Hunters, Gatherers and our AI Future!

Depending on the kindness of silicon strangers might be man’s fate if the believe the cover of a recent issue of the New Yorker. However, anthropologist and author Dr. James Suzman offers a different take on the relationship between work and identity. We sat down with Dr. Suzman to discuss how the bushmen of southern Africa survived as an intact culture for nearly 100,000 years while working around 15-20 hours a week to meet their needs.

Several weeks ago the New Yorker magazine ran a cover with a human beggar receiving tips from robots hurrying to their next appointment. The cover has received a lot of attention not simply due to unease about the new economics of automation but also how work is intrinsic to how most people view their identity and purpose in life.

But is this really the case? Has human history on this planet marched inexorably to the drumbeat of perpetual economic productivity? Not necessarily. The Augmented City interviewed Dr. James Suzman, anthropologist and author of a new book about the lives and lifestyle of arguably the oldest continual civilization on earth, the Khoisan people of southern Africa — better known as the Bushmen.

New archeological data and advances in genomic science reveal that the Bushmen have been around an extraordinary amount of time. As hunter-gatherers, they have lived more or less the same way for close to 100,000 years, or 95% of the time Homo Sapiens has inhabited earth.

What lessons can 2017 Homo Sapiens learn from arguably the world’s oldest continual culture? The Augmented City interviewed Dr. Suzman about the Khoisan, their ideas of work, wealth and community, and how some of those ideas might apply to our hyperconnected, AI-powered, non-sustainable lifestyles.