Is AI the end of bullshit jobs?

David Graeber's essay, "On the Phenomenon of Bullshit Jobs," published in STRIKE! Magazine, provides a critical examination of the modern workforce and the proliferation of what he terms "bullshit jobs." These are roles that the individuals occupying them perceive as meaningless and unnecessary, contributing little to nothing to the betterment of society. Graeber explores the discrepancy between the technological advancements that could allow for a significant reduction in work hours, as predicted by John Maynard Keynes in 1930, and the reality of today's 40-hour (or more) workweek.

How Modern Work Culture Fosters Bullshit Jobs Over Meaningful Employment

Graeber argues that instead of technology leading to shorter workweeks and more leisure time, it has been harnessed to create more work, much of which is unproductive or redundant. This development is contrary to capitalist principles, where efficiency and profit should theoretically eliminate unnecessary employment. Yet, the expansion of administrative, managerial, and service sectors has ballooned, creating jobs that, according to Graeber, do not need to exist. He suggests this phenomenon is not driven by economic necessity but by moral and political decisions. The ruling classes, he posits, find a busy and overworked population less likely to challenge the status quo, thus maintaining their power.

Graeber delves into the psychological and societal impacts of holding a job deemed pointless by those who perform it. He discusses the sense of moral and spiritual damage inflicted on individuals, leading to a collective crisis of purpose and value. This situation fosters a divisive social dynamic, where those in genuinely necessary roles, often paid less, are envied or resented by those in superfluous positions, despite the latter's own recognition of their job's lack of real value.

The essay criticizes the market's valuation of work, noting a disconnect between jobs that are socially beneficial and their compensation and societal appreciation. Graeber highlights the irony that many necessary roles, such as those in education, healthcare, and basic services, are undervalued and underpaid, while careers contributing minimally to societal well-being, like certain corporate and administrative positions, are often lucrative and esteemed.

AI and bullshit Jobs

"On the Phenomenon of Bullshit Jobs" is a provocative call to reconsider how work is valued and organized in society. Now the advent of Large Language Models (LLMs) like ChatGPT holds the potential to automate tasks and roles that David Graeber might classify as "bullshit jobs." These positions with little to no real contribution to societal well-being or the economy are prime candidates for automation. Here, the level of AI automation can be seen as an indicator of the potential for "bullshit jobs”, but it's not a straightforward measure.

LLMs can automate repetitive, administrative, and certain clerical tasks that do not require deep human insight or creativity. This includes generating reports, answering frequently asked questions, scheduling appointments, and even composing emails or documents based on templates. By automating these tasks, organizations can increase efficiency and potentially reduce the number of hours employees spend on work deemed unfulfilling or unnecessary.

Ethical and Moral Considerations

The automation of "bullshit jobs" through technologies like LLMs raises significant economic and social questions. On one hand, it presents an opportunity to reduce the drudgery associated with such roles, potentially freeing individuals to engage in more meaningful, creative, or fulfilling work. On the other hand, it poses challenges related to job displacement, income inequality, and the redefinition of work itself. Societies may need to consider how to support individuals through transitions, retraining, and potentially rethinking social safety nets and concepts like universal basic income.

Graeber's critique extends beyond the mere existence of "bullshit jobs" to the moral and psychological impact they have on individuals and society. Automating these tasks with LLMs invites ethical considerations about the value of work, the right to meaningful employment, and the societal structures that determine which jobs are created and valued. It also raises questions about the role of technology in shaping our definitions of productivity and success. The prevalence of "bullshit jobs" is also a reflection of broader economic and social structures. As discussed above, in some cases, jobs are created or maintained not because they are necessary for production or service but to sustain employment levels or for bureaucratic reasons. The extent to which AI automation impacts these jobs depends on societal choices about work, value, and the distribution of wealth. Overall, if societal value shifts towards rewarding meaningful work and if the economic system supports such a transition, AI automation could reduce the number of "bullshit jobs."


The potential of LLMs to automate "bullshit jobs" aligns with a broader discussion about the future of work, the distribution of labor, and the value society places on different types of employment. While technology like ChatGPT can alleviate certain inefficiencies and create opportunities for more meaningful work, it also necessitates a careful examination of the social, economic, and ethical implications of such a shift. The ultimate effect of AI automation on the prevalence of 'bullshit jobs' will hinge on the manner in which technology is implemented and incorporated into broader economic and social structures. However, AI undeniably signals a shift towards the end of ‘bullshit jobs’.

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