How we’ll earn money in a future without jobs | Martin Ford

How we’ll earn money in a future without jobs | Martin Ford


I’m gonna begin with a scary question are we headed toward a future without jobs the remarkable progress that we’re seeing in technologies like self-driving cars has led to an explosion of interest in this question but because it’s something that’s been asked so many times in the past maybe what we should really be asking is whether this time is really different the fear that automation might displace workers and potentially lead to lots of unemployment goes back at a minimum 200 years to the Luddite revolts in England and since then this concern has come up again and again I’m gonna guess that most of you have probably never heard of the triple revolutionary port but this was a very prominent report it was put together by a brilliant group of people it actually included two Nobel laureates and this report was presented to the President of the United States and it argued that the US was on the brink of economic and social upheaval because industrial automation was going to put millions of people out of work now that report was delivered to President Lyndon Johnson in March of 1964 so that’s now over 50 years and of course that hasn’t really happened and that’s been the story again and again this alarm has been raised repeatedly but it’s always been a false alarm and because it’s been a false alarm it’s led to a very conventional way of thinking about this and that says essentially that yes technology may devastate entire industries it may wipe out whole occupations and types of work but at the same time of course progress is going to lead to entirely new things so there will be new industries that will arise in the future and those industries of course will have to hire people there’ll be new kinds of work that will appear and those might be things that today we can’t really even imagine and that has been the story so far and it’s been a positive story it turns out that the new jobs that have been created have generally been a lot better than the old ones they have for example been more engaging they’ve been in safer more double work environments and of course they’ve paid more so it has been a positive story that’s the way things have played out so far but there is one particular class of worker for whom the story has been quite different and for these workers technology has completely decimated their work and it really hasn’t created any new opportunities at all and these workers of course our horses so I can ask a very provocative question is it possible that at some point in the future a significant fraction of the human workforce is going to be made redundant in the way that horses were now you might have a very visceral reflexive reaction to that you might say that’s absurd how can you possibly compare human beings to horses horses of course are very limited and when cars and trucks and tractors came along horses really had nowhere else to turn people on the other hand are intelligent we can learn we can adapt and in theory that ought to mean that we can always find something new to do and if we can always remain relevant to the future economy but here’s the really critical thing to understand the machines that will threaten workers in the future are really nothing like those cars and trucks and tractors that displaced horses the future is going to be full of thinking learning adapting machines and what that really means is that technology is finally beginning to encroach on that fundamental human capability the thing that makes us so different from horses and the very thing that so far has allowed us to stay ahead of the march of progress and remain relevant and in fact indispensable to the economy so what is it that is really so different about today’s information technology relative to what we’ve seen in the past I would point to three fundamental things and the first thing is that of course we have seen this ongoing process of exponential acceleration now I know you all know about Moore’s law but in fact it’s more broad-based than that it extends in many cases for example to software it extends to communications bandwidth and so forth but the really key thing to understand is that this acceleration has now been going on for a really long time in fact it’s been going on for decades if you measure from the late 1950s when the first integrated circuits were fabricated we’ve seen something on the order of 30 doublings in computational power since then now that’s just an extraordinary number of times to double any quantity and what it really means is that we’re now at a point where we’re gonna see just an extraordinary amount of absolute progress and of course things are going to continue to also accelerate from this point so as we look forward to the coming years and decades I think that means that we’re gonna see things that we’re really not prepared for we’re gonna see things that astonish us the second key thing is that the machines are in a limited sense beginning to think and by this I don’t mean human-level AI or science-fiction artificial intelligence I simply mean that machines and algorithms are making decisions they’re solving problems and most importantly they’re learning in fact if there is one technology that is truly central to this and has really become the driving force behind this it’s machine learning which is just becoming this incredibly powerful disruptive scalable technology one of the best examples I’ve seen if that recently was what google’s deepmind division was able to do with its alphago system now this is the system that was able to beat the best player in the world at the ancient game of go now at least to me there are two things that really stand out about the game of go one is that as you’re playing the game the number of configurations that the board can be in is essentially infinite there are actually more possibilities than there are atoms in the universe so what that means is that you’re never going to be able to build a computer to win at the game of grow the way chess was approached for example which is basically to throw brute force computational power at it so clearly a much more sophisticated thinking like approach is needed the second thing that really stands out is that if you talk to one of the championship goal players this person cannot necessarily even really articulate what exactly it is they’re thinking about as they play the game it’s often something that’s very intuitive it’s almost just like a feeling about which move they should make so given those two qualities I would say that playing go at a world-champion level really ought to be something that’s safe from automation and the fact that it isn’t should really raise a cautionary flag for us and the reason is that we tend to draw a very distinct line and on one side of that line are all the jobs and tasks that we perceive as being on some level fundamentally routine and repetitive and predictable and we know that these jobs might be in different industries they might be in different occupations and at different skill levels but because they are innately predictable we know that they’re probably