnologie ad essa collegate stanno ulteriormente accelerando questo processo che sta già marciando ad un ritmo senza precedenti. L’economista John Maynard Keynes aveva addirittura predetto che entro il 2030 la settimana lavorativa sarebbe stata di 15 ore. Ciononostante, la società senza lavoro non diventerà realtà domani. Tecnicamente, economicamente, politicamente, richiederà una vera rivoluzione per essere apparecchiata. Le nazioni dovranno concepire un ingegnoso meccanismo di redistribuzione della ricchezza, ad esempio. Ma quello che penso sarà la problematica più sfidante è come gli esseri umani maneggeranno un tale stile di vita da un punto di vista psicologico. A prima vista ognuno di noi è straordinariamente felice all’idea di non dover più lavorare a partire da un non ben precisato momento nel futuro. Sembra davvero il paradiso in terra. Sarebbe davvero tutto così meraviglioso? Non ne sarei così sicuro. Credo che potrebbe rivelarsi un vero incubo se non pianificato e governato a dovere. Quanti di noi sarebbero in grado di mantenere il proprio equilibrio, fisico e mentale, se non dovessimo lavorare per vivere? Proviamo a pensarci: ci si sveglia alla mattina ed è come un giorno di ferie. Ogni giorno. Trecentosessantacinque giorno l’anno. Sono certo che ci siano persone che troverebbero modi intelligenti ed eccitanti di trascorrere il tempo: imparerebbero cose nuove, farebbero del volontariato per nobili cause, divorerebbero tonnellate di libri che non hanno mai avuto il tempo di leggere, ecc. Siamo fatti tutti così? Temo di no. E che dire del contraccolpo psicologico che potrebbero subire alcune persone che si vedono sostituire dall’oggi al domani da una stupida macchina? Non potrebbero sentirsi svilite e mortificate nel realizzare bruscamente che fino a ieri hanno svolto una mansione non più ritenuta degna per un essere umano? Anche nella stessa società che abbiamo conosciuto per decenni abbiamo chiarissimi esempi di quanto possa essere complicato vivere senza dover lavorare o meglio senza avere un’attività che tenga impegnata la nostra mente attivamente. Proviamo a pensare a come funziona il pensionamento, a titolo di esempio. Improvvisamente, la propria routine giornaliera viene stravolta. Si inizia una sorta di vacanza permanente per la quale non tutti i pensionati sono pronti. Molti di loro non sanno come riempire le proprie giornate con attività interessanti e finiscono con il trascorrere il resto delle loro vite di fronte ad una slot machine che divora la loro pensione faticosamente conquistata. Ma le conseguenze possono essere ancora più drammatiche. In alcuni casi, i pensionati che si realizzavano tramite il proprio lavoro muoiono pochi mesi dopo il loro ultimo giorno lavorativo perché vivono il pensionamento come una perdita dal cui shock non riescono a riprendersi.

Queste considerazioni conducono ad una questione più generale, di natura filosofica e spirituale e che riguarda lo scopo delle nostre vite. In merito a questo, le religioni sono molto efficaci in quanto ci forniscono delle risposte esaustive e tranquillizzanti a domande come perché sono qui? oppure qual è lo scopo della mia vita? D’altra parte, gli atei solitamente sostengono che è sciocco porsi queste domande e che non abbiamo bisogno di avere necessariamente uno scopo metafisico per vivere bene. Anche nel caso abbiano ragione e si possa vivere una vita soddisfacente senza nobili scopi, tuttavia, credo che ognuno dovrebbe iniziare a chiedersi come gestire la propria vita in una società senza lavoro in modo da prevenire quell’insidioso stato d’animo sul quale filosofi e pensatori da sempre ci mettono in guardia e che potrebbe causare seri problemi sociali se diffuso endemicamente, la noia.

Se uno passasse tutto l’anno in vacanza, divertirsi sarebbe noioso come lavorare.

William Shakespeare

Lavorare è meno noioso che divertirsi.

Charles Baudelaire

[1] L’età mediana in Italia è alta (47,3 anni al momento della stesura di questo post), ma è ancora più impressionante come la popolazione italiana sia invecchiata negli ultimi 50 anni.

[2] A questo proposito, il meccanismo del pensionamento parziale disponibile in Svizzera sembra davvero ben congegnato.

