Life After Labor: Finding Fulfillment in a World of Abundance

Maximilian Rehn
3 min readJun 25, 2024


I often hear the argument “what will we do if we don’t have to work — how will my life have any meaning?”

There is surely meaning to be had apart from work. We are not quite there yet — but if we ever get to a post-scarcity society, I think we can use some inspiration by Ian M. Banks Culture series.

In the Culture, people live within an advanced, post-scarcity society. The Culture represents a utopia where material needs are effortlessly met, leaving individuals free to pursue personal fulfillment. Here are several key ways meaning is derived:

  1. Personal Fulfillment and Pursuit of Passions:
  • Individual Interests: With their basic needs and desires met by the omnipresent technology of the Culture, individuals are free to explore their interests and passions. This could range from artistic endeavors, scientific research, to any form of personal development.
  • Creative Expression: Many characters find meaning in creating art, writing, or participating in various forms of entertainment and intellectual pursuits. The lack of economic constraints allows for a rich, creative life.
  • Hedonism: Individuals often (periodically) derive meaning from hedonistic activities, indulging in various sensory experiences, whether it’s through advanced virtual realities, recreational drug use (which is safe and controlled), or engaging in diverse forms of leisure and entertainment. The freedom to seek pleasure without guilt or societal condemnation is a core aspect of life in the Culture, allowing people to fully explore and enjoy their desires and impulses.

2. Exploration and Adventure

  • Space Exploration: The vast expanse of space offers endless opportunities for exploration. Characters often derive meaning from traveling to new worlds, experiencing different cultures, and encountering the unknown.
  • Risk and Challenge: Despite the overall safety of the Culture, some individuals seek out dangerous or challenging situations. This can include working for Contact or Special Circumstances, where they engage with less advanced civilizations, often facing moral and physical challenges.
  • The Search for Meaning in the Unknown: The Culture is not a static, unchanging society. It is constantly evolving, and individuals are encouraged to explore the unknown, to question the status quo, and to challenge the boundaries of what is possible. This search for meaning in the unknown becomes a driving force for many individuals, pushing them to seek new experiences, knowledge, and understandings that lie beyond the familiar.

3. Relationships and Community:

  • Interpersonal Relationships: Meaning is also derived from relationships, be they romantic, familial, or friendships. The freedom to form and dissolve relationships without social or economic constraints allows individuals to deeply explore human connections.
  • Community Engagement: Despite the advanced technology, many people still engage in communal activities, contributing to society through various roles, from governance to cultural activities.

4. Self-Improvement and Personal Growth:

  • Lifelong Learning: In a society where aging can be controlled and life extended indefinitely, individuals often engage in continuous learning and self-improvement. This could involve mastering new skills, undergoing psychological growth, or even altering their physical forms.
  • Self-Discovery: With the freedom to change one’s mind and body, individuals are encouraged to explore different aspects of their identity, leading to profound journeys of self-discovery and personal transformation.

5. Existential and Philosophical Inquiry:

  • Philosophical Exploration: In a post-scarcity society, existential questions about the purpose of life, the nature of happiness, and the meaning of existence become central. Many characters find meaning in contemplating and discussing these profound topics.
  • AI and Machine Minds: The sentient AI Minds of the Culture, with their vast intellectual capabilities, also engage in these inquiries, often guiding and collaborating with humans in their quest for meaning.

The Culture series thus presents a richly detailed world where meaning is multifaceted and deeply personal, allowing individuals to navigate their own paths in a society free from traditional constraints.

Thanks for reading (and you should read the Culture series too!).



Maximilian Rehn

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