Why Don’t We Work Less?

“What, exactly, is the point of earning a paycheck that isn’t a living wage, except to prove that you have a work ethic?”

Longreads

At a recent conference in Detroit, billionaire Jack Ma, founder of the online marketplace Alibaba, told CNBC that, thanks to advances in artificial intelligence, people will soon work less.

“I think in the next 30 years, people only work four hours a day and maybe four days a week,” Ma said. “My grandfather worked 16 hours a day in the farmland and [thought he was] very busy. We work eight hours, five days a week and think we are very busy.”

People have been making this prediction for generations. Economist John Maynard Keynes posited, in an essay published a year after the 1929 Wall Street crash, that his grandchildren would work 15-hour weeks, with five-day weekends. In 2015, NPR caught up with some of his descendants and discovered Keynes — who, according to his grand-nephew died “from working too hard” — was wrong. His grand-nephew reported working over 100 hours…

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