at some point going to be susceptible to machine learning and therefore to automation and make no mistake that’s a lot of jobs that’s probably something on the order of roughly half the jobs in the economy but then on the other side of that line we have all the jobs that require some capability that we perceive as being uniquely human and these are the jobs that we think are safe now based on what I know about the game of Go I would have guessed that it really ought to be on the safe side of that line but the fact that it isn’t and that Google solved this problem suggests that that line is going to be very dynamic it’s going to shift and it’s going to shift in a way that consumes more and more jobs and tasks that we currently perceive as being safe from automation the other key thing to understand is this is by no means just about low-wage jobs or blue-collar jobs or jobs and tasks done by people that have relatively low levels of education there’s lots of evidence to show that these technologies are rapidly climbing the skills ladder so we already see an impact on professional jobs tasks done by people like accountants financial analysts journalists lawyers radiologists and so forth so a lot of the assumptions that we make about the kinds of occupations and tasks and jobs that are going to be threatened by automation in the future are very likely to be challenged going forward so as we put these trends together I think what it shows is that we could very well end up in a future with significant unemployment or at a minimum we could face lots of underemployment or stagnant wages maybe even declining wages and of course soaring levels of inequality now all of that of course is going to put a terrific amount of stress on the fabric of society but beyond that there is also a fundamental economic problem and that arises because jobs are currently the primary mechanism that distributes income and therefore purchasing power to all the consumers that buy the products and services that we’re producing in order to have a vibrant market economy you’ve got to have lots and lots of consumers that are really capable of buying the products and services they’re being produced if you don’t have that then you run the risk of economic stagnation or maybe even a declining economic spiral as there simply aren’t enough customers out there to buy the products and services being produced it’s really important to realise that all of us as individuals we lie on access to that market economy in order to be successful you can visualize that by thinking in terms of one really exceptional person imagine for a moment do you take say see Steve Jobs and you drop him on an island all by himself now on that Island he’s gonna be running around gathering coconuts just like anyone else he’s really not going to be anything special and the reason of course is that there is no market for him to scale his incredible talents across so access to this market is really critical to us as individuals and also to the entire system in terms of it being sustainable so the question then becomes what exactly could we do about this and I think you can view this through a very utopian framework you can imagine a future where we all have to work less we have more time for leisure more time to spend with our families more time to do things that we find genuinely rewarding and so forth and I think that’s a terrific vision that’s something that we should absolutely strive to move toward but at the same time I think we have to be realistic and we have to realize that we’re very likely to face a significant income distribution problem a lot of people are likely to be left behind and I think that in order to solve that problem we’re ultimately going to have to find a way to deep incomes from traditional work and the best most straightforward way I know to do that is some kind of a guaranteed income or universal basic income now basic income is becoming a very important idea is getting a lot of traction and attention there are a lot of important pilot projects and experiments going on throughout the world my own view is that a basic income is not a panacea it’s not necessarily a plug-and-play solution but rather it’s a place to start it’s an idea that we can build on and refine for example one thing that I have written quite a lot about is the possibility of incorporating explicit incentives into a basic income to illustrate that imagine that you are a struggling high school student imagine you are at risk of dropping out of school and yet suppose you know that at some point in the future no matter what you’re gonna get the same basic income as everyone else now to my mind that creates a very perverse incentive for you to simply give up and drop out of school so I would say let’s not structure things that way instead let’s pay people who graduate from high school somewhat more than those who simply drop out and we can take that idea of building incentives into a basic income and maybe extend it to other areas for example you might create an incentive to work in the community to help others or perhaps to do positive environment or positive things for the environment and so forth so by incorporating incentives into a basic income we might actually improve it and also perhaps take at least a couple of steps toward faith towards solving another problem that I think we’re quite possibly going to face in the future and that is how do we all find meaning and fulfilment and how do we occupy our time in a world where perhaps there’s less demand for traditional work so by extending and refining a basic income I think we can make it look better and we can also perhaps make it more politically and socially acceptable and feasible and of course by doing that we increase the odds that it will actually come to be I think one of the most kind of fundamental almost instinctive objections too many of us have to the idea of a basic income or really to any significant expansion the safety net is this fear that we’re gonna end up with too many people riding in the economic cart and not enough people pulling that cart and yet really the whole point I’m making here of course is that in the future machines are increasingly going to be capable of pulling that cart for us that should give us more options for the way we structure our society and our economy and I think that eventually it’s going to go beyond simply being an option and it’s going to become an imperative and the reason of course is that all of this is going to put such a degree of stress on our society and also because jobs are that mechanism that gets purchasing power to consumers so that they can then drive the economy if in fact that mechanism begins to erode in the future then we’re going to need to replace it with something else or we’re gonna face the risk that our whole system simply may not be sustainable but the bottom line here is that I really think that solving these problems and especially finding a way to build a future economy that works for everyone at every level of our society is going to be most one of the most important challenges that we all face in the coming years and decades thank you very much [Applause] [Music]

