Review of Mark Kingwell’s The Barbed Gift of Leisure

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Review of Mark Kingwell’s The Barbed Gift of Leisure
Mark Kingwell is mistaken in his postulation that embracing technological advances by
offloading most of the tasks to robots is “human downgrading” (par. 34). He fails to recognize
that it is humans who through their efforts and creativity are able to realize these intelligent
machines before putting them into use. He has based his argument on the efforts of various
individuals trying to make their lives easier through creative problem-solving. He begins by
ridiculing a young person who has a dream of inventing a robot later in his life that would make
his bed for him every morning (par. 1). Kingwell questions why someone would strive to excel
in a course like computer science for such a seemingly trivial goal. He argues that the invention
of robots might be used with good intentions, but their creation will always have a dark side.
Kingwell further claims that the main reason why the robots are being invented is
basically as a result of man’s desire to avoid indulging in physical work that has little pay, to
strive for managerial or white-collar positions (par. 4). Kingwell expresses concern that robots
could eventually displace humans who would otherwise have done those jobs. He feels that this
is dangerous because an individual with too much free time will seek relief from boredom (par.
7). His argument sounds very much like the old adage “Idle hands are the work of the Devil.”
Here, Kingwell is demonstrating his attitude that creating robots for manual labor has a dark side
to it.
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Kingwell further believes that humans have already come to the point of being cyborgs,
that robot technology has already become part of man’s life, resulting in a mixture of human and
non-living features (par. 8). He claims that, with time, these robots that are meant to assist
humans will end up rising against man, like in the movie The Terminator. He asserts that sooner
or later these machines will develop human-like intelligence and will begin demanding equal
rights in society (par. 11). These demands will be the result of abuse by humans, such as being
assigned an overload of work. Eventually, demands will turn to acts of revenge (par. 13), like in
the movie Blade Runner.
In addition, Kingwell claims that humans will no longer anticipate the weekend for
leisurely activities after a long week of work. This, he says, is as a result of having gadgets that
allow one to enjoy social media in the comfort of their offices (par. 18). He goes on to argue that
it is preferable to have some kind of constructive idling as he does writing rather than spending it
in useless play. Kingwell feels that leisure is a form of consumption which will lead humans to
competing with each other. He says that such competition ends only in death (par. 28).
With such a lifestyle of mere competition in almost everything, Kingwell asserts that
humans end up ceasing to be workers and real owners; instead, they produce and consume
imagined products. This is because technological advancements will lead to excessive idleness
and, hence, creative fancies, leaving humans to nonstop indulging in desires (par. 33). He
finishes his argument by saying that, even with such leisure, humans still die, and no robot can
prevent death.
Kingwell’s assertion that too much embracing of technology to complete chores is human
downgrading is mistaken because he has completely forgotten that the same technology comes 
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about through human involvement. For example, the young person who wants to invent a robot
to make his bed realizes that his goal will be achieved only through his hard work and
commitment to his studies. Kingwood does not acknowledge these efforts; rather, he looks
towards the final results when the fruits of labor have been reaped (par. 1).
Kingwell’s reasoning is faulty when he asserts that robots are invented to free humans of
physical jobs, leaving the man in managerial positions. Kingwell does not understand that robots
are meant to assist and not totally substitute for mankind in completing work-related tasks. This
means humans are still involved. As Kingwell states, robots must at all times obey the orders
given to them by humans (par. 6). It is clear that the robots can never be totally independent.
Kingwell further claims that our involvement in techno-use has turned our human nature
into something very different. He asserts that we are cyborgs (par. 8). This is not the case as the
interaction with technology allows humans to make even further technological advancements.
Developing new technologies does not mean that changes take place in human nature (par. 10);
rather, it provides an opportunity to embrace and explore the benefits of their endeavors. As new
developments are realized, the great difference between humans and non-humans is more clea 


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