The Blacksmith and the Genie

A modern fable about automation, jobs, and money.


A long time ago, there lived a blacksmith. One day, he found a dusty lamp in his attic. He rubbed the lamp and out popped a genie. The genie said "Hello peasant, I shall grant you three wishes."

The blacksmith thought for awhile, and realized he didn't need anything. He had a loving wife and family, and his crops were plentiful.

But then he thought about his assistants. They worked long days from sunrise to dusk, and barely had any time to spend with their families.

"Genie," he said, "please create two soulless assistants out of wood and metal, who will work all day long and never need a break to eat or see their families."

And it was done. The dolls were set to work immediately.

The next day, the blacksmith showed his assistants the dolls. "You have both worked very hard for me. This is your reward. You can now spend as much time with your families as you want." They embraced the blacksmith and left with gratitude.

A week later, the assistants returned.

"We don't mean to sound ungrateful," one of them said, "and we love the time we can now spend with our children. But now we have no money to feed them. Everyone else in town has paying work except for us."

The blacksmith thought for awhile. And he retuned to the attic and rubbed the lamp.

"Genie, I have my second wish. Please create wooden assistants for every person in town. Create enough of them so that nobody ever has to work and all our needs are met!"

And it was done. The dolls appeared in every cottage and factory in the town, and every industry was abundant. 

A week later, an angry mob showed up at the blacksmith's door. Several of them held the bodies of dolls that they had smashed to bits.

"Look what you've done," one of them shouted at the blacksmith. "You've created these awful creatures that have no need for rest or for food, and they do our jobs for us. If we don't work, we can't make any money. And if we don't make any money, how can we take care of our families?!"

The weary blacksmith looked past the crowd at the abundant crops, the full stockyards, and the billowing furnaces of the town.

He looked back at the crowd. "But you have everything you need! You have food for your bellies, clothing for your back, shoes for your horses... and most importantly, all the time in the world to spend with the people you love. What else do you need?"

The crowd shouted back in unison: "We need money!"

The blacksmith sighed. He turned around, went back to his attic, and awoke the genie for a third time.

"Hello peasant... are you ready for your final wish?"

"Yes, genie. There is only one thing that the people of this town need."

He paused for a moment.

"Genie, please make every villager forget they ever knew what money was."

And it was done.

And they lived happily ever after.


Further Reading: "Are Jobs Obsolete?" by Douglas Rushkoff ⇢