This news is going to hurt a lot of people. The hard truth is, jobs are not coming back. Not because of an economic crisis, or because of corporate greed. We are facing the most dire threat which the work-labor basis of our industrialized world has ever faced.
Within 20 years, we will simply no longer need workers to supply labor.
Rapid advances in automation, the transition to 3D printing technologies and rapid fabrication, leaps in robotics and computers, we have rendered the worker redundant in our labor market.
In a piece by Washington Post writer Vivek Wadhwa, he aptly breaks down the issue we are facing.
Within two decades, we will have almost unlimited energy, food, and clean water; advances in medicine will allow us to live longer and healthier lives; robots will drive our cars, manufacture our goods, and do our chores.
There won’t be much work for human beings.
There is no industry anywhere which is not facing the reality of automation takeover. Where a factory fifty years ago needed tens of thousands of workers to build a car, now they need a few hundred. In another decade, Autodesk CEO Carl Bass put it best.
The factory of the future will have only two employees, a man and a dog. The man will be there to feed the dog. The dog will be there to keep the man from touching the equipment.
The demand for workers will plummet as even jobs previously considered automation-proof, like truck drivers, are now facing replacement, as you can see with this Mercedes-Benz ad showcasing their new self-driving tractor-trailer.
Of course, some have proposed cutting the work week, down to as low as 10 hours a week while maintaining the same take-home pay. But this is just delaying the inevitable. The reality is, capitalism itself no longer works once labor is no longer required for the majority of work. Without the consumers, the entire economy collapses.
So what is the solution? To move into a post-capitalism economy. The Swiss have proposed a basic income for all people, even rejecting a minimum wage hike in anticipation of the vote. This solution might be the best hope to retain the existing foundation.
While the US is likely to gain jobs in the short-term as nations like China plunge head-first into the new economy faster than we are, in the long term, we must change how we think about work, about income, and about labor entirely. The belief that your right to survive is tied to the results of your labor is no longer viable. If we do not work to change our economy soon, then we will witness the end of the great experiment itself as our nation simply grinds to a halt.