We have already eliminated all jobs several times in human history. How many jobs circa 1900 exist today? If I were a prescient futurist in 1900, I would say, “Okay, 38% of you work on farms; 25% of you work in factories. That’s two-thirds of the population. I predict that by the year 2015, that will be 2% on farms and 9% in factories.” And everybody would go, “Oh, my God, we’re going to be out of work.” I would say, “Well, don’t worry, for every job we eliminate, we’re going to create more jobs at the top of the skill ladder.” And people would say, “What new jobs?” And I’d say, “Well, I don’t know. We haven’t invented them yet.”
That continues to be the case, and it creates a difficult political issue because you can look at people driving cars and trucks, and you can be pretty confident those jobs will go away. And you can’t describe the new jobs, because they’re in industries and concepts that don’t exist yet.
September 24, 2017
Why Futurist Ray Kurzweil Isn’t Worried About Technology Stealing Your Job
[That has been my hunch too, but I can’t supply evidence to refute the claim, “But this time it’s different!”—Joe]
the problem is that jobs are increasingly specialized, and “drop-in replacement” more difficult. A typical farmer circa 1900 can become a janitor circa 1960, and a 1900 wagon-driver can become a truck driver circa 1960.
But a 1960 janitor is not likely to make a good network administrator or graphic artist, and a truck driver has a self-image and earning capacity very different from an au pair. The changing job-scape is screwing up the family dynamic, the earning distribution curve, the population density and distribution, etc. People are not evolved for the physical non-demands of today’s jobs.
Not sure how it’s all going to shake out, either.
Pingback: Quote of the day—Ray Kurzweil | Gunpon
Sure, this time might be different. But why would it be different than the thousands of times this has happened before?
As for specialized skills, I don’t think that’s a new problem either. The introduction of bronze made flint knappers obsolete, and clearly making bronze tools is an entirely different skill. The introduction of paper obsoleted parchment makers. The introduction of cars created hundreds of new trades to replace ones like wheelwright and buggy whip maker. The introduction of firearms replaced bowyers and fletchers by gunsmiths and powder makers. And so on…
I don’t think today’s trades are all that magical. Every trade has its prerequisites for manual dexterity, intellectual ability, visual acuity, and so on. Given that you have those, the rest is just learning and practice — weeks, months, or years depending on the field. Years is rare, at least for the beginner level. For example, most programmer jobs don’t rise to that level. (A few might; avionics programmer or medical implant programmer, perhaps.)
I’m reminded of my sisters, who both went through several quite unrelated fields in their early adulthood. One transitioned from art education into Cobol programming; the other from hospital lab technician to a research Ph.D. position in oceanography.
The potential big difference is robots are taking over the low end jobs. Sure, the industrial revolution eliminated lots of manual labor. But one might be able to claim “this is different” because automation is encroaching upon higher levels of intellectual jobs instead of just labor jobs.
And the first-thought counterargument to that is how abstract automation, i.e. smart systems, can lower the entry and performance requirements of middle- to high-end jobs.
State-Citizen legal wastework isn’t the only area in which what some call the “Infodustrial Revolution” is doing this. There’s medical diagnosis, for another example: http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/ibms-watson-cracks-medical-mystery-life-saving-diagnosis-patient-who-baffled-doctors-1574963 .
And in a direction arguably opposite to industrialization — as energy costs, which are one of the most fundamental drivers of both overall and relative wealth, continue to decrease, I expect the market for hand-crafted products to return. Forex, https://www.etsy.com/ .
There’s also a HELL of a lot of infrastructure work going undone in the USA, let alone around the world.
When I combine such factors with the likely decrease in the work week relative to increase in wages plus the multiple income streams model, I’m more inclined to agree with Kurzweil. The average Joe and Jane might do 10 hours a week on 2 5-hour shifts waiting tables, plus 10 hours a week woodcarving or sewing for 2 hours every five days, plus 2 hours of teaching sports or music or other training 2x week, plus a minimum basic income of 16 hours of week for a 40 hour ‘work’ week.
And of those possibilities, I am the least confident about the MBI, due to welfare’s history of poor outcomes and the critical research of the concept that I’ve seen reported — but I also have an idea that I believe would balance out some of the potential downsides from MBI. I think it would also compete with the currently collapsing model of academic credentialism to everyone’s benefit. However, I’m keeping that one under my hat for now.
“Lower the entry requirements” — interesting point. A bit like the way factory automation lowered the needed skills for manufacturing cars.
A couple of points;
You can in theory always ignore the “high-tech” trends and live however you wish. the Amish being a case in point, but one doesn’t have to be part of a movement or a religion to do such.
“…it creates a difficult political issue …”
That is only if you’re of the Central Planner wannabe mentality, where you feel you’re dealing with the “Labor” class over here and the “White Collar” class over there, the “Scientists”, etc., etc.. Otherwise it’s none of government’s business you’re not concerned with the political implications of other people’s innovations which are, again, none of your business.
What you cannot ignore however, are those who would practice coercion against you. Certain technologies make that easier or more tempting for those inflicted with the Central Planner’s mental disease. Any “political implications” then are limited to the government’s increasing ability to fuck with you while you’re trying to be left alone to live as you choose.
In short; you can all get electronic brain implants and be genetically modified and live on that shithole, Mars. I can’t stop you, but leave me alone and I’ll get along fine without all that dumb shit.
If you want to change the way everyone lives, then you’ll have to ban all the old ways of living, and threaten and kill those who practice them. The pure seduction of new technology goes only so far, as the recent cold receptionn of the new iPhone demonstrates.
You can dazzle me, fool me and seduce me only so long, after which I’ll tell you to fuck off. Then you’ll have to threaten me, then kill me. Isn’t that what we’re really talking about, without coming out and saying it?
It becomes a “political issue” for more than just the Central Planners if there are hungry people rioting and looting the people who are sufficiently productive to have provided for themselves. Do the political class bring out the machine guns to “educate the parasites”? Or do they succumb to demands to redistribute the wealth “from everyone according to their ability and to everyone according to their needs”?
History indicates the redistribution plan is the most likely path.
“OH! But the molecules! We MUST discuss the molecules, and the nano-chips…!”
Or else what?
The other problem in all this is national security. We need to be able to produce tanks and giant electric transformers and warships and for that matter computers without Chinese backdoors.