The Future Of Labor

As I mentioned yesterday, I am moderating a panel this morning at NewCo Shift Forum on The Future Of Labor.

As I think about, there are three big megatrends impacting the future of labor/work.

The first has largely played itself out over the past thirty years and that is globalization and outsourcing. I believe we have seen most of the impact of that trend in the US as wages and the standard of living has risen dramatically around the world and has stagnated here in the US for the working class. We are not yet in balance with the rest of the developed/developing world, but we are getting close enough that it is a much harder decision now to move a job somewhere else.

The next two big megatrends are starting to happen and they will shape the next fifty years. They are the move to an on demand model for work and the automation of work.

And so, the two people that are joining me on stage this morning are people who can help us think about where all of this might be going.

Stephen DeWitt is the CEO of USV portfolio company Work Market. I wrote a bit about Work Market here a few months ago. Work Market’s software allows employers of all shapes and sizes to arrange the people they work with into labor clouds. These labor clouds include freelancers, contractors, and full time employees. When they need something done, they issue the work order to the labor cloud and someone picks up the work order and gets it done. If you think about many of the operational things companies do (provide customer service, install something, attend a marketing event, make a house call, etc), these labor clouds allow an employer to get the work done without thinking about the kind of relationship they have with the worker. This is the “on demand” model for work and I think we will see this model explode in the coming decades.

Maya Rockeymoore is the CEO of Global Policy Solutions, a think tank and advocacy organization that focuses on the needs of workers and their communities. She is an expert on the US Social Security System and has written extensively on it and other issues.

I talked to Maya last week in anticipation of this panel discussion and I wanted to get her take on what happens to all of the jobs we could lose to automation over the next few decades. She explained to that we may want to look at the safety net that we built with social security as a model. We will get into that in more detail this morning as that is an interesting idea to me.

I don’t think all the work opportunities will be gone in fifty years. But I do think the nature of work is changing quite dramatically in front of our very eyes. Some jobs will clearly be automated out of existence. We are already seeing that. And other jobs will go from being full time employment to on demand employment and that will require big adjustments from everyone, including policymakers.

I thought it was interesting in Henry Blodget’s talk at DLD, which I blogged this past weekend, that we have gained 30 hours a month in productivity over the past fifty years and that 28 hours of those gains have gone towards watching TV. We are going to gain even more hours in productivity over the next fifty years. And what we do with those hours will say a lot about who we are as people, what we value, and where we are headed as a society. It is very possible that jobs and work will matter less and other things will matter more, a concept my partner Albert has been considering in his book World After Capital.

We should be talking about these issues as a society instead of pretending that we are going to bring back all of the jobs lost to globalization and outsourcing over the past fifty years. Those jobs are more likely to be gone completely via automation than coming back to the US. So that’s what I plan to do with this panel today. It should be interesting.


Comments (Archived):

  1. TRoberts

    Regarding job losses vis-a-vis automation:- *Spreadsheet Automation* over the last 30 years (MS Excel, etc) has “destroyed” tens of millions of pencil & ledger office jobs.- *Database Automation* over the last 30 years (MS Access, SQL, Oracle, etc) has “destroyed” tens of millions of filing & sorting office jobs.- *Accounting Automation* over the last 30 years (Quickbooks, Peachtree, etc) has “destroyed” tens of millions of bookkeeping & ledger data entry office jobs…. And yet unemployment is under 5%

    1. Frédéric Rudondy

      You’re right. The only big difference is the speed of changes, taking into account it’s accelerating!

      1. TRoberts

        My favorite phrase.But seriously… our access to information regarding this pace of change is likewise accelerating; our access to metrics & planning-related data is unbelievably accessible.On top of that, our access to instruction to learn & adapt is dramatically more accessible & more affordable now as well. The pace of change is beautifully matched by the human capacity to learn and meet these challenges.This is thankfully not a dark asteroid that will strike one Tuesday afternoon at 3PM. Everything we have been doing over these last 30 years of the aforementioned automation has been preparing us and equipping us for the next advance. I am extraordinarily optimistic about the future of abundance.

