"Fucking hell" describes my reaction accurately. When I was a kid and wanted a job in video games I was considering both the UK and Japan. Quite happy with my choice (of country, not career - that sucked). Every article about work in Japan I read baffles me because it all strikes me as insanely inefficient, yet they're one of the wealthiest countries in the world. Then again so is Qatar.
If we look further back in history we can see feudalism in the Medieval period. It wasn't created overnight, it was introduced over time as there was a long-term surplus of labor and concentration of wealth and power in a few elites. It was only broken in Europe by the Black Death killing 1/3 of the population. Suddenly workers were in such demand that every elite from minor Lords up to Royalty abandoned the old rules and welcomed serfs with open arms. Technically you still needed your Lord's permission to travel, marry, etc. In reality if your local Lord wasn't giving you a good deal you could just leave. That was a new.
My point is this: can we please avoid all the pain and suffering this time around?
(My guess is no, the elites always fight against taxes and "regulations" until things get so bad that society breaks and reforms along new lines... The Great Depression was merely one in a long series of bank panics and massive recessions).
This. 300 years ago, 90+% of population was working in agriculture - now it's around 2% in developed countries. And yet, there was no armageddon - we managed to develop all these new needs that keep people employed. People saying that "this time it will be different" ignore the almost unlimited growth potential of some industries, such as for example teaching (we could go back to the standard of one teacher per one pupil that rich people had back in the day), psychological counsel (potentially everybody could benefit from a shrink/coach), or human-based health care (more nurses -> better standard of care).
Economic activity doesn't magically happen when all of the lubrication for the engine is left in a bottle on the shelf, which is what modern automation is happily barreling towards barring a significant reworking of society that will have all the invisible hand fiction-peddlers in the tizziest of states.
1. Capital ownership and opportunity: All of the careers you mention could absorb many more workers in terms of available tasks (something like teaching could easy grow 10x), but that doesn't justify a claim that they will. The farming transition was enabled by mass ownership of productivity gains - careers like entertainment expanded massively because lots of demand was newly available to support that supply. The Picketty school of thought argues that this isn't inevitable; it's possible that a few kids get one on one education, and a bunch of people starve because wealth concentration means there aren't enough buyers for their work.
More specifically, the rich won't buy arbitrary amounts of services because their time and desires are not unbounded. Even 1-on-1 teaching can only employ one teacher-hour per buyer-hour, and the returns on 'background support' don't really justify having 50 people make one lesson plan at living wages.
2. Capability: Take a look at all of the careers you outlined there. They're all skilled-service work, most of which requires having more of some trait than your customer. Teachers need knowledge, counselors need insight, care workers need knowledge or patience and emotional reserves. Crucially, a lot of this is relative - it's not enough for a teacher to know things, they have to have knowledge their customer doesn't have and does desire. Factory labor took some specialized knowledge, but the transition from "a strong back for working fields" to "a strong back for milling cotton" was far less extreme.
This is the sort of two-sided market that's hard to stumble in to. I'm not saying most people can't learn an employable social/service skill, but if you lose your factory job you can't just accept a low wage to work as a teacher. There are significant time and price barriers in that transition, and it's not clear that they'll be overcome without non-market intervention. Markets are wonderfully efficient, but they can certainly decide that it's not worth retraining someone instead of letting them starve.
Automating processes in production activities aims to "remove" human factor(s) altogether from phyiscal activities, leaving only management and maintence personel (that is if it is not outsourced) of the automated systems in a production site. Thus, comparison between "reduction of workforce" because of more advanced tools (and animals?) and "removal of workforce" caused by automation is just... silly.
There are many reasons to automate processes, chiefly eleminating or reducing certain costs and increasing quality "consistency", as well as decreasing activity times with all the other benefits. The latter of which may be the most important for certain sectors.
Even then, if the production site managers deem it is necessary to keep workers to preform supporting activities (eg. keep an eye on dem robbits leaking lubricants), it will be either because they are still in process of being automated or quality control needs a human to "feel it" or its just a publicity stunt to show they are fullfilling their obligations to society (ha!). But automation will ultimately result in "no jobs" for workers who did the activities that became automated; there is absolutely no reason to keep workers, even with lowered wages. Remaining human workers will have to have higher qualifications and move on to a different set of responsibilities, eg. as mentioned before like maintance of automated systems; inspection, servicing... etc. instead of... y'know, doing what the automated systems do. This will effectively eleminate the need to employ low-to-unqualified workforce in a production site. Even with all the best intentions to employ maximum number of workers, total number in a production site, after fully automating production processes, will be a fraction of what it was before automation.
note: written while drunk, may not exactly be english or even engrish.
