Matt HealeyFriday,14 February 2014

The Snap:

A few days ago I asked if the world had too many people in it. I was careful to mention that I was not, nor am I ever, advocating genocide or forced population limiting measures. Today I want to continue to explore the topic of too many people.

The Download:

The question from my perspective is do we have a population that is no longer aligned with the amount of labor that we need. Given the rise in the power of technology to eliminate many of the tasks that used to require people, like accountants (replaced by TurboTax), bank tellers (replaced by ATMs), truck drivers (soon to be replaced by the Amazon drones), but now no longer do. The effect is that amount of human labor that is required has declined. In the first wave of this replacement, the first industrial revolution, the excess labor could be re-purposed to other tasks. We needed fewer people in manual labor, but the number of office jobs increased dramatically. Granted this stressed the education system as more people had to get better education to be able to do the new jobs, but there were still tasks that need humans to accomplish.

I suspect that the current changes are a bit different because they are greater and happening much faster. In terms of the size of the change each evolution and new generation of technology builds on the advances in the past. So each step forward is bigger and faster than the previous one. From my perspective this is resulting in an employment landscape that is permanently changing. And the change is accelerating which is going to result in a painful reduction in the number of lower and middle income jobs. There will always be opportunities for people who have the vision and ability to create a new approach or application, but the low skilled and support jobs are going away. The problem becomes the pace of potential job destruction is much faster than the pace or population reduction (In case you are wondering there are already several countries that are experiencing population declines – most notably Japan with a -0.1% decline according to the CIA 2013 world fact book). This problem will cause a painful transition that I suspect is already underway.

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