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About the Author: Oren Garnes

100 Comments

  1. Artificial General Intelligence (AGI) scientists are predicting that mid level WHITE collar workers, like back-office workers, accountants, financial advisors, basic legal attorney work, telesales, insurance sales, basic bankers, are MORE likely to be displaced by AI than BLUE collar workers, like plumbers, handymen, janitors, etc.

  2. That sounds dangerous. Whoever controls the income controls people. It might start with paying people more to go to college, but it will end up being used to penalize people who protest an injustice or refuse to get microchipped.

  3. My opinion is that for a human based economy to exist into the future, the jobs only we can do must be spread amongst the most people possible. As efficiencies increase,, full-time workers’ salaries must be based on fewer numbers of hours so more workers are involved. Hopefully, to the point of doing one critical task per month or year or ever in the best case. Life could be the ultimate pursuit of knowledge or perfection or beauty or joy. Whatever provides fulfillment and training for your critical skill as a member of the human race.

  4. Universal income ? No one works ? Machine do it ALL ? The money belongs to the 1% , the 1% says let's have a round table discussion and it begins, we don't need these 99% what do we do we need a Solution ! I know , Gas chambers ! NO we'd get caught. How about World War three , but we need a good place for us to stay until everyone of the 99% killed each other , No problem then let's work out the details and let's start World War lll we'll meet again 3 months . 🍀. This is just one scenario , why if AI ( Artificial Intelligence )is all that's needed on this Planet look at how easy it would be to do ? You are Human Beings just like the 1% would you give everyone free money just to exist ? MUCH TO THINK ABOUT ! I'm 78 GOOD LUCK 🍀🍀🍀

  5. This ludicrous assertion about horse redundancy is a favourite of basic income advocates. The difference is that the economy that the horses served was created for the benefit of humans. So when we run out it work to do because machines do it for us that is to our benefit. We just have to ensure the gains from those productivity increases are shared equivalent and a UBI is a totally inadequate tool for doing so both in the short and the long term. We need instead to have a job guarantee

  6. I feel that an income for doing nothing will encourage socialism and make our people lazy, a Steve Jobs type of person would not be encouraged or motivated to step put of th box and think. The new MLMs are free to join but have something unique–earn money in the free status. You dont have to buy anything. New companies can offer this business model to promote their products and people are thinking and motivated to do more and earning money. We need to have incentives. Incentives are motivating! Contact me on Facebook if any one is interested in learning a new business model that most companies should adopt in order to grow. It gives people an income and give them a purpose in life. Something that will help w peoples health too! No need to buy anything. Win/win for everyone. This new business model will help any new company get sales, the promoting affiliate salesperson will be motivated and the customer gets great products. Check out the new MLM business model idea to take over American business! Ask me on Facebook how the business model works!

