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Context: OnIdentity

Quora Answer : InTheFuture, when artificial intelligence has made human labor obsolete, will the lack of purpose and identity once associated with work increase the prevalence of mental illness?

Sep 23, 2018

Not if people find alternative sources of purpose and identity.

Our problem is not that lack of work automatically takes our purpose and identity away. But that we live in a society and economy where we've been taught that work is the origin of our purpose and identity.

Call it "the Protestant work ethic" or call it "capitalism". But we've got ourselves into the situation where we judge each other (and judge ourselves) on things like "how much we earn" and "how hard we work", as proxies for "how valuable we are".

What we need to do, as AI starts to make more and more of us unemployable, is to learn new sources of self-respect that aren't tied up with work and participating in the economy.

We need to move from thinking that a man is a good father because he's "the breadwinner" for his children to thinking that a man is a good father when he gives emotional stability and moral inspiration to his children, regardless of whether he's earning or collecting welfare.

We need to think of ourselves not as failures if we aren't rich. Or aren't bossing other people around. But as successes because we helped someone be happy today. And happy because we made something new today.

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