Automatically translated English version

I fed the free version of DeepL Translator with the Italian text. This is what I got.


Shortly before the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, I was prompted by my friend Marco to discuss some aspects of contemporary Italian society. Specifically, we talked about the effects that the elderly have on the general mood of our national community. In our country, this demographic cohort makes up a large percentage of the population and seems to feel really uncomfortable and disorientated. In summary, I have argued that this widespread discontent swirls among seniors because of a fact inherent in the information age and its insane technological development. I mean that modern technologies and devices on the one hand are almost indispensable to do even the most common things and even to be an active member of the community to which one belongs. On the other hand, however, they are so complicated to use that these people can feel marginalized and useless because they feel that they are no longer able to contribute to the community. The plight of the elderly in contemporary society is clearly a huge issue that would deserve a post of its own, but that’s not what I want to talk about today. In fact, Marco and I ended up talking about another thought-provoking issue, which is what kind of society lies ahead. Specifically, we chatted about the role that work – as we’ve known it to date – will play in the future. On this topic, I believe that we are asymptotically trending toward a jobless society, that is, a society in which it will be enough for very few people to work for it to continue to function smoothly.

Doing more with less whether that less is people, energy, natural resources or anything else is an irreversible process, an intrinsic part of technology and, after all, characteristic of human laziness as well. Artificial intelligence and related technologies are further accelerating this process, which is already marching along at an unprecedented pace. Economist John Maynard Keynes even predicted that by 2030 the workweek would be 15 hours. Nevertheless, the jobless society will not become a reality tomorrow. Technically, economically, politically, it will require a real revolution to set up. Nations will have to devise an ingenious mechanism for redistributing wealth, for example. But what I think will be the most challenging issue is how human beings will handle such a lifestyle from a psychological point of view. At first glance, each of us would be extraordinarily happy at the idea of not having to work anymore starting at some unspecified point in the future. It really does seem like heaven on earth. Would everything really be so wonderful? I wouldn’t be so sure. I think it could turn out to be a real nightmare if not properly planned and governed. How many of us would be able to maintain our balance, physical and mental, if we didn’t have to work for a living? Let’s try to think about it: you wake up in the morning, and it’s like a day off. Every day. Three hundred and sixty-five days a year. I’m sure there are people who would find clever and exciting ways to spend their time: they’d learn new things, volunteer for noble causes, devour tons of books they never had the time to read, etc. Are we all made that way? I’m afraid not. and what about the psychological backlash that some people might experience when they see themselves replaced overnight by a stupid machine? Couldn’t they feel debased and mortified to realize abruptly that until yesterday they had been performing a task no longer considered worthy of a human being? Even in the same society that we have known for decades, we have very clear examples of how complicated it can be to live without having to work, or rather, without having an activity that keeps our minds actively engaged. Let’s try to think about how retirement works, as an example. Suddenly, one’s daily routine is turned upside down. A sort of permanent vacation begins for which not all retirees are ready. Many of them don’t know how to fill their days with interesting activities and end up spending the rest of their lives in front of a slot machine that devours their hard-won retirement savings. But the consequences can be even more dramatic. In some cases, retirees who were fulfilled through their work die a few months after their last day of work because they experience retirement as a loss, and they can never recover from this shock [2].

These considerations lead to a more general question that is philosophical and spiritual in nature and concerns the purpose of our lives. In this regard, religions are very effective in that they provide us with comprehensive and calming answers to questions such as “Why am I here?” or “What is the purpose of my life?”. On the other hand, atheists usually argue that it’s silly to ask these questions and that we don’t necessarily need to have a metaphysical purpose to live well. Even if they are right and we can live a satisfying life without noble purposes, I think everyone should start asking themselves how to manage their lives in a jobless society. This is important to prevent that insidious state of mind that philosophers and thinkers have always warned us about and that could cause serious social problems if endemic — we call this boredom.

If all the year were playing holidays, having fun would be as tedious as to work.

William Shakespeare

Work is less boring than amusing oneself.

Charles Baudelaire

[1] The median age in Italy is high (47.3 years at the time of writing this post), but it is even more impressive how the Italian population has aged over the last 50 years.

[2] In this regard, the partial retirement mechanism available in Switzerland seems really well thought out.

Credits

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash