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Is a Jobless Future a Good Thing?

As technology advances and takes over menial jobs, will we lose jobs or create new ones? Some experts paint a rosy picture of the future in which society does not need as many jobs as we do today.

(Photo Credit: Sky Noir/Flickr)

From feudal times to Tudor England to France in the 1700s, civilization has always had aristocracy. The Industrial Revolution allowed more people to work, but it did not change the reality of a gap between the "haves" and the "have-nots." Have-nots were lucky to be working for the haves.

Today, the gap between the haves and have-nots in the United States is growing. Have-not heads of households may work two minimum-wage jobs and still not be able to make ends meet. For all of our technologies and progress, we still have a handful of super-rich people and masses who work, struggle, and live in poverty. This fact makes Vivek Wadhwa's view of the future in The Washington Post most compelling.

The Rise of Technology

Wadhwa quotes Autodesk CEO Carl Bass as saying, "The factory of the future will have only two employees, a man and a dog. The man will be there to feed the dog. The dog will be there to keep the man from touching the equipment.”

At first blush, this humorous statement sends a chill up the spine. What about all the other factory workers who were feeding their families with those jobs? Detroit, Michigan is just one example of a once-booming factory town turned into squalor. However, among the pictures of Detroit in The Daily Mail, there is one -- just one -- of a stretch of Rosa Parks Boulevard that is not so deserted. The photo from 1987 shows the area was turned into a city farm.

Future Utopia?

Detroit is far from Utopia by any stretch of the imagination. But some of the points made in Wadhwa's article bring to mind some interesting possibilities: 

  • Technology and robotics will remove jobs that are labor, but 
  • Technology and robotics will create jobs that require more education and technological training. 
  • As we continue to develop energy technologies, costs may decrease. For example, solar power will likely cost less than oil. 
  • With costs down, fewer people in a household will have to work, leaving jobs available for those that do need to work.

It may seem like quite a stretch, but optimists may see improvements on the horizon. Pessimists, on the other hand, may believe that no matter what we do, we will always have people living in poverty.

Tell Us What You Think

Are you optimistic or pessimistic about the future of jobs, and why? Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

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