Micael Widell

Entering a jobless world

/ work

The unemployment problems which we have seen in some western countries in recent years is not something I think we can back out of. To the contrary it is just the beginning of a new era, where only part of the population will have a normal "job". This video succinctly explains the whole thing in just under four minutes.

Of course it will take a while before everything in society is done by machines, and it is quite possible that we won't get all the way there. But I am pretty certain that a lot of the work which people do today can be automated, and that a lot of effort is already being put into doing that.

Also, look at some of the younger companies that are representative of this new trend, companies like Facebook and Google. They have revenues per employee which are astronomical compared to the olden days where most value-creation was growing linearly with the amount of man-hours put in.

What is mildly unsettling at this point is that the politicans (at least in Sweden) are still living in the mindset that the industrial era with low unemployment rates is going to continue forever. That the problems with unemployment we are facing right now is just some temporary thing that we can fix. They don't even understand that we will never get back to low unemployment.

I wonder how this new world might look like. During a long transition phase, more and more people will shift over to working with programming all the software, robots and systems that create value in the world. And a lot of people unable to take on such jobs will have to be supported by society somehow.

When we have come long enough, there will be less and less jobs even with maintaining the systems that create value in society. What we will end up with are most of the money and power in the hands of a small number of entrepreneurs who happen to own all the value-creating systems. But I think somewhere along this path, the entrepreneurs themselves will take initiative towards some kind of Universal Basic Income, if politicians haven't gotten around to it yet. It will be in their own interest that jobless people aren't forced to resort to violence and crime. Another interesting question to ponder is what people will do with all their free time that they once used for working.

Or maybe people are just all wrong about the need for Universal Basic Income. Maybe people will just find new jobs for themselves and others, that the machines cannot do. Maybe the tech-futurists are just too optimistic about the extent that stuff can be done with AI and robots. It will be exciting to see where we went up regardless.

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