        1. Frédéric Rudondy

          I’m optimistic too. We’ll be able to tackle together those issues and challenges, especially if we find the right ways to deal with AI. Let’s make sure that the road ahead isn’t too bumpy… We’ll see.

        2. bsoist

          our access to instruction to learn & adapt is dramatically more accessible & more affordable now as well.Agreed that “our” (you and me) access is, and even that “our” (society) access is in theory, but the institutions on which we rely to teach our young people are, historically, very slow to adapt. Are *we* going to be prepared in time?

          1. TRoberts

            Good point: those old institutions will have to adapt & add real value to survive and be relevant.I am sure there must be an exception, possibly two, but I can’t think of an advanced / technical / practical skill one would want to learn that is not currently cheaply (or even freely) available online.Global free/cheap practical education, provided one has access to a reasonable data connection & a familiarity with the English language (though that too is becoming less of a barrier).And the technical progress that many fear is also bringing down the costs and complexities of deploying the access itself.

          2. bsoist

            I am sure there must be an exception, possibly two, but I can’t think of an advanced / technical / practical skill one would want to learn that is not currently cheaply (or even freely) available online.Right, but that creates an additional problem. When things become more ubiquitous, they are valued less. IMO, two things our young people need to learn in order to succeed are critical thinking and grit. Those can both be taught by letting our young people fail – and try again – and argue with us. 🙂

          3. jason wright

            Fortresses with pension funds to continue financing for the rest of the century.

          4. bsoist

            I’m not sure I follow. Is that a suggestion? or an explanation of why institutions are slow to respond?

          5. Vasudev Ram

            I think he means the top US univs have millions (or billions) in funding.

          6. jason wright


      2. Dan T

        Working for Accenture (AC at the time) around 1987 – 30 years ago – textile mills and furniture manufacturers in NC. We always talked about the increasing rate of change – 30 years ago – it certainly did change – was ugly for a lot of people for a long time, as were the changes in Louisville, KY which was dominated by manufacturing when I was growing up in the late 60’s and early 70’s. A lot of the generation that experienced the change had it bad – but the next generation turned things around and found/made new opportunities in both areas. It’s has always been hard – always. It’s gonna be hard again and again and again, the hard cycle is shorter and the recovery is faster

      3. SubstrateUndertow

        Not to mention that AI/network-effect driven, digitally stored for distal/time-shifted execution, process automation is a somewhat different automation animal altogether. That automated cocktail jump starts the series acceleration factor, the amplification of near instantaneous social/economic interdependencies.And those amplified social/economic interdependencies are evermore likely to be implemented inside a growing entanglement of AI driven network-effect API bureaucracies. Network APIs controlled by powerful first movers that evolve into ever larger opaque un-comprehended hard to map digital entanglements.

      1. ShanaC

        it is effectively the machine vs human version of ricardo. we should all read more ricardo next to schumpter. I think he is going to be on my to do with.And is that baxter thing real?

    2. Rob Larson

      I agree – the *differences* between humans and computers are what will save us [1].In the case of automation, a human that is good at working with bots will be far more productive than one that can’t. So we would expect doctors to become adept at working with diagnostic bots, designers to become good at working with design bots, etc. Greater productivity in each case.So LONG TERM, the automation revolution will be a tremendous benefit to mankind.BUT, over the short term, during the transition period, it will get ugly in many places. The disruption to the labor market will be relatively swift and severe. Agricultural automation happened slowly, over many decades. And yet you still had a lot of unemployed farmhands that suffered for it, moving to the city, trying to get new factory jobs. When the changes happen more quickly, to more people, you will have a LOT of people that become unemployed and will suffer personally as they try to adjust to the new order of things. When 3.5 MM transportation employees get replaced by self driving vehicles, that’s a pretty big chunk of the labor force that will suddenly be looking to re-train itself. And some of those individuals will never find their place in the new economy. So it’s worth pondering what we should do about that.[1] Similar to how – in economics – the *differences* between two nations is what causes the size of the benefit to both nations under free trade.

