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Get Ready To Lose Your Job (techcrunch.com)
62 points by ohadfrankfurt on Feb 16, 2013 | hide | past | favorite | 68 comments



A big, unmentioned one: virtually all middlemen who do not add significant value are obsolete.

This includes salesmen, sales representatives, dealers, warehousers (replaced by on-demand everything), many types of brokers, etc.

This is a huge chunk of the economy. In the old industrial economy there were layers and layers of bureaucracy and markups between the producer and the customer. Now there will be at most one. The customer and the producer will deal directly. Everyone else is cut out.

That one layer -- an Amazon type thing -- will be heavily monopolized by a few big players (Amazon, Wal-Mart, etc.) and will be very low margin / high-volume.


> salesmen, sales representatives, dealers

I still see a place for a person who is capable of framing product relevance. These positions will transition to more resemble marketing and support positions than the traditional wheeling, dealing salesman.

I know it's not a popular opinion around here, but selling and supporting products The Right Way(TM) does take a level of creativity that computers probably will never possess.

Then again, after a technological singularity, anything's possible.


"I know it's not a popular opinion around here, but selling and supporting products The Right Way(TM) "

People who have more time then money are fine (or must) spend their time to duplicate the knowledge of others.

I would rather use the money that I have to solve problems because I have limited time.

I recently needed a firewall for a particular application. I would have loved to have had a 5 minute conversation with a knowledgeable salesperson who would say "this is the one that you want it's $895". Instead I spent what seemed like hours on the cisco site, the retailer sites and more and came to no conclusion.

And by the way anyone who thinks they can just "ask HN" or post a question doesn't understand that at the very least having someone who makes money off you and might have to take a return on a product if your unhappy is generally a better situation then anonymous internet advice. Advice depends on specifics and interaction which means taking the time to listen and reply to specifics of somebodies needs.

That said obviously there are salesmen who don't understand their product and are of no value.


This only makes sense for high ticket items. For low ticket items, it's simply not scalable because being able to effectively frame product relevance means being about to truly understand the customer and his problem. In many cases the only information you have to go on is the customer's search query. Beyond the search query, all the other information necessary to determine relevance is effectively trapped in a buyer's head. Unless you have an effective way of extracting enough data about the customer's problem or need, you are pretty much S.O.L. when it comes to determining product relevance.

For low ticket items, the questions now are "How do we capture more information beyond a simple search query?" and "How do we further promote product darwinism and eliminate the influence of advertising, marketing, salesmen and other product misrepresentatives?"


How are salesman obsolete? Will a person that wants to pay 50k-500k a year for software+services really not want to talk to someone?


Yeah, the most mainstream predictions I've seen show sales adding around two million jobs over the next decade.

People forget that a lot of services are easily adaptable to new conditions. It sucked if all you knew how to do was to manufacture the perfect buggy whip. If you know how to sell something, it doesn't matter if it's cars or cattle or houses or industrial robots. Yeah, you have to learn about your product, but the basic skill set is quickly transferable.


They'll talk to lots of people. It just won't be a salesman. Its more-likely to be existing or previous customers.


It depends on your meaning by "salesmen", but in many cases in the modern enterprise ("account executives"), they're basically glorified customer support positions that get paid for retaining the customer and the ability to upsell. Same thing you get when you call the support line, except an account executive has a handful of customers to whom he is dedicated.

If you're talking about sales that functions primarily as new customer intake and has no long-lasting relationship with the clients, like door-to-door sales, I can see a better argument for that going obsolete.


"This includes salesmen, sales representatives"

You're casting a pretty wide net there. Why don't you try to duplicate what I've learned since 1996 (about domains) or what took me years to learn in other businesses by just reading some internet "how to's" and articles.

Let's say for example tptacek is selling security services. Would it be wrong to rely on his years of expertise or try to roll my own solution. I would pay for that wouldn't you?

You start out by saying "virtually all middlemen who do not add significant value are obsolete". Then in the next sentence you say "this includes salesmen, sales reps".

