Monday, August 21, 2017

The Future of Work

This is for folks who don't mind stretching their imagination a bit. Let me review some of the things that are happening in today's world.

A recent news article stated that in spite of the decreasing jobless rate, the number of retail jobs has been dropping rapidly. An article in Business Insider calls it a retail apocalypse. According to the article, in the retail industry, "Since October about 89,000 workers in general merchandise stores have lost their jobs, which is more than the number of people employed in the entire US coal industry." (http://www.businessinsider.com/retail-job-losses-are-hurting-the-economy-2017-4). This loss is due to the rapid expansion of online merchandising.

But this is only one example of the point I want to make. According to an article in Scientific American, two professors at Oxford University published a study estimating the probability that "702 occupations would soon be computerized out of existence. Advances in data mining, machine vision, artificial intelligence and other technologies could, they argued, put 47 percent of American jobs at high risk of being automated in the years ahead. Loan officers, tax preparers, cashiers, locomotive engineers, paralegals, roofers, taxi drivers and even animal breeders are all in danger of going the way of the switchboard operator."
(https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/will-automation-take-our-jobs/). And this is just the beginning.

Think, say, 100 years into the future. Almost all jobs will be automated out of existence. The unemployment rate, at least by today's standards, will be 80% or more. How will resources by allocated? How will people pay for food, clothing, shelter, medical care, etc.,. The list goes on!  Certainly not by income! No work, no pay!

And what will people do when they are on permanent vacation? Not everyone is artistic, or skilled at woodworking, sewing, or other hobbies. Today's television is boring or stupid; imagine having to watch it full time.

I am not pretending to have answers to these question, but I do think it is time for everyone to start thinking about them. Perhaps if we reason together, we can figure out how to make it work (no pun intended). After all, this is the world which your great-grandchildren will inherit.


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My books, “There Are Only Seven Jokes” and “The Spirit Runs Through It” are available in paperback or Kindle at Amazon.