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In Praise of Idleness (1932) (harpers.org)
255 points by okbrant 57 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 170 comments

I cite this paper every chance I can get. Bertand would be rolling in his grave now about the current situation where we've gone completely in the opposite direction.

Here's a Buckminster Fuller quote that I also like to share: "We should do away with the absolutely specious notion that everybody has to earn a living. It is a fact today that one in ten thousand of us can make a technological breakthrough capable of supporting all the rest. The youth of today are absolutely right in recognizing this nonsense of earning a living. We keep inventing jobs because of this false idea that everybody has to be employed at some kind of drudgery because, according to Malthusian Darwinian theory he must justify his right to exist. So we have inspectors of inspectors and people making instruments for inspectors to inspect inspectors. The true business of people should be to go back to school and think about whatever it was they were thinking about before somebody came along and told them they had to earn a living." ― R. Buckminster Fuller

Neither of these guys were "slackers" and were brilliant men so it's probably a bit scary for the media that the antiwork movement is gaining steam and no, it's not just a bunch of freeloading millennials.

I made a comment to a friend tonight about how odd it is that workplaces seem to be acting irrationally by just demanding more of people and trying to increase their grip, when I realize it's honestly just like an abusive relationship. It would rationally help the business to foster loyalty and cooperation in this type of market but instead the narrative is "NO ONE WANTS TO WORK" and people who have been loyal in positions for many years are just being treated like dirt because their control and narrative is being questioned...and that's pretty much exactly what happens in an abusive relationship when someone tries to leave, the abuser cracks down harder. Utterly bizarre to see such irrational behavior though.

Connected maybe to the excerpt you mentioned, here is this excerpt (hopefully not too nihilistic or pessimistic) from E.M. Cioran - who seems to have become so apparent to me this past year - and his aphorism-filled, philosophical book titled The Trouble With Being Born:

"A zoologist who observed gorillas in their native habitat was amazed by the uniformity of their life and their vast idleness. Hours and hours without doing anything. Was boredom unknown to them? This is indeed a question raised by a human, a busy ape. Far from fleeing monotony, animals crave it, and what they most dread is to see it end. For it ends, only to be replaced by fear, the cause of all activity. Inaction is divine; yet it is against inaction that man has rebelled. Man alone, in nature, is incapable of enduring monotony, man alone wants something to happen at all costs — something, anything. Thereby he shows himself unworthy of his ancestor: the need for novelty is the characteristic of an alienated gorilla."

I'm so happy that I got introduced to Emile Cioran by Stephen Wests podcast. No philosopher or idea has more clearly expressed what I've been feeling and thinking about. But alas talking about nihilism is pointless so there's not much more to say.

>talking about nihilism is pointless


It is by Talking and Thinking about it that we are forced to face Reality. This leads to true "Enlightenment" and allows us to develop our own unique path to a "Philosophy of Life". I think of Nihilism as the backdrop against which we paint our chosen "Schools of Philosophy". One needs to be very aware of this important difference. IMO, it is better to live with Unpleasant Reality than Pleasant Fancy.

The following passage from The Sea-Wolf by Jack London nicely illustrates this dichotomy;


As he went on his voice again grew soft, and a confiding note came into it. “Do you know, I sometimes catch myself wishing that I, too, were blind to the facts of life and only knew its fancies and illusions. They’re wrong, all wrong, of course, and contrary to reason; but in the face of them my reason tells me, wrong and most wrong, that to dream and live illusions gives greater delight. And after all, delight is the wage for living. Without delight, living is a worthless act. To labour at living and be unpaid is worse than to be dead. He who delights the most lives the most, and your dreams and unrealities are less disturbing to you and more gratifying than are my facts to me.”

He shook his head slowly, pondering.

“I often doubt, I often doubt, the worthwhileness of reason. Dreams must be more substantial and satisfying. Emotional delight is more filling and lasting than intellectual delight; and, besides, you pay for your moments of intellectual delight by having the blues. Emotional delight is followed by no more than jaded senses which speedily recuperate. I envy you, I envy you.”

He stopped abruptly, and then on his lips formed one of his strange quizzical smiles, as he added:

“It’s from my brain I envy you, take notice, and not from my heart. My reason dictates it. The envy is an intellectual product. I am like a sober man looking upon drunken men, and, greatly weary, wishing he, too, were drunk.”

“Or like a wise man looking upon fools and wishing he, too, were a fool,” I laughed.

“Quite so,” he said. “You are a blessed, bankrupt pair of fools. You have no facts in your pocketbook.”

“Yet we spend as freely as you,” was Maud Brewster’s contribution.

“More freely, because it costs you nothing.”

“And because we draw upon eternity,” she retorted.

“Whether you do or think you do, it’s the same thing. You spend what you haven’t got, and in return you get greater value from spending what you haven’t got than I get from spending what I have got, and what I have sweated to get.”


PS: You might find the book Philosophy in a Meaningless Life: A System of Nihilism, Consciousness and Reality by James Tartaglia interesting.

Absolutely. Thanks for this. It's telling to me how dismissive/judgemental are about nihilism, and that's been a good signal for me in other areas that it's getting a lot closer to a basic truth and people are threatened with it and want to push it away. Which is what we shouldn't be doing.

Optimistic Nihilism (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MBRqu0YOH14) or Absurdism (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jQOfbObFOCw) are maybe more accessible takes if nihilism seems too "scary".

Of course there's plenty to say and ponder, I was trying to be clever.

Thanks for the quote, It's been ages since I had my jack London phase but I guess he's worth revisiting.

Brings to mind McGilchrist's "The Master and his Emissary". I wonder what London would have made of that analysis.

This (beautifully written idea) may be the point, to me.

I Don’t like to work. I Like free time. But i know more than enough people who are just unable to stay still with themselves.

Could it be that society (by emergent behaviour) has actually turned up like this (with basically mandatory work and no free time) to cope with this necessity of most people to not be still?

Russel dismisses the possibility of this being the case, but it doesn’t feel completely far fetched to me.

In that case, it’s bad news for the ones who’d work less, because the ones willing to work more will always have more power- and they’re usually not afraid to use it…

This was also put forth by Pascal: "All of humanity's problems stem from man's inability to sit quietly in a room alone."

Of course, some people would probably quote Shaw in response "The reasonable man adapts himself to the world: the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man." and say that this doesn't always manifest as a bug, rather a feature.

The Anti work movement seems mostly driven by US "unreasonablism" in the work place. 1 week holiday, unreasonable manager overreach, politics over competence, unworkable financial pressures on everyday people like medical and student debt etc. Shit is fucked, yo.

It's actually worse than that in the US. NO mandated vacation time (not even public holidays), no paid maternity leave, at-will employment, minimal labour laws, minimal consumer protections, etc.

When I was a kid, I supposed that robots and automation would make drudgery obsolete, and people would only work if they wanted to. Increasing productivity would mean that everyone had access to the necessities of life, and even some of the luxuries.

How wrong I was. Sure, the robots and the automation turned up, as I had anticipated; but the benefits were taken as profits by corporations, and people didn't gain any leisure time at all.

I think we were all betrayed.

I wonder to what extent my opinions as a kid were formed by finding In Praise Of Idleness on my mother's bookshelf.