      1. ShanaC

        Short term is going to be super duper ugly. Return of the luddites is already happening. but we haven’t seen riots when a critical mass of people across professions get pisses. which is theoretically possible given the sheer amount and type of automation happening

        1. bsoist

          The return of the luddites is right. Many people (though, not this crowd, I’m sure) wrongly associate “luddite” with anti-tech, but their complaint was in not sharing in the rewards of automation. People are going to get really pissed at some point, for sure.

    3. Richard

      Most of these panels suffer from the famous cognitive bias “to the man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail” (Charlie Munger).*And the audiences suffer from many of the other cognitive biases.

      1. TRoberts

        I trust the broadminded perspective of Mr. Wilson to bring balance to the panel, but is there a particular hammer you feel this group will favor specifically?

      2. SubstrateUndertow

        Could you do me a favour and share with me your secret for operating without a cognitive bias ?I have always assumed that a cognitive bias was a necessary viscerally imposed experiential evil that one laboured to triangulate around by open collaboration/debate with others operating from an alternate cognitive biases.

        1. JamesHRH

          Assume everyone has them & look for them.Assume you have one & identify it.Compensate.

    4. ShanaC

      what happens when you get burger creation automation?

      1. TRoberts

        What did we do with the 350,000 telephone switchboard operators who were suddenly automated out of a job in just a couple of years?…Or what did we do with the millions of filing clerks and ledger pencil pushers?Same thing here. We adapted.

        1. ShanaC

          i mean, this is different.Like I’m high risk for breast cancer (at age 30!) for complicated familial history reasons, plus, I also carry the additional risk of having dense breasts. Pretty much every study ever done in this area involving mammogram (and I would assume tomographs, since all they are are 3d mammograms), show that a radiologist who only reads breast imaging of all types vastly outperforms a community radiologist, who reads all sorts of imaging. Given my health history, this means I am vastly limited where I can go for a mammogram/tomograph (I’m switching this year, as insurance carriers are finally catching up to science). Furthermore, this limitation drives up healthcare costs (for obvious reasons)While this isn’t approved by the FDA (yet) and not even widely talked about, an AI vastly outperforms specialist radiologist in reading mammograms (and for the sake of discussion, we’ll assume tomographs).doi:10.1002/cncr.30245Which means, I could switch to anywhere that has tomograph machines as long as they have access to an AI, once the FDA clears the technology. I would prefer that an AI sees all my imaging. My doctor, who is also a researcher, finds this idea incredible. She works with a team of specialist radiologists, (up to 10 people in rotation, as part of a breast cancer clinic she is part of) and she primarily sees young women like me. These radiologists have both general radiology fellowships plus a follow-on fellowship to just just breast cancer work. (though some in this group are in the middle of said same fellowship, she’s in a teaching hospital) She might end up with 1-2 radiologists, including fellows, after this technology is widespread, for specific situations, like CAD Guided help with screening while also performing a biopsy. And she is in a speciality clinic inside a large teaching hospital . Community hospitals will cut even more people That’s crazy!I mean, what are all of these people going to do. These aren’t telephone operators. They are doctors, who are very smart, in highly competitive fields inside medicine, with years of training, who are becoming obsolete overnight.

      2. jason wright

        In German bu(with umlaut)rger can mean citizen. You get robots.

  2. bsoist

    I have faith in markets, but I’m not sure how we navigate these shifts in how/where/when people work. It appears that it’s time to invest in arts education and find a way to loosen the connection between work and income.

    1. Susan Rubinsky

      Also, one thing no seems to talk much about in this context is that traditionally and culturally people — men especially — have defined themselves by their profession. It’s no joke that there are last names like Miller and Smith. How do we shift to a culture where identity is tied to something else?

