Would you still do what you do if nobody was paying for it? It’s an interesting question to ask yourself, given the amount of time we spend on work each week. Even if you don’t mind your job, your colleagues, your business culture, your flirty manager – you’re foremostly there to make money.
In the post-scarcity world of Ada Palmer’s Too Like the Lightning, probably the densest book I’ve read so far this year, a “vocateur” is someone who is intensely devoted to their vocation. It’s one of the highest compliments a person can pay.
But we don’t have to await the dramatic reshaping of society that Palmer envisions happening, as a result of the “Church Wars”, to think about work in these terms.
Of course, it’s a luxury afforded to few, to be able to consider our dollar-gathering activities in this light. You might come across a groundskeeper or bear-baiter who does it for love, but I suspect it’s a rare person who would speak with shiny-eyed enthusiasm of catching the 7.14 city-bound train to mop hospital floors.
And of course, of course, not everyone needs to define themselves by what they do, by their output. Some people define themselves by what they’re a fan of, whether it’s Star Wars or St Kilda. Some people define themselves by their hobbies, political beliefs or whether they prefer cats to dogs.
What I’m saying is, you don’t have to be a vocateur. But wouldn’t it be nice to align your workday with something you’d do for free in another time or place?
So assume a world where the UBI was only the first step, and all your needs are catered for without the need to work. Would you still be doing what you’re doing? As for me, I’m pretty sure I’d still be thieving societal concepts from talented science-fiction authors and turning them into demotivating thought experiments – for love.
How about you?