Most of us will go out of our way to avoid tedious, repetitive, mind-numbingly boring tasks. Like children, we want our play time, and we want it now. If we’re sufficiently challenged, intrigued, passionately engaged, then work seems like play and we will do it quite happily. It’s when our thoughts turn to the abyss of doing the same ol’, same ol’ till someone hands us a gold watch and sends us off to die that we begin to gnaw off a leg – or invent a better way of doing things so that we can get on to the fun stuff.
Unfortunately, the dull and dreary work is often necessary and important work. Do we truly need a kitchen that knows when we’re hungry, keeps ingredients fresh and on hand, prepares meals automatically – using computer punch cards!? – and dispenses drinks for us? No. But would it free us up to do more interesting work? Maybe. Would the challenge of making real the things our minds can dream up feel more like play than washing dishes would? You bet! Recognizing that, the bored, lazy, but dedicated worker’s mind kicks into high gear. He will actually work longer and harder to devise a clever solution to this tedious problem – just to get out of having to do it.
Take a glimpse into the past, and marvel at how previous generations’ visions have taken shape. There’s a common theme of increasing leisure time (presumably to enjoy experience the wider world, travel, learn, and fully enjoy life, not to merely sit on our behinds, too exhausted to do anything but stare at the television):
Captivating Kids’ Attention: No More Whining “I’m Bored!”
Learning should be fun. It happens naturally; young minds crave learning and experimentation, until being penned up inside four dreary schoolroom walls, day in and day out for nine months or more, result in it being perceived as an onerous chore. It’s interesting to look back on Apple’s vision of the future – from the 1990s:
And to see kids, today, after so much of this vision has become reality – still whining, “I’m bored!” Perhaps these are the inventors of the future?
Invention, ideally, allows people to realize their full human potential. Unfortunately, invention can reveal the darker undercurrents of the human mind (what “tedious and boring work” is being eliminated here?), and there are numerous examples of very bad ideas, such as this “automated nursery” concept from Hungary:
Invention that takes us farther from our humanity – that disconnects us from one another and from ourselves, rather than merely freeing us to do more rewarding work or play – is something ethicists and others may debate forever. But invention that frees us to turn our awesome brain power towards solving ever more complex and interesting problems to the benefit of humanity will lead to satisfaction, more leisure time, and wealth.