As Gregory Ferenstein points out, technology may be destroying jobs, but it’s also creating wealth; and as I’ve argued before, the endgame of all this wealth creation, some generations hence, isn’t a world of full employment. Instead it’s a post-scarcity world of no employment, as we understand the word. Fewer and fewer jobs coexisting with more and more wealth is exactly what you would expect on the road to that outcome.
Trouble is, our societies and economies are built around the assumption of mass employment, and we’ll need some pretty wrenching adjustments to that paradigm to deal with the changes to come. Some are already stealthily underway. As NPR reported earlier this year:
In the past three decades, the number of Americans who are on disability has skyrocketed. The rise has come even as medical advances have allowed many more people to remain on the job, and new laws have banned workplace discrimination against the disabled. Every month, 14 million people now get a disability check from the government … The vast majority of people on federal disability do not work. Yet because they are not technically part of the labor force, they are not counted among the unemployed.
In other words, the US government is already quietly paying a significant fraction of the American population not to work. If jobs keep disappearing, while the overall wealth of America and the world keeps increasing, then we can expect initiatives like that to keep expanding. George Monbiot is the latest to propose a basic income, which “gives everyone, rich and poor, without means-testing or conditions, a guaranteed sum every week.”
This is a really well done piece by TechCrunch about technology and jobs. Recommend.