Labor day 2023 – AI’s Role in Resuscitating – “Work as Worship”

On this Labor Day, let’s contemplate the essence of labor, its impact on the definition of work and its evolution in the age of AI.  Work and labor have become intertwined in our minds, yet work is not a synonym for labor.  Labor is the wheel, while work is the idea that made the wheel possible.  Today, we acknowledge that the world economic expansion stands upon the shoulders of tireless labor and work!

The advent of the Industrial Revolution and the concomitant abuse of the people working in these industrial mills threw the spotlight on the plight of workers.  A few privileged people had the luxury of work, while large sections of the population were condemned to mindless drudgery disguised as labor.  It was at the turn of the early 19th century that work became labor with all its negative connotations.

Before the Industrial Revolution, significant portions of the population were engaged in agriculture or small-scale crafts; they were largely self-employed. In agrarian societies, families worked on their own land, cultivating crops, and raising animals. Similarly, artisans often worked independently in their workshops, producing goods such as textiles, pottery, and metalwork. The advent of the Industrial Revolution changed the way work was organized. There was a shift from agrarian and artisanal economies to an industrialized one and its reach was all encompassing.  Huge swaths of populations, because of economic compulsions, subjected themselves to the rigors of mind-numbing factory labor.  The idea of work slipped into meaningless hollow routines devoid of creativity.  Self-preservation and mere survival drove this economic machinery until progressive governments instituted basic human rights in the form of labor laws.

Now, in the 21st century, with AI driven machines taking over the routine, mundane and repetitive tasks, there is a glimmer of hope that the idea of work will live up to the aphorism: Work is Worship. Artificial Intelligence can help individuals focus on creative, complex, and intellectually stimulating aspects of their work. It can help reduce monotony and encourage deeper engagement with tasks that require cognitive and creative insights. However, we need to tread cautiously even here, or I am afraid the future of work could look something like this


It’s imperative we stay alert, or humankind can slip into mind-numbing leisure.  AI is poised to impact every aspect of labor and work.  We have only scratched the surface of its potential.  I am hopeful and optimistic.  With AI, taking over drudgery, I hope work will be back on its pedestal from whence it was displaced by labor.

I see a future where work will become an engagement of human endeavor for self-expression, an outlet for creativity, an avenue to expand human ingenuity for the upliftment of humankind and in the process, even save our planet.

This Labor Day lets celebrate the idea of work in all its glory, since work gives meaning and purpose to our lives.  It elevates our existence.  Let us also not forget that without work, we will be condemned to labor again!

Happy Labor Day!!