Soon, We Can Choose Not To Waste Time
One of my favorite movies of all time, Wall Street, (don’t hate me) depicted a tough-talking, ultra-rich stock trader (Gordon Gekko) who was being pursued by a young stockbroker (Bud Fox) as a customer. Bud would cold call Gekko day-after-day, until one day, on his birthday, he presented him with a box of his favorite cigars, smuggled in by his dad’s company (an airline) from Cuba. That bought him 5 minutes of time with Gekko – who was sufficiently impressed with Bud to take him on as a protege.
There were a lot of great lines in that movie, one of the most famous ones is “Greed is Good“, a speech worthy of Shakespeare. One of the other great lines in the movie was Gekko trying to persuade Bud to stay on with him after some wavering on Bud’s part. So he says to him:
Wake up, will ya, pal? If you’re not inside, you’re outside, okay? And I’m not talking a $400,000 a year working Wall Street stiff flying first class and being comfortable, I’m talking about liquid. Rich enough to have your own jet. Rich enough not to waste time. Fifty, a hundred million dollars, buddy. A player, or nothing. Now, you had what it took to get into my office; the real question is whether you got what it takes to stay.
Emphasis mine, rich enough to not waste time. If you ask me, that is the real promise of the future. Let’s dig into this a bit.
What is “wasting time?” In my view, it’s spending time not doing what you want to, but what you have to. Doing all of those little things which get in the way of the things that you really want to do. Picking up the dry cleaning, instead of reading a book. Buying groceries, instead of writing that epic blog post. Driving to work, instead of working. Taking the car to the shop, instead of enjoying music. Making dinner, instead of eating dinner. We all have a million little things that we do each and every day which could be considered a waste of time.
Please note that everyone’s idea of a “time waste” is a different thing. Some people enjoy cooking, so that would not be a time waste. Other people use their “wasted time” to innovate. Also, not a time waste. Wasted time is time doing the things you’d much rather not be doing.
In Gekko’s world, being rich enough not to waste time means that you can pay people to do what you don’t want to do and that you have the power to do whatever you want, whenever you want. You don’t have to wait for anything, people wait for you. The movie starts when you want it to, and you can watch it anywhere you want it to. Things wait for you, not the other way around.
In the near future, the seamless world will allow us not to waste time. We won’t need $50M or $100M as Gekko says. None of us, no matter where we are on the socioeconomic scale, will ever need to waste time.
You are probably asking: how do we get there? Well, I’d say that we are already well on the way. Already, you don’t need to be a billionaire to spend almost all of your time just doing the things you want, and delegating everything else to other people or machines. With Uber and Lyft, you get a personal driver almost exactly when you want to take you wherever you want. With Doordash and Grubhub, you have gourmet meals delivered directly to your door without lifting a finger to cook (you’ll still need to use an app, although pretty soon you can ask Alexa, Siri, or Google Home to take care of your order for you. Of course, if you want to lift a finger to cook, there’s Instacart) With Heal, your doctor comes to you, with Zeel, a masseuse, with Drizly, your booze, and with Thumbtack, everything from personal training to house painting. Finally, for everything else, there’s Taskrabbit.
And those are just the physical things. What about all the bits we need to move around in our life – like completing our to-do lists and managing our calendars, and writing those reports, and analyzing that data and managing those projects? All of the bit moving things will be a breeze, as we start bringing on more frameworks and AI to do those things for us. “Alexa, book my trip to Hawaii”. It will know when to book the trip (it’s marked in your calendar), where to book the trip (based on what the system knows you what you’ve done before, what you like to eat, see and do, and how adventurous you are to try new things), how to get the absolute best deal (automated haggling and negotiation, no humans required). Magically, the perfect trip will simply appear in your calendar.
The rich life that Gekko was talking to Bud about is available right now, and you don’t need $50M to get it.
But I hear many of you saying – what about the workers? When will they get their rich life? Almost everything I mentioned above, in some shape or form, is moving to be produced by robots, AI, or other technology. Sooner than you think, autonomous vehicles will replace drivers, automated kitchens will produce food, and pretty much every other gig will be taken over by automation. So yes, those jobs will disappear.
As I’ve said before, this is actually a good thing. If your job is lost to automation, then it means that that job is no longer fit for humans to perform and that you should be using your skills for a higher purpose. We need to focus on giving humans work only humans can do, and giving them again, what they’d like to do, instead of what they have to do.
Eventually, our world will be full of humans doing what they want to do – and doing what humans do best – moving humanity forward. We will all be rich enough not to waste time.