By the way value is also defined in different ways. The beer distributor (who is actually required by some laws) is the middleman between the manufacturer and the retail level (bar or store). The purpose of the distributor is also to get the store to push their products over the competition. Therefore to the mfg. they do have value in the chain.


Your entire comment made me happy, until that last line.

Large almost-monopoly molochs suck. Is it really the only way?


If I understand him right, it's a monopoly of perfect competition. The barrier to entry is the big capital needed to start. Think of Airlines, although it requires a big seed capital, it's very competitive and this lower prices and increase quality.

The market is competitive, but it's kind of monopolized by the big guys.


Airlines are horrible. I would happily pay 33% more per ticket to fly on airline that removed 1/3 of the seats (middle aisle) and gave the patrons a little bit of room. I think there's a place for that kind of airline if they market things well and add in a few other accoutrements, even though I believe just giving business guys room to maneuver their laptops without jutting elbow-deep into the fat of their neighbor (or themselves, as the case may be), will win you all the business accounts by itself.


Airlines won't do that, and here's why. As you correctly point out, the seats in the back of the plane are horribly, awfully cramped, making it impossible for business guys to manoeuvre their laptops without elbowing each other. This is intentional, because it induces those businesspeople who are both sufficiently desperate and have the money to spend, to pay for the much higher-margin seats at the front of the plane.

That's the main reason why flying coach is such crap.

So, you might think that removing 1/3rd of the seats and charging 33% more would be a revenue-neutral proposition, but it wouldn't be. Passengers who currently fly at the front of the plane would look at the cosier seats in the back and think "hey, actually -- I can live with that". Business-class passengers won't pay for seats at the front of the plane unless the seats in the back are sufficiently awful. Because the seats at the front of the plane are much higher-margin, the airline would lose money as a result.

(This isn't my own home-brewed conspiracy theory; this is based on reading Harvard Business School case studies. The things one learns whilst studying price discrimination theory during an MBA...)


Have you been on an airline recently? Clumsily regulated oligopolies tend to cause races to the bottom in terms of service and hikes to the top in terms of taxes/fees. No, airlines and ecommerce do not share the same destiny. That said: amazon is just another middle man- it's a marketplace with better information/ reliability. extrapolating competition into the future, other equally trusted marketplaces will arise. Amazons benefits of scale are not infinite, and I don't think amazons competitors need to reach her total scale before having similar cost structures. Tl;dr- don't count out competition yet, I doubt ANYTHING on the Internet is "winner take all..forever".


I think a big part of this is also using technology to eliminate products that shouldn't exist. If two products exist in a category and one provides equal quality (def: fitness for use) for less money, then it provides greater value and the other product is essentially noise and shouldn't exist. Marketers, sales reps, dealers, etc. all serve to prevent product and service darwinism. Reviews and recommendations like on Amazon are going a long way to render many agents of misrepresentation ineffective. Which is the way it should be.


I've always seen this as a social problem - why, when we automate things, does the demand that people have jobs persist? Surely if there's less work to do then everyone should be working less, not finding new things to do. There's an implicit assumption in our society that everyone must work, even when there is nothing to be done. Productivity is put on a pedestal when it is just a means to an end - undesirable means, at that.

I strongly believe that putting people out of work and allowing them to continue living comfortably will bring hidden benefits. There will be more time to think, reconcile and determine the best path to take as opposed to mindlessly doing as much as possible just to earn enough for bread and shelter.

Bertrand Russell wrote a good essay on this - In Praise Of Idleness: http://www.zpub.com/notes/idle.html

As a software developer, someone who will stay employed in the coming years, I'm willing to give up some of my salary so that the newly unemployed can continue to survive and do what they want with their free time. They pay people in our profession more than enough to live well. Unfortunately, I haven't found a decent mechanism to make such a contribution, aside from helping family and friends. There really ought to be one - a voluntary communism, so to say.


The main problem is then you have people that work and envy the ones that don't.

