Awesome! It’s my weekend. I get to do whatever I want to all day, and the next day, and I want to write a blog post, play some games, peg away at a script, edit some photos, edit a short film, watch a Richard Linklater movie, do this, do that- If I had my way, I would never get up from my computer.
This is a bloody dagger of a realization to me, especially since I actually spend eight hours of my working day sitting at another desk, pretty much surfing the internet and reading. Really, I spend a sum total of sixteen hours a day between two desks. I work graveyard, and have not seen more than two hours of daylight chained together in a month! I am Jack’s bewildered lazy ass, I am Jackie Chan’s wrinkled forehead. I shudder to think what it would be like to watch at high speed my life these past few months. It would only convince me that I am totally irresponsible.
But at the same time I think it rather funny that I am languishing in this cycle now, and furthermore if I am honest with myself I will admit that I’m very lazy, and I learned to be at a very early age, be it through easy homework or a cushy middle class life. And to give myself full credit I’ve done some pretty cool things that I am proud of, but it’s too true that most of my time is spent doing very little.
What am I doing very little of? In a metaphysical sense, I spend a small percentage of my time on Earth doing things that I think make my life worth living: e.g. very Aristotelian things, like learning discipline, knowledge, and perhaps wisdom, or teaching, making the world a better place, being heroic. In short, living up to classical ideals of what a human being should be. In addition, or rather at the same time, I am also spending time actively making the human race more adaptable and flexible, by making myself more suited to success in a myriad of conditions. It seems implicit in the Singularitarian ideology that it is my ethical imperative to spend my time doing certain things, in order to better humanity, the race, and life itself; to serve a modern vision of life thriving in every conceivable medium.
There are a lot of philosophical reasons why we do things but I do think the Greeks are the foremost influence on what we think is an activity that will make our lives better. I have a vision of myself as a successful individual, with valuable knowledge and inner peace that approaches eudaimonia. It’s not a hedonistic vision, to say the least. But this is in contrast to the future myths of what the Singularity supposedly makes possible. Vast dyson spheres of life, planet ships and space trees. Nano-colonies and asteroid webs, you name it. The possibilities of the future do not include visions of the individual, and rightly so. There is no way to become famous, no way to measure yourself against others in a universe not even of billions, but trillions of life forms, where time is measured geologically, societies come and go in the blink of a god’s eye, where Life has found success, as Life measures it- in immortality.
In fifty years, when we’ve solved AI and have successfully replaced, say, fifty percent of the jobs that are worked to day with robots, as Vinod Khosla suggested to the Google co-founders, we will be facing not only furious changes in economic structures and whatnot, but also wide disconnects between what our dreams are, and what our possible futures are. You, with the dream of opening up your autobody shop- you’re going to have to accept that you can’t continue the family business. I am going to have to accept that I can’t get paid to sit around eight hours every night. If we want to be happy, it seems, Jack and I are going to have to accept that we are organs in a larger body reaching for the stars.
But what are we going to spend those sixteen hours a day doing? Sitting around, surfing the internet, occasionally doing something productive? As Sergey Brin notes, the real problem is boredom- “We need to feel like (we’re) needed, wanted and have something productive to do,” especially if we realize our potential to create a post-scarcity, ideas economy in a single lifetime. In a way, my laziness gives me a perverse hope- that’s why I find it funny, I suppose. The human race will survive because on the one hand it’s highly creative and endurant, and on the other hand it is lackadaisical and dilatory. However, I really don’t want to sit around eight hours a night getting paid. I want eudaimonia, well-being, and I have a hard time believing that I am going to go quietly into a future of abundance.