Adam Curtis's short documentary series "All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace" explores this idea beautifully, and where we went wrong.

That is a remarkable documentary.

  > We keep inventing jobs because of this false idea that everybody has to be employed at some kind of drudgery because, according to Malthusian Darwinian theory he must justify his right to exist. So we have inspectors of inspectors and people making instruments for inspectors to inspect inspectors.
its like the thesis of bulls*t jobs right there in the simplest of terms...

> Neither of these guys were "slackers" and were brilliant men so it's probably a bit scary for the media that the antiwork movement is gaining steam and no, it's not just a bunch of freeloading millennials.

I don't know, my impression of antiwork is only through seeing some posts from the subreddit on the reddit front page. It comes across as "anti-my-job-specifically" or "I have problems at work so nobody should work" or "inequality exists so I shouldn't work". I really don't get the point of the whole thing. It's understandable that people will take the opportunity to complain about stuff but the overwhelming majority of those people aren't Bertrand Russell, not even close. It's a group of people who have found an audience to complain to - they have real problems but they're coming to all sorts of stupid conclusions fueled by groupthink.

It's a bit like Feminist consciousness-raising in the 60s and 70s. Women started getting together and realising "my problems are not specific to me, my family, my marriage. We're all experiencing the same sorts of things."

I recommend ignoring everything on the front page of Reddit or at most treating it strictly as entertainment. Stuff only gets up there if a large group of people understand it and like it, which means almost all "discussion" that gets up there are one-sided rants that lots of people wanted to hear. A global popularity contest is a game of numbers that doesn't favour subtle goods like truth or intellectual challenge.

Go work for your local Amazon fulfillment center / Walmart / McDonald's for 2 months. Let the manager know you really need the job for healthcare and 40hrs to make rent.

You'll either be fired before the 2 months (which would have serious consequences for most people) or experience horrible abuse.

The antiwork subreddit is now too popular and the signal to noise ratio has therefore dropped sharply. If you want to have some impression of why work can be criticized, In Praise of Idleness is much more interesting.

Nobody Goes There Anymore, It’s Too Crowded


I would suggest reading Bob Black's The Abolition of Work and Other Essays, which is in the sidebar along with other antiwork books. He is both brilliant and very funny as he cuts through the bullshit around work and other topics. I especially enjoy his essay The Libertarian as Conservative http://www.inspiracy.com/black/abolition/libertarian.html

The thing I wanted to do was science. I did a bachelor's and recently finished a master's in ecology (academic, I am not in the US). However, I was constantly anxious and in financial distress because, well, academia is not really financially stable and I do not have anyone to fall back to. So I decided to move into programming because it pays better and the job is, in comparison to academia, financially more stable so you won't run out of funds in a couple of years.

The thing is I really like programming and tinkering with computers (it was a big part of my masters) so it is a job I really like doing. However, there was something in research that made my mind itches when you got to follow your own questions and get a glimpse of an animals' life.

In the end, I am still torn out a bit about wanting to go back to academia or pursuing other career paths and I tough it resonated with your quote.

Although this ignores how important minor improvements are. It's easy to assume that only Nobel Laureates and the like are important without realizing that they depend on hundreds or thousands of minor scientists who make the discoveries needed for the big ones.

> it's honestly just like an abusive relationship

Yes. I'd go even further and say it's just another form of slavery. The lash just happens to be economic in nature rather than physical. Of course the slave owners don't want the slaves to stop serving them.

In my opinion, this is an uncreative misuse of the term "slavery". Words have meanings, and slavery doesn't mean "someone with a shitty job", it means "someone who is fully owned by someone else".

I recognize that you're just trying to further a leftist "boo companies" narrative, but even if your employer treats you badly and you're hard pressed to imagine an alternative job, your employer does not own you and you are more free in your choices than any slave has ever been.

I recognize that there are jobs that are modern slavery (eg banana plantations), but I don't think that's the kinds of jobs this threat is about. The context is tech employees, or even amazon warehouse workers etc, and even when those are bad, it's not slavery.

I'm not trying to further a narrative, I'm stating my opinion. The fact we're more free today doesn't matter, we're still compelled to work if we wish to avoid misery. Your employer regulates your actions, your speech. If you aren't financially independent and can't afford to quit your job, your employer has so much leverage over you that they do pretty much own you.

Worst part is when capitalism finally automates itself into irrelevance we won't get a post scarcity society, we'll get some cyberpunk dystopia with corporations inventing artificial economies for the sake of maintaining the status quo of continuous consumption.

> The fact we're more free today doesn't matter, we're still compelled to work if we wish to avoid misery.

This is part of the human condition. Goods don't magically appear out of thin air (at least not yet) - they're created by directed action, i.e. - work. By your definition, every human that exists and have ever existed is/was a slave.

> By your definition, every human that exists and have ever existed is/was a slave.

Not every human has or had to work in order to have their needs met. The elites have always existed and it seems they will continue to exist.

That's not really related to my point, which was that your definition of slavery is a non sequitur.

Of course it is. You asserted that by my definition every human was a slave. This is obviously false since there is a minority that managed to free themselves from this suffering somehow. They make others do the work for them.

People with means also have to work to preserve their position - at the very least they need to navigate laws, invest smartly, be on the lookout for possible political upheavals etc. Nothing is free, and wealth preservation can be a lot of worry in itself. Just ask anyone in the FIRE subreddit.

Of course, technically you're right - there will always exist a minority of people who were so wealthy (and lucky) that, even though they didn't care about wealth preservation, their wealth didn't run out before they died. If, in addition, these people inherited all their wealth (as opposed to doing any work to obtain it), then they are the (only) non-slaves by your definition, proving that not EVERYONE is a slave.

An excellent point. Only 99% of all people are slaves.

Still, calling people like Warren Buffet or Steve Jobs (none of them inherited wealth) "slaves" severely misses the point.

But the only one who did that was you.

Slavery is so much more than employers having leverage.

To be clear I also don’t like or care for the current hyper consumption in our capitalist society, but this coercive behavior isn’t slavery and we should limit the term to people that are currently under suffer under human trafficking.

Well, I just don't see the distinction. Workers will also travel to places they don't want to be in. I just looked these ideas up and it turns out they're centuries old. I'm far from the first person to notice this.


Wage slavery is much different and I do t have an issue with that term- its well established to describe a specific phenomenon of coercive relationship with the employer. I have an issue broadly with describing it as slavery itself, given slavery in the classical sell-your-children, force-people-to-sex, trap-people-in-your-house-for-unpaid-housekeeping sense still exists and needs addressing.

Slavery has many types and as the Yes Men pointed out in their leisure wear for the future managerial class, one of the most efficient forms of slavery is wage slavery. There are many other forms of slavery that differ from chattel slavery and while I prefer better conditions of my enslavement, being forced to work for others in order to eat and live is still slavery. The conditions which people must navigate in the modern world to survive are not natural and are purposefully set up in order to force people to work for the benefit of others in order to survive. There are many good arguments that wage slavery is still slavery and they are not all a leftist take on things.