Let's be honest, wouldn't you prefer for someone to just pay you and you could do whatever you wanted? Go skiing, hiking, learn Ember or Haskell? Bu in this scenario, you are working on another CRUD application that will make a few more data entry people redundant which will go skiing, hiking, learn the guitar, and you will be stuck at the office in Java land cursing Hibernate (or whatever framework you hate).

We as people are quite jealous of each other, promoting a society where this would happen as standard either grind it to a halt (those that can work would refuse).


That's a great point. Perhaps one resolution is to take turns working instead. One person goes on the grind for half a year, then the one they were supporting takes over and they get to indulge in life instead. The sense of fairness would remain that way. Only issue is that both people need to be highly skilled (since low skill jobs will be the ones to go). Another approach might be that in every family there will be at least one person who is capable of doing complex technical work - they could support their family and, in turn, their family could take care of some of their immaterial needs. In other words, the giving would be an act of love, not a transaction which is balanced on the books.

I really don't have a good solution for this, have not given it much thought. It's a complex problem. Perhaps the issue is that we are currently locked in this state, as a society, and need to reach a certain threshold before the character of it changes. I'm not quite sure what that looks like or how to get there, but I get the feeling that it is achievable. There must be better ways to live than this. What we have now just isn't good enough.


The disparity between what is paid out for "guaranteed income" (welfare) and what one would get for having any paid position should rise.

Also, if everyone under a certain earnings gets $30000 a year - having a part-time job or a job making $30000 more - makes perfect sense. They are making more than those who don't work and their employers can use them and pay them accordingly.

The real problem right now is that it's a half way system... Minimum wage positions can be a worse deal than going on disability or accepting a generous state's full benefits.

On the other side, employers are supposed to provide a form of welfare to part of their workforce.


Alternately, we could just shit-can Reaganism. (in the US)

We still have an energy and resource problem, and a decaying commons in the US. Raise tax rates back up to what they were before the 1980s, then use that money, NOT to hand out "for doing nothing", but to pay people to do the very real jobs of maintaining physical infrastructure or (and?) doing research and development into things like materials science, nuclear fusion, medicine/biology, etc. Some things, in some periods of time, work better in the public sector, and some in the private sector. Either extreme of saying everything should be private sector, or that the government should own everything, is foolish. Increasing public sector jobs would also spill over into demand for private sector services.

I suppose this sounds a bit Keynesian, but I'm not saying "borrow the money", just that we tried things Reagan's way for a few decades, and it sucked. Live and learn.

I'm not a big fan of "money for nothing", whether it's being on the dole, or just collecting dividends from grandpa's holdings.

Yes, the nature of advancing technology means the particular jobs will change. I think we are still a few decades, if not more, from AI good enough to decide that it can just get rid of all of us and take care of itself :-)


"I've always seen this as a social problem - why, when we automate things, does the demand that people have jobs persist?"

This is a interesting question - and something I have seen brought up on HN before. Some have brought up future policies:

- Guaranteed income (something perhaps like the equivalent of $30000 to everyone) - The end of minimum wage

I surmise that real human potential is actually wasted for the sake of "people having jobs" - whether that is them acting like automatons or going through the motions (example: driving 50 miles to sit at a desk and browse social media).


Finland is in the midst of very seriously debating a "citizen's income", which is a guaranteed minimum income for all citizens[0]. I believe that there are also serious movements in Iceland and Denmark promoting similar guaranteed income initiatives.

0. http://binews.org/2012/04/finland-launch-of-a-basic-income-c...


Like the author, I too am concerned people aren't taking this seriously. Not to say that anything can be done about it, but just to face it (as you would your own mortality): If you aren't developing software, your job will likely become obsolete someday. And, indeed, if you are developing software, and not keeping up with advances, yours will too.

This is not fiction, this is truth and it's inevitable. I'm curious how society will adapt to the fact that the finite resources of the world will actually start to constrain them. Almost certainly birth rates will decline. Households will probably return to a single income earner (who is now making what both earners used to make combined).

The world will be different, but people keep trying to hold onto this notion of 6% unemployment like it's sacred. It's a relic of days where we needed the human brain and body because it worked faster than a computer and robot. Such is no longer the case. That is the paradigm shift, and that's why things will be different.


