The big debate about the future of work, explained


A decade ago, robots still seemed pretty limited. Now, not so much. And computers don’t just win chess any more,
they can win Jeopardy. “Watson.” “What is the of the Elegance of the Hedgehog?” They can win Go. “There are about 200 possible moves for
the average position in Go.” This is all happening really fast. And it’s causing some to forecast a future
where humans can’t find work. “There will be fewer and fewer jobs that
a robot cannot do better.” “And what are the people gonna do?” “That’s the $64,000 question.” I believe this is going to be one of the biggest
challenges we face in the coming decades. “People who are not just unemployed. They are unemployable.” But if you ask economists, they tend to have
a pretty different view from the futurists and Silicon Valley types. Do you worry that new technologies could cause
mass unemployment? Yes. No. I have devoted my career to worrying about
the labor market, particularly worrying about the living standards of low and moderate income
workers. So I worry a lot about things. I am not worried about this. One of the reasons a lot of economists are
skeptical about robots taking all the jobs is that we’ve heard that before. There was a spike of automation anxiety in
the late 20s, early 1930s when machines were starting to take over jobs on farms and
also in factories. This article from 1928 points out that there
used to be guards who opened and closed the doors on new york subway trains, and people
who took tickets before there were turnstiles. And I just love this quote: It says “building
materials are mixed like dough in a machine and literally poured into place without the
touch of a human hand.” Automation anxiety surged again in the late
1950s, early 1960s. President Kennedy ranks automation first as
job challenge. “Computers and automation threaten to create
vast unemployment and social unrest” “What should I do Mr. Whipple?” “Stop him!” This article from 1958 is about 17,000 longshoremen
who were protesting automation on the piers. And if you don’t know what longshoremen are,
that’s because there aren’t many of them left. Technology destroyed a lot of those jobs. And yet, we didn’t run out of work. This chart shows the percentage of prime-age
people with jobs in the US. Ever since women joined the workforce in big
numbers, it’s stayed around 80%, outside of recessions. During this period, technology displaced some
8 million farmers in the US, 7 million factory workers, over a million railroad workers,
hundreds of thousands of telephone  operators, we’ve lost gas-pumpers, elevator attendants,
travel agents. Tons of jobs have died but work persists. What you realize when you look through those
old reports is that it’s really easy for us to see the jobs being replaced by machines. It’s a bit harder to visualize the jobs
that come from what happens next. New technology creates jobs in a few ways. There are the direct jobs for people who design
and maintain the technology, and sometimes whole new industries built on the technology. But the part we tend to forget is the indirect
effect of labor-saving inventions. When companies can do more with less, they
can expand, maybe add new products or open new locations, and they can lower prices to
compete. And that means consumers can buy more of their
product, or if we don’t want any more of it, we can use the savings to buy other things. Maybe we go to more sports events or out to
dinner more often. Maybe we get more haircuts or add more day-care
for the kids. This process is how our standard of living
has improved over time and it’s always required workers. The key economic logic here is automation
does indeed displace workers who are doing work that got automated, but it doesn’t actually
affect the total number of jobs in the economy because of these offsetting effects. Warnings about the “end of work” tend
to focus on this part and not all of this — like a widely cited study from 2013,
“According to research conducted by Oxford University, nearly half of all current jobs
in America –” “47 percent of all our jobs–” “47 percent of US jobs in the
next decade or two, according to researchers at Oxford, will be replaced by robots.” That study assessed the capabilities of automation
technology. It didn’t attempt to estimate the actual
“extent or pace” of automation or the overall effect on employment. Now, all this doesn’t mean that the new
jobs will show up right away or that they’ll be located in the same place or pay the same
wage as the ones that were lost. All it means is that the overall need for
human work hasn’t gone away. Technologists and futurists don’t deny that’s
been true historically, but they question whether history is a good guide of what’s
to come. Fundamentally the argument is that this time
it’s different. That’s what I think. Imagine a form of electricity that could automate
all the routine work. I mean, that’s basically what we are talking
about here. And so It’s going to be across the board. And it is easy to underestimate technology
these days. In a 2004 book, two economists  assessed
the future of automation and concluded that tasks like driving in traffic would be “enormously
difficult” to teach to a computer. That same year, a review of 50 years of research
concluded that “human level speech recognition has proved to be an elusive goal.” And now? “Ok Google. How many miles has google’s autonomous vehicle
driven?” “According to Recode, that’s because the
company announced its self-driving car project, which was created in 2009, has racked up over
two million miles of driving experience.” This is the textbook chart of advancement
in computer hardware — it’s the number of transistors that engineers have squeezed
onto a computer chip over time. Already pretty impressive, but notice that
this isn’t a typical scale: these numbers are increasing exponentially. On a typical linear scale it would look more
like this. It really is hard to imagine this not being
massively disruptive. And as the authors of The Second Machine Age
point out, processors aren’t the only dimension of computing that has seen exponential improvement. The idea of acceleration in your daily life when do you encounter that? Maybe in a car for a few seconds? In an airplane for seconds again? The idea that something can accelerate for
decades literally just continuously is just not something that we deal with. I mean, we think in straight lines. But even though there’s been all this innovation,
it’s not showing up in the data. If we were seeing this big increase in automation
we would see productivity growing much more rapidly now than it usually does, and we are
instead seeing the opposite. Labor productivity is a measure of the goods
and services we produce divided by the hours that we work. Over time it goes up – we do more with less
labor. We’re more efficient. If we were starting to see a ton of labor-saving
innovation you’d expect this line to get steeper, but when you look at productivity
growth, you can see that it has been slowing down since the early 2000s, and not just for
the US. It’s possible that new technologies are
changing our lives without fundamentally changing the economy. So will this all change? Will today’s robots and AI cause mass unemployment? There’s reason to be skeptical, but nobody
really knows. But one thing we do know is that the wealth
that technology creates, it isn’t necessarily shared with workers. When you account for inflation, the income
of most families has stayed pretty flat as the economy has grown. One of the problems we’ve seen over the last
40 years is that we have seen all of this rising productivity growth but actually hasn’t
been broadly shared, it’s been captured by a thin slice of people at the top of the income
distribution. Even if unemployment stays low, automation
might worsen economic inequality, which is already more extreme in the US than it is
in most other advanced countries. But technology isn’t destiny. Governments decide how a society weathers
disruptions, and that worries people on both sides of the debate about the future of work. We’ve adopted policies that instead of really
trying to counteract the trend caused by technology and globalization and other things, we’ve
in many cases exacerbated them. We’ve put a wind in the back of them and
made them more extreme. And that’s a big problem. We will probably always be fascinated by the
prospect of robots taking our jobs. But if we  focus on things we can’t really
control, we risk neglecting the things we can.

