500 years hence: only 10% of the world will work paid jobs

Source: MIT Technology Review, Sep 2015

Interview with Steve Jurvetson

Are today’s new digital technologies destroying or creating jobs?

I absolutely believe in the near to medium term there is going to be net job creation, as there always has been. Think of all the Uber jobs. The opportunity is not yet fully tapped to, in a sense, distribute [over the Internet] the service economy. The service economy is bigger than the goods economy, so the online equivalent should be even bigger and more powerful than the online marketplace for physical goods.

“Five hundred years from now everyone is going to be involved in some kind of information or entertainment … There will be no farmers, there will be no people working in manufacturing.”

Many of these new jobs, including those at Uber, are taking shape on what you call the “edge of automation.” Do you fear that these jobs might quickly disappear as technology keeps evolving?

What you’re farming out to humans today are those things that computers just barely can’t do. We know from Moore’s Law and improvements in computing that in two or three years [much of this] work will be automated.

If a startup or new business venture has created a job that involves human labor, it probably has done so in a way that is pretty marginal. Whether you’re a technology enthusiast or a detractor, the rate at which this will shift is probably going to be unprecedented. There will be massive dislocation.

In the long run, 500 years from now, everyone is going to be involved in some kind of information or entertainment. Nobody on the planet in 500 years will do a physically repetitive thing for a living. There will be no farmers, there will be no people working in manufacturing. To me it is an impossibility that people would do that. People might do it for fun. You might have an organic garden in your backyard because you love it. Five hundred years from now I don’t know if even 10 percent of people on the planet have a job in the sense of being paid to do something.

We’ll live off the production of robots, free to be the next Aristotle or Plato or Newton.

I don’t think that anyone in Washington is going to get their head around this and make meaningful change. No politician has a 50-year horizon. I see zero chance that long-term thinking will govern policy.

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