I remember a Star Trek second generation scene when the android Data can’t understand what a housewife is. In the scene, he asks Deanna Troi if housewives build houses as a kind of comic relief for the episode. In the future, it seems, housewives won’t exist anymore, being outdated like pyramids builders are nowadays.
So, if I would be in Deanna’s place, what would I answer Data? That the work of a housewife is boring, unending and most the same every day? And that society sees it as no ‘real’ work because it doesn’t get paid and a lot of people consider it obvious and perhaps even nonexistent?
When I meet other women in parties they now and then ask me what I do with my time because I am ‘only’ a stay-at-home mother, so I must have loads of available time with nothing to do at all. I just look at them and wonder if they are living in the same reality I live or if they just pretend to belong to another where housework and child raising doesn’t fill up so many hours of the day. I could tell them this but I don’t want to be seen as a lazy whiner and be the target of their despise, so I tell them that I write too. (Which on second thought isn’t much better at impressing them because writing is often also not considered a ‘real’ job that gets ‘really’ paid in their minds.)
So when I manage I write. I’m not writing though to have what to say at my next party, I kind of gave up on impressing people long ago. I’m conscious though that this is my second job and that most of us have two or more jobs, even if all unpaid work is dismissed as not ‘real’ work on the way how our system seems to be now.
I hope that one day an Android like Data will understand how many times work was done by invisible (to recorded history) human beings that helped humankind evolve enough to create beings who looked like them. Human beings that could have been doing work they would be perhaps more remembered for, even if not necessarily more important than others, and not work that would later be forgotten, dismissed and be considered an extinct occupation.
And then my mind goes further and I think of this strong network of humans that keeps the world moving the way it does. I think that a lot has to be changed on how we think about work, value, and money. On how people work to keep a system functioning, but unfortunately, the answers elude me so far. Perhaps we’ll indeed one day have this utopic Star Trek-like society where things are so well adjusted that everybody can become either a scientist or a soldier and travel to where they have never been the day before. And I wonder how we will look back to our past. With understanding? With nostalgic feelings? With despise?
So if one day AI becomes similar to humans and a fictitious character like Data really exists, I would answer its question this way:
Housewives don’t build houses. They take care of homes, they help to raise humans so they grow better than they would without their love and care. Their job is like any other occupation, where a person can make all the difference by being there and doing their best when no one else was there.
And perhaps it won’t matter how much money was gained at the end.
The day we go to the stars.