However, lets say all the jobs with IQ below 120 are replaced with an IQ 120 AI or similar automation via the efforts of over IQ 120 engineers...
Most of the population is physically unable, as best we understand, to ever obtain a MSEE or a PHD in computational fluid dynamics. It doesn't matter if we have 100M job openings for people with advanced CS degrees no matter how much we pay them, with only 300M people in the country the bell curve says we can't find the warm bodies to staff them.
What if this dramatic change happened over a span of two-three decades?
The idea is to not need a job, by being a direct beneficiary of automation. If you own land, solar panels and a robot you could be self sufficient.
There is one major reason this time is different: it requires a highly educated workforce. In practice, since there are so many unemployed and so many underpaid, it means that most of those people are incapable of transition, for one reason or another.
And it's a double whammy: even if every unemployed worker went for re-qualification / re-education, and they all became knowledge workers, the market would be saturated and everybody would end up being underpaid again (underpaid meaning "not enough to live off of comfortably / normally"). In that theoretical scenario, engineers and scientists would be dime a dozen, so even that's a dead end.
Some new solution is needed. Theoretically speaking, if everything were 100% automated and dynamically produced, money would be obsolete because we could have anything built: material extraction would be automatic, processing would be automatic, resource renewal and recycling automatic, the solar energy to produce it free. But what do we do in the meanwhile?
The pessimists point to every collapsed society or culture or subculture and every violent bloody revolution in our own past and ask why in this more cutthroat era we won't all be drowning in rivers of blood.
HN is very optimistic. Go ask the Easter Island Forestry Company what the lumberjacks are currently doing for employment. Hungry urban poor have led to all kinds of fun for centuries, in France around 1800, Germany in the 30s, arguably USA in the 60s... Arguably most transitions have been of the less than peaceful variety.
Humans Need Not Apply (a CGP Grey video)
I don't understand the reasoning here.
Human physical work had become obsolete, so, new jobs appeared in intellectual domains.
Now, machines are going to be more efficient than humans in intellectual work, what are those new wonderful jobs that human can do but machines can't do cheaper?
We could argue that the last wave made obsolete the horse, not the humans, it's just that the new horses are so powerful that one human can control innumerable horses. This is the first time that we are the obsolete worker.
That's what makes this time different.
When some desk jobs have been eliminated, workers have found other desk jobs.
The problem this time around is that there seems to be no limit to what AI could do. This is the crux of the matter. How far can AI go? Can it do any desk job whatsoever? If the answer is yes, then tremendous changes lie ahead.
High volume production of the plow was once an innovation, followed by production of steam engines, then trains, then cars, then aircraft, then spacecraft. At each turn, the simpler goods were produced in greater quantity, and more complex goods were created. A modern car has tens of thousands of components, an airplane has hundreds of thousands, and the most complex spacecraft have millions.
My current belief is that humans will soon be producing items with 100k components in the same volumes that we currently produce machines with 10k components. I cannot imagine what the first products with 10 million components will be.
I think widespread automation will dramatically increase human productivity and lower prices and bring amazing new products that will help all of live a better life including for those poor people. Without the level of automation we have today do you think poor people could afford television or car or even a can of soda? Think of many more amazing things that would be easily accessible for poor people across the world because the new wave of automation.
Human beings pushed out from less productive works is a good thing for humanity in general. If some kid today grows up think she would do a job of a factory shop worker I think it is a bit waste of human talent. She can be lot more.
Getting rid of minimum wage laws might be the best way to help those who are being pushed out of the employment due to automation.
I hope we can put more energy into coming up with a valid long-term solution.
Unless you are stuck in a "latte" habit, a basic income, at least if it is paid out of national coffers rather than local ones, will enable you to up and move where living is cheaper.
That is perhaps the hardest part of current day public support structures, that they lock you into staying put.
This is why I believe that we need to find the political will to make the cities more affordable (and also nicer) to live in than the outlying areas.
It's a documentary on hopelessness, captured beautifully. Well worth an hour of your time.