>If you aren't developing software, your job will likely become obsolete someday. And, indeed, if you are developing software, and not keeping up with advances, yours will too.

Even if you do keep up with advances, I don't doubt at some point Programming compliers/interpreters will evolve to a point where a five-year old can describe something to them in plain English and they will create/program it.

That might be the furthest into the future, but programmers will eventually obsolete themselves if they do their jobs right.


I find that really doubtful. I used to believe it, but it seems like you still need operators to run things. Programming tools may become much more powerful, but when it goes wrong, you will need an incredibly intelligent person to sort out what just happened. A five-year-old won't be of much help then. I doubt that we can make computer which simply never go wrong. For example, if a 5yo requests a PB&J sandwich, a powerful machine might accidentally inject something undesirable. How would he know? Or if a kid requests the computer to invent a new skateboard, what if there's some flaw in the material that he can't see that suddenly pops up when he least expects it? A clever machine is only a tool to help with original design -- it really needs an even more clever human being to operate it.


Programmers will be among the last to reach obsolescence, because once programmers are obsolete the rest will happen very, very quickly.


Once you have a computer that powerful, you have probably removed the need for all human thought and have computers smart enough to micromanage literally everything.


Well, currently birth rates are declining not because people have too little, but because they have too much. We only want as many children as we can have without degrading our quality of living or theirs. E.g., a typical family cannot have more than two children because they cannot afford to have the same quality of housing and give the child the same quality of education. Plus, having children gets in the way of people doing what they want to do.

The level of inefficiency and unused territory in the world is mindboggling. I think the national park system ties up one-third of land in the US -- land that's absolutely unused. If worst comes to worst, I'm guessing we will start cutting into that resource little by little. It would take many, many decades or centuries to exhaust all of that.


I was having a discussion about this topic with an economist friend of mine. His theory was that if one took automization to its complete and logical conclusion, the only people left employed would be "soft" creators like artists and clergy, plus creators of hand-made goods which in that world would fetch an enormous premium. We'd also see a boom for experience-seekers, like tourism and sports.

Ultimately I think we're inexorably heading towards that kind of reality. The question is how long will it take, and will it be a peaceful conversion or a violent one. Personally I think innate human greed, pettiness, jealousy, and tribalism is going to make that shift unpleasant for the generation stuck with it. I hope I'm proved wrong.


Automation/technology seems to drive down prices. My parent's generation had to work an average of 4 hours a day to afford the day's food while my generation averages less than 2 hours. Thus, we can expect the price of necessities to continue to drop until work's primary purpose is to make money to afford luxury items. So that seems less like a violent conversion.


The problem is buying power isn't increasing across all domains of needs. Even though a 3rd world individual can now afford a smart phone and nice clothes my healthcare costs are only going up. Who cares if you can buy "luxury" items for pennies if these formerly middle class people can't secure something as fundamental as their health?


Healthcare is definitely something technology and automation can address. We should expect that healthcare in coming decades will be much cheaper and more effective than that today.


Maybe but then again people have been predicting the golden age of biology for 2 decades now and that has turned out to be a flop. Plenty of unknowns here.


But look at it in context: in 1921 in the US there were 68 maternal deaths for every 10,000 live births, and the average cost to give birth in a hospital was probably something like $50 or about $500 in today's dollars. In 2007 there were 12.7 maternal deaths per 10,000 and in 2009 the average out of pocket cost was about $1148. Major improvement in quality with marginal cost increase.

(statistics cobbled together from http://www.enotes.com/1920-medicine-health-american-decades/... http://mchb.hrsa.gov/chusa11/hstat/hsi/pages/208mm.html http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/09/18/us-healthcare-preg... http://info.med.yale.edu/library/news/exhibits/hospitals/tur...)


But surely if handmade goods fetched a premium then the now unemployed masses would use their time learning how to make and making the desirable handmade things thus driving the price down?


Get ready to have the same old arguments about Marxism. Only instead of 'means of production' it will be 'means of technology'. The article isn't looking for truth its looking to push an agenda about class with technology as a proxy.

