I don’t think all the work opportunities will be gone in fifty years. But I do think the nature of work is changing quite dramatically in front of our very eyes. Some jobs will clearly be automated out of existence. We are already seeing that. And other jobs will go from being full time employment to on demand employment and that will require big adjustments from everyone, including policymakers.
I thought it was interesting in Henry Blodget’s talk at DLD, which I blogged this past weekend, that we have gained 30 hours a month in productivity over the past fifty years and that 28 hours of those gains have gone towards watching TV. We are going to gain even more hours in productivity over the next fifty years. And what we do with those hours will say a lot about who we are as people, what we value, and where we are headed as a society. It is very possible that jobs and work will matter less and other things will matter more, a concept my partner Albert has been considering in his book World After Capital.Fred Wilson
This is what I’m actually the most worried about in relation to the increasing automation of jobs: not that society will not find a way to redistribute wealth to the unemployed masses, but how will these masses fill their newly found free time. I don’t think it likely that the majority will reorient towards ‘creative’ occupations; first of all because I don’t think most people have particular talents in that area, and secondly because to be an artist you also need an audience – if everyone becomes an artist, who will ‘appreciate’ their art? It’s far more likely these people will become massive entertainment consumers: on TV, but even more on the Internet, on Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, and any new social media platform that will emerge in the mean time. This past year we have seen how indiscriminate consumption of social media can wreak havoc on democratic societies; are we prepared for a storm tens, maybe hundreds of times bigger?