I am some what of a old fart, still have (optimistically) 40 odd years to go on my personal odometer so this is less about guys like me and a LOT more about you younger folk. Years ago I read a great book that got a lot right about the future, written by a ex JPL scientist (Dr. David Brin the book “earth”) and in it he “saw” this (and many other trends) happening. Not a big stretch given Moor’s law but with Watson’s win it brings the time line much closer.
After Your Job Is Gone | TechCrunch
Do you have a job? Do you like having a job? Then I have some bad news for you. The Guardian is worried “today’s technologies are going to remove people from economic activity completely.” Techonomy says “America’s real worker crisis is not immigration, it is jobs.” Om M…
This is part of the reason I’ve been pushing myself towards a more creative avenue (the rest being, it’s way more fun). The truth is, if a job repetitive in any way, it can be automated.
As far as the “tech class” the article mentions, I’ve had three close friends intern at Facebook now, two of whom I regularly beat in math and programming in high school. They’ve been earning 4 times what I have, but their job is to take an idea and implement it into the correct language. Now someone with a little creativity will soon realize that you can write programs to write code for you, with an easy object-oriented interface. Once that’s widespread, the creatives calling the shots will be able to move a few boxes on the screen, draw a few lines between them and have everything work the way they want without pushing it on to programmers. Obviously this requires some technical knowledge as well, so I think it’s likely we’re going to have to start training the whole brain, making everyone polymaths to some degree.
I was working at a hospital, designing and developing virtual reality environments. They had hired a recent grad half-time to help me out and half-time in the registry of elderly drivers, doing various tasks with their excel database. I needed more help from him so I spent half a day to write a program that did all of his work for the next month. It wasn’t his fault, it was the fact that the people running the department had been doing it that way forever and had never bothered applying creativity to see if the process could be streamlined.
Helped me out though
The thing to actually think about is this, if as the article states that the gulf between the “have’s” and “have not’s” continue to widen who is going to be a market for your creativity? If the market is stratified, the low end mass market is driven mostly by cost/price and “entertainment” value (bread and circuses). The high end market will largely be driven by the classics from the past, status, perceived exclusivity and ego. A object in of it’s self has little value except when there is associated bragging rights attached to it. The watson system has already been used in medical diagnosis (hey house your being replaced by silicon) and the legal profession is next up on the target list (IP for now as its the low hanging fruit). In a odd way it might be like the days of Renaissance, where a monied few vied for power, and the artisans provided them with the things they lust after, prestige and security.
I was thinking more, actionable, individual steps that can be taken. As far as what should be done on a societal level, that gets a bit more political but I’ll give it a shot.
I guess what’s needed then is a more universalized education system. You’re assuming the large class division is bad, and I would agree, but there are those that want there to be a class division and will fight to keep it that way. One of those friends I mentioned who’s at Facebook is hooked on Ayn Rand right now (this was an interesting read I ran into today as well: The world is socialist | by Dave Winer ☮ | I. M. H. O. | Medium). I would guess that eventually the rich could form a self-supporting economy if they really wanted to (just buy up a chunk of farm land and all of the farming robots for food).
In the absence of a flattened education system, maybe (in the first world) we’re moving towards a point where work itself is slowly becoming obsolete, maybe we can just start cutting hours without cutting pay (though again, the “haves” would block this I assume, the bigger the margins the better).
What I understood is that you’re saying that since Watson (the Jeopardy computer) can already make judgement calls to some degree, coupling that with Moore’s Law (doubling of computing power every two years) will mean even knowledge professions, such as doctors and lawyers, will soon be obsolete. Correct?
Now I agree that, given the current economic and social systems, that this is a problem. However I’ve never been one to point out a problem without starting to consider solutions. The first two that jumped to mind were either to start moving the education system to a more holistic and creative approach, in order to ensure that graduates have a skill set which can’t be replicated by circuits, code and data; or to flip the problem on its head and ask whether jobs as they’ve been defined for decades are still relevant.
I think you understand what I am getting at. The thing that will be come more valuable than tech knowlage or even “skills” (besides being a plumber) are interpersonal ones. The ability to “grock” what people are thinking how to influence them and turn that to a advantage, in short politics. I think a re read of “the prince” by Machiavelli is in order.
To give you a example I saw a new “app” being launched and it had garnered a huge up front investment from the VC’s. This app allows a woman (after inputting a lot of personal information)to know when they are most fertile, and be able to share that with others. It is positioned with butterfly’s and bow’s, they are after all " just helping women that are having a hard time having kids a little bit of tech to make it better, easier, and more fun". I though “man that is daft, where is the money there? Why are they dumping millions and millions in that wack dudes lap?” I then thought a bit more and realized what they are really doing, what it really means. At its core they will be able to know pretty well what that woman’s emotional state will be all through the month and by inference their “mate”. That any advertiser would pay HUGE for. That is truly 3rd level thinking on a product/service, to have millions of people share their most personal information about their wants, needs, and desires and then sell it off or use it to “fulfill” them. Its pretty damn slick, and we will see even more of it, products not so much designed but tailored and given the information they have almost irresistible.
