Forbes Weighs in on Job Loss via Automation
Forbes has published an excellent series of articles grouped together as "Your Life in 2020." You'll want to read the whole series - its excellent.
I thought I'd quote from one article, "Your Job in 2020."
Many dismiss this rather pessimistic view [that automation will lead to widespread unemployment] by pointing to the fact that, while technology eliminates jobs, it also creates new industries and employment sectors. This argument glosses over the fact that new technology-based industries tend to be capital intensive: they do not employ large numbers of people. Compare McDonalds ( MCD - news - people ) with Google ( GOOG - news - people ): In 2008 McDonalds employed 400,000 people with revenue of $59,000 per worker. Google had just 20,000 employees--each of which brought in, on average, over a million dollars in revenue. The question we have to ask is: What happens when McDonald's begins to look more like Google?
I thought it was remarkable how close this is to the discussion that Phil and I have been having (here, here, and even here). Then I saw the byline - this article was written by Martin Ford, the author of "The Lights in the Tunnel" who recently visited with us on FastForward Radio. To a large extent Martin Ford and Cory Doctorow got this discussion started on FastForward Radio.
Its not a topic that optimists like Phil and I naturally gravitate toward. We have a lot more fun talking about the awesome future that awaits us: a future that is richer, healthier, and more free. Or, as Phil memorably puts it - "in the future we'll all be sexy immortal billionaires with super powers." And really, who wouldn't want to be Tony Stark?
But the more I think about it, it seems obvious that we are destined to live through an awkward adolescence. The transition from the old human-powered industrial model to a robotics/AI-powered model is probably going to be rough.