I recently read the evocative phrase “a life of moral consequence,” and I’ve been stewing on it ever since.
To live such a life — a life that matters, in every common-sensical sense — is a deep need and driver of so many lives.
Paradoxically (but as philosophers like E. F. Schumacher and Wendell Berry have long recognized) increased automation is not the benefit but the bane of the industrial worker. Where once his (and it usually was his) identity and sense of self-worth was tied to his work, automation has “liberated” him into the terrible freedom of idleness and isolation.
Technology has come a long way since Pascal’s day, but humanity hasn’t gotten much better at sitting still in a room alone. (Perhaps we’ve gotten worse.) One way or another, we’ve got to find and plug into a sense of purpose, or we’re likely to harm ourselves and each other in the attempt.