2014-05-22

Co.Exist

A Silicon Valley VC Imagines A Future Where Most Of Us (Except Robots) Don't Have Jobs

Hoping for a future of 80% unemployment because so many jobs have been handed to robots, a self-described "raging techno-optimist" says we need to think about what that means for all obsolete humans.

Steve Jurvetson, a partner at the Silicon Valley venture capital firm DFJ, calls himself a "raging techno-optimist." But at last weekend's XPrize Visioneering event, a gathering of over 100 like-minded folk tasked with thinking up ideas for the next big XPrize challenge, Jurvetson offered a warning: The world needs to think about what a future of abundance will do to the gap between rich and poor.

An investor in futuristic tech companies like SpaceX and Synthetic Genomics, Jurvetson gave his talk during a series of short sessions from event participants.

"The pace of technological progress is decoupled from the economy," Jurvetson noted. And the gap between the rich and the poor, he warned, may not grow and shrink in cycles as it has been in the past—it could just continue growing larger. Assuming that every industry will essentially become part of the IT industry, and that robots will take all the unwanted jobs in the world, there will be much less work for humans to do. A small slice of the population could control the information technology that makes it possible for the rest of the world's work to be automated, he believes.

The venture capitalist invoked the prospect of a future with 80% unemployment—a terrifying, but not entirely unreasonable, thought. What would the future look like if the majority of humanity didn't need to work because their potential jobs had all been automated? How could that transition happen without leaving humans fearing for their lives?

Jurvetson's proposal: a prize challenge to figure out how to fulfill for the world's population. And more specifically, to provide free health care forever.

The idea, he said, would be to create a "peaceful transition to a world of abundance." That seems like a decent goal to shoot for, if nothing else.

[Image: Abstract via Shutterstock]

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4 Comments

  • roa57113

    It is just not possible to have a large portion of a population without employment or other means of sustaining themselves. That is not a situation of equilibrium that can last for any length of time. So, the majority will simply (by peaceful or non-peaceful means) change the rules and laws to ensure that an equilibrium point is reached again. I think it is worth studying how to reach this state in a peaceful way (as Jurvetson proposes), but the same way it is inevitable that we'll have an AI and robotics powered society, it is also inevitable that (some of) the riches will be distributed to the un-employed. It is just not possible to have a different final outcome.

  • Just like people prefer products with tags "Made in China" or "Made in America", in the future of robot labours people will prefer and force companies to offer services with tags like "Made by Human", "100% Robot free".

  • Justin Strachan

    Tour twitter share button is malfunctioning. It will not select from the dropdown.

  • I believe the people who filled those "unwanted jobs" up to this point will either have to strive for more, or could be redirected to a minimum wage styled job provided by the governement/corporations in an environment mediation role. Imagine if every mcdonalds worker was out there cleaning the environment, planting trees, and protecting wildlife.