But the important thing is not whether something is labeled slavery but rather looking at the dynamic where someone coerces another to spend their time working for someone else. Labeling the dynamic based on the amount of time and degree of suffering is counterproductive. I think most of us can agree that reducing how much that dynamic is in play in the world is ideally a goal for any civilized society. And that the current amount that people are forced to work for the benefit of others is far more than they need to for their own well-being and the wellbeing of society. The amount of labor many, many people are coerced to perform is used as a control mechanism as often as it is for productivity, and in some countries, its use as a mechanism of control rivals productivity as its primary purpose.

We don't fully own people anymore, we just lease them for a while.

That way ensuring they are provided the necessities of life becomes some else's problem. Less liability.

So you prefer owning people? Or you just object to work? It's not clear what you are advocating for. We live in a world where people need three square meals a day, they want heating and transportation and energy, and other people have to work every day to provide those services.

It seems a bit entitled to be moaning about the fact that one must work to survive in life -- that's kind of how this whole life thing works.

The important thing is not whether something is labeled slavery but rather looking at the dynamic where someone coerces another to spend their time working for someone else. Labeling the dynamic based on the amount of time and degree of suffering is counterproductive. I think most of us can agree that reducing how much that dynamic is in play in the world is ideally a goal for any civilized society. And that the current amount that people are forced to work for the benefit of others is far more than they need to for their own well-being and the wellbeing of society. The amount of labor many, many people are coerced to perform is used as a control mechanism as often as it is for productivity, and in some countries, its use as a mechanism of control rivals productivity as its primary purpose.

The problem is when you start classifying voluntary exchange as coercive, then language loses meaning and you can start reaching really dysfunctional and foolish conclusions.

So no, needing to provide a good that someone is willing to pay for in exchange for getting a good that you want to pay for is not "coercive". It is not slavery. It is a recognition of the fact that humans constantly need support from others. We are dependent on each other. Animals need to hunt every day. That's not coercion, its dependency on the environment. Humans are dependent on each other. That means we have to do stuff we may not feel like doing, but that others are willing to pay us to do. But the only reason you need to work is to get money, and the only reason you need money is to buy a good or service provided by someone else. If you start calling that "slavery" or "coercion", then you are distorting the language, and the only reason to play language games like this is to deceive, not to get to the truth of the matter or make any meaningful, practical, improvement.

So if you feel that, for example, modern industrial economies are too bureaucratic and have too many paperwork jobs, or if you feel inflation is unfair, or that wages are too low, then just discuss those issues. Don't twist the language to try to call needing to work "slavery" - which is a highly charged term - in order to hope that this type of rhetoric will get you over the finish line. The questions of things like wages and pensions and working standards are too important to be subject to this type of polarizing linguistic obfuscation.

> The problem is when you start classifying voluntary exchange as coercive

Is it really voluntary though? Without money, you'll starve, lose your home, etc. People need to get a job and make money.

Voluntary is when I sit down at my computer to hack on some project for fun. I'd do this all day but unfortunately I have to work.

> Humans are dependent on each other.

> That means we have to do stuff we may not feel like doing, but that others are willing to pay us to do.

If you have to do anything at all, you're being coerced. Being forced to work for someone else is slavery. All that's changed is the means of coercion: it used to be force, now it's debt.

> "slavery" - which is a highly charged term

The fact the term has connotations doesn't matter. The similarities are there, so I will call it what it is.

I understand there is this religion of "liberation" in which being bound by the law of entropy or subject to electroweak forces is considered coercion and slavery.

That is not what these terms mean. Man is a limited creature dependent on and subject to many things by necessity of being real rather than a mind object. He is also subject to biology, geography, customs, etc. Those who attempt to rip man out of these constraints in the name of liberation always fail and in the process hurt humanity just as lifting a fish out of water to "liberate" it from being dependent on water is doome to fail and to hurt the fish.

> If you have to do anything at all, you're being coerced

So you are coerced into needing air to breathe. You are a slave of entropy. This is not what these terms mean. Words like "coercion" or "slavery" refer to an actual person forcing you to do something that you could conceivably not do if they didn't intervene. If you expand the definition to coercion to include the second law of thermodynamics, then everying is being coerced and the word loses all meaning. Another attempt to lift the fish.

The only the reason you need money is to get something from someone else. So if you can't get that thing voluntarily, you need to coerce them into giving it to you by force so that you can be "liberated" from paying for it. In other words, you are defining liberation (for you) as coercion (of the other) and freedom from coercion (for you) as slavery (for the other). But even this wont work because it takes a great deal of effort to coerce someone into giving you stuff for free, and that effort itself is work which you need to do yourself or pay someone else with money to do. So it is inescapable -- getting that sandwich always requires work:

We don't live in a universe in which things like food appear out of nothing (entropy again) but they require effective effort to create, and money is just one technology we use to track that effective effort, also called work. This basic fact is just the result of electro-weak forces and entropy. Complaining about being subject to these forces as "coercion" or "slavery" serves only to obfuscate.

There are real slaves still in the world - Libya has open-air slave markets - and there was real slavery in the past.

Saying "I'm a slave, too, because I can't get free sandwiches" damages what the word "slavery" means and hurts the language.

Similarly declaring yourself subject to "coercion" because you are subject to the laws of physics makes everything subject to coercion and thus the word is rendered meaningless, making it harder for people actually undergoing coercion to be helped.

So please try to help rather than hurt. Please use the words in their commonly understood meaning if you intend to engage in productive discussion rather than in destruction.

The Yes Men pointed this out explicitly in their presentation to the WTO on Leisure Wear for Managers of the Future. The golden penis suit was just the cherry on top.


>Of course the slave owners don't want the slaves to stop serving them.

Even if they did, we'd all starve if it happened in an unorganised way. I'm toying with a postindustrial fiction setting where one of the libertarian-inspired factions is explicit about this - capitalists whose highest value is freedom, where anyone can mint as much currency as they like, but it's backed by hours working as a slave. The eventual goal of the society is to have nobody redeem slave-tokens any more, but of course a lot of people's individual goals are more about accumulating as many slave-tokens as possible. I think it would take that kind of massive collective intelligence to really solve such a fundamental contradiction like our love for freedom and our love of telling other people what to do.

It's impossible to resolve this contradiction when an economy exists. The ambition to accumulate wealth and secure independence immediately manifests itself. The solution is to automate everything and free humanity from want permanently. When everything is abundant, there is no need to economize: post scarcity.

Post-scarcity is a noble goal! But a lot of people seem to put the cart before the horse and imagine eliminating the economy would cause post-scarcity to show up.

To my mind the economy is a jagged, violent tool that aligns everyone's petty, selfish interests roughly with everyone else's. As the 'everyone's a central bank minting slavery-backed currency' thought experiment highlights, it's self-contradictory in some important ways. I still think it's the best tool available for the kind of changes that might lead to post-scarcity if we're lucky.

The Anti work movement seems mostly driven by US "unreasonablism" in the work place. 1 week holiday, unreasonable manager overreach, politics over competence, unworkable financial pressures on everyday people like medical and student debt etc. Shit is fucked, yo.

> Neither of these guys were "slackers" and were brilliant men so it's probably a bit scary for the media that the antiwork movement is gaining steam and no, it's not just a bunch of freeloading millennials.

Maybe not, but the majority of anti-work sentiment I see is coming from people who are clear that they are freeloaders, and aren't ashamed of the fact.

Also, you're really cherry-picking the data when you grab two outliers (in terms of brilliance) as support for your argument, and ignore the rest of the high-performance people throughout history.