Technology invariably leads to an overall increase in jobs and wealth. The computer calculating amortization tables may put a banker out of work, but it also allows thousands of unskilled workers to perform a task that would require calculating one. A job they wouldn't have been able to do otherwise.


I'm not surprised that tech crunch would post a polemic article with an assumed left-leaning consequence.

I'm not surprised a HNer with the user name John Galt (hero of Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged) would call the article "agenda pushing."

But I would be bummed if this above stayed the top comment, as it seems to be agenda pushing in its own right.

Maybe these sorts of articles bring out the worst of HN.


I do find it kinda amusing that someone taking the name of a Rand hero would cry "oh noes teh Marxism!" in response to an article with "If left-versus-right is the only lens through which you can view the world, then you really need to start thinking outside the box in which you have jailed yourself" in its closing paragraph.


Ouch, the worst of HN?

HN should pay attention to the narrative given to the tech community. Specially when it is routinely co-opted by people seeking to make some kind of point about economic inequality or gender. I identified this article as something seeking to make a political point rather than looking for any semblance of analysis.

Perhaps I should pick a new username to avoid it undercutting my comments. It's obviously enough by itself to be polarizing. I'm not here to prothelytize.


That invariable seems absurd to me. It seems much more inevitable to me that we eventually will be able to eliminate the majority of jobs. Is that not the goal? A transitory period where unemployment slowly increases is going to happen and needs to be addressed.


Desires are numberless. People will always have wants. Other people will always find a way to satisfy those wants.

When I have been consulting, I've ended up taking stretches of time off to recover from brutal projects. It seems great initially, but I get restless. Eventually I miss doing useful things.

You'll see that writ large in the lives of the rich. Like Bill Gates, a lot of them go from doing paid work to doing charity work.

Warren Buffett said, "I want to give my kids enough so that they could feel that they could do anything, but not so much that they could do nothing." I think that's because he recognizes that having nothing to do is bad for the soul.


The jobs being done today perhaps.

In practice you see that as automation increases, it just makes the surface area of the market larger. It's hard to see this going forward, but easy to see if you play technology in reverse.

Lets play it in reverse and create jobs by eliminating technology. Lets make vaccuum cleaners illegal. Now more people will be needed to clean carpets in all the office buildings etc... What effects would this have?

1. All the people manufacturing vaccum cleaners would be out of work (minus a small number of jobs)

2. Tons of low skilled labor would now be employed as carpet cleaners (plus a large number of jobs temporarily)

So we declare victory right? Wooo More jobs! Except for...

3. People and business who can't afford to employ large numbers of carpet cleaners just rip out the carpets. Over time it becomes the norm just to not have carpets. Only the wealthy have carpets as a status symbol. (minus carpet installers jobs, and carpet cleaning jobs over the long term)

So at the end of this experiment we end up roughly a wash in total job numbers, and we have to walk on cold floors. It's similar to the parable of the broken window.


I hope we can take advantage of this and make unemployment a measure of efficiency rather than a doomsday indicator.


Agree. The author seems to be blaming technology for the malaise in the economy. If so, we should have been hearing sob stories from the buggy whip makers' guild about how automobiles have destroyed its members' livelihood.

As with most things, I blame overactive, overreaching government that is spending our economy into oblivion.


The problem is that no matter how good people have it, they will always see people who have it a little better and cry foul. There are some people who will never be happy until everyone has been cut down or raised up to the same size.


Thats actually a very important observation about human nature. Bottom quintile population in OECD countries, when observed in context of rest of the contemporary society, appears to be "deprived". But when same set of people are observed in the context of entire societies a few hundred years back (pre-industrial revolution?), they seem to be living a very decent life.


What does 'means of technology' mean?

edit: Full disclosure, I'm totally trolling because I think the parent's definition of 'means of technology' will fall into the definition of means of production.


I'm committing the sin of commenting on the headline, not the article (I did read the article)

Too few people in steady jobs follow this advice. They live at or above their means, and aren't prepared for even 1-3 months of unemployment.