      1. Matt Kruza

        and to be fair women have disproportionately looked for spouses based on this. some was due to limited economic opportunities, but there is vast literature that women won’t “marry down” economically nearly as much as men will and do. This has disastrous consequences as men without family ties are much more likely to commit crime and women that are single have obviously less financial resources and their children have much worse outcomes (on average, of course there are exceptions). The broader implications of family formation and lifestyle are going to be a big issue in the next few decades as traditional employment declines / shifts

        1. Susan Rubinsky

          Guilty as charged. I refuse to “marry down,” but then again I’m 50 and on my way to being a crazy old cat lady.But seriously, these considerations about family are very important and they need to be talked about as well.

          1. Matt Kruza

            ok, i respect your honesty and we have had multiple interactions in comments so i think we both know this is sincere, but you don’t have to answer if you don’t want. when i say and studies say marry down they usually refer to about anyone earning much less. I certainly get that you don’t want to marry an unemployed or minimum wage worker. However, if a guy had everything else you wanted in a man, but was a lpn / radiology tech making $40-50k, would that be a deal breaker for you or many of your single friends ( doesn’t describe me to clarify)? I think there is a difference of “not marrying a deadbeat” vs marrying someone that would carry their own weight but definitely earns less. My personal experience is few women of means would want the $50k guy, and society seems ok with that but disgusted by men who wouldn’t marry a woman who is a “6”. I can see all sides to the issue just curious your take. (especially after clarifying that marrying down doesn’t mean unemployed bum lol)

          2. LE

            but was a lpn / radiology tech making $40-50kSee my comment. It would depend on the other (a-g) were met in some way.So the radiology tech who was writing screenplays or was a good artist might get a pass. The radiology tech who spent his free time watching football games might not. The Physician watching football games would. Ditto for the poor medical student one year out of school.The rationalization comes into play anytime you can say “but they are also” to your friends and somehow tag something important or potentially even a minor game changer to the makeup.

          3. Matt Kruza

            yeah, most studies i have read seem to say that isn’t the case. that lower income is pretty much a straight disqualifier, which is a major reason for such low marriage rates in lower socioeconomic segments of society which is a massive problem for everyone. don’t have an answer and certainly economic success is a major factor for me as i find a long term partner. just curious of perspectives. definitely appreciate your point that needs more of the other factors and then perhaps that is enough to make it up.

          4. Susan Rubinsky

            I’d marry a lower income person if the person matched my main criteria — intelligent, shared values, hard working and ambitious. Some people can meet those criteria and still be lower income.

          5. Susan Rubinsky

            Ha! Lots of stereotypes in there! I’d marry a man who shares my values, is intelligent, and who is hard working and ambitious, even if he made less than me. My current boyfriend is a farmer and he makes a lot less than me. For me, the main criteria is intelligence. After my divorce, I was single for a very long time due to the fact that I’m very selective. I’d rather be single than with someone who is a compliment, not a detriment, to my life.

          6. ShanaC

            He sounds great. Why aren’t you marrying him if he makes you happy and brings you vegetables?(Internal jewish mom was triggered)

          7. Susan Rubinsky

            Oh, he is fantastic! I will marry him some day (he already asked me). Just have some other stuff to do in the meantime. He also lives five hours away in another state so we have logistical issues to iron out.On the food side, we have a great story about how we met. It all revolves around pickles. How’s that for an internal jewish mom trigger?

          8. ShanaC

            I should tell you that shawn (my fiance) wants me to start a business called the pickle wench since I do regularly ferment my own pickles (and vinegar, and I would use my own vinegars if I could guarantee a given acidity over a period of time), Because he thinks women in pirate costumes selling pickles would be hilarious, and because I had bought a more obscene variant of pickle wench as a domain at one point to try and gift to someone I was dating (not shawn) who was obsessed with pickles, making shawn think there was a branding opportunity in pickles, clearly

          9. ShanaC

            Vinegar based or you are fermenting them?

          10. Susan Rubinsky

            Vinegar based.

