What does anyone think we've been doing these past 250 years?

If and when the robots come to take all our jobs then just what is it that we're going to do? George Monbiot has an idea:

But while there is little chance of finding jobs that match students’ hopes and personalities and engage their capabilities, there is every chance of connecting them with good opportunities to volunteer. Perhaps it is time we saw volunteering as central to our identities and work as peripheral: something we have to do, but which no longer defines us. I would love to hear people reply, when asked what they do: “I volunteer at the food bank and run marathons. In my time off, I work for money.”

It's true that George has this rather weird thing about market economies. That people might receive actual money for what they do rather than just kudos or social status. He's rather more Polanyi than Smith, not quite getting the function of money here. It's a method of keeping score of those mutual obligations, no more. And the benefit is that it allows impersonal methods of keeping score with strangers.

Leave that aside though, his thought and desire is that people should, when the robots take our jobs, do more for other people, things enjoyed as well. Instead of keeping nose to the grindstone just to survive we should flower as human beings.

Well, yes, that's rather the point of the automation and that market economy. The automation takes care of the grindstone bit and the market expands the number we can specialise and divide the remaining labour with. Both make us significantly wealthier, a goodly portion of that greater wealth being taken in more leisure. Even more of it being taken not in pure leisure but just in doing "work" which we prefer to do rather than must. 

All of which does make the worrying about robots, capitalism and markets more than just a little bit odd. For they're exactly the things which will create the conditions allowing the desired society. As, you know, Karl Marx himself pointed out. We'll have enough time free from keeping body together to attend more to those enjoyments of the soul.

Really, what does anyone think we've been doing these past 250 years since we started to automate?