Yesterday I got the opportunity to talk about my project for the Liberal Party in Stockholm. The main topic for the evening was digitalization, the sharing economy and the labour market. Economist Anna Felländer, who has written a lot about the sharing economy and digitalization, raised the question about jobs being replaced by robots and what we will work with instead.
This is by now a familiar question that is asked in any political discussion on these matters. What jobs will replace the jobs that the robots take over? How do we create new jobs?
But I think it's the wrong way of looking at things. Why is it at all important to have a job? Do we need jobs? What is the purpose of work? I believe that what we really need is to make a living - or to live. And in order to do that we need to fulfill certain needs. Basic needs, like food, water, shelter, etc. But also more complex needs. Or wishes. And to do these things - study, travel, socialize, have kids - everything that we want to do, we need money, or the things we buy for money. But if, let's say, robots can give us some of these things, we might not need jobs as much as we do today.
I think the starting point should be to ask what is needed for people to have - or make - a good life.
I know it's abstract. But let me exemplify by telling you what I did today:
First I spent a couple of hours writing a column about Airbnb hosts discriminating certain guests. (read it in Norrbottens-Kuriren tomorrow)
Then I had a phone call half an hour with a woman who wanted me to come and talk at an event about my project.
After that I chatted an hour with a friend, that I originally know through Couchsurfing, about life.
Then I went out to give an antique suitcase I had sold to a guy through Shpock to the buyer. He had an old vespa and wanted an old suitcase to go with it. He sent me a message later: "Thank you for a nice suitcase. I'm very happy."
On my way home I picked up some groceries, and then made dinner for a friend with kids who came here and played and had dinner for an hour. Guests who had invited themselves on short notice - love it! And who messed up my place in just one hour - love that too!
So then I spent some time cleaning up. And folding sheets and towels for the guests.
And at eight I met a guy who contacted me via Couchsurfing. He just moved to Sweden and wanted to meet people. We had a little walk and a cup of tea. He'd lived in several countries and we talked about social norms in different cultures. Things like how much physical space people need to be comfortable or how much you look people in the eyes, or if it's ok to walk up to a stranger in the street and talk to them. I'd really want to get better at talking to strangers in the street. When we said goodbye for the evening he told me: "Except for my boss and my landlord, you're the only one I know here." Well, he'd only been here for two days, but it still made me feel a bit responsible for making him feel welcome in Uppsala.
Now I'm waiting for a friend who's gonna stay in one of the guest rooms for the night. I have an Airbnb guest too, but I haven't seen much of him.
So, that's my day. Some of it is clearly work, like writing a column. Some of it is clearly not, like having dinner with a friend. But since I sometimes get paid to write and talk about what I do, even hanging out with Couchsurfers is a way of getting "material". But I mostly do it because I enjoy it.
I realize I'm privileged to be able to spend so much time socializing. And then sometimes even get paid to write or talk about it! And I really appreciate being able to make a living and have enough time left for friends.
Is it a job? I don't know. But it's a life.