We are about to experience the single biggest fundamental shift in humanity since the machine age. Outsourcing and robots have already displaced countless American jobs, their income, and our pride. As technology accelerates, things are going to get much worse. And much faster than anyone could imagine.
Kids in college today may be the last generation that will have gainful employment. Depending on how things go during the next few years, they too may be out of luck.
On the immediate horizon, self-driving cars, trucks, buses and trains are already poised to disrupt the entire transportation sector. Millions of truck drivers, cab drivers, Uber drivers, and the $120 billion automobile insurance industry are all about to be crushed and junked. Humans who still want to drive will pay dearly for that dangerous right. Many futurists believe we have another decade before this disruption becomes mainstream, but Elon Musk and I agree this will happen well before 2020.
As artificial intelligence (AI), the dexterity of robotics, and manufacturing scaling matures, those “fallback” jobs that used to be great jobs – think careers in the military, public service, medicine, or investing – will begin to disappear. Anything that can be studied and repeated will be replaced by a much more efficient automated solution. Robots can work 24 hours a day, don’t need breaks, don’t have babies, w0n’t sue for workmen’s comp, don’t take sick days, and will never ask for a raise. The first career on the chopping block? Human resources. Target date: no later than 2023.
Narcissists, don’t think you are excluded. Powerful algorithms can replace almost anything. There are already digital artists, painters, composers, and even journalists. Facebook’s push into virtual reality (VR) push will eventually create digital actors and musicians who look perfect, never age, and won’t ever complain about songs or scripts. Imagine a computer that can figure out your preferences, install your favorite digital actors, write a cool plot line, instill some random twists, and then assemble all that fun into a 90-minute 8k motion picture within minutes. You could watch the best movies you’ve ever seen continually for the rest of your life. It’s not as far-fetched as you might think.
Software engineers and coders? You’re history too. What makes you think these machines can’t learn to write better and more efficient code faster than you can? Ironically, you may be the coder who codes yourself right out of a job. If it’s not you, don’t worry – some other capitalist whore will do it for you.
Any actual jobs that remain due to an extreme difficulty (or resistance) in replacing will pay very well, and probably be reserved for the elite.
That brings up the trillion dollar question – what’s going to happen to our economy? This whole capitalism thing doesn’t work if people don’t have income to spend. And our government cannot function if people aren’t paying taxes. There are some very smart people (outside politics, of course) who are postulation possible solutions, including socialism and a national guaranteed income – essentially a wide-scale welfare rollout. The trouble is no one can figure out how who’s going to pay for all of that.
One of two things can happen. First, the economy could miraculously shift towards a progressive income and consumption tax that will compensate those who no longer are required to work, which will allow some semblance of capitalism to continue. People will be free to pursue arts, hobbies, books, endless anime, exploration, and anything else that floats your boat. It’s a paradise on earth, or beyond. Think Star Trek, only without Klingons.
Or, something much more dark and sinister may take place. The oligarchs may decide they don’t want to share their vast and unusable income, and whomever survives the panic, starvation, and unavoidable revolution will be housed in government run compounds isolated from the rest of the world. Think a Hunger Games scenario.
I don’t intend to foreshadow doom and gloom, or to be the harbinger of the negativity of the human race. I want to offer real world solutions that we can implement right now. Ideas that will save all of us. Your comments are welcomed. I can’t do it all myself.