100 thoughts on “The big debate about the future of work, explained”

  1. Robots will be needed in killing psychiatrists for poisoning and murdering, hunting and chasing those protesting war, terror, cruelty and injustice and planned murder of critics.

  2. I'm not so worried about there being no jobs. I'm worried about the transition and the economic trauma being without a pay check durring the transition to a new job. Assuming they can transition smoothly.

  3. So the hypothetical jobs of the future that only humans are suited to do may not have a demand from society and that's something to worry about.

  4. All those old pictures… You at vox present ridiculous ideas. Not my generation! We gonna leave you behind.

  5. That labor productivity graph is a lie. We know this because robot labor represents PURE productivity with the least amount of input.

  6. Are you comparing automation of 1958 to today? longshoreman is one position in a industry, but this are 20 to 30 areas or employment. You are saying what large business would do to allow an people to provide jobs. are they doing these things now to provide help for the those without jobs?

  7. You folks can debate this topic all you want. Meanwhile, I'm here watching it again to celebrate the absolutely epic motion graphics and editing in these videos. Absolutely gorgeous and deceptively simple.

  8. It will go like this we are entering the age of cognitive automation. Robots will replace tasks then eventually the jobs. So an accountant has 5 tasks you can automate 3 and the other 2 are left to the human until the company wants to automate the job. Other factors are are companies wanted to automate all of the job or just tasks. I think eventually the jobs will be automated because it saves the company money, robots are faster, and more efficient. The way it will work and why UBI or federally guaranteed job is needed is because the lowly skilled employed their job will be automated while the higher end keep their job.

  9. So you hear Walmart say they are automating but keeping their employees but will that be forever I doubt it when the time comes when the robots can do the entire job the humans will be unemployed.

  10. lol when this person said "hey google how many miles has google's autonomous car driven" my google home also activated and answered that question

  11. For those of you who hinge your entire identity on what you do for a living, you're in for a rude awakening. It'll be interesting to see how many of you fleshbags off yourselves when AI knocks you off your high horse.

  12. robots can't assemble new robots (of one "species") unless programmed .. by humans which would leave really limited job for humans😅

  13. don't ask economists they do not understand the workings of artificial intelligence especially deep learning algorithms they do not understand what it is capable of

  14. The idea of working to survive is primitive and beneath human dignity. You should only work if and only if the work that you do offers you a deep sense of satisfaction. Technology makes human labor obsolete. But before it does, it will make decent work obsolete.

