Skip to main content
Harvard University Press - home
Automation and Utopia

Automation and Utopia

Human Flourishing in a World without Work

John Danaher

ISBN 9780674984240

Publication date: 09/24/2019

Request exam copy

Automating technologies threaten to usher in a workless future. But this can be a good thing—if we play our cards right.

Human obsolescence is imminent. The factories of the future will be dark, staffed by armies of tireless robots. The hospitals of the future will have fewer doctors, depending instead on cloud-based AI to diagnose patients and recommend treatments. The homes of the future will anticipate our wants and needs and provide all the entertainment, food, and distraction we could ever desire.

To many, this is a depressing prognosis, an image of civilization replaced by its machines. But what if an automated future is something to be welcomed rather than feared? Work is a source of misery and oppression for most people, so shouldn’t we do what we can to hasten its demise? Automation and Utopia makes the case for a world in which, free from need or want, we can spend our time inventing and playing games and exploring virtual realities that are more deeply engaging and absorbing than any we have experienced before, allowing us to achieve idealized forms of human flourishing.

The idea that we should “give up” and retreat to the virtual may seem shocking, even distasteful. But John Danaher urges us to embrace the possibilities of this new existence. The rise of automating technologies presents a utopian moment for humankind, providing both the motive and the means to build a better future.

Praise

  • John Danaher proposes a novel claim: The end of work is a good thing and may lead to better alternatives for human flourishing. This line of argument and the method by which Danaher pursues and achieves it is both new and exciting. A very welcome and original contribution.

    —David Gunkel, Northern Illinois University

Author

  • John Danaher is a Senior Lecturer in Law at the National University of Ireland (NUI) Galway and coeditor of Robot Sex: Social and Ethical Implications. He has published over forty papers on topics including the risks of advanced AI, the meaning of life and the future of work, the ethics of human enhancement, the intersection of law and neuroscience, the utility of brain-based lie detection, and the philosophy of religion. His work has appeared in The Guardian, Aeon, and The Philosophers’ Magazine.

Book Details

  • 336 pages
  • 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
  • Harvard University Press

Recommendations