Many opportunities require things to get a bit worse before they get a lot better. Keeping a buffer gives you the freedom to take those opportunities.

If you've got a job in tech, you probably have the luxury of earning more than you need. So if you aren't doing it, an excellent policy is to scale back expenses until you have at least 2-6 month's wages in short term savings.

Having a side project that gives some recurring revenue isn't a bad idea either.


But that's what unemployment benefits are for! Let someone else save my money for me ;)


Here's a more banal prediction: construction will add about two million new jobs between now and 2020, health services will add five million, other services about 13 million, mining another 25,000. There will be declines in manufacturing and agriculture, but only in the tens of thousands, because honestly, we've already gutted those industries. (Meanwhile, there will be proportionate gains in those industries in other cheap labor countries, indicating this isn't a tech thing.) If anything, post some magic moment where general purpose robotification (google "PR2") is super cheap, manufacturing will flood to... dunno... whatever country is best at keeping the lights on. Maybe Japan? (Excluding weather events, they have about 1/1000th of the grid disturbances we have in the US, it's freakish - but then maybe it's unfair to exclude weather).

Basically, trends will continue exactly as they have, and as exactly as almost every trade theorist predicted at the outset of globalization. We're getting out of manufacturing. We're doubling down on services. It has very little to do with technology.

PS: If you have a high school diploma or less, you are fucked. Your best move was to start advocating for trade assistance or aggressively progressive taxation ten years ago.


This guy sounds like a sociopath, and his characterization that massive unemployment is ultimately "a good thing" is mystifying.

Even in a hypothetical post-scarcity world, there are things to do, and objectives to pursue. The question is just whether your survival and well-being are dependent on your pursuits. Transitioning the world to a place where one's job is not a major part of one's identity would be a massive, and probably misguided effort.

Also, it's also pretty clear that this guy doesn't understand the graph he has posted here: http://techcrunch.com/2013/01/26/america-has-hit-peak-jobs/

That's a static snapshot. It's not like there is a fixed group that is always in the top 2%. In fact, one would hope in a meritocracy, there is a healthy flow in and out of the 2% that keeps people striving and attempting new things. A world where there's a permanent fixed elite is a world of stagnation.


If you're referring the the US (that's the subject of the article in question), then recent studies suggest that there may not be a health flow in and out of the 2% [0, 1]. In fact, there seems to be significantly less social mobility in the US then in other developed countries, such as those in Europe.

0. http://ftp.iza.org/dp1938.pdf 1. http://www.pewstates.org/projects/economic-mobility-project-...


If you look at the data in article [0] carefully, it becomes clear that the problem in US is not movement in/out of the highest quintile, but movement in/out of the lowest quintile. Middle quintiles to highest quintile and vice versa mobility in US looks similar to other countries.

Btw, they do not have much data for US or UK, only around 2000 parent-offspring pairs. And the conclusion that UK is on the same mobility level as Nordic countries is highly doubtful. UK mobility level is usually considered to be about the same as US mobility level.


Been meaning to start reading Race Against The Machine: http://www.amazon.com/Race-Against-The-Machine-ebook/dp/B005...

As a guy who studied Economics in college and now programs, it's something I think a lot about.


This may sound very Euro-chauvinist, but I wonder if politically and culturally Europe isn't much better equipped to deal with this. After all, social security solutions like a base income for everyone, employed or not, are things that can (and have been) seriously considered in most European countries.

I'm not saying that guarantees anything, but it seems to me that the social and political culture of the US prevents it from even considering alternatives until it is very, very late.


TBH, I really hope we stop calling the current era the information age and instead start calling it the automation age. It's more accurate. Information is now no longer being used by humans but by computers. In many cases now, we simply generate too much informations for humans to comprehend, parse or analyze without computers doing more and more of the heavy lifting. The information is instead being parsed, analyzed and comprehended by computers who then act upon the understanding that has been programmed into them.