As a percentage of brilliant people (using whatever bar you have for 'brilliance') how many espouse the same sentiment?

Not that I agree or disagree with the actual sentiment, I just don't find it convincing when an argument has to cherrypick datapoints in order to work.

Trying to convince using absolute numbers and not providing percentages is pointless. We need to know what the denominator is (samples meeting the criteria/total number of samples).

Sure but there's a lot of social pressure to say to everyone that you had to work hard to get where you are, because of the society we live in.

The data you're really after is how many people actually think that. Depending on your prior you might consider that even if a tiny number of brilliant people were to go for the Buckminster Fuller line, perhaps many actually think it.

Government mandated FMRI scanners aren't that far off so we'll see soon.

Did you read the piece?

From: https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html

> Please don't comment on whether someone read an article. "Did you even read the article? It mentions that" can be shortened to "The article mentions that."

Thanks. You are right. My bad.

> The true business of people should be to go back to school and think about whatever it was they were thinking about before somebody came along and told them they had to earn a living.

... but would they? Or would they keep scrolling down interminably. I know I'd like to think I would go back to school.

Russell's essay has the answer:

> The pleasures of urban populations have become mainly passive: seeing cinemas, watching football matches, listening to the radio, and so on. This results from the fact that their active energies are fully taken up with work; if they had more leisure they would again enjoy pleasures in which they took an active part.

I wouldn’t! There’s never been anything in my life that I’ve been as passionate about as doing nothing.

Yes, I would.

I blame the federal reserve's 'maximum employment mandate'. It is official economic policy to sacrifice price discovery, i.e. efficiency, to make sure there's work for people.

This would be a really good take in a world where there was an all powerful benevolent dictator

I don't understand what you mean. My argument was along the lines of:

- Fed buys bonds to keep yields low

- Inefficient businesses are then able to secure funding at lower than 'natural' rates and stay afloat

- It takes more effort than necessary to produce the goods and services society needs

- But also there are more jobs, so the mandate is met

Also, simultaneously:

- Fed buys bonds to keep yields low

- A. increases the quantity of savings=investment dollars demanding a return

- B. lowers denominator in DCF valuations

- A & B apply dual pressure causing financial assets grow in price disproportionate to the amount of products & services provided to society (measured in cash flows)

- people who get paid a salary get priced out of economic ownership

- people who already hold claims on cash flows get "wealthier on paper" even though goods & services for society have not increased

Am I missing something? Because these arguments seem to me to explain, in pretty simple terms,the world as I observe it.

Why does "the media" care at all about anti-work? Wouldn't not working be GOOD for media companies, with more time to consume media?

I really don't follow what you said there

They're ad funded. You need the proles working to buy their circus tickets.

“ Neither of these guys were "slackers" and were brilliant men”

Actually, it is because of their status and the opportunity to be idle that they were able to nurture their creativity and become known as brilliant men.

And so seeing, they became proponents of idleness, both because they saw the benefit for creative minds, but also because they did not the consequence of idleness for the vast majority or people (nor how the idleness of the oppressed masses would — in the end — rob them of their own (profitable) leisure time.

It’s all about improving quality of life.

If we all are satisfied with living like they did in the early 1800’s, we could do it right now and nobody works.

Of course you’ll die of a bacterial infection, but otherwise…

Or people in the US could be allowed to work the same amount as people in other Western democracies. The work cultures in Japan and South Korea seem even more toxic and unpleasant in their embrace of overwork.

It is very unlikely that people moving to a four day work week would be less productive. The current number of people working 50 and 60 hours a week while millions are homeless is a scathing critique on how much we have failed to use work for productivity and as a tool to benefit society as a whole.

I doubt very much that nobody would work, or that progress would stop.

I would expect the opposite as creative people who wished, were able to invest time prior to profitability as never before.

Given how one of the "Great Filters" of startups is reaching "Ramen Profitability", I imagine in today's age progress would happen much faster.

We could all be Ramen Profitable, or very close to it, for any venture that can start small.

> 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 have been solidly in the "work is virtuous" camp for a long time, and still am, but I've recently been challenged on this. When I'm not working on something I get antsy, and stressed. Having a goal gives me purpose; working hard gives me value. If my value isn't from hard work, where do I get it from?

I have always considered "hard-working" an undoubtedly good thing, like "being kind" or "not stabbing random people." But when pushed on this, I can't quite justify it the same way as other virtues. Is it good for society? Is there something inherently moral about hard work? Is it something that I value, but is unreasonable to expect from others?

I don't really have answers on this. I consider hard work a virtue, but I'm not sure precisely why. I'm sure there's all sort of cultural/familial/etc. reasons, but that's what makes me me. Is it a bad thing to believe? Not sure yet. No. Yes. Sometimes.

I think that the key question behind the discussion is control and self determination.

When we say 'work', we sometimes mean productive effort, and we sometimes mean labour for someone else for which we are compensated in extrinsic ways.

Putting forth productive effort in support of a worthwhile goal is praiseworthy but there's nothing particularly praiseworthy about the arrangement where one person does so primarily because they feel like they don't have a choice (they need to eat, live, support their family).

Some variants of that are relatively benign and some are coercive, abusive and unhealthy.

The ideal would be a world where economic coercion didn't exist, and those that worked for others did so only because they truly thought that working on this vision and with these people was a good use of their energy.

Yes, might be useful to distinguish between work and toil.

I think being willing to work hard when it is necessary is a virtue. But most of the time working smart is more effective and efficient than working hard. And using working hard as one's primary method for productivity ceases to be virtuous or effective. Forcing workers to work hard and long is a control mechanism far more often than it is a tool for productivity.

In my experience, people who praise work as a virtue almost universally enjoy work, or at least find it satisfying (or, more tragically, don't really enjoy it but simply don't know what else to do with their time). Could the "hard work as virtue" view, at least in part, be a post-hoc justification for how one enjoys spending life anyway?

I've experienced both sides of the coin. Until I was about 18, I had essentially never enjoyed work (for school or menial labor student jobs) and avoided it as much as possible. Learning how to program changed that for me, once I got the hang of it it felt like you can play a puzzle game and people will consider it work. From then on I worked quite hard, just because I enjoyed it.

But I remember the feeling of hating work, and I don't feel virtuous for enjoying it, I just feel lucky that I happen to enjoy work in a lucrative field.

I agree.

For the same reason I get annoyed when I hear the praises of work/life balance. Balance to what? Leisure? Where does leisure lead? If my work can give me joy why should I strive to minimize its presence in my life (or even balance). Are there things in my work that aren't "pleasant"? Naturally - but it's part of the joy. Only through working through those unpleasant experiences do I value the end-result of my work seriously.

Granted - there are work situations that do not deliver joy. The question is why, and why is nothing done about it.

Anyways. I am of to spend my lunchbreak doing interval training in minus 2C until I am surely about to throw up on the track. Why? Because it'll feel amazing afterwards and I have that sense of achievement locking in for today. Makes me sleep like a baby.

> Only through working through those unpleasant experiences do I value the end-result of my work seriously.

I don't want to take work or the unpleasant experiences or the good feelings away from you, but this sounds like a post-hoc rationalization; and what Russell argues against in the first part. It should not be the suffering itself that makes our professional life feel whole, but providing something useful to society (even if the entire workday is filled with bliss).

