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Google’s Perspective on the Full-Time Worker

     The recent dual interview with Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin was not only interesting but also got a lot of attention so I thought I’d dedicate my fourth blog to it. I mentioned that they discussed the changing workforce and their opinion on how often people in modern society are working.

     The conversation started with a question concerning the fact that machines are slowly replacing jobs that were previously filled with live workers.  Although the interviewer thought this concept was scary, Page answered with a few points about why taking humans out of the workforce, even practically, can be a good thing for everyone. Some highlights of the conversation:

  • In the late 1900s 90% of work was in farming—we’ve made a dramatic shift once and it can happen again
  • Work is not required to live a happy or fulfilled life—as long as one has security, shelter, and opportunity for their family
  • Less than 1% of the work that is put forth today is actually needed to acquire the above necessities for happiness
  • Because we live in the time of abundance we feel like we need to be kept busy so we are destroying the environment without real cause or reason
  • If we reduce work hours (giving two part-time jobs instead of one full-time)
  • “If you have global unemployment just reduce work time.”
  • Allow people to seek hobbies and other activities to improve their well-being and happiness as well as providing them with more time to spend with the people they love

     In theory this way of life seems possible; more vacation time and less stress. It does, however, raise the questionhow do we support half of the population that’s not working?

     I’m not sure how this idea could be executed successfully, as with more time off people would struggle with a dramatic pay cut. With that free time comes vacationing and other activities that are not possible without a large enough cash flow.  I do agree that we as a society are putting too much pressure on being in the workforce and that people can often become obsessed by their jobs or the constant fight to get above people and reach the top.  Along the same lines, I think having a job teaches discipline and social skills that are very beneficial. But if we were able to eliminate unemployment by dividing up the work I would completely support that. 

     Please feel free to add your opinion or comments on the topic.

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