What follows is an excerpt of an article proposal I sent two years ago to three important magazines. The article was rejected by all of them, although Foreign Policy did at least send a reply explaining why they were not interested. I am thankful for that.
In this century we will be living in a world where no jobs would be available for the vast majority of world´s population. The world as we have known it for thousands of years will be gone.
Work not only provides people with a mean of support -through a salary or in kind, for example- but also it defines our identities or status in our societies. It is a fundamental part of our “self”, the coordinates that others will use to place us in the social environment.
In the future there will be a technological ‘break point’ like it was the First Industrial Revolution or the Second Industrial Revolution. This ‘breaking point’ would be characterized for the mass diffusion of intelligent machines that start replacing people in the workforce. Machinery has been replacing people since long time ago, and the Luddite and other groups fiercely opposed to the introduction of machines at work already in the 19th century. However, this machines themselves -its design, maintenance, etc- as well as the development of the modern capitalism, provided society at the same time with new jobs in new areas of knowledge and technique.
But we are before a completely different landscape. While the world’s population continues growing (in all age groups, added to the effect of longer life spam), the labour market as a whole has decelerated the rate at which produces new jobs, and by the next decade –if not the present- may start shrinking.
The coming technological revolution will introduce in our daily lives “intelligent machines”. New generation artificial intelligence will start replacing people on work that require low qualification, like domestic chores, security, and transportation.
The ‘break point’ will be defined by the introduction of the first-totally-affordable-mass-produced “intelligent machine” as Henry Ford did with his Ford T model more than a century ago when he popularized the automobile. Mass production, as we already know, will encourage competition, innovation, and therefore the technological and social change will come “unexpectedly” without people prepare for that: a coming world without jobs. Machines, now “intelligent”, will start taking over one after another segments of the labor market, leaving only few niches -high level decision making, arts, etc- to people.
Implications for the future:
If we place the ‘breaking point’ in 30-50 years we have to assume that in that point of time:
One, people no longer anymore will rely on their job for doing their living -because they cannot access a job- nor to develop his identity through his profession.
Two, the time between the ‘breaking point’ when people will start losing their jobs, and the moment when society is able to redesign itself (people will have to ‘get’ their living not based in work anymore ¿? and define their identity without having a profession ¿?) will be time of a great social shock, not comparable to any other social change lived in History.
Implications for current affairs:
The main implication is that national Governments, supranational entities, and specialized actors (as the International Labour Organization of the United Nations) are still thinking a world where everybody has to have a job, and charging against Governments whose countries have high unemployment levels. But, if we see the data, we can observe that destruction of employment is a worldwide issue already. Is not only unemployment that has to be taken into consideration alone, there is also underemployment.
If national, international, and specialized actors where not that concentrated in struggling to adapt the world to the traditional -for centuries- scheme, they would be able to see that the world is about to change.
A new way of solidarity will be required to survive to the social shock that is to come and that will design the future society. We must start thinking how we want our future society to be, in this future inevitable world, that is arriving soon, and that everybody who is under 30-40 years will live to see.
The world without jobs.