But as you also allude to, there's a good kind of discomfort (e.g. a hard workout or a mind-blowing problem at work) and bad discomfort (drudgery, pointless meetings, annoying software, bad office layout, etc.). There's way too much of the latter at work, hence the (faux) praises of work/life balance.

You work then. No one is saying you can't anymore. But don't try and force your lifestyle on the rest of us lazy people. I'd much rather do nothing all day but read some books and go for walks.

Work is a human need (by the way, how can it be virtuous if it's a need?), but working the entire day, without autonomy, and having you life depending on it is neither a need nor virtuous.

> I have always considered "hard-working" an undoubtedly good thing, like "being kind" or "not stabbing random people."

But stabbing random people can be hard work. What I'm trying to get at is that, under the current conditions (at least here in the US, and maybe most of the aggressively capitalist world) we don't work for the virtue of it, for the intrinsic value of the work (or the result of the work), we work because survival & security (food, shelter, etc.) are tied to it.

I don't think there's anything wrong with work, but there is a lot wrong with coupling it with survival & security.

A few months ago, around the time that the extended unemployment benefits ended in my area, there were articles in the news about local restaurants struggling to hire. In one article (that captured the before/after of the unemployment benefits), a restaurant owner was arguing that the benefits needed to end so that people would have to go back to work, but once the benefits ended, he complained that while the number of applicants had increased, he didn't like the quality of applicants--he said they didn't want to work for him.

Now I'm going off on tangents, but I think the applicable point I'm trying to make, or rather the question I'm trying to ask you is: would you feel that your work is virtuous if it was exhausting, not in a field that had significant opportunities for mobility, and didn't pay well? What are the boundaries of work's virtue? Sometimes bad things (the opioid epidemic, for example) are the result of a lot of "hard work". Are those efforts virtuous?

In my experience as a developer, nearly any time I behave "lazily" (holiday, long weekend, time off work without thinking about it), or even just in the middle of a WFH day go for a walk, swim, other leisure activity, get ahead on 10 mins worth of chores etc, then I tend to solve a tricky technical problem , or learn something / understand it much better. The times where coding work gets pushed aside for a while often lead to to better coding output, results even viewable that same week. Sometimes at home I'll have a day when I'm not really into it, distracted by other stuff, so I go and do something else, then later my conscience says "Hmm that wasn't really a full day of work , you might need to make some up", but at the same time "Wow what a productive day, turns out not tiring yourself out actually delivers more value to your employer". It is said that 27 hours a week is optimal in tech, less than that you could get more done, but more than that you add no extra value, over 40 you produce negative value/bugs. So , moral = some idleness is ironically actually better for productivity !

> It is said that 27 hours a week is optimal in tech, less than that you could get more done, but more than that you add no extra value, over 40 you produce negative value/bugs.

That's probably true for typical people. There are exceptions like John Carmack and Jon Blow, who can code for 10-12 hours a day and who are running a mini-crusade on Twitter against generalizations like that. In general, I think you're right though - if you're such exception, it should be fairly obvious to you that you're exceptional in this regard and the rule does not apply to you.

Even supernaturally productive people benefit from idleness. Consuming art serves as inspiration for creativity; as productive as he is, Carmack wouldn't have made Doom if he hadn't read Snow Crash in a moment of idleness.

The exception occurs because they are having a strong vision of where they want to end up, and it is pretty far ahead so working hard will be required, yet they are able to feel they are little tiny bit of the way every day.

Still they probably have idle time too that really defines those moments of N days at 10-12 hours.

They probably live a way that Bertrand Russel would approve of.

My former CTO was a work machine, capable of digesting an insane amounts of highly skilled tasks over crazy long hours. Absolutely incredible. A rare kind, very inspiring and also surprisingly balanced in his life.

But he was also a terrible manager, as he was thinking/expecting the rest of the world to be as performant as he was.

There don't seem to be a shortage of people like that, but they are generally terrible to work with unless you have equal equity/enthusiasm.

I used to be like this.

One of my greatest friends and associates lives for life itself.

When we first collaborated on a project I had gotten a head start on it and was investing crazy hours.

As if it were the rule, I burnt out after the core implementation was done.

That's when his super powers kicked in.

While I had been toiling and feeling like a solo dev for my "heroic" commitment, he had been intimately learning my code and was fresh to build all the required features on top.

I learned a really valuable lesson about the nature of teamwork. To this day, if someone slightly lifts a finger or sounds the quietest of utterances, they're still doing more than I should ever expect.

> There are exceptions like John Carmack and Jon Blow, who can code for 10-12 hours a day and who are running a mini-crusade on Twitter against generalizations like that.

I strongly doubt that either Carmack or Blow are told by management to work 10-12 hours/day. That they feel like doing it is another matter.

That's an odd take to me. I don't know about Carmack, but what makes you think JBlow want's people to code crazy hours? From what i hear from him he's mostly angry about the waste that goes on in "enterprises" and the focus on complex niche features over getting shit done.

You don't track his Twitter closely enough then :) He was explicitly angry at people who say that it's impossible to be productive in coding for more than 30-40 hours a week. He felt that it's ingraining low expectations in young people, some of which have a potential to work really hard and do and do great things.

Maybe if he took more idle time he would be as successful as Bertrand Russel.

This is an important story. I really needed that reminder.

Idleness is where all the "magic" in my life has happened. Idleness is where the biggest ideas came to me. And the important people in my life, too.

And yet, here I am, trying to "optimize" the time I need to bring my 5 year old to bed in the evening, and to pre-school in the morning.

Kids still have this sense of idleness. They have no concept of hurrying. They see little sense in doing things faster, or optimizing your path towards a goal. They always look around, and if there are any flowers, they'll pick some. In the process, they might totally forget what their initial goal was. They might come back to it later. But they also might do something totally different instead. And every single day, for them, is an adventure.

There's probably nothing wrong with picking goals or sticking to them. But there is a boundary somewhere. Somewhere where there is haste involved, or fear, or coersion. Where we make ourselves the object of either someone else, or of an idea. Where we, in other words, cease to be a conscious doer.

Then again, there's that concept of flow. Being "in the moment". Is that good, or is that bad? A child at play can be in "flow". But a compulsive gambler can be, too.

So year. Perhaps part of the problem is that it's so unclear where the boundary lies.

I am reminded here of verse 24 et seq.

> The wisdom of a learned man cometh by opportunity of leisure: and he that hath little business shall become wise.

~ https://www.kingjamesbibleonline.org/Ecclesiasticus-Chapter-...

That I came across when reading the Bible in English (the OT later in Latin because Enya, strangely enough, and then much of the NT in Greek). Not because my parents, nor I, were religious, but just because it was there, and I had time for such diversions precisely because I was so not required to study much at school. Considered a bit of a dunce, you see.

Chose my undergraduate university based on it's motto, back in English that's something like "these days of leisure foster learning". Chose PERL because I seem to recall Larry Wall saying something about programmers should be lazy.

And that lead me to a career adminning Solaris boxen.

Ain't life funny!

Is et seq for seq normal? I've always thought f was stupid, since, clearly, there's an and missing, but seq can be read as sequensque.

