IEET > Rights > HealthLongevity > Economic > Personhood > Vision > Affiliate Scholar > John G. Messerly > FreeThought > Enablement > Sociology > Futurism > Technoprogressivism > Innovation
The Monotony of Work

I corresponded with an old friend yesterday who was communicating the tedium of his work as a software engineer. He is thankful that he earns a six-figure salary, and he understands that most people in the world would happily trade places with him, but that doesn’t change the fact that a future filled with a lifetime of coding doesn’t excite his probing and restless mind. Minds like his need stimulation, and they could contribute so much to the rest of us if they were freed to follow their interests . Moreover, while technology companies pay some of the best wages in the United States, they expect more than 40 hours of work in return, which leaves my friend with less time with his children than he would like.

It is just so hard to know how to balance the responsibility we have for taking care of our kids with our desire to elaborate or express ourselves through our labors—that is to have more meaningful work. Hopefully we can do both, but the fact is that most of us will have to do things we don’t like in order to survive. I wish it were different.

There is a lot to say about all this and I have written many posts about work on this blog. Rather than rewriting that material, I provide these links in the hope that they might provide my friend some comfort. I’d say that the post “Fulfilling Work,” best expresses my views on the topic.

Autonomy, Mastery, and Purpose: What We Really Want From Our Work

A Summary of Bertrand Russell’s “In Praise of Idleness”

Karl Marx for Dummies

Rethinking Work

Friendship is Another Reason to Work

Fulfilling Work

Should you “Do What You Love?”

The Problem of Work-family Conflict in the US


Kant: Should We Develop Our Talents?

And I’ll have more on the topic in my next post.

John G. Messerly is an Affiliate Scholar of the IEET. He received his PhD in philosophy from St. Louis University in 1992. His most recent book is The Meaning of Life: Religious, Philosophical, Scientific, and Transhumanist Perspectives. He blogs daily on issues of philosophy, evolution, futurism and the meaning of life at his website:


Karl Marx: knew nothing of science. It was Engles who grappled with applied socialism as he had both the knowledge and resources to use actual empirical data to format this romantic notion of work through de-alienating the worker from falling also into ‘false consciousness’. The only problem is that Marx knew nothing of the worker’s psychology. I do. I am both an [ex] sociologist and worked in laboratories in the steel industry and drifted into bus driving. What I found out is that people actually don’t mind the repetitive, the mind numbing grind of work because they see no alternative. when moving between jobs I’d get this pathetic mewing by those left behind who were totally bereft that there is life beyond work in: but what are you going to do? I’d quip and say: Playstation! Which totally thumped them. I’d ask what they would do with freetime and this was revealing: most could not think of anything except golf, fishing, gardening. No creative interests. Result: the majority of people like being in Marx’s alienated world of endless work. This is the reality on the ground. The example of your friend is an exception.

I agree in large part with what almostvoid says. For many people work gives them something to do. Many people become unhappy in retirement for this very reason, as endless golf and sitting at the beach—-even if you can afford them—-quickly become boring. And my friend may well be an exception. He has an MS in computer science and a law degree both from prestigious universities.

I’m with you, almostvoid. A lot of people are very narrow in their interests and seek abnegation, and as such enjoy “the grind”, while others can find multiple sources of intellectual stimulation.

I think in the future, there will need to be “expansion training” to help people recognize and take advantage of the expanded horizons available when the “9-5” is obsolete.

That might actually be a good job for some people.

YOUR COMMENT Login or Register to post a comment.

Next entry: This virtual lab will revolutionize science class

Previous entry: The Ethics of A.I. on the Battlefield Are Less Clear-Cut Than You Might Think