Meaningful Work

We need to find ways to address the accelerating loss of traditional, paying jobs.

At his Harvard University commencement speech, Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg, said

“Our generation will have to deal with tens of millions of jobs replaced by automation like self-driving cars and trucks.”

“When our parents graduated, purpose reliably came from your job, your church, your community. But today, technology and automation are eliminating many jobs. Membership in communities is declining. Many people feel disconnected and depressed, and are trying to fill a void.”

In an interview with Quartz, Bill Gates said:

“And what the world wants is to take this opportunity to make all the goods and services we have today, and free up labor, let us do a better job of reaching out to the elderly, having smaller class sizes, helping kids with special needs. You know, all of those are things where human empathy and understanding are still very, very unique. And we still deal with an immense shortage of people to help out there.
So if you can take the labor that used to do the thing automation replaces, and financially and training-wise and fulfillment-wise have that person go off and do these other things, then you’re net ahead.”

And Jeremy Rifikin writes (New technology and the end of jobs):

“A technology revolution is fast replacing human beings with machines in virtually every sector and industry in the global economy. Already, millions of workers have been permanently eliminated from the economic process, and whole work categories and job assignments have shrunk, been restructured, or disappeared. Global unemployment has now reached its highest level since the great depression of the 1930s. More than 800 million human beings are now unemployed or underemployed in the world. That figure is likely to rise sharply between now and the turn of the century as millions of new entrants into the workforce find themselves without jobs.

The rapid elimination of work opportunities resulting from technical innovation and corporate globalisation is causing men and women everywhere to be worried about their future. The young are beginning to vent their frustration and rage in increasingly antisocial behaviour. Older workers, caught between a prosperous past and a bleak future, seem resigned, feeling increasingly trapped by social forces over which they have little or no control. In Europe, fear over rising unemployment is leading to widespread social unrest and the emergence of neofascist political movements. In Japan, rising concern over unemployment is forcing the major political parties to address the jobs issue for the first time in decades. Throughout the world there is a sense of momentous change taking place – change so vast in scale that we are barely able to fathom its ultimate impact.”


It is imperative that we develop alternatives to the failed economic model that is based upon the exchange of money.  Traditional means of earning money are no longer available for millions and millions of people.  It is fundamentally wrong to maintain a system that requires money for all goods and services, knowing increasing numbers of human beings no longer have the means to earn that money.

One of the many things I’ve been learning from time spent in the Kheprw Institute (KI) community is how a vibrant, happy, healthy community can be built without money.  There was really no alternative.  One initiative relates to food, for example.  A small aquaponics system has increased in size dramatically, after more experience with the system.  Gardening has expanded, and a food co-op developed.  The food can not only be used by the community, but sold to local restaurants, which generates a little money.

Much of what is done at KI is based on the idea of the gifting economy.  People share  work and items in exchange for work and/or items from others.  The KI facilities have a large room with chairs that is in constant use by community organizations.  A rental fee is not charged.  Donations are encouraged.  This has made KI the central place in Indianapolis for social justice organizations to be able to meet and exchange ideas–something that wouldn’t happen if a fee was required to use the space.

We need to help each other find ways to celebrate the work, skills and ideas of our friends and neighbors.   Building Beloved communities is more important now than ever.


Martin Luther King, Jr Memorial, Washington, DC



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