There's idleness as in "doing things that aren't work" and idleness as in "being bored". Both have been broken: the former by our insane work ethic and the latter by our insane addiction to mobile devices.

We're being pressured into this, yes, but it's also up to us to push back. You genuinely can work less. You genuinely can put your phone down. Both can hurt, but both are almost definitely good for you.

A world in which we have time to muse, ponder, wander, think, create, listen... This is the world I want to inhabit, and I push myself everyday to try and do so. It's sometimes unfeasibly hard: phones are addictive and when you work for yourself the money <> time equation is hard to deny. But it's important, to me anyway, to see the sea and the moon and my kids growing up.

It's like you're putting responsibility for the conditions that the scientists set up in the experiment on the lab rats.

This I might say is an absolutely specious notion.

Do you really have so little autonomy in your life?

Yes? Do you suppose I can go wherever I want, and do whatever I want whenever I want to?

I'm a cog in a complex socioeconomic system. What I can and cannot do is limited by that system.

If I want to get into let's say making music, or learning philosophy, I can't quite do that, because they require time (10s of 1000s hours each), a resource that I can't spare because it's consumed by work, and other required activities.

I can learn superficially over the course of decades, but the results would be unsatisfactory to say the least.

"Do you suppose I can go wherever I want, and do whatever I want whenever I want to?"

..no, and I didn't suggest that. But you can make choices. Mobile phone use is absolutely under your control. How and where you work maybe less so, but you still do. People make incremental or radical decisions to change their working lives all the time, even if they're trapped within a system that feels rigid.

The smartphone ecosystem is designed to be as addictive as possible, targeting specifically the "reptile brain" that can't be persuaded with logic or strong will. We are being conditioned to respond to it like lab animals, and none of this is regulated in any way. Increasingly, there are no choices outside of it, so it's either accept the manipulation or be excluded (also from social life). You do have some autonomy but it's very limited.

That's just not true. The reptile brain is a thing, yes, but you absolutely can counter it with practice and logic. It's comfortable to delude yourself that you have no free will in this instance but you do.

When I'm not working I'm learning how to be a meditation (MBSR) teacher and we spend a lot of time looking at the amygdala, fight / flight, how to counter "real" physical symptoms, how to sit quietly in meditation for minutes, then tens of minutes, then hours on end. All of this is trainable, including our responses to external factors like addictive systems such as the mobile / digital / social ecosystem.

I'm very far from perfect but I try - and succeed most days - to keep my mobile use down to 2 hours, never work evenings or weekends, and try where I can to seek out deliberate stillness (some call it "boredom"). I go for a walk without my phone. I leave my phone downstairs when I sleep. I've given up social media - in fact really my only vice now is HN :-) - I absolutely do have a choice in how I deal with all this. It isn't easy, but it is a choice.

So you only need a very rigorous training that requires many years of practice to be able to do it?

~ sigh ~ Sir, hat off to you, you seem a master at making erroneous assumptions.

Needless to say: no, obviously that's not the case.

Maybe I'm exaggerating a bit to make my point. Which is that an average person in practice won't be able to do that. And even an exceptional person has the odds stacked against them.

>Maybe I'm exaggerating a bit to make my point.

I thought you were probably bullshitting.

> It will be said that while a little leisure is pleasant, men would not know how to fill their days if they had only four hours’ work out of the twenty-four. In so far as this is true in the modern world it is a condemnation of our civilization; it would not have been true at any earlier period.

I would think the relevance of this today would be in terms of COVID lockdowns. Many have had a big dose of leisure and it's been an interesting test for many. When we're busy, leisure looks so appetising, but sometimes too much leisure removes the very institutional structures that put meaning in our lives and that motivated us in the first place. My sister retired to do all her hobbies and immediately lost interest in them. Sometimes when your moods and energy are good, you don't realise what underlies them. Then we get what we want but lose what we had.

Maybe the moral of the story is all things in moderation

For me there is a need for meaningful responsibility to guide my days, or at least part of them. The kind of work that has to be done regardless of my desires, because I’m accountable for it. Looking after a pet, family related duties, doing my job etc. Without this I’m aimless and have to guide each action by choice, which is absolutely exhausting after a while. Eventually I don’t feel like doing anything, and quickly become depressed.

4 hours or so of such work a day, along with a few hours of social interaction, is quite adequate to keep me feeling fulfilled and grounded.

Yes, I am similar in this regard: pleasure and leisure are not absolutes, but rather exist as contrasts- during lockdown I would force myself to be productive so I could ‘relax’ later. Otherwise I’m unhappy and restless. Maybe that’s sad, but coping is coping

To me, it seems like the lockdowns were an amazing opportunity to 'wake up' and reevaluate things - what we want, what motivates us, what is meaningful. Feeling uncomfortable seems like the first step in that process - just like when you sit down to meditate for the first time. In fact, there seem to be a lot of parallels between meditation and lockdowns - getting rid of distractions, and just sitting with yourself, your feelings, thoughts, perceptions.

Unfortunately, and shockingly, it seems like this unique opportunity has been squandered by our societies, and we mostly just rebuilt our lives exactly the same way as they were before, learning nothing.

> too much leisure

Isn't that like Too Much Fun?


Try retiring. Retired people sometimes have trouble dealing with leisure, when they first stop working. But eventually most people take up a hobby, volunteer, go cruising, or start studying again. Also, if you have leisure, a lot of ordinary tasks start taking longer (The Peter Principle). I've been redecorating my living room for almost two weeks; that's a job that once would have taken me two days.

I don't think that is the Peter Principle : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_principle

Everybody is promoted to their level of incompetence.

I do recognize what you are saying, but can't find the name of the principle either.

edit : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parkinson's_law

Quite so, Parkinson's Law - thanks for the correction.

I was Unschooled, which is an interesting way of teaching children by letting them first de-stress from school, and secondly letting them develop learning naturally through curiosity. Anyone who is the parent of unschooled children will tell you, that there's a period of up to two years at the start where you have to account for the fact that the child will most likely do... nothing. Just game and not pursue any learning.

This is a period of time where the child is both de-stressing, and learning how to claim the task of structuring and scheduling for themselves, and is one of the most vital parts of unschooling.

What you find as a result, is that myself and many of my peers would then go off and seek out learning and structure our own days by what we wanted to focus on, whereas many of my schooled friends were incapable of working or performing any sort of task outside of that structure, and were overall too stressed out to be able to approach doing tasks in a positive way.

I think that this is what has happened here. Many people in America and the UK spend their entire lives being told what to do at any given moment. They are thrust into school at a very, very early age, and from that moment they are given tasks, kept occupied, never allowed time for self-reflection or allowed the chance to develop insight into themselves as people.

By the time they reach college and later university, they end up "going off the rails" a little bit during summer breaks, because they are suddenly, broadly, not told what to do within those periods. Academia still has the scheduling that school does so they are still safe within that system within those months and hours that are accounted for, but this scheduleless existence becomes a form of stress for them, because they have never developed those vital skills.

Then finally, they are thrust into work, where many will have a schedule to adhere to, within which they essentially, broadly, stay for their entire lives.

