Elon Musk has recently suggested that Artificial Intelligence (AI) will make work redundant. That human beings will no longer have to work. It will all be done for us by sophistically programmed machines.
Quite some time ago it was predicted that machines would take away the drudgery of routine work and so all of us would have more leisure time. Certainly, for example, digging holes, loading lorries, recording and storing information have all been made easier. Communication too. But I’m not sure that we are any less busy.
The poet Philip Larkin wrote in his poem Toads, “Why should I let the toad work/Squat on my life?…. Six days a week it soils/With its sickening poison -/Just for paying a few bills!” If you feel exploited and unappreciated, work might well feel like Larkin’s toad on your back. But I’m not sure it needs to.
Work can give purpose, connection and an opportunity to be of help and service. It can give us opportunities to learn and grow. Not only to learn knowledge and skills but to learn about ourselves and our relationships to other people – and, as priest and poet George Herbert suggests – our relationship to God. We can even make “drudgery divine”. And anyone “who sweeps a room, as for thy laws,/makes that and the action fine.”