  7. It is true people have been crying wolf many times. However, the trend shows that the wolf will appear. Children born in the first decade and after of the 21st Century are going to see a different world by the time they pass on and their children will bear the brunt of the situation. We are headed to a world articulated in this blog. How we get there is going to be a bumpy ride. https://deshbandhu.blogspot.com/2017/04/usa-2100_21.html

  8. Once again a TED talk asks the interesting questions, and then leaves me to looking around for possible sources of answers… 🙂

  9. I do not understand one thing. If every job was done by machine (for free), what on earth would people need any income for at all?
    In this utopia, no basic income needed. No income needed.
    Am I wrong?
    I do not even see any need for any "transition phase" then.

  10. The answer to what will people do to incentivize non stagnance amongst the population is already answered. I'm literally doing it right now

  11. I am opposed to basic income, because everywhere it is tried it falls flat on the face. A negative income tax is the better alternative. The negative income tax would still leave enough incentives in place to motivate enough people to be creative and strive for something better.

  12. The future is that there will be a few people owning the robots and the land they run on. The Universal Basic Income will be too low for anyone to actually live on, and it will likely be denied to anyone seeking an education. The people who own everything will simply supply the rest of us with enough that we do not get so desperate that we challenge them in any way.

  13. I'm in 100% agreement this this person and have been pointing out the potential failure of society to restructure itself safely should automation continue to replace jobs at the current pacing. With the incentives of individuals, wearing the cloak of corporate structures, seeking only to gain profit, automation provides what appears in isolation to be an ideal mechanism to reducing costs and increasing production.

    However, panning out to a wider picture shows this doesn't scale because the people who are no longer employed by these corporations and who are let go in order to increase the profits of the corporation have exactly the snap-back mechanism explained in the video. They become a population who are either unemployed or underemployed and thus no longer can buy.

    The market fails because although there is a surplus of goods and services, there is a lack of buyers. At first this will be absorbed by debt companies as those who can't afford a home or car will purchase it through loans, but eventually the inability of people to repay these loans will erode that system and the debt will have to be forgiven. This will likely be the first step toward some form of basic income, albeit one made in hindsight.

    It's imperative that societies realize that automation is a socially transformative issue. That it's fundamentally incompatible with profit driven economic models because it will remove the majority of the demand side of the market and will require a retooling of capitalist economic systems.

  14. The one immovable definable is that the current system is NOT sustainable by ANY ration or logic…….discuss.

  15. Forcing people to do things they don't want to do have worked out really well so far. Let's continue to create nihilistic, opressed masses when it isn't even a least bit necessary anymore!

  16. The inventors that created these complex ai systems may understand how their technology works and understand how a robot can solve complex problems, but it doesnt deserve the same trust you would give a human. If you had to trust either yourself, another human, or a robot to save your life with an important task or decision, which one do you think you would instinctually choose? The humans obviously. And thats my point, Im not sure how theyre going to convince everyone that these things can rule the world.

  17. And so there you have it.
    The biggest threat to jobs in the US isn't that stupid political narrative that the "illegals" are taking away the jobs. It's AUTOMATION.

  18. once proper AI becomes a thing, people will die by robot hands. it is unavoidable; robots taught to hate a group of people(say, americans) will be sent to kill members of that group. either openly or given a disguise job. so whatever you do; Make the creation or acquisition of an AI BRUTALLY DIFFICULT! you do NOT want non-scientists handling such creatures. and by 'scientists' I mean people working for Science. not people doing science for their employer.