          11. PhilipSugar

            Those look super yummy. I can’t eat the seeds. I love Rick’s Picks mean beans: wish somebody made seedless pickles. Sure I can cut them out but unless I’m at home or with somebody I know it’s not very polite (but I still do it and put on red pepper flakes)

          12. Susan Rubinsky

            I love Rick’s Picks too! I make pickled green beans as well. Also carrots, cauliflower, pearl onions and I’m going to try asparagus this Spring.Can you eat the parisian cukes? I sometimes make pickles with those. Not very seedy at all. Though the skin isn’t as good as when you use true pickling cukes.

          13. PhilipSugar

            No. I am almost impervious to anything. I drink tap water around the world. Including in Latin America.I cannot eat cruciferous vegetables which includes seeds from cucumbers. It does not bother me as much as it bothers you :-)I have eaten more canned green beans than almost anybody because my family growing up had a very strict rule of you eat is what is on your plate,but there was an exception for me, because there just had to be.

      2. LE

        men especially — have defined themselves by their profession.I don’t think this is a man thing I think it’s a people thing. People are impressed and pay their respects to:Not in any order:a) Wealthb) Education (or even drop out from a good school)c) Looksd) Athletic abilitye) Artistic ability f) Professiong) Fame or notorietySo someone who ranks high in one area can be respected generally.In some cases having one of (a – g) is used as a rationalization for respect or admiration. In other cases having a really strong showing for one of these can completely remove another negative that might be implied in certain groups of people otherwise.

        1. Susan Rubinsky

          None of those criteria are on my main list. Even c) Looks is subjective. In the past I have dated people who would be considered “ugly” but because of who they were as a person, I found them attractive. I used to have e) Artistic ability on my list because I am very artistic and I thought I needed to find someone who understood that part of me. But that doesn’t really matter as much to me anymore as long as the person I am with respects and loves that part of me.

  3. Adam Sher

    That is a lot of TV watching.

    1. Susan Rubinsky

      This is exactly why I am sometimes skeptical of the proponents of universal basic income when they talk about freeing people to do the things they are passionate about. I suspect 90% of the people will just sit around and watch tv.

      1. Susan Rubinsky

        Of course, then there’s us, the people who sit around and read AVC.

        1. jason wright

          I’m walking 🙂

          1. Adam Sher

            I’m standing!

        2. Richard


      2. Vasudev Ram

        Yes, I suspect that too. Or some may do more harmful stuff.

      3. PeterisP

        The issue with technological unemployment is that in that long-term scenario (a) we as a society don’t really *need* them to work, there’s zero or negative value if they were doing a made-up job or a job that a machine can do better, so 90% of the people watching TV is acceptable; (b) on the other hand, freeing up these 10% that can’t help but create interesting things *is* a benefit, because of them the alternative schemes (which in the long run reduce to “made-up job or a job that a machine can do better” to force them to have a “job” for their income) are harmful.

  4. Adam Sher

    Skills training will be an important part. There will always jobs to do, even if it’s on-demand or part time. Any sole proprietor or small business owner can attest to the amount of retraining needed to operate the different parts of a business throughout each stage of business growth. Institutionalizing constant skills growth will be as big as a safety net.

  5. Frédéric Rudondy

    Looking forward to get the video of your panel.I’m particularly interested in the future of management jobs and how automation will impact managers. Several platforms (like Work Market) are dealing with on-demand work – freelance on very specific tasks, not management. And I’m convinced we’ll also have on-demand platform for managers.

    1. bsoist

      “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.” – Warren BennisI’m looking forward to the video as well.

      1. Frédéric Rudondy

        Great way to present it!

      2. Vasudev Ram

        Then neither of them is / are needed – remove them both.

      3. jason wright

        Do dogs pay taxes?

  6. William Mougayar

    I always thought that Work Market was enabling the continuation of the first trend you mentioned. They are a supporting platform for the ongoing labor arbitrage, whether it’s global, local or regional. “Work Market’s software allows employers of all shapes and sizes to arrange the people they work with into labor clouds.”

