The future doesn't look bright for large corporations which give vast numbers of people employment.

I saw the face of the future when I realized that Craigslist brought in $100,000,000 or so (according to the NY Times in 2009) but had fewer than 25 employees, and none of them in customer service, as anyone who's had a beef with the service soon finds out.

The ideal company is exemplified by a successful consultant who pulls in millions of dollars but carries no employees, I suppose. However, not every company can be that lean and mean. Still, the idea is to maximize profits while minimiizing expenditures on bothersome things like a staff, is it not?

What does the future hold, given the incredible advances technology has made, is making, and will make in the future, making it easier to do so many things without needing other people, which is another way of saying, "without giving someone else a job"?

But it's not just corporations big and small killing jobs. Each and every one of us is doing it every day.

From this article:

The curve of change -- which I boil down to 6 “d’s” -- is exponential because culture makes progress cumulative. Innovation occurs as humans share ideas. You build on my idea; I build on yours.

We’ve gone from transmission of ideas through storytelling around the campfire to print to Kodak photographic film and now to digital. Anything that becomes digital -- biological, medicine, manufacturing and so on -- hops on to Moore’s law of increasing computational power, which he said would double every 12 to 24 months. This has remained true for the last 60 years when he first posited it.

Once a product or a service becomes digital, it is exponentially empowered. Thus, digitalization is the first “d.”

The second “d” is deception. Exponential growth usually remains hidden from most observers when it gestates in small increments before it starts doubling.

That is when disruption takes place, because any innovation that creates a new market disrupts an old one. We have seen how digital pixels replaced Kodak analog film cameras that needed photographic chemicals and paper. At its height, Kodak had 144,000 employees and a $10 billion market capitalization. Today, Instagram has the same market cap with only 13 employees.

Kodak’s fate is an example of another “d” -- demonetization. Digital pictures cost nothing to take or transmit once you’ve got a smartphone.

The smartphone is a prime example of dematerialization -- its functions replace in one small device the computing power of old IBM machines that filled whole rooms, landline phones, cameras and watches.

When the cost falls so dramatically with dematerialization, you get democratization -- smartphones are affordable to billions of people empowered now as never before with devices that were once only available to a few. Democratization is the logical result of demonetization and dematerialization.

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I'm starting to think you're just being difficult. You admit oil is a limited resource becoming more difficult to extract, though we invent ways to extract more which simply depletes the supply more quickly. But, you say, we'll run out of money before we run out of oil, which is a limit in itself, and a fatal one. 

I'm sure SOME plastics can be derived from other sources than petroleum, but can all of the plastics we need be made from cellulose? Probably not due to the incredible variety of plastics we've developed from petroleum.

You list various substitutes for petroleum, but can those substitutes supplant ALL of the current uses of petroleum-based products. If you say yes, you're simply making an assumption, probably unwarranted.

So, you're fallacy is simply that of unwarranted optimism. "Oh, we'll think of something." That's a good solid way to end up in deep doo doo.

Anyway, the original question was about jobs. Will there always be gainful employment (real work not make work) for most people or will we become so effiicient at some point that we will end up having to pay people anyway whether they work or not in order to prevent rioting in the streets?

Will it someday become the job of most people NOT to work, and what will that world be like? If people end up just receiving monthly payments for which they've done nothing, or are paid to do meaningless jobs (move the pile from here to there, then there to here, then here to there,...etc.) how will that affect society?

Add onto that that the economy may be in shambles due to declining resources and inadequate substitutes, and maybe there won't even be any monthly payments!

I guess I am being difficult, refuting your assertions with evidence and logic. 

Let's take your argument of "running out of oil" - yet again. You imagine the supply constriction being a matter of physical science. But it is governed by market demand - thus the situation has to be analyzed by using economics. As oil becomes more expensive demand is reduced, either by switching to alternatives or halting consumption. As an example of switching to alternatives, oil is a good example in itself - when introduced to the market it displaced biomass and coal. As for halting consumption CFCs is an modern example - and the world didn't end when it was phased out.

Oils main purpose is as a store and production of energy, and there are plenty of alternatives to these uses. The secondary purpose is as a raw material input into other products. I don't know of a single product made from petrochems which cannot be made from some alternative. You claim that there are petrochemical products which is critical to the functioning of society for which it is impossible to find alternatives - then simply provide an example of such a product.

I have a hard time believing that humans, when faced with some constraints, simply collectively sit down and say "well, guess that's that." I offer thousands of years of history as evidence that we simply don't do that. When faced with a constraint we have always invented our way around it, or have not let it hinder us. 

As for jobs, we have discussed this earlier and again you have dismissed any argument which cannot specifically tell you what will going to happen. Of course such arguments are impossible - we just don't know what we don't know. While it is possible that we just give up and let the world fall to pieces, that's not what the only evidence available tells us is going to happen. Farmers, blacksmiths, miners and secretaries seem to have been able to get new jobs, despite those professions barely existing today. It's not optimism to say that the jobs of today which won't be around in 100 years will be replaced with new ones, it is realism based on historical evidence. The counter claim is merely pure pessimism. 

