You Only Get Less Than 26% of Your Life– a Rough Calculation

Every single person that meets social norms and expectations in the US has at least one load of whites and one load of darks in their laundry. A person should probably ideally wash this laundry once a week. It takes 30 or more minutes to wash each load and an hour to dry each load. That’s 3 hours each week. A person who fits into “normal” standards in the US is supposed to shower every day. If you allow yourself zero enjoyment of your shower, then it takes at least ten minutes each day to shower. It probably takes at least 10 minutes each day to choose the next set of clothing and to change out of the old and into the new once at night and once in the morning. That’s twenty minutes to shower and dress each day for a total of two hours and twenty minutes. Then, each person is expected to work at least 40 hours a week even though usually people work far more. If you are lucky, you only spend 30 minutes in total each day from the time you begin to leave your domicile until the time you step foot at your place of work. That happens five days a week for a total of 45 hours per week.

Then, a person must navigate the hell hole of the grocery store at least once a week if they desire to eat anything fresh at all. So I suppose one implicit assumption in this argument is that this is a calculation for a person of at least minimal healthiness. The grocery store is usually packed full of less than perfectly intelligent people and it often takes at least two hours to find everything one needs and to check out and get home. It probably takes a lot longer for people who have to ride their bikes or take the bus, but we will be conservative in our estimate. So that’s another 2 hours per week. Then, we have sleep to deal with. Nobody gets to be very free during sleep since our subconscious drags us around through this-and-that, sometimes pleasurable, sometimes terrible. We must sleep every day. People say we need to sleep for 8 hours per day, for a total of 56 hours per week. Now, each day we must also eat. If you take no enjoyment in your meal and eat as quickly as possible, it probably takes 15 minutes per meal to eat for a total of 5 hours and 15 minutes per week. Cooking these meals and cleaning up afterward is difficult to estimate, but let’s be conservative. Let’s say you have enough money to eat out once a day for lunch during the work week, so you probably spend at least 15 minutes at best getting to the place where you will eat lunch and back. Maybe you eat a simple breakfast and it takes 5 minutes to prepare it and 5 minutes to wash up after. Maybe you cook dinner, and that takes an hour, maybe four days a week, including clean up. So, maybe on days you don’t cook, you use paper plates and eat out of the freezer and it only takes you 5 minutes to prepare that meal.

On the weekends, you make a nice breakfast that takes 45 minutes to cook and clean up, and a quick lunch, 5 minutes to make and 5 minutes to clean up. That all totals up to 8 hours and ten minutes per week. This all does not include filing taxes, paying bills, checking bank statements, cleaning house, renewing insurance, going to the doctor, going to the dentist, yard tasks if you have a yard, keeping in touch with family, helping friends, or cleaning one’s house. Let’s be conservative and not consider taxes, yard care, or family and friends since the first happens once a year and the latter may be enjoyable even if not a free choice per se. Let’s say you spend only one hour each week paying bills and balancing bank accounts and receipts. Let’s say you go to the doctor once every two months and let’s say you fill a prescription every month. It takes two hours at best to go to the doctor, have the appointment, and come home. At the very best, it takes a half hour to fill a prescription. That amounts to 27 minutes each week. Let’s say you spend merely one hour each week sweeping floors and cleaning bathrooms and the like. There are a total of 168 hours in the week. Now, we have a total of 124 hours and 12 minutes taken up with absolutely necessary tasks to survive in society. That’s 74% of your life.

What I have just established is for a middle class person who only has to work one 40-hour per week job, who lives in the city and very close to everything so travel time is very short, who has no friends, no family, no yard, takes no extra time for enjoyment in showers or eating meals, has enough money to eat out and eat expensive frozen food and use paper plates once in a while to save time, who doesn’t need to take the bus, who has no hand-wash or dry-clean laundry, and who takes no time to exercise. This was the most conservative estimate I could make when it comes to time needed to survive in society. A more realistic estimate would leave far less than 26% of one’s life for free endeavors.

signal-2017-05-12-142035What if someone told you that for the rest of your life, 74% of your income would be taken away from you in taxes? I do believe under that circumstance, there would be a revolt and people would shout, “slavery!” Now, everyone around you is telling you that 74% of your life will be spent doing things that you have no choice not to do in order to live in society. Where are the shouts of revolt?

People usually respond, “That’s just the way it is.” But it isn’t just the way it is. It’s just the way the society we designed is, and society has enslaved us in its current form. If we automated as much as is possible in society, including food growth and the building of domiciles and infrastructure, then it seems not much would be left to be done except maintaining that technology. I can already imagine ways of reducing this number from 74% to 33% or so just using automation and redefining society’s definition of work to include tasks one freely decides to do. If we redefine work in that way, then 45 hours per week of commuting and working could be reduced to zero hours of things you have no freedom in choosing not to do– and we would be happier. If we automate laundry and housecleaning, food delivery and preparation, travel, and create enough surplus through new technologies that banks and finances were no longer required, if we have enough time to enjoy eating and to eat because we choose to, not because we have to in order to be productive at work, then all we are left with is 27 minutes per week to see the doctor and fill prescriptions, and 56 hours per week of sleep. Already, we have reduced the 74% to 33%, and even sleeping would be more of an act of desire than something we must do in order to be productive at work. This only sounds outlandish because it isn’t the way we do things now. There is no reason to think, given that food-preparing robots exist as well as self-driving cars, that these mundane tasks cannot be automated. The cry of “What about our jobs!” makes no sense here– you only need a job in a system that requires you to work for money! Why bother to work at all when there is plenty of surplus to go around? Of course, to sustain such an existence, people need to not be greedy. But there is no immovable reason that people are greedy– it’s just mere ignorance and biological and cultural brainwashing. There’s no rational reason for greed and I contend greed and violence are the results of sociocultural trauma. The future I am describing is completely attainable at our current levels of technology. Just because it may sound exotic to you does not mean this possibility shouldn’t be considered.

Then, with extreme advances in technology, it might be possible to rid ourselves of the need to sleep and get healthcare by adopting a more robust, technologically-enhanced body, or extend our lives to lengths so great that spending time sleeping seems like fun and not a drain on the scarce time we have available to pursue our truest passions and projects. The only arguments that stand in the way of such a life are arguments based on assuming people are innately unethical and given such freedom, they would destroy everything. I have never much understood that argument. We have relatively little data on how people might behave when left to their own devices, free of sociocultural brainwashing and trauma. But, we have much data on the amounts of violence and greed that do pour forth in societies and cultures with defined norms, rigid expectations, and relatively little freedom. It just doesn’t make any logical sense to argue against this better, more free future I am describing by asserting people would be violent and greedy and ruin it. We live in a less free society and people are already unbelievably violent and greedy and ruining it! We know our current way of doing things results in little happiness and much violence and greed, and we know nothing about the outcomes of the way of doing things that I am proposing. Thus, we ought to try it. There are many reasons to believe people would in fact be more mentally healthy and thus less violent and greedy in a free society, but that’s an essay for another time. Do not accept only being allowed to be free for less than 26% of your life. You only get one life and yours is worth a lot better than that.