  15. No but it creates a big gap. Small number of jobs in high specialised skills and a ton of service jobs

  16. My father was a TV repair man. You've probably never heard of one of those. That's because in the 1980s, solid state electronics made televisions cost more to fix than to replace. Progress is a wonderful thing and raises all of our standard of living.
    We should have a progressive minimum wage, 1-49 employees = $0/hr, 50-99 emplyees = $7.25, Over 100 employees = $15. Small business could compete with labor savings against large corporation's economies of scale. Also, people not yet worth $15/hr could get jobs as apprentices at low wages but it would be equivalent to free college.

  17. You also forget all of the jobs created this time will require a college degree something personail and mineral un avarable to the magority of people in this contery.

  18. Yeah let’s compare a cement mixer to the singularity within AI and robots? Help people upgrade smart phones and smart TVs today will be upgrading robots in a couple decades to the point where they will be everywhere. AI with the ability to think infinitely faster and be infinitely safer and be infinitely more productive. This is not just automation this is artificial intelligence fueled automation.

  19. This video has not aged well. Automation is here and its displacing many jobs. We've seen productivity increase, but job participation decrease. Our economy is doing "well" but according to measurements that ignore the true health of our society. In addition, big tech companies like Google and Amazon regularly pay zero dollars in taxes each year. In order for the common people to adjust to the changing times a mechanism needs to be in place where everyone benefits from the profit of technology. Somebody must know how to do this and implement it into our government. Oh wait, Andrew Yang is that somebody, and he's running for president!

  20. It would change the system, we will have to adapt to survive, isn't that what evolution is? Adapting to survive? We are evolving, we transcending an old paradigm and are entering into a new one

  21. We going to reach our maximum as on the age Greece they have slaves and more time for developing. In personal level and as community. They develop their management skills, Literature, politics math.
    In age Greece values embrace and promote the personal developing.
    Pre prapare to elevate your self!!

  22. robots is the future, soon they can do everything better than us, we will just be thier chains holding them down

  23. Technological unemployment is not only unstoppable, it is changing the world for the worse for the non-rich common people. Just go out into the street and see the real world decline. It is happening now. It is happening now.

  24. WHY WORRY FOR TOM IF TODAY HAS ITS OWN WORRIES. (BIBLE)… BUT AI WILL MAKE OUR LIFE BETTER FOR SURE….ARTIFICIALLY… TILL THINGS GET WORSE. TO AI, HUMAN IS JUST ANOTHER by PRODUCT NUMBERED BY 0 & 1.

  25. I feel that the advancements in technology will hurt society as a whole. As of now, anyone's job can be automated. This is a wrong direction for the economy. I'm just glad that im a generation x that will be collecting SSI in a few years. I feel bad for millennials, their future is bleak at best unless they find a foothold in a horrible, capitolistic society. On the other hand, if automation puts people out of work, does that mean they won't get SSI ? It's just bad for everyone.

  26. Its not our meaning in life to have a job or to work. Its capitalism and economic fear that we will have to change. When AI and automation take over we will be able to live a life of abundance where we will no longer need to have a job to survive. We will no longer need money and the definition of being rich will no longer be monetary. We will then be able to do what we want to do. We will live more in harmony with earth. We will travel to other worlds. We will create new art. We will build better families and better generations. We will help each other. Gaps between humans will close. We will help those in need. The worry would then only be human nature. We would have to put all our energy into relationships between humans. Religion, beliefs, communities and the argument about what is right and what is wrong.

  27. Economist do not understand the future, the labor market is going to change for good and they do not understand that.

  28. But really, the reason why ppl make robots smarter and smarter every single time its bc humans are aware of their own limitations, isnt it?

  29. The thing I remember about the Longshoremen's Union in New York in the 50s and 60s was its corruption and ties to the New York mobs. You couldn't bribe a machine.

  30. We didn't need vloggers or website makers before the internet. Their will be new jobs created, in fact here are some jobs I predict will be created (they are not all new roles per say but of those we will need more);
    -Robot factory CEO,
    -Robot factory designer,
    -automation historian,
    – computer and robotics teacher,
    -automotive mathematician,
    -automotive programmer ,
    -pop culture and social historian (if were going to have performing robots someone has got to tell the programmer what constitutes a good performance),
    -automotive regulators in government.

  31. There is more and more demand for highly intelligent individuals but that's only a small portion of the population. Furthermore, they create everything that we consume and therefore get rich and richer which leads to a wider gap in income inequality. The rest simply don't add any value to society that AI/robots cannot provide… And no one knows how to redistribute wealth…

  32. they were right in worrying. production has increased but wages have not. quality of life has gone down since the 1970s. so yes… they were right to be concerned..