  7. William Mougayar

    At the heart of work automation is that we have all taken-up a “3rd job”, doing the work that others used to do, because we self-service ourselves online more than ever before. [Using Toffler’s analogy, the other 2 jobs are: 1/ our real job that we get paid for, 2/ taking care of ourselves/our family.]

    1. bsoist

      Good point. In addition to the self-service done just living, many do “real job” work which they used to have assistants do – typing, etc.

    2. LE

      100% Agree. This has allowed companies to lower costs although it has resulted in an offsetting annoyance and I would even add potential mental health issues.You typically can’t get a real person on the phone (you get a phone tree). And as a result there is less accountability by companies because of that lack of human involvement and distance from the customer and their annoyance. And since all of your competitors are doing the same you don’t have to be any more honest in your approach.Have a problem with your new flatscreen TV? Good luck with getting someone at either the store or the manufacturer to make it easy for you to solve the issues that you are having.Go into a store and have a question on what they are selling? The help almost certainly has no clue at all. So you might as well not even bother asking a question.The blame for this doesn’t even fall on the companies that are doing it. That’s right. It falls squarely (and I really believe this) on people as a group who buy things on price (en masse that is) and have decided they aren’t willing to pay a bit more for a better experience. So the companies (in order to keep up with the competition) have to fall into the same mold. [1][1] Same with politics, same with just about everything.

      1. bsoist

        It’s not often my agreement percentage with your comments breaks 80%. This is one of those times. I agree 100% with this one. 🙂

      2. William Mougayar

        Yup . Stone walling customers is easier that way.

      3. awaldstein

        Good one.We are in a a disposal world, that’s why personally buy where I can get help if I need it–for American Airlines (5m miles, they answer the phone for me), SPG hotels same, and believe it or not Amazon returns–kinda seamless.

  8. Brian Pietras

    Demographics will/do have a major impact on the world of work (low birth rates in the developed world, longevity, generational attitudes…). Will be interesting to see if these macro drivers accelerate automation or redirect some of the changes outlined

  9. Mario Cantin

    Albert is right: attention is a form of capital, and watching tv is a poor way to invest it. By deploying our creative powers intelligently we could bolster our civilization to new heights. Instead we are witnessing the un-idle wicked wreaking havoc on what’s left of the free world.

    1. Susan Rubinsky

      Fred always said 90% of the population are consumers. Now I know he was referring to audience/market for tech startups, but is there a correlation to our culture as a whole? Does the 1%/9%/90% rule play out in a greater context?

      1. Mario Cantin

        Good point, how do you go from all-consumer to all-creator, in other words from a society of spectator to one of doers? That may be part of the underlying root cause.

      2. reggiedog

        The key point is that we are conditioned, specifically trained in fact, to be consumers. Blodgett’s comment above, that we’ve gained 30 hours to spend 28 of it on the couch, is certainly by design. Society has been designed for the last 60 years to consume. We figured out production (thanks to WWII) and now society “needed” consumers to absorb the factory capacity, and more recently, enable maximum profits for the owners of capital. If there was money in self-actualization, we’d be a different world.

