Re: Not sleeping

Hal Finney (
Sat, 15 Feb 1997 08:35:30 -0800

From: Phil Goetz <goetz@cs.Buffalo.EDU>
> If everyone suddenly had 8 additional leisure hours per day, this would
> necessarily reduce the marginal value of leisure time. It would also
> increase the marginal value of work, since people would have more time to
> spend money. Necessarily, statistically speaking, people would work
> more hours. Lower wages follows from the increase in the worker-hour pool,
> and because the minimum amount of money needed to support yourself and your
> family for a week, which is the minimum amount that the large unskilled labor
> pool will accept for a week's work, does not change (or even goes down,
> due to not needing a house), while the number of hours they can work doubles.

Robin Hanson, in his Extropy article about uploads, has a brief footnote
that discusses some theory about how much people will work. Here is
what he says, from
<URL: >:

Consider a model where utility is roughly a product of powers of leisure
and consumption, and amount produced is roughly a product of powers of
labor and other capital. Such a model can explain why leisure time has
not changed much as per capita wealth has increased dramatically over
the last few centuries, can explain high leisure among slave owners,
and explains why leisure is higher in places and times with high income
taxes. One can explain seasonal high leisure among foraging tribes as
due to seasonal limits on foraging productivity.

This is pretty compact, but the general idea is that if you can
significantly increase your income by working more hours, then you will
have an incentive to do so. If you suddenly gave everyone 8 more hours
a day, a first order estimate is that it would be divided up roughly as
the rest of the day is, about 50-50. To get a more precise estimate you
have to look at how each individual would value an hour of additional
leisure vs an hour of additional income.

The suggestion that wages would fall ignores one fact. If people are
working more hours, more goods are being produced. Wages are ultimately a
matter of productivity. Unless productivity falls, wages should not fall.
I see no particular reason why the additional profits should flow to
the capitalist.

There will also be increased demand for many consumer goods since people
are awake and alert all day, so they will increase their consumption of
most things. This should lead to a general increase in economic activity
in virtually all sectors.

Now at first it is possible that productivity would fall somewhat
during the transitional period. There could be insufficient capital
equipment to match the increased labor pool. But this should be quickly
remedied. And don't forget that the same factors which cause increases
in productivity today would increase as well. There will be more hours
for inventors, scientists, and other creative people to come up with new
and better methods of production. So actually we would expect the rate
of productivity improvements to increase since there are more hours per
year for people to work on this.

Ultimately therefore I would expect wages to be higher, for people
to have both more money and more leisure, and for there to be more
goods produced. Unless you count the loss of sleep as a negative in and
of itself, it looks to me like it would be a great boon to free ourselves
from the need to sleep.