Impossibly Useless

Welcome to the future: Work is leisure; communities are corporations; and every person is both an investor and a financial product.

The greatest trick the office ever pulled was convincing people it doesn’t exist. Even before Covid, offices were trying hard to pretend they were homes or social spaces — and corporations were trying to pretend they were families or communities.

These trends will intensify. Remote work makes the office even less visible. And flexible work makes the boundaries of the corporation less distinct.

But change does not stop there. It is not just where or when we work that is changing; it is the nature of work itself. For a growing number of people, work is becoming indistinguishable from leisure. In some cases, the workers don’t even know they are working. In others, workers think they are working while they are, in fact, resting.

In the emerging world of work, video gamers are getting paid to play games, and fans are paid to listen to music. This is not charity. People are paid to consume, like, and share because their actions contribute to the economy. In some cases, their “efforts” provide essential feedback that helps products and algorithms improve. In other cases, their initial support helps increase the odds a specific product will succeed. And in other cases, their presence makes the game (or event, or group chat) more exciting for customers who actually pay.

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