I don't think that your sister's inability to perform her hobbies when she was outside of a structured environment was a positive effect of the aforementioned institutional structures. I think it was a function of stress and a lifetime of her being prevented from developing the skill of having control over large groups of unbounded time. Your sister was not used to having a lack of structure, not used to other people not having some degree of control over her life, and in conjunction with that she very likely had a lifetime of accumulated stress that needs to be chafed off or worked through before development of that skill can take place.

What you saw wasn't your sister failing to perform her hobbies, it was your sister unknowingly de-stressing and gradually learning the skill that she had been deprived of learning. The fact that this of itself creates a lesser form of stress as a second order effect is deeply unfortunate.

This is absolutely, unequivocally, not a positive benefit of institutions. The fact that broad swathes of institutions have created people that are unable to function without them, unable to find meaning in their lives, is a severe indictment of them. It very clearly outlines how successful the Prussian upper classes were in creating a system where their workforce was essentially, psychologically 'neutered' in some sense, and pushed to become completely dependent on them for meaning. In essence, they created one of the best institutional tools to create a mostly-compliant workforce. A swathe of people who are unable to attain meaning in their lives and fulfill their personal goals outside of the structure of work in service to the economy and thereby the upper classes.

Do not take this as a recommendation for Unschooling in general. I (broadly speaking) do not wish all children to be unschooled, since it is highly environmentally dependent -- not everyone would be able to sustain the environment required, whether through the psychological issues of the parents or other adults in the vicinity, deficits in the environment itself, or specific psychological needs of the child.

There essentially isn't a solution to this right now, that I can see. Given that the Prussian success has been so great that many people cannot even start to conceive of alternative systems in the first place.

How would you go about unschooling yourself as an adult?

I've been "in the system" my entire life (like most of us). Thanks to Covid and remote working, I've recently found myself with a lot of free time. I still have a job, but I don't really care about it at all nor derive any fulfilment from it. Since it pays well and doesn't require very much of my time (again, thanks to remote work), I've decided to just keep doing it and try to find meaning in my life from other things. This has proven to be very difficult, most likely due to lifetime of being "in the system".

I sorta did this from 2020-2021 after I graduated university. Lived at home for a year while learning topics that interested me. It was one of the best things I've ever done and my confidence and outlook on life improved significantly as a result. I was always in "the system" but I never thrived in it. Felt like I was always doing stuff on other peoples time and penalized for deviating from whatever rigid guidelines they dictated. Being able to do stuff for myself and on my own schedule was liberating. Motivation I lacked for most of my life was present because I actually had a personal stake in my learning.

And with that being said, I have no idea how you unschool as an adult without having significant capital. I wanted to unschool for a long-time prior to 2020 but working/doing school 8 hours a day left me with little energy. I was fortunate to be able to live under my parents roof rent-free in 2020 and the COVID relief money I received from the government was enough to let me purchase the resources I needed (lots of books). If I didn't have these benefits I doubt I could do such a thing. I definitely couldn't do such a thing if I still had to work full-time - believe me I tried many times.

Not to mention there is a lot of stigma around doing this as an adult if you don't have capital. I'm young and don't have any dependents so the consequences of potential failure weren't as significant. But if I did? I think that would create a lot more crippling self-doubt throughout the entire process.

Unfortunately this ties in with the source article above. Idleness is key to the ability to figure out what you want to do in the first place. What gives you joy and meaning has to come from a combination of the idleness, and within.

I guess, the first thing would just to start being ok with "Doing nothing". Accept that your inability to work on projects outside of work is not an inability, but a necessary outlet for your brain to relieve itself of the multi-decade long stressors that have been building up. But I don't know how long it would take or even if it would work, having that interspersed with that enforced structure. Each time you get to the point where you might start being ok with it, and maybe able to start learning and developing the skill, the PTO you have for the entire year is very likely exhausted. And that's assuming it only takes your brain a month to experience some incredible, miraculous form of relief from these stresses.

It's an incredibly depressing state of affairs.

Yes and no: it’s very true that you have to adapt to new volumes of free time; but there is a positive psychology in much work: social and rewards of productivity—-when these are removed we can loose motivation and even become depressed. Not a fault of anything but being a modern human

> but there is a positive psychology in much work: social and rewards of productivity—-when these are removed we can loose motivation and even become depressed. Not a fault of anything but being a modern human

That's a symptom of the problem, which is that modern humans are not used to being outside of those systems. People who have grown up having to allocate their own time do not get stressed by not having social rewards for their productivity because they are used to doing things because they either need to be done and thus get only the reward of having completed the task, or because they wish to do it, and the task is beneficial in its own right.

It's fascinating to hear your experience. Could you point in the direction ofmore info about unschooling? Is it related to Ivan Illich's deschooling theory? A Steiner system?

Well said. Humans are thoroughly domesticated and I am unsure there is any path forward that doesn't further deepen this.

Hmm, I think it’s hard to find a way to deal with perpetual leisure because we are aware it (the leisure) is a temporary state.

Maybe if I were guaranteed leisure for the rest of my life I would find it easier to figure out what to do with myself.

In my (mostly-remote) workplace people are always talking about finding it hard to separate their work and their lives, hard to switch off in the evening, hard not to check their phone for work slack messages at weekends, hard to take their leave days without feeling like they're letting people down

THIS is exactly how a culture of overwork is enforced. We're doing it to each other. These days I try to counter it by making a point of calling this out publicly, and saying "I always take all my leave days" and "I don't work in the evenings" and "I don't have work email or slack on my phone"

Hmm, I’m sort of the opposite, I check my messages when I want, including during the weekend (mostly when bored), but there’s no expectation of anyone doing that. I also have all notifications turned off. Checking messages has to be an active choice I make.

I also have zero compunctions about just flipping my laptop closed at 6. I might want to continue, but I don’t feel any obligation to.

A few people have called me on my work/personal phone after 6 for non-urgent reasons, but we’ve established that is not acceptable.

> also have all notifications turned off. Checking messages has to be an active choice I make.

This. +100 or something.

Nice! Another powerful sentence : I don’t use insert social media appname and my phone is off most of the time, unless I am available. At first, people think you are crazy.

How To Be Idle and the Idler magazine might tickle your fancy if you like this theme. I enjoyed both greatly.

The Protestant worker ethic, work hard and be closer to God, has a lot to answer for, both good and bad.

We’ve linked our worth to our consumable output. We’re worried if AI can become human yet we’ve met the machines halfway.

> we’ve met the machines halfway

Perhaps, although AI should have a better shot at avoiding the shame and fear that form the root of the Protestant work ethic.

A robot flanneur will save us from the protestant work ethic. It is written.

There's a big lesson here about Publish or Perish. Science today is extremely difficult because you can't do science while having to be productive as quickly as possible. It's like asking an artist to sit at their desk from 9 to 5 every day and produce at least 5 Great Works of Art per year.

That's how it's done in Civilization game series :D Which shows that they're basically almost a parody of the actual civilizations.

If Civilization was as random as real life, nobody would want to play it.

Personally, I think it peaked at Civ II, exactly because after it every game tries to be more realistic than the previous ones.

The biggest discrepancy is not lack of randomness, but complete omission of the fact that it's people who make or break systems which are in the game. The reality of being a leader of anything is that your biggest headache is finding capable people under you and keeping them motivated and aligned with your goals. Whereas in the game everything just works like a clockwork. BTW, Crusader Kings II is closer to reality in this regard.