  19. Looks like capitalism is finally reaching communism but without a violent revolution. It could easily turn into an Orwellian nightmare.

  20. Soon we will all have a social score and you will get paid more the better your score. Everyone you meet will "rate" you to give you your score. Just like black mirror

  21. The jobs are all in china because they make everything we used to make after ww2. The east of north america is a shell of its former self.

  22. It's more efficient to kill the non contributors than giving them a basic income, and that's what most likely will happen

  23. Before the Basic Income measure you can LIMIT the amount of technology that will replace low levels of education workers. LIMIT the implement of technology in the market. You are developing AI too fast. SLOW DOWN. Politicians HAVE TO do something about it. Basic Income is the last measure not the first.

  24. Without jobs, money becomes useless. The only reason money exists is as incentive for people to work. The companies that automate their workforce isn’t paying to have their products made and therefore it isnt worth anything except its cost (which the resources needed for it will probably be automated as well)

  25. I think that the kinds of jobs that should be off limits to machines and artificial intelligence should be the creative jobs and the entertainment jobs. I feel like these jobs are often hobbies and passions. Maybe these jobs can be rewarded somehow.

    Maybe in the future, the only jobs that will exist will be those jobs that people want to pursue.

    Then comes the challenge of how will this completely new system work.

  26. Lawyers work 4 different jobs today. Automated lawyers answer all kinds of questions. Fees based on categories and time. One automated lawyer can work as fast as 5 lawyers. No salary no health insurance. No worker comp.

    Pay As You Go Supermarket can reduce 25 staffs down to 3 workers.

    Long Acting Medications in Microchips. No needs for pharmacists, nurses, physician assistants and doctors. Only FEW can take care the jobs.

    Auto Pilots Airplane or Commercial Flying Drones.
    Replace entire staffs of Pilots, Co pilots and Flight Attendants. Customers can use full self services inside airplane.

    ECT…..

  27. Lol…man you talking nonsense.
    When automation replace people too fast…. Yeah….you see chaos tomorrow.

  28. doing stuff for the community so you can earn money. You mean a job? Who's to say AI wont take these jobs? The point is there isn't any jobs for an individual to earn

  29. If people were given money without doing any work the population will increase a lot and starvation will arrive.

  30. Comunists always find a way to push their utopian ideas. When everyone has X, X becomes a poverty baseline. You have to erase free market by freezing prices to stop this process… and you’ve just introduced a comunism, which ends in massive deaths and collapse of economy.

    In Poland, which suffered for 45 years under comunists, there was a saying:

    „Whether you are standing or lying two thousand you are acquiring”

    Just read about economies of soviet countries in central Europe if you think that basic income is some genius idea of today. It was practiced (in a form of useless jobs) 50-60y ago with dismal effects.

  31. 12:38 Yeah, sure, the UBI amount should vary based on some state-set criteria. Might as well take some cues from the Chinese social credit system.

    Universities will be in the business of giving away degrees (= a lifetime annuity of the highest UBI amount) in exchange for tuition, carefully calculated to get as large a piece of the pie as possible while making it still worthwhile for students to enroll.

  32. The firts question to answer for a little more than 100 years: With what are you paid…

    It's the fake Fed-Dollar. This is the major instrument of suppression of peoples. Think about it CAREFULLY! Do not react like a Pawlow-dog.

  33. Moore's law may have applied to number of transistors / area but it is commonly misappropriated to other technologies like this guys does. Memory, persistent storage, and CPU speed have all plateaued so extrapolating to totally different industries and acting like it's going to happen forever is pretty ridiculous. Just like evolution I believe it's punctuated. So until the next generation of quantum CPU's and 3D memory structures (eg DNA) you can't just keep talking about Moore's law existing today.

  34. Somebody has an automatic factory. He sells his product to people, but they have money from his taxes. He will not only produce, but also give his money to people that will consume his products. So what is the damn purpose of setting such a factory?

  35. I like the idea of thinking that I could get a magnanimous rival in the form of AI, whether for chess or story-writing, or anything else. Still, gotta be human, in humanity. So, maybe, we need to see when it comes.