  10. Ben Mackinnon

    Go Work Market! Steve, and the whole team, are doing great things

  11. Gregory Magarshak

    What I like about the people running USV is your interest in the intersection of technology and society. With great power comes great responsibility, and the designers of the systems we will use have a great effect on society.Capitalism is great at producing wealth and resilience. I would say there are three areas where it has major challenges:1) Market discipline vs humanitarianism. When an LLC goes bankrupt because no one wants its products, this is a desirable part of the market. When humans go hungry for lack of demand for their work, it is not. In this category we can put long-tail diseases including affecting large populations with a small economic footprint (what Bill Gates says calls for “creative capitalism”). Patents exacerbate the problem, Open Source helps solve it.There will be a growing class of unemployed people who will come under this caveat as increasing automation lowers average demand for human labor. Eventually this will lead to more protests like OWS and Tea Party against the growing plutocracy. We can tax the robots and redistribute wealth to the people in the form of unconditional basic income. After we do that, we can abolish minimum wage laws which prevent them from taking unpaid internships.2) Things that everyone needs. Food, Clean water/air, Healthcare, Education, Emergency services etc. When buyers don’t compete, prices go down. We can see that every country with a single payer system has not just universal healthcare but lower prices per capita than the USA. And many of them have better health outcomes! Including more doctors per capita, shattering the myth of “shortages”.This is the concept of “monopsony” or “collective bargaining power”. There are no defectors among the buyers, so it becomes a question of simple supply and demand. You can see this also domestically as Medicare is able to squeeze better prices better than any other insurance.Many anarcho-capitalists struggle against this because one side is not “free market” yet the prices are lower for he consumer, and there is a simple explanation. Finally they say, the USA may be getting far better R&D than other countries. Now this is true – more breakthroughs occur in the USA. But innovations will be able to come from anywhere in the world if we start to disrupt the Patent system for drugs with Patentleft drugs and the compensation models of the kind I have described here… . And everyone can benefit from work done anywhere. A global knowledge society where everyone is able to add something. This is something Albert talks about extensively in World After Capital.3) When you are not the customer, you are the product. This concept is also known as negative externalities.Factory farms for example, treat animals very inhumanely in order to save a buck. What’s even worse is that they are incentivized to increase demand in order to exploit the externality more and more for profit. Look up “National Dairy Checkoff”. Other side effects include things like being a major (perhaps the greatest) contributor to the rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. All because of capitalism.You see similar incentives for private prisons. But also for companies that pollute other people’s space, or produce vehicles that pollute. It all adds up, but the costs and violations may be distributed among thousands and millions of actors and victims. Fat lot of good will it be to sue them after the fact, and that’s even if you have standing. The damage has already been done for millions of people ans billions of animals and much of it may be irreversible. We need to think in terms of systemic legal and cultural regimes, such as an *emphasis* on preferring clean wnergy or social responsibility, balanced with profits. It factors into millions of little executive decisions.Meanwhile in Sweden, laws designed to prevent traffic congestion have been linked to much reduced asthma in children. A nice benefit.Is the alternative to Capitalism in every area only “Totalitarianism” as many fanbois of Capitalism say? (That’s what they mean when by the word “socialism”.) I think not. As Albert says too, we need to look at solutions in a world which is rapidly being reshaped by technology, and where previous assumptions such as “employers value their employees” may hold less and less. We must not have one hammer for every nail.

  12. seedinvestor

    …good to hear that there are some people with a vision. hope that this group will be heared and gets influencial enough. The US will loose under the protective (working) policy. Sad…

  13. Daniel Olshansky

    Regarding the automation of job, Bill Gates and Warren buffet brought up a couple really good points in a recent interview they had (….Warren mentioned that farming was really big in the early days of the US and many feared that tractors will put many people out of a job. Somehow we managed to work around it.Bill said that even if our jobs do become really easy, most people (he was probably referencing to salaried employees) wouldn’t complain about an extra day off. With the extra day off, there will be more opportunity for other business (and hourly employees) to expand their business.Old jobs will either go away or take less time to do with the help of technology / automation. New jobs will come to replace them. Our economy will find a way to re-stabilize and find a healthy balance.

    1. Rob Larson

      Good listen. AI / automation question comes at 37min mark.

  14. Pointsandfigures

    No doubt. However there is certainly public policy that discourages employment. When we fix that we can provide short term solutions. What you are talking about is more long term. It’s also intertwined with education, qualification, and training. One of the neat things about tech geeks is they can use independent platforms to qualify themselves versus some standardized test or some certification that only says you could pass a test once.