The employment level is mostly connected with the level of welfare a society can grant itself. Today's employment level can sustain today's level of welfare - tomorrow's will sustain tomorrow's. The trajectory of the general level of welfare has been upwards for the last century, while the trajectory of labor force participation has been downwards. Is it possible these will reach some type of inflection point in the future? Sure. Is there any evidence that they will? Nope. 

How do you know we are not headed for another gilded age, where improvements in medicine help us live long and productive lives, where advances in science augment our mental faculties, where new well-paying jobs in the knowledge sector takes off, where big data dramatically improve the and utilization of resources, and where the proceeds of economic growth is dispersed more evenly among the populace? In fact, this optimistic scenario is at least equally likely as your pessimistic one, though I think we'll probably end up somewhere in between. 

You imagine the supply constriction being a matter of physical science. But it is governed by market demand - thus the situation has to be analyzed by using economics. As oil becomes more expensive demand is reduced, either by switching to alternatives or halting consumption.

Come on. I'm not saying that there will never ever be a drop of oil anywhere to be found, but that it will disappear for all practical purposes as a source for fuel, medicine, lubrication, plastics, and the rest. That is plenty gone enough for it to live up to the idea of reaching a limiit.

Oils main purpose is as a store and production of energy, and there are plenty of alternatives to these uses. The secondary purpose is as a raw material input into other products. I don't know of a single product made from petrochems which cannot be made from some alternative. You claim that there are petrochemical products which is critical to the functioning of society for which it is impossible to find alternatives - then simply provide an example of such a product.

I don't know how you arrive at the idea that oil's "main purpose" is for energy purposes. I would say that while we do use it for that, there are alternatives at least for ground transport vehicles and the production of electricity. The main irreplaceable need for it right now is for a huge variety of plastics, almost all of which are made from petroleum or from recycling plastics that were made from petroleum.

I have a hard time believing that humans, when faced with some constraints, simply collectively sit down and say "well, guess that's that." I offer thousands of years of history as evidence that we simply don't do that. When faced with a constraint we have always invented our way around it, or have not let it hinder us.

I agree, but as I said, that is the wishful thinking solution. We might invent our way out of the bind, but we might not. I don't see anyone inventing our way out of killing the oceans. We may be able to convince people to stop throwing plastics into the ocean, but in the unllikely case we can do that, nobody as far as I can tell is working on REMOVING the plastics which are slowly choking our oceans and killing off ocean life.

As for jobs, we have discussed this earlier and again you have dismissed any argument which cannot specifically tell you what will going to happen. Of course such arguments are impossible - we just don't know what we don't know. While it is possible that we just give up and let the world fall to pieces, that's not what the only evidence available tells us is going to happen. Farmers, blacksmiths, miners and secretaries seem to have been able to get new jobs, despite those professions barely existing today. It's not optimism to say that the jobs of today which won't be around in 100 years will be replaced with new ones, it is realism based on historical evidence. The counter claim is merely pure pessimism.

Where are all the blacksmiths who became coders? A new job is worthless if it shows up in someone else's lifetime? If it doesn't, you may be locked out of the job market collecting unemployment or more longterm welfare.

The employment level is mostly connected with the level of welfare a society can grant itself. Today's employment level can sustain today's level of welfare - tomorrow's will sustain tomorrow's. The trajectory of the general level of welfare has been upwards for the last century, while the trajectory of labor force participation has been downwards. Is it possible these will reach some type of inflection point in the future? Sure. Is there any evidence that they will? Nope.

Actually, today's level of employment cannot sustain today's level of welfare. Hence, the national debt.

How do you know we are not headed for another gilded age, where improvements in medicine help us live long and productive lives, where advances in science augment our mental faculties, where new well-paying jobs in the knowledge sector takes off, where big data dramatically improve the and utilization of resources, and where the proceeds of economic growth is dispersed more evenly among the populace? In fact, this optimistic scenario is at least equally likely as your pessimistic one, though I think we'll probably end up somewhere in between.

I don't KNOW we are not headed for a glorious age of medicine, but I CAN see that antibiotics are steadily becoming ineffective, for example, and that some of the progress that allows people to live longer than ever are becoming a drag on the economy, because of a rising class of people who can be kept alive but can't really care for themselves. Our success in the medical field appears to be presenting us with irresolvable problems of its own.

Alternatives to the thousands and thousands of petrochemical products?

What about tar/asphalt? What are the alternatives? Engine lubricants? Ammonia sulfate? 99% of the hundreds of solvents used in most manufacturing? What are the alternatives for those? What about adhesives? There aren't enough animals to replace petrochemical based production and it would take an insane amount of land to grow vegetable starch necessary to replace the chemicals used to make adhesives (and products made with those particular chemical derivatives). 

Laxatives?

Spermicide?

 

@Arcus

...won't the digital economy eventually lead to better jobs? After a period of adjustment, won't things get better? Unfortunately that's not the path we're on. One of the biggest misconceptions about the digital economy is that for every middle-class job rendered obsolete by technology, there's a new, equally good (or better) job created by Silicon Valley.

But exactly the opposite is happening. The digital economy is vaporizing the good jobs and replacing them with two kinds of jobs: minimum wage jobs (think Amazon warehouse employees) and so-called "sharing-economy jobs" (think Uber drivers).  (source)

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