Full Unemployment

Lamplighters: whither they?

Recently, on TechCrunch, an author posited that no child born from this point on will ever have a driver’s license. By 2032, 16 years from now, self-driving will be shunned (as smoking is today) and parents will insist that their kids go out with their friends in the auto-driving car. Self-driving might still be around but insurance rates will be so high that these vehicles will only be in the hands of extreme hobbyists and collectors.

And that is another change we will see, “self-driving” will be the term we use when we go rogue and try to navigate the highways ourselves and “auto-driving” will be the safe, regular and routine way we move around the planet. Auto-buses, auto-trucks, auto-trains, auto-cargo ships and even auto-planes will become the preferred way of driving.

Vanity Fair just reported on the recent fatality that occurred in a Tesla Model S. It pointed out that, amongst the hysteria about this tragic event, the data got lost. In the USA, Vanity Fair suggests, one road fatality occurs for every 100 million miles driven. Tesla’s, in Autopilot mode, have driven 130 million miles without incident until last week. In other words one is safer in Autopilot mode. [Thanks to Jon Ziegler for the correction].

This is the start of a series of posts on the future of our society that might affect you, probably will affect your children and will definitely impact your grandchildren. I want you to think, to extrapolate our current technology capabilities a little way out into the future.

A day is coming when we switch from full employment to a world where full unemployment becomes possible

Autonomous cars means autonomous trucks and buses will be next. Autonomous trucks roll 24×7 without need of truck-stops (except for gas or electric charge) and without the need truck-drivers. There are 3.5 million truck drivers in the USA today. No truck-stops, no truck-stop chefs, waiters, or clerks. Autonomous buses, means no bus-drivers (all 665,000). Autonomous taxis, auto-Ubers, means no drivers and no dispatchers. There are about 250,000 taxi drivers in the US and around 170,000 Uber drivers. That’s almost 4.5 million jobs that could disappear in the next decade. Add in train drivers, postal delivery drivers, ferry captains, harbor pilots, tram drivers, fixed-wing and rotary wing pilots.

In the future transportation will be autonomous. It will be safer, faster and cheaper. Which means better for the transported but not for the transporter.

Autonomy will move into vehicles that operate in hostile environments. Forest fires fought with autonomous all-terrain fire-trucks, minerals mined with autonomous drilling and boring machines and hazardous waste cleared by monster machines with impregnable defences against the most noxious and toxic substances.

Not forgetting your Amazon package delivered by drone.

All of these jobs, vital and essential, are keeping hard-working men and women employed so they can feed, clothe and house their families. But they will all disappear. Gone the way of the hostler, the footman and the lamplighter.

As technology advances it frees us to go from humans doing things to become humans being things

So what will these millions of people do instead. If we plan now we can prepare for the era of full unemployment (#FullUnemployment). We can devote our energies to contributing to society in other ways. And we have to find a way that our contribution is rewarded even if our contribution is not about increasing material value but about increasing societal value.

And that’s the topic of the next post.

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2 Responses to Full Unemployment

  1. Doug Troxel says:

    Fabulous article. I have long felt that this is our fate. Capitalism requires constant growth and that is impossible with increased population and less manual labor jobs.

  2. Jon Ziegler says:

    As the Vanity Fair article says (and is confirmed here: http://www.iihs.org/iihs/topics/t/general-statistics/fatalityfacts/state-by-state-overview), there is approximately one driving fatality per 100 million miles driven. You are off by a factor of one hundred.

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