Re: Machiavelli, yes a bit satirical however it is also about controlling the masses with out appearing to.
Buggy whips, good plan, however your analogy to the industrial revolution is only in part accurate. In the IR it was machines that in large part needed to be “fed” to produce, with the Watson and Moors law (WMR) we are talking about replacement of our key component, a thinking and creative bit of tissue. It is projected that the self driving car will with in 20 years will eliminate the job of “taxi driver” in large part and if you can do that (and its a much tougher job than you think) others will at risk. When you say “new technology” what do you mean, programing (a lot of programing now is in effect machine produced) material science (a watson against you?) human factors/social sciences? I am not trying to start a fight, be a chicken little but point out to you younger folk that there are some trends both in R and D expenditures and M and A that point to a very different world than most would care to think about.
I think the IR analogy is quite accurate. The machines needed to be fed by only a few versus the hundreds of manual laborers needed to have the same output. People have been frightened of automation for 150 years. Their crystal balls of predicting doom in the future have been largely wrong.
Now you claim computing technology is the new bogeyman. Somehow replacing “brain” power is different form replacing “muscle” power. And I am sure I can find countless articles with authors wringing their hands about what might come. Oh my, no more taxi drivers. If that is the case, and you and I don’t know that with any certainty, I will weep for them as I wept for the last buggy whip fabricator.
As for knowing what the future holds for opportunities, that is where me and the hand-wringers diverge. I don’t claim to know what might be or could be or may be. If I did, I’d cash out on that knowledge in a heartbeat and live in a nice villa on Lake Como. Clooney would be pal. So instead of worrying about what the future might be, I’ll take in any changes and adapt to take advantage of those new opportunities. It seemed to have worked in the last billion years of evolution. I think it will be a safe bet that it will work for me for the next 40 years.
Iab: you made me really lough out loud, just not klinging to the nabobs of negativism here…
Those future predicting scientists are wrong all the time…
Even the taxi driver won’t go away. Not because a self driving self navigating "car " would be impossible to create, but because they would see their precious creations wrangled and vandalized no end. Paying someone below minimum wage to do what Bruce Willis did in the 4th element will still be competitive.
All worth pondering, and flexibility is by far the most productive mindset. I do think however that the social or “human” component is going to be more valuable than in the past, the tools that are available now even to the hobbyist is astounding. I think its now a question of knowing WHAT to do, more than HOW to do it and that is understanding the human animal and how to manipulate us. Manipulate is a goofy word, lets use in stead satisfy them, in one case your creating a need the other your fulling a existing one, but soon that will blend together.
More than 150 years: Luddite - Wikipedia Machine breaking was a problem in the UK in the 1810’s. It was also made a capital offense.
J K Galbraith wrote The Affluent Society in 1958. http://www.amazon.ca/Affluent-Society-John-Kenneth-Galbraith/dp/0395925002 He argued that the US economy was so large and efficient that work could be thought of as optional. He recommended a minimum guaranteed income that would work as a negative tax (like the earned income tax credit). Minimum guaranteed incomes were tested on a large scale near Winnipeg, Canada from 1974 to 1979 and the US states of New Jersey, Pennsylvania, rural North Carolina, Iowa, and the cities of Seattle, Denver and Gary, In in the early 1970’s. The studies all suggested that the program could be successful.
I think, barring a radical change in technology requiring massive amount of human labor, that work (as we know it) is going to slowly fade away during the next 20-30 years. Perhaps the work week will shrink. We will get a minimum guaranteed income.
I think you could argue that we are already there in the US with the Social Security Disability program. The big welfare reform of the 90’s really just moved most of the recipients onto disability. There are now lawyers who specialize in getting you qualified, so just about any complaint can get you in, and once you’re in, there is a pretty strong incentive to stay in. If everybody who doesn’t want to do menial, difficult work can instead go on disability for a subsistence wage, then you basically have a guaranteed minimum income already.
Scott: I know some people who are/were on disability. The sad part is disability does not allow any work. Everyone I know wanted to work, but either couldn’t get a job that paid more or was scared that if they lost the job, they couldn’t get back on disability. It would be nice if it were guaranteed and worked as a sliding scale allowing people to ease into and out of the workplace.
There was an interesting This American Life episode about the disability system a couple months ago. There are many people who are in that situation- able to do some kind of work, but afraid to lose a guaranteed monthly check that they have come to rely on for many years.