“The rise of the useless class” as historian and author Yuval Noah Harari calls it, could be a possible outcome of our eternal quest for ever improved technology. He believes that as AI gets increasingly smarter, more humans are not only pushed out of employment but lose their place in society also.
“I choose this very upsetting term, ‘useless’, to highlight the fact that we are talking about ‘useless’ from the viewpoint of the economic and political system, not from a moral viewpoint,” says Harari. For centuries, political and economic structures were built on humans being useful as workers, scholars and soldiers for instance. But with those roles taken on by machines, will we simply stop attaching so much value to humans as their potential diminishes?
So how do we prepare for this world if most of what people learn in school or in college will probably be irrelevant by the time they are 40? And what is the reason for attendance at colleges and universities to learn these skills, knowing that they are to become obsolete, maybe even before they’ve achieved their final grade? In this post-work world, what then is our purpose? What gets us up in the morning? Does this actually render us ‘useless’?
With visions of happiness and purpose controlled by leisure and virtual reality, are we walking into a world of anxiety and a need for universal basic income? Does the future of the useless class spell an end to humanity as we know it, or the birth of Human 2.0?