Division of labour, which is simply the separation of tasks in societies, makes sense in, well, societies. There was no or very insignificant form of division of labour in the decentralized primitive world. So what will be the fate of division of labour in the decentralized future? What will be the fate of social classes? Don’t panic it will be nothing close to the primitive world but it won’t have much resemblance to today’s societies as well.
Adam Smith (b.1723) certainly wasn’t the first person who talked about the idea of division of labour. In fact, it turned nomad communities into settled agricultural societies. But his version of the division of labour in factories where the task of manufacturing a good was broken down into several steps and each worker was in charge of only one, posed a serious issue: It threatened the dignity of mankind. You might immediately think about Chaplin’s Modern Times where workers were no longer human beings but rather a piece in the production machine responsible to turn a screw for instance for their entire life. In fact he -unknowingly- was pretty much talking about the past and not the future. ّFuture would offer something that would eventually transform societies and markets. Automation would emerge against the division of labour. And this is the battlefield: Some economists are alarmed. Automation means mass unemployment. It means absolute poverty for a large number of currently employed workers. But not for too long they will be eventually out. A machine will replace them. On the other side of the battlefield, things are not so dark. There would be no social class without division of labour and automation is now aiming to overturn something as old as human civilization. There will be no division of labour as we know it today in the automated world.
“Reason for cities is the division of labour.” Here is the deal in the automated world: This is the end of society. This is indeed the end of society. This, For the third time, is the end of the human society. You should be shouting by now: No this is not true. People are not born identical with the same talents and will not die identical. And so no division of labour is here to stay. Or at least parts of it will.
So this is the actual deal: Automation removes cumbersome tasks. And this means jobs which require no imagination or creativity will be taken by machines. But the new world offers something else as well: Free information, free education. It’s up to us to decide how to use our tools to provide equal opportunity to everyone in every part of the world so they can pick up jobs that no longer threaten the dignity of mankind. Tasks that would need a large team will be doable by a single person. This means specializing in only one field belongs to past. The day you stop learning you will be irrelevant in the new world. In this scenario, social classes will become far less significant.
But how about societies in the new world. Besides automation, the new world offers something even more radical: New neighbourhood. Societies are based on local businesses. That is the reason we chose to live with other people in societies in the first place. One person is in charge of baking bread, another one is in charge of selling meat and so you don’t even need to think about bread and meat. You sell your service and get money and buy bread and meat and other services you need. This is a society. Now imagine most services you need are available online provided by people from all around the world. This still is a society but not as we know it today. It will be a decentralized society.
Decentralized society is free from logistic and legislative bounds. Logistic freedom means hurdles that make long distance trades to be more difficult compared to local trades don’t exist anymore. And so it’s equally easy for me to trade with a local business or someone in some other part of the world. That’s possible thanks to ever-growing digital services and of course 3d printing. Legislative freedom means no central authority regulates your trades. You are free to choose the law and law enforcer in your contracts. No central authority, no middleman.
But that’s not all. Technology solves logistic barriers but not lingual barriers. And by lingual barriers I mean communication hurdles between cultures. There would be no society if people couldn’t communicate with other. And this is the sad news for some: You like it or not, you believe it has worked so far or not, multiculturalism has to work. There is no alternative.