Work and identity (and the machines)

Michael Sacasas has an interesting viewpoint on the “machines are taking our jobs” argument. In Machines, Work, and the Value of People he argues that since we’ve so closely linked our value as human beings to the work we do, the issue of machines taking over hits us pretty hard:

So, to sum up: Some time ago, identity and a sense of self-worth got hitched to labor and productivity. Consequently, each new technological displacement of human work appears to those being displaced as an affront to the their dignity as human beings. Those advancing new technologies that displace human labor do so by demeaning existing work as below our humanity and promising more humane work as a consequence of technological change. While this is sometimes true–some work that human beings have been forced to perform has been inhuman–deployed as a universal truth, it is little more than rhetorical cover for a significantly more complex and ambivalent reality.