Tuesday, November 19, 2013
1. Ever fewer jobs require people, least of all, expensive-to-hire Americans. On top of wages that are higher than in most countries, there's Obamacare, family leave (paid leave in CA and NJ,) worker's comp, Social Security, Medicare, disability, sick days, vacation days, and legal claims.
The jobs that remain in the U.S. will increasingly be low-pay crap jobs or high-pay intellectually difficult ones.
Technologies like supermarket and big-box-store self-checkout and robotelemarketers and collections agents have already put millions out of work. Next, self-driving vehicles will put more millions of truck, train, bus, and taxi drivers out of work. Fast-food workers who wrested higher salaries will find their victories to be Pyrrhic as companies find it cheaper and more reliable to use robotic servers and preparers as is already occurring in some fast-food restaurants in Japan and Europe. Now, IBM is developing a virtual clothing salesperson who will "listen" to you and your measurements and make recommendations, likely far more on-target than the $10-an-hour salesperson at the boutique or department store.The cover story of the current Economist predicts that biopsies will be done by computer rather than lab techs, wars fought by robots not soldiers, Big Data analyzed by computer not data miners, basic sports stories written by computer, title searches conducted by computer, insurance underwriting done by computer, and that mainly careers such as firefighter, clergy, and fitness trainer will be immune, although with the development of ever more potent fitness apps, I'm not so sure.
According to MIT jobs guru Andrew McAfee, even some work done by doctors, lawyers, and accountants will be done by computerized expert systems.
I predict that most teacher jobs will go away. The most transformational instructors will teach online, which will improve instruction nationwide, with paraprofessionals onsite to provide the human touch.
Ben Way, author of the new book, Jobocalypse, claims that 70 percent of all jobs will be gone within 30 years, including teachers, bartenders, nurses, even babysitters.
U.S. wages will thus, within 30 years, be near the world average of $18,000 a year.
2. The growing number of poor people will result in our electing politicians who will "soak the rich" more and use the money to transfer dollars to the poor and to pay for single-payer health care. That will forestall major increases in crime and rioting.
Despite the redistribution, people will learn to live on much less--like 100 square feet per person. Many people will be forced to give up their car in favor of mass transit. Recreation will descend from $100 football tickets and 8-day/7-night fly-away vacations to at-home TV watching and staycations. Wal-Mart and thrift stores will be go-to stores for all but the 1%ers.
Even though the last thing the U.S. needs is a workforce with less motivation and impaired memory, pot will be legalized nationwide. After all, a dispirited populus needs something to dull their pain and fears.
3. Already, the top 5 percent pay 59% of the income tax. "Soak the rich" yet more and many businesses will go out of business or move to a low-tax country. That would be the tipping point--- a big increase in crime, rioting, and substance abuse.
4. In desperation, the heretofore rather anti-business public schools and colleges will feel forced to train more entrepreneurs so more sustainable jobs can be created. But it won't be easy to turn people who aren't, by nature, entrepreneurial to become good enough business owners, especially in a world with more entrepreneurs and fewer people with discretionary income.
5. Because fewer people will be able to afford to buy non-essential items, an ever larger percentage of purchasing will be done by the government---It can raise taxes to pay for what it wants to buy. So government will continue to grow in its share of GDP. But at some point, the public will demand a much smaller government, which will put more money back in individuals' and businesses' pockets. That will start a new cycle of development of new products and services and of more hiring, albeit never as much as in the pre-information/pre-industrial age.
At some point, I'm guessing within a decade, all but highly capable and driven Americans will have to live very simply, perhaps even akin to the way most people lived centuries ago. Who knows? Maybe they'll be happier for it.
A wild card is Armageddon. Technological advances make it ever more likely that even a sole actor could wreak Armageddon. For example, a crazed science professor could create a mutated smallpox virus and release it in a shuttle bus headed to an international airport.
Perhaps this scenario is unduly negative. After all, for millennia, humankind has prevailed with quality of life generally improving. Let's hope it continues.
Dear reader: your thoughts?