The point about the cars reminds me of Rush - Red Barchetta:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FAvQSkK8Z8U http://www.songmeanings.net/songs/view/108819/ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_Barchetta

About a person who finds an old red sportscar in his Uncle's countryside house, after the passage of a "motor law".


Two points.

1. GDP growth is a historical anomaly. Many post industrial peoples base today'financing decisions on tomorrow's expected income gains. In a world of low to no growth, you must save early and significantly for retirement, and retirement will still require working.

2. Technological advances will shift the jobs to those that can add value. That is precisely marketing and sales.


It's rather "simple" after you get over the social issues. Socialism/Communism: in this case there is a LOT of mone.. eu resources to give away ! Or work very little :)

The biggest problem are going to be the 1% who will be screaming ... and reaping the benefits before revolution?

<cruel mode>Then again we would only need to kill 1% of the population.</cruel>


>Not everyone can become a computer programmer, genetic counselor, or startup CEO; a whole lot of Mead’s “ordinary people” will be stripped of their jobs and left behind in debt, poverty, and despair.

So basically if you're reading HN, the title probably doesn't apply to you.


You aren't totally safe as a programmer either. As software improves, each piece of software can take care of a wider number of people's needs.

For example in ~2001 setting up an ecommerce website probably involved hiring a web developer, setting up an email system for business probably meant hiring an IT consultant.

Now shopify and google apps etc greatly reduce these sorts of needs.

You also have ever expanding and improving open source solutions devouring categories of software.


> So basically if you're reading HN, the title probably doesn't apply to you.

Maybe not directly, but a large chunk of todays employees suddenly doing unnecessary work will cause troubles for all.


Get ready to lose your job- unless you have the skills to automate peoples' jobs.


CurtWelch's comments in that article are fantastic.


Techcrunch plus a trolling title means I'm not reading it. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me seven thousand times and maybe I'll start to learn a lesson.


Haven't people basically been saying this since computers were invented? Hey lets try it again, probably right the 300th time!


Do you think, maybe, the transition will take some time to happen?


Two possibilities: continuation of existing trends, leading to a hyper focus on education, or a sudden reversal, where we live in a post-technological world.

Some are speculating about needing to work less or not at all. I would argue that we WILL work less, only because we will have to spend more time in education. It seems like however much society & science advances, we still need people to sort things out and run the whole huge machine of society. For example, machines can't parse Mochizuki's conjectured proof of the ABC conjecture. That requires clever humans to wade through hundreds of pages of analysis, carefully inspecting for holes. It takes more clever humans to program clever machines.

The little work that we do becomes incredibly powerful, but most of our time is spent learning. We will learn as teams instead of as individuals, where each person takes a tiny wedge of the pie and learns to master it and learns to master the tools necessary to deal with the wedge. This already happens with scientific papers. New scientific papers are published by teams of old people, but almost never by young people. This pattern is going to spread from the hard sciences into every line of work, until everything operates like science. Construction, engineering, marketing design -- everything will be huge dollops of education to a small speck of actual application, but that speck will be incredibly powerful.

Now, if we eventually unlock a new frontier, like exploring other planets or underwater / underground cities, then we'll probably have a place for people who simply thirst for adventure. (So far information technology has been basically a place for adventure-seekers -- an immature discipline where you can get by without following the dictates of some elite, because even the elites do not fully understand this discipline yet.) The conditions those societies will experience will be extremely new and different, and may require new tools and new ways of making things happen. But for the most part, I see the (comfortable) person of the future on the one hand being a great generalist, able to switch directions when a position becomes unnecessary, and on the other hand a great specialist, learning everything there is to know about less and less, and that's what he actually lives off of.

What if there's a reversal? The whole thing may come crashing down, and we might have to start over. We would live in a bizarre world where life is about recycling all the astonishing things synthesized in a previous culture, instead of being about making new things at a blistering pace. We make more and more things that are better and better, and we're just throwing away astonishing amounts of stuff. Rummaging through garbage cans and land fills might be the work of the future, if the higher class (1%) were to collapse permanently. If there's no one to spearhead the increasingly difficult march to technology, it may become cheaper to reuse previous things instead of inventing new ones.




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