March 10, 2013
The CBS program 60 minutes just recently featured two MIT economists who addressed why unemployment has been so stubborn. Millions of workers are being displaced by technology, whether it be robots, software, or algorithms. They’re projecting that within a few generations, most all jobs will be done by machines and human workers will be unnecessary. The big question rises – how will people earn a living? Will we have to abandon money and capitalism as we know them today?
They say Henry Ford paid his workers well because he realized that if there was nobody with money to buy his products, he wouldn’t even be in business to begin with. If nearly everything is automated but nobody can earn money to buy the products being produced, it makes you wonder how things will end up.
The other day I posted a video showing wealth inequality as it exists today. Most all of the money and wealth is controlled by the top 10% of Americans, with 1% having nearly 40% of all wealth. That number is on the rise every day. The middle class is fading away, barely distinguishable from the poor. 80% of the people combined only control 7% of the wealth.
Our economic system today isn’t working and if we don’t wake up to this reality, it’s only going to get worse. The big question is what we can do to fix things? I don’t have a clue what we need to do and I don’t expect it’s going to be fixed. The rich and powerful control the political process and as we’ve seen over the past years, they have no interest in taking care of the people who are suffering. They will find every way imaginable to avoid paying taxes and the government coffers will go dry. The middle class will have no money left to squeeze out of them and people will simply have to do without.
I can give you some tips though — learn engineering, software development, and robotics. Get involved in biotechnology or nanotechnology. Do work in artificial intelligence, genetics, or materials science. Things like that. You’ll be building these machines and the technology which underlies them, and you’ll be set for the next forty or fifty years. Assuming I live a normal life, that’s about the rest of my life. I’ve been positioning myself well for this coming storm. I have the skills this economy needs so I won’t have any problems. I can program robots, write software, do complex engineering, research AI, build robotics, design circuitry and computer processors, memory, etc. I’m just fine.
I worry about other people though. Already the bottom 40% of Americans are so poor, they have next to no wealth at all. They’re just buried in debts, living paycheck to paycheck. Now the middle class is falling into that pit as well, and the bottom 60% of Americans combined barely have anything. What a mess. I don’t know things will end up, but I doubt it’s going to be good. We’re living through a time of great transition, where human society will likely be reborn into something completely different than it is today. Birth processes are rarely fun experiences.