Conversations about work take many forms these days. Is remote work here to stay? What will a hybrid work model look like? Will we need to work in the future? In the short term, the pandemic has driven a focus on different models of working. In the long term, the polarized discussion centers on the impact of automation. That discussion is explored in incredible detail in a recent book titled Work: A Deep History, from the Stone Age to the Age of Robots. Anthropologist and author James Suzman sets out to answer several questions. He does so by looking at the history of work and the lessons we can learn.
To answer these questions, James Suzman charts a grand history of “work” from the origins of life on Earth to our ever more automated present, challenging some of our deepest assumptions about who we are. Drawing insights from anthropology, archaeology, evolutionary biology, zoology, physics, and economics, he shows that while we have evolved to find joy meaning and purpose in work, for most of human history our ancestors worked far less and thought very differently about work than we do now.James Suzman – Work: A Deep History, from the Stone Age to the Age of Robots
The constructs of our world evolved to where we are today, creating a belief system that is deeply engrained in individuals and society. It is easy therefore to conclude that work and purpose are synonymous. That we have always been a species that worked very hard. That inequality is inevitable. Well Mr. Suzman’s work says otherwise. Our hunter-gatherer ancestors worked just enough to feed themselves, shared freely with each other, had no desire for material possession, and formed the world’s most egalitarian economic model. A fascinating journey through history that is highly instructive – as history as always proven to be. I highly recommend it and have added it to my library.