The Importance of Time Beyond Basic Needs
As indicated in my previous posting, The Realized Value of Unpaid Time, our time on the planet can be divided into paid or unpaid in a monetary sense. Society tends to value paid time and discount or ignore the value of unpaid time even though we acknowledge it to be significant. As a consequence, the majority consume much of their daily routine in a continuing struggle to earn enough from their paid time to meet their basic needs at the bottom of Maslow’s Hierarchy.
Nonetheless, there is a substantial overlay of unpaid time people consume interacting with technology in parallel to paid time to accomplish important activities at higher levels of Maslow’s Hierarchy. Among these activities are:
- Provide more services to their fellow members
- Develop professional skills
- Expand personal interests
- Engage in co-learning partnerships with technology
The value of “time beyond basic needs,” when realized, can deliver substantial benefit to themselves and their communities. And those communities that invest in the technologies and adaptive social structures that promote this inversion of Maslow’s Hierarchy among the majority will enjoy a notable increase in Human Capital:
Human capital is a collection of traits – all the knowledge, talents, skills, abilities, experience, intelligence, training, judgment, and wisdom possessed individually and collectively by individuals in a population. These resources are the total capacity of the people that represents a form of wealth which can be directed to accomplish the goals of the nation or state or a portion thereof.
What If We Don’t Invest?
What if the rules of the prevailing socioeconomic systems favor meritocracy and competition? What if advanced technology threatens to eliminate the need for human labor and the opportunities for paid work along with it?
For many there are limited paid time slots spaces available for community members to have “time beyond basic needs” and the system does not adequately realize the value of unpaid time. Consequentially, the system not only pits its members against one another, but members against technology as well, in an effort to secure desirable, but scarce, paid time positions. As a result, the potential to increase human capital among the majority is compromised. Instead, we consume our time either fighting the fear of sliding into a dark hole of economic obscurity and unmet basic needs or fueling the greed of beating nature, fellow community members, and technology to land an exalted position near the top of the social pecking order.
The Human Enigma
On the one hand we have strong potential to expand human capital and tap its creative energy for the betterment of all. On the other, we have a millennia-old tradition that uses the carrot (greed) and stick (fear) approach to raise human capital for some at the expense of others which benefits only a select subset.
The diagram below portrays this dichotomy. A point-down triangle showing most of our time playing out in the upper levels of Maslow’s Hierarchy overlays a base-down triangle representing a majority of our time spent at the bottom of Maslow’s Hierarchy.
We can envision a world – a Utopia – that could exist if we functioned at the top of Maslow’s Hierarchy. But we can anticipate dire consequences – a Dystopia – if we indulged our baser instincts in the first level of the Hierarchy. Our Current Reality covers a full complement of behavioral choices that stretch between Utopia and Dystopia. Therein lies our enigmatic nature as humans.
What If We Do Invest?
What if we partnered with technology? Where would that put us on the Utopia – Dystopia scale?
Are there new principles of design that are likely to emerge for technologies such as AI that are designed to not just manipulate data but actually learn from users? It is clear that designers and data scientists have to learn to work together, given the critical role both will play in the machine learning and data heavy future.
Fabien Girardin says, in his paper, ‘When User Experience Designers Partner with Data Scientists’, ‘In particular, we are witnessing a new practice that requires a tight partnership between designers and data scientists, as systems with feedback loops can only be imagined, built, and improved with a holistic view of the how users’ experiences are affected by interactions between data, algorithms, and interfaces.’
He also lists an interesting set of objectives for user experience design when working with these new technologies, such as –design for uncertainty, design for peace of mind, design for time well spent, design for fairness, design for conversation, etc.
What if we could share the abundance of no unpaid time? Where would that put us on the Utopia – Dystopia scale?
A fully robot economy means that the owners of the means of production (robots) would have a super-abundant economy of things and services at zero cost (robots making robots making robots). The owners can then just consume. They don’t need to make ‘profit’, just as the aristocrat slave owners in Rome just consumed and did not run businesses to sell commodities to make a profit. So a robotic economy could mean a super-abundant world for all or it could mean a new form of slave-type society with extreme inequality of wealth and income. It’s a social ‘choice’ or more accurately, it depends of the outcome of the class struggle under capitalism.
What if we regarded the partnership with technology as the principle means by which we expanded human capital? Where would that put us on the Utopia – Dystopia scale?
In a prepared speech read at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos 2018, the pontiff urged:
“Artificial intelligence, robotics and other technological innovations must be so employed that they contribute to the service of humanity and to the protection of our common home, rather than to the contrary.”
Echoing the theme of the Meeting, Creating a Shared Future in a Fractured World, the Pope said:
“It is vital to safeguard the dignity of the human person, in particular by offering to all people real opportunities for integral human development and by implementing economic policies that favour the family.”
More topics to unpack in future posts…