This article is about Technology

The intelligence of leisure

Nuno Oliveira

Published at
03 de May de 2024

The Fourth Industrial Revolution is already underway, but what will we do differently from the previous ones? We've transitioned from the era of steam engines in 1760 to a time where people can converse with machines in just over 250 years. The mechanization of production initially meant maintaining or increasing the production of consumer goods with less human effort, creating more jobs and social welfare.

However, what has been observed since then is an increase in worker fatigue and unemployment. With the advent of Industry 4.0, we now have another opportunity to seek a balance between work and social life by elevating industrial automation to a new level through the use of artificial intelligence. The debate about rational consumption versus the finite resources of the planet further complicates this issue.

AI should prioritize humans in its actions, considering how humans perceive reality and supporting their decisions, adding value as a great assistant to our economic activities. This is a unique moment for society to rethink and transform its industries once and for all, integrating them into the digital environment and improving their automation. This next step can and should include socio-economic development.

Once again, we are presented with the opportunity to promote a reduction in the workweek while maintaining productivity and creating more job opportunities. Why not adopt a shorter workweek with a third or even a fourth shift? Several experiments are being conducted worldwide to shorten the workweek from five to four days while maintaining the same level of productivity, thanks to the advancements in digital transformation and AI.

Imagine a factory with even more workers capable of producing much more with less effort and fewer working hours. This is the chance to finally transform our technological apparatus into a cultural and social advantage, allowing more time for ourselves. At this point, we could achieve a state of leisure akin to that enjoyed by the ancient Greeks, as wisely advocated by thinkers of the past three centuries, such as the Frenchman Paul Lafargue, the Englishman Bertrand Russell, and the Italian Domenico De Masi, who passed away in September.

Industry 4.0 can bring this redemption not only to production lines but also to the lives of workers—especially those from lower classes—by granting them more time for themselves and giving them the right to leisure, family, culture, education, and the refinement of our society. Artificial intelligence could play a significant role in promoting equality, wealth distribution, and well-being.

After the pandemic, many people are considering, or even demanding, remote work. Society is changing, aiming for simplification in daily life, reducing time spent on activities with little added value. We need to adopt thinking models that help us make decisions about what we all seek: greater autonomy in managing our personal time without losing focus on our productive capacity. However, we must trust these suggestions and decision models and map out the thought processes we accept and understand as valid.

This is one example of how the entire ecosystem of Industry 4.0 can promote a higher quality of life. Digital transformation can drastically reduce unemployment. The fourth industrial revolution has the mission and moral duty to reconcile time, work, studies, and leisure to generate a true state of well-being. AI is an auxiliary element in the pursuit of that balance, producing more and better with less effort.

Technology can create new opportunities and jobs in different sectors. However, adapting to these changes requires immediate investments in training and skill development to keep up with technological innovations. Governments, businesses, and individuals must be prepared to face this challenge and seize the opportunities that technology offers, avoiding the mistakes of the three previous industrial revolutions.

As Domenico De Masi concludes in "The Leisure Economy": "Modern production methods have made security and well-being possible for more people, but despite this, we still prefer excessive work for some and scarcity for others." We've been as energetic as we were before machines existed. In that sense, we've been foolish, but there's no reason to continue being so forever.

We need to better manage our resources and our time, make better use of the technological means at our disposal, and we are fully capable of doing so. The time for foolishness is over. We all have a responsibility in the change that society demands of us, and we must look around and assume our role.

This article is about Technology

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