3 Comments

  1. While disruptions to the jobscapes of the late 20thC will remove many jobs you’ve mentioned, which are middle-class in wages and conditions (if not always status), occupations such as health and personal services will grow, particularly around ageing. While technology can replace them to some degree, which is why Japan is desperate to invent human-compatible robots, essentially they are spatially contingent: the carer and the cared for have to be co-located.

    The problem is that as these occupations are traditionally ‘female’, that is, caring jobs, they carry low wages and conditions, or society expects them to be done for free by mothers and wives. They also depend on government funding many of the costs through taxation income, which is based on traditional jobs being around in sufficient volume: unlikely.

    It is interesting to see the emergence of serious commentary on the notion of “universal payments” as an option around low employment opportunities. All the structural changes/disruptions you’ve canvassed will continue. I don’t anticipate much leadership around discussing ways of ensuring social and economic cohesion in the face of reduced employment opportunities being a permanent feature of developed nations. Just continuing belief in the “ghosts” of growth materialising into traditional economic forms. As we from NZ would say, “Yeah, right …”

  2. I too work on large scale operational efficiency and innovation projects that removed workers from business processes and implemented process automation or offshoring.

    The only choice we seem to have is to create value where we help one another. My father was a teacher and my mother was a nurse, and it looks like these are the sorts of jobs where technology serves rather than replaces workers. Already, healthcare has become this country’s biggest employer and that’s the sorts of places where the jobs will be found, between the algorithms.

  3. David

    This process is inevitable and has been going on for a very long time. While the pace is picking up I suspect people like my nephew (he is 6) will see the impact more than I will.

    Working in Information Technology (IT) I have seen a lot of manual systems replaced over the last 20 years. Now I roll out automation solutions on cloud platforms that are making the IT teams redundant as well, myself included.

    Human survival has always been a numbers game and having more of us was a distinct advantage. We always needed a labor force for agriculture, then manufacturing, then thought roles. At each step machines have eaten away at those jobs making them redundant. As we globalised we found far cheaper labor readily available elsewhere which has exasperated the problem for some countries.

    With 7 billion plus people on earth we simply have a surplus of expensive labor in the western world. Rising standards are increasing global labor costs so people look to automated systems that deliver the same thing for less. This will eventually make more people redundant in countries elsewhere. Once the machine is cheaper than the cheapest labor an industry reaches a tipping point of investing in automation.

    The old process of breeding a work force has become redundant as living standards rise so the birth rate drops. At the same time more people live long lives and retire which results in more demand for support from a shrinking population that has less and less work to do. Since the late 1800’s we have been running a massive ponzi scheme and more and more people are trying to cash in.

    I suspect we need to start finding new ways to define our value and life’s efforts, because having a ‘job’ is not going to last.

    Unfortunately a change would be a dramatically disruptive process to both our cultures and economic systems. How do we establish an economic system that can sustain unemployment of 50-60% over the long term? And transition to it in a way that we don’t destroy the existing models?

    This is all without throwing in more futuristic technology like efficient 3D printers and robotics. When bipedal robotics gets traction (and it will) then things are really going to get interesting.

    Due to the potential disruption and the need for long term (multi generational) change no politician is going to touch this with a stick. Can you imagine a political party actively working to create a systems that allows for wide spread unemployment?

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