  33. In an ideal setting, all the resources are shared by ALL people. There's no government, no banks, etc. It's an egalitarian society at its best. There's an enormous amount of time to pursue one's passion. Resources are lab grown and communities coexist harmoniously with nature. No more rich or poor.

  34. The conclusion of this video is so wrong !! There will be a few new highly skilled jobs designing and maintaining the AI/Automation and there will be nowhere near as many "new" jobs for the people displaced by AI. The economists are dead wrong the same way they were in the 2008 financial crisis. Prepare yourselves kids.

  35. They already are taking are jobs and most probably will take all of them. They don't have to be perfect, they just need to be better than humans. And with an increasing amount of computing capacity, new neural networks we are on the verge of developing Artificial General Intelligence. Right now AI already can see patterns and develop solutions that a human being probably never could.
    But there's a problem of making it aligned with our human values so it doesn't end up with a catastrophe. It's called an "Alignment Problem" and it's very interesting, check it out.

    I'm actually pretty excited about the future of AI. It's going to be very different, I'm sure. We will need to develop new ways of distributing wealth, but I believe in us 😉

  36. for me the question is, How much it cost ?? if the cost less than human labour it will be take our job but in reality i think the price much more expensive than paying human labour.

  37. She's so wrong – who do you work for sell out? You must be real comfy you piece of sh$*! Why is VOX Faux news? Vaux News?

  38. Completely wrong analysis, AI is different from automation. You compare the number of workers throughout the years, it stagnated while the population increased. And again because AI is different it will replace many services jobs.

  39. LOL….please just tell me what people will be doing in 20 years. at 4:45 in your video your whole point fell apart when you stated you can't promise the same wages and type of work just the aggregate number stays the same. If I made you a janitor tomorrow your would probably have a hard time paying your bills. Please start being part of the solution…where does the truck driver with 30 years of driving experience work? And have you thought about whether he wants to move away from his family? Economist who look at only numbers miss the forest for the trees.

    Have you looked at the number of people on permanent disability that number has grown and has help steady in that growth for a reason, it ain't because all those folks are sick. Let's help American by helping Americans, to do so is to tell the truth. The cliff is coming.

  40. Most people will have to be paid to do basic research in groups in a field they find fascinating. Only the select elite will be allowed to work.

  41. There are so many things to think about with this topic it is mind boggling.
    *machines/programs WILL be able to do everything we currently do for jobs now
    -new jobs will be invented but will not have the same status or widespread availability, and those jobs will be swallowed up my machines quicker and quicker
    -two main job categories will go on: 1. the ones who build, maintain and create new machines and drive innovation beyond what ai can produce for us 2. social fulfillment

    Imagine you go to the hospital and their are machines that can diagnose, prevent and treat everything, so instead of doctors there are hospital liaisons whose job it is to interact with the patients and make them feel welcome and comfortable ( and talk about the weather)
    We will try to do make hospital liaisons out of machines but after many years we will have to concede that people are the better choice for these types of positions.

    *rich people MIGHT end up owning all of the ai machines which COULD turn us all into slaves or worse
    -or it could be utopia in the future where everyone's quality of life is high, and is provided free, and distributed equally (imagine food, shelter, education, recreation all free, a renaissance would happen)

  42. I think the real point is that there is going to be a large number of displaced workers in our future, and we’ve got to start planning how we’ll be able to help them transition to new work in new industries. It’s about having a labor pool of people ready to fill the jobs of the future.

  43. 7:33 is the core thing Andrew Yang gets wrong. He wants to pay for his freedom dividend with a value-added tax which would disproportionately affect lower earners and not those truly benefiting from automation at the top.

  44. The Owners of the Means of Production want total and permanent human unemployment, the total and permanent end of human worker wages and 95% of the U.S. population living permanently in the lower class living subsistence lives on the government dole. In 1950 there was the family home. In 2050 there will be the coffin apartment.

  45. this is what i think jobs will still be abundant, but there will be a gap of people with not enough skills to get a good paying job of older people but not old enough for retirement i think this might happen if technology continues to grow rapidly unless moores law slows us down a bit (we will still improve after max transistors is hit) there is many studies for things that could replace silicon for components.

  46. The builders of the machines will be paid at the minimum wage for the time they spent building them (not a second more), the people with the knowledge to make em work will be paid enough to have the have a decent life and will be the middle class that support the system (to much to lose, not enough to rise), and the owners of the machines will say "why should i pay my hard earned money in taxes to support all those lazy people who don't want to work?"

  47. The video's 'ok Google' activated my Google home at the living room, which has started screaming the information about autonomous cars out of sudden.
    Thank you

  48. just have everyone make their separate companies. Paying only hundreds of dollars per month for the electricity to run some robots is much better than hundreds of thousands of dollars as salaries, increasing profit appreciatively

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