  36. Unfortunately, I came across the reality that peace may breed conflict. This video works out in the time I didn't confirm that reality, wanting to believe the opposite, but it goes against my morality to look up to this video. We don't want robots to pull the cart that much. There needs to be something humane we should do, other than helping communities in the UBI package, which is incredibly admirable. Pretty perverse when I face something bred of an independent thinking, which conjoined with the mainstream – something, such as keeping your distance, for reasons which are dishonest.
    Humanity is going to lose more in this if we don't know when stop pushing some agenda which is not what humanity, and its individuals truly need, to be what they are.
    Oh, I mean 'my personal' independent thinking. Nothing against Dr. Martin Ford.

  37. Delivery boys,rental property,furniture movers,pressure washing ,house cleaners ,and landscaping ..Not really many jobs left ,but after people wise up they will all head back to farming their own food and save themself a car payment.

  38. Another Great video of the day!

    Steve Jobs single handedly, fired 122,000 employee's in order to launch his Apple Computer platform.

    1. Example: Jobs purchased the Southwestern Bell, Pay Telephone System.

    A basic phone call was only .35 cents.

    In 2019, the average Apple cellphone bill is $160.00 per month.

    2. Example: Jobs bought out manufacturing companies, which produced vinal records.

    The average teenager would spend about $24.00 per year for newly released albums.

    In 2019, teenager's spend an average of $388.00 dollars per year, for Apple's Streaming Service.

  39. In the Matrix movie with Keanu Reeves…all people get hooked as living organic battery…and the Corporation will feed us through tubes. All people will become a living organic battery!!!!! 🙂

  40. FYI, the number of possible "go" games is not infinite. It is true, the number is bigger than the observable universe, but not infinite.
    The speaker is not wrong by the way, this is just an info)

  41. This seems logical but kind of science fiction lol this idea isn't even new it's been around for longer then the age of the guy in the video

  42. The only way to leave no body behinds is to cancel the monetary system the day AI can take over, no room for price tag in a world that free of labor and has endless abundance. Human race has to understand that we are one big family lost in space, we don’t have nothing other than ourselves…

  43. We can start out by abolishing the income-tax and replacing it with nothing. We will then become a tax Haven and our money will go a lot further.

  44. i wanted to be a car designer , but with the scarcity of oil and materials i started to invest in bitcoins and @telecoin is this newer coin that can really be a professional job replace with its benefits and simple rules

  45. You can not buy,sell or eat or live without the mark of the beast.. it's coming.. wake up people it's a spiritual war and god is gonna win..

  46. People would have huge families so they could get more money. People would have more children to get more money.. this will not work at all.. they will have to thin the herd..

  47. One point not mentioned here is population decline. It is already happening in most of developed countries. Fertility rates are decreasing everywhere around first world countries. There are more single and underemployed young people living with parents than ever.

  48. UBI as implemented by government and business would be better called UBS. Universal Basic Serfdom. UBI needs to generous enough that people don't need to work unless they want to. In todays terms, about 60k a year or more.

  49. Personally, as a low income wage earner, i dont think Basic Income is the answer. However, when you consider basic household materials like paper, glass, tin and even plastic combined with 3D Printing, it makes even the homeless want to collect these items to generate Income.

  50. Capitalism has only existed for a tiny faction of world history and every era has an economic system unique to that era. There is no reason to think capitalism will be different or force it to work under a completely new situation. We will and must replace capitalism.

  51. I have an employee who doesn't work hard anymore ever since they started getting money from government. I need them because otherwise my business suffers.

  52. I keep hearing the phrase progress in relation to automation but I always wonder what the person using the phrase means by it ?

  53. People keep saying, there is not enough jobs. I think they are wrong, I think there are too many jobs and not enough families able to live off one income. Strengthen the family and we will not have any issues.

  54. We have gun violence not because of guns but because of the sickness of society. Technology is part of that.
    There are lots of random acts of violence done without guns, so the problem is with people and society, not the particular tool used.

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