In the field of programming, we have many great programmers who praise their workaholic ethics. Do you know some great programmers appreciating idleness? Rich Hickey with his Hammock driven development comes to my mind. Anyone else?

It's interesting because Hammock driven development seems to be a way to defend idleness by trying to appeal to the workaholic ethic. You can take a break because this will lead to better results in the end. Not just because you want to, or because you don't want to work all the time all your life. It has to have a purpose in the end, that will be something bigger than just simply working. He also exhausted some of his reserves of money this way, making him more dependent on future work.

"Blank out the recommendations of these two philosophers, and you can see that the first philosopher is using strictly prosocial criteria to justify his recommendations; to him, what validates an argument for selfishness is showing that selfishness benefits everyone. The second philosopher appeals to strictly individual and hedonic criteria; to him, what validates an argument for altruism is showing that altruism benefits him as an individual: higher social status or more intense feelings of pleasure."


That's an interesting point. I hadn't realised Hammock drive development is such a double edged sword. From this point of view, it also doesn't consider programming as a hobby - aimless tinkering and exploring without any particular problem to solve.

Larry Wall, inventor of Perl:

"We will encourage you to develop the three great virtues of a programmer: laziness, impatience, and hubris.", "Programming Perl", 1ed

2ed says:


The quality that makes you go to great effort to reduce overall energy expenditure. It makes you write labor-saving programs that other people will find useful, and document what you wrote so you don't have to answer so many questions about it. Hence, the first great virtue of a programmer. Also hence, this book."

Some discussion at https://wiki.c2.com/?LazinessImpatienceHubris

From before typography went to the dogs:


Pascal said it. "All of men's problem stem from one thing, not to be able to site quietly in a room".

Ideas to get out of The Matrix:

* Hire 2 people for 1 job, each working 20 hours per week

* By law, ensure that workers keep the lion's share (50% or more) of whatever value they produce

* Outlaw all company shares besides common stock

* Use nonlinear voting shares: weight shares by value produced, tenure, etc instead of 1 share 1 vote

* Make government tax on individuals less than 50%

* Make all net income taxed the same, under the same tax brackets, even gifts/inheritance (50% by the $250-400,000 range)

* Provide universal basic income (UBI) via the 50% tax from the wealthiest individuals

* Tax all assets/investments the same as property tax on homes (as dollars or percent of shares)

* Make all tax writeoffs rates the same, regardless of type (remove the 6000 pound minimum on work vehicles, etc)

* Make companies pay or otherwise be responsible for their own externalities (pollution)

* Set tarrifs equal to the externalities (pollution, withheld wages, etc) not paid by companies in other countries

* Measure policy outcomes by median improvement, not mean (to act against wealth inequality)

* Make all debts dischargeable in bankruptcy (don't single out student loans)

* Make hazard pay N>=1 years of wages to next of kin upon death, and M>=50% of wages upon injury (all jobs, even military)

* Keep debts like hazard pay on an individual's credit score for 7 years, even if the company they owned declared bankruptcy

* Allow people to borrow against money legally owed to them (debts, alimony, liens, reparations, etc)

* Ban discrimination in lending (proof of unfairly denied loan reduces bank's leverage limit by amount of loan)

* Ban tax breaks nationally for companies moving to cities or states

* Remove the corporate veil (companies aren't people, make individuals on the board responsible for the company's actions)

* Provide guaranteed jobs, with the government as employer of last resort

Why do you propose both guaranteed jobs and UBI? Or is the list meant to be a bag of independent suggestions?

Ya just suggestions. With jobs vs UBI, I think the problem is that politicians say they'll create jobs, when really they should be creating incomes. An automation moonshot would quickly follow a change in priorities like that.

A lot of these are interesting ideas. What is "The Matrix" in this case?

1999 thinking in a 21st century world

> [inline_ad ad=2]

What would Russell think of the person who botched that ad injection?

I'm hoping this was a form of passive resistence, subverting cultural hegemony..


Instead of advertisement, we got "subvertisement", haha.. Oh it actually exists!


He must be turning in his grave now. He sent a warning message to the future, and we did the opposite.


Why did communism fail? Because Marx pretended he wanted happiness for the proletariat, when all he really wanted was the unhappiness of the bourgeois.


I hate working. There is nothing I want more than to NOT work, which for me means choosing what to do (including nothing) as much as possible.

As many people planning FIRE (Financial Independence Retire Early), I've been working pretty hard - hah! - to maximize my income and meet my goals.

But this is different than the eternal idleness being advocated by some. If you never save enough to be idle, and still expect to consume at normal levels, you are essentially asking others to work for you. Imagine being idle but still playing games, watching TV, reading books; someone had to make the game, film the TV show and write the book, i.e. work, to enable your leisure.

If those working to maintain everybody else agree to arrangement, then it's all ok... This is generally not the case, though.

Even today, there's plenty of entertainment that you can find without either paying or pirating, and I think this would increase dramatically in a world without obligatory work.

Of course, there's probably fewer people who have an intrinsic desire to maintain basic infrastructure, which isn't as easy to deal with. But I think that we could probably support "you don't need to work in order to live"; we can still have incentives for work, just not life-or-death incentives.

Some people would view that as "supporting free-riders", but I think if someone is brought into this world, we owe it to them to allow them to exist. False positives ("this person would survive without free stuff") aren't as bad as false negatives ("we deprived this person of stuff to motivate them to work, and now they're dead").

Plenty of work makes the world worse rather than better. It would be a net positive for the world if the people doing those jobs played video games, watched TV and read books instead.

This is my theory. Humans are the most successful primates because their superior ability to adapt. Adapting though also means that whatever state is reached it becomes normalcy and its virtues no longer appreciated (e.g. the benefits of living in our modern times are taken for granted). Therefore, for it there be happiness there must be pain. Work provides the necessary pain from which happiness emerges. Without it, I suspect there would be only existential crisis, depression, and war. Ask yourself: do you think the average insta-citizen would settle into a state of content if left with little or no work to do, free resources (i.e. universal income) and to their own devices? I posit not.

Given nature's bounty, I think we should be far past the point where anyone needs to work for their simplest needs.

And I say this without any contradiction with capitalism.

It seems morally inescapable to me, that we all have inherited the Earth. None of us earned our existence here. Nor did we create the resources as nature provides them. We are all inheritors of the world.

We can add the solar system and beyond to that.

A system whereby resource extraction, real estate (excepting their improvements by construction) rents, and communication spectrum charters returned a fraction to everyone equally seems both consistent with capitalism and the moral value of equality from birth.

A partial instance of this is the Alaska Permanent Fund. [1]

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alaska_Permanent_Fund

EDIT: I would add that any legal impingement on the commons, which aught to have its consistent meaning of commonly owned property, also operated in the same way. I.e. income from patents, copyrights, or other socially created and protected rights should also partially accrue to everyone - as everyone is paying the cost of those rights both in protection and in respecting the prohibitions they create.

(The legal and economic way that could, or should, be done fairly is far beyond this statement. But the principle seems clear - the commons belongs to all of us, and any rents on it should be distributed evenly. This in no way eliminates the ability for capitalism to operate or those who value greater wealth from working longer, harder or smarter and accumulating it without bounds.)

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