Futuristics: The coming “job riots”

I was blessed by attending Los Altos High School in the early to mid-70’s.  In my Senior year, during the Fall Term, I took a class on Economics.  The class was conducted at what others would likely considered to be at the university level.  In the Spring Term of ’75, I was doubly blessed to attend a new and quite unique class, for a high school, “Futuristics”.  The class taught us various methods used to forecast probabilities into the future.  We learned Trend Analysis, Delphi Method, etc.  We were also exposed to concepts such as “future shock”, which is what happens to people who live through times of rapid social, economic, and/or technological change.  We were also taken on field trips to Silicon Valley R&D labs and had guest lectures and demonstrations of new technologies.  Combining these two classes in succession was a great boon to me, to ready me for my future career as a Silicon Valley technologist and entrepreneur.

My father having already helped me to start-up my first “real” tech company was also a big help!

I sincerely believe that such classes should be available to all high school students, but sadly, this is rare.

One of the class assignments in that Futuristics class was to write out possible scenarios, using the methods that we had been taught.  I combined my recent gained knowledge of economics with the techniques from the futuristics class to project what was already obviously happening in increases in productivity due to automation, combining what I had learned of robotics and computers from our field trips and guest lecturers from such notable labs as Stanford Research International (SRI) and Xerox PARC (yes, I too was exposed to GUI and the “mouse” in the early ’70s).  Other economists had long predicted that we would see the work week drop to under 20 hours.  I predicted the opposite.  I wrote that workers who had high tech skills would be working longer hours while workers without high tech skills would see progressively worsening employment opportunities.  I foresaw, and still foresee, such severe unemployment that we would see “job riots”.  So far, my predictions from 39 years ago are still on track.  We WILL see “job riots”.

I’m not the only one who sees this issue coming.  Please take a moment to watch this video, “Humans Need Not Apply”.  It spells out things very well:

After the social upheaval of these “Job Riots” will come a new social contract in many of the developed countries.  Capitalism will survive just fine, but a new minimum level of acceptable income will become a social right, new mechanisms for ensuring that those who are capable of working will find employment.  What they are I can’t foresee.  I suspect that different cultures will find their own mechanisms.  Those of us in cultures that venerate the so called, “protestant work ethic” and “rugged individualism” will likely create quite different social contracts than other countries that enshrine more communitarian values.

For an interesting alternative take on the issue, you may wish to read this article:  “How 21st Century Cities Can Avoid 20th Century Detroit’s Fate”

For more on the debate: How will today’s technology change our concept of “work”?

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: