Inspired by Javier River and “The Net (36)

Grind Culture

O.G. Rose
4 min readMar 12

The irony of “time saving technology,” counterfeit of “intrinsic motivation,” and a “grind arms race” with AI.

Photo by C D-X

Javier Rivera recently discussed “grind culture” and the trouble with a mode of life that lives as if “we just got to get through it.” Our discussion, “The Net (36),” focused on the topic in hopes of outlining what exactly is so problematic about the notion of “grinding,” and ultimately we related the concern back to how we need an “ontoepistemology,” which is to say a new conception of what it means to be human beyond humans just being “rational animals.” If being human is being rational, AI is about to be a lot more human than, which will prove psychologically devastating — unless we can work harder than AI. What other choice do we have but to try? Indeed, without “The Absolute Choice,” there seems to be none…

Without A/B, we will likely get caught in a “grind arms race” with AI, which we will be doomed to lose. AI will always “grind more” than us, and yet if we find our identity in “grinding,” we will not be ready to accept this defeat, which is to say we will likely become pathological. Worse yet, Javier warned that tools today meant to help with mental health, notions of relaxation — all of these are paradoxically in service of “the grind.” Thus, when we think we are escaping “the grind,” we will still be falling right into it. Is there hope?

“Grind” is a counterfeit of “intrinsic motivation,” hence why it can be so dire: it looks like we have purpose, like we always have something to do, but this is toil, soul-crushing, while “intrinsic motivation” is soul-enhancing work (Genesis in the Torah suggests a difference between “toil” and “work,” it should be noted). And yet the actions themselves can look very similar — constant work, constant objectives, constant engagement — suggesting that the difference between “enhancing us” and “squashing us” cannot be found readily in the facticity and action itself. There is something else and something deeper, a certain orientation and “mode” which defines the difference — not that “the grind” will give us time to determine what that difference might be…

The Net (36): The Grind

The difference between “grind” and “intrinsic motivation” suggests that morals like “it’s good to work hard” are inadequate, because we cannot find in that moral premise a way to tell the difference between “grind” and “intrinsic motivation,” or even “work that makes us vulnerable to Capitalistic capture” (Deleuze) and “work that creates real value.” The principle, “working hard is good,” could actually cause us trouble, because we could assume that “as long as we are working hard, we are doing what is right,” when this will not necessarily follow. The ethic could blind us, just as Nietzsche warned, and yet we could always be blinded from that blindness. Life hides. This suggests why ultimately a “value ethic” is necessary, but that will have to be explored in “The Value Isn’t the Utility” by O.G. Rose.

Alluding to something Peter Kreeft said, why is it that as we’ve gained more “time-saving technology” we feel like we have less time? Shouldn’t we be working less? Many people thought that technology would free up our time, which Chetan noted was supposed to mean we’d have more time to participate in politics and communal matters, and yet we seem less able to participate democratically than ever. Is it possible that though we worry AI will leave us all bored and without work, AI will actually somehow prove to give us more work then ever before? Might that be an unexpected outcome? If so, why?

I’m not sure, but it’s almost as if the more free time people are given, the more they feel obligated to be productive, or else they’re responsible for not being productive, and not wanting to be seen by others as “falling behind” or “lazy,” people fill their time with work (which, to note another point of Chetan’s, is a move from “violence” to “power” in Foucault and Arendt). If we go to work though, we are “assumed” to be working, even if we have nothing to clearly show for it. In this way, does a job “protect us” from having to be ultra-productive, while freedom leaves us exposed to the possibility of being productive all the time and thus responsible if we’re not? Free, can we not stop eyes from gazing on us as failing to be productive? Isn’t hard work good?

It’s strange to consider, but is it possible that work protected us from work, while in “free time” (an irony) we find ourselves unprotected (from “productive possibilities”)? Is there no “grind culture” worse than the culture which emerges when we’re free? Perhaps so if we fail to cultivate “intrinsic motivation” — perhaps these are the stakes.




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O.G. Rose

Iowa. Broken Pencil. Allegory. Write Launch. Ponder. Pidgeonholes. W&M. Poydras. Toho. ellipsis. O:JA&L. West Trade. UNO. Pushcart.