The care paradox

Think tank: Joseph Rowntree Foundation

Author(s): James Plunkett

October 25, 2022

This essay from UK think tank the Joseph Rowntree Foundation looks at as capitalism matures, how do we stay human? 

When we think about a high-tech society, our minds jump to things that are shiny and new. From iPhones and Teslas to fast-fashion and streamed music, technology equals disruption and innovation. Yet the character of a digital society is defined just as much – perhaps more so – by the parts of life technology doesn’t transform. And it turns out that those activities are summed up by one word: care. From helping elderly people to wash themselves with dignity, to relieving the dread of someone who is terminally ill, these emotional and irreducibly human activities are hard to make more productive. This simple fact has a profound consequence: as exponential innovation transforms other sectors, care gets relatively more expensive. The result is the care paradox: the more that capitalism matures, the more our most advanced technologies are used for the least human ends – and the more that care falls behind. What can we do to overcome the care paradox? Can we harness the productivity of a high-tech economy to pay for care? Can we accelerate the diffusion of new technologies into caring sectors, to make them more productive? Or should we instead do the opposite, defending care in a high-tech world: the last standout of the human.