Saturday, June 01, 2013

Another dismal view of jobs

I wonder if this was what journalism was like as the West began industrializing (TechCrunch):

So the good news is, if you lose your job some years from now, with any luck the same technological advances that devour it will also have generated enough wealth that the government will pay you and your family a basic income while you’re unemployed. The bad news is that you’re not likely to get another long-term job–ever–and that basic income will probably be only just enough to scrape by on.

Do you believe education will save you, and/or your children? Sorry. Not all of the well-educated will find good jobs; increasingly, some won’t find jobs at all. Meanwhile, the cost of higher education keeps climbing higher and higher. Peter Thiel is already arguing that “we’re in a bubble and it’s not the Internet. It’s higher education.”

It’s possible that universities will start to seem almost like casinos: great for the winners, but you’d actually be better off not going at all than paying to go and failing to win. Obviously an engineering or CS degree will improve your chances much more than, say, English Lit…but not everyone can be a tech worker, and what’s more, it’s only a matter of time before technology starts eating tech jobs, too.

If this scenario plays out, the world will divide into a dwindling minority of the very rich — tech workers, finance barons, and those who inherited their wealth, mostly — living in a handful of idyllic cities dripping with wealth, and/or their summer homes on nearby beaches, lakes, and mountains … and the majority who barely get by, doing occasional contract work or odd jobs for a little extra money, too poor to even visit the places where the rich live, work, and play. Aside from those few with government jobs, there’ll be hardly any middle class at all between those two groups.

Does that sound implausible or unstable? No: it’s how most of the world works today. That’s a reasonable description (albeit to varying degrees, and in varying forms) of Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa today. Until recently the expectation has always been that they would evolve and grow to become more like North America, Western Europe, and Japan. But it seems likely to me that the converse is true–that for the next few decades, at least, the rich world, even as it grows wealthier, will begin to look a lot more like the BRICS. It’s a sobering thought.
More here.

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