    1. LE

      Certain people in public policy apparently have no experience with the class of people that is perfectly happy sitting around doing nothing all day long and not having to work. And this (despite Albert’s good intentions) doesn’t mean they are going to pursue some higher purpose or creative endeavors.This is similar to how you will see cows in a field just standing there and grazing and looking content. The brain has not developed enough to care or be bored. Not everyone’s brain is looking to be enlightened and challenged. Not the cow, not my cat, not some people who will be happy not to work and just engage in a passive activity.

      1. pointsnfigures

        Taking a less sinister view of the world:There are policies in place that discourage hiring. Obamacare for example. Or very high corporate taxes which depress wages.Change those policies and things will change

        1. LE

          Agree. Also the general change in how you have to deal with people because of all the rules and regulations that didn’t appear in the past. Result of both political parties trying to help that has hurt. Bleeding hearts who have no practical experience in employing people or perhaps people who worked for large companies where someone else had the aggravation. Can’t say this, can’t do that. [1] All in the name of worker protection. And what has happened? Easier and cheaper to not hire people.One thing good about the new President is that he was running a small business at the core.[2] And given his attention to detail he almost certainly knows of the aggravation that someone in that position encounters.[1] Can write an entire book on things like ADA compliance and having to dot the i’s and cross the t’s for each and every protected group.[2] Meaning he is very close to the actual fucked up things that happen from day to day because of his flat management structure as well as family involvement.

      2. bsoist

        class of people that is perfectly happy sitting around doing nothing all day longI hear ya and I am sure there is some percentage of people who won’t work, period, but I also think some of the “sitting around” you mentioned is out of desperation[1].I’ve been in the position of making a very good income in exchange for very little of my time, but I’ve also been in the opposite position (and back and forth a bit over the years). The challenge to “get up and do something” with one’s life can be debilitating when one doesn’t know how the bills will get paid.[1] Not sure that’s the word I want. People don’t know what to do next. Confusion? Frustration?

        1. LE

          The challenge to “get up and do something” with one’s life can be debilitating when one doesn’t know how the bills will get paid.Agree with that. But I am not talking about people sitting around for the reasons you mention but people who are perfectly happy sitting around and doing nothing.Unrelated but related somewhat there is this idea that has gone around that says essentially that woman are held back by men and therefore don’t have the same opportunities. That’s true. Further that a woman want to be independent of men and not have to depend on a man. That is true as well. For some women that is (how many I don’t know). But it is also true, if you have been around as long as both of us have, that there are woman who are perfectly happy not having a career and having a man provide and take care of them in every possible way. (Unrelated by the way to potential or intelligence I might add.) The way depicted in mad men tv show and as displayed prior to women’s lib movement. If you listen to the women who want to be independent you would think that there aren’t any of those other women at all that exist out there. But in fact they do exist. Not every woman wants to be a career woman and to be independent. Just like not every worker wants to be an owner or an employer or an entrepreneur.

      3. Vendita Auto

        “This is similar to how you will see cows in a field just standing there and grazing and looking content. The brain has not developed enough to care or be bored” I would thrown out of this community blog for writing what I think of your comment shame on you.

        1. LE

          You’re upset that I insulted cows? Or that I insulted people who might be similar to cows? Of course there are people whose brains are less developed than others. Think any one of us could learn enough information to be the first to perform a heart transplant procedure? Or even be in a position to train to do one? People differ in their intelligence, motivation and thousands of other factors. And luck as well.Further, I didn’t insult any particular group of people. Only people who exhibit behavior that would make them part of a group which I have highlighted. “Perfectly content doing nothing..”There is a difference. I didn’t say ‘everyone who is from X country is like Y’ or “everyone who is of X religion is like Y’.

          1. Vendita Auto

            “with the class of people” ?”Think any one of us could learn enough information to be the first to perform a heart transplant procedure? Or even be in a position to train to do one?” A very high % could Yes. Repeat the procedure, Repeat the procedure Yes.”Perfectly content doing nothing” I guess a modern day Leucippus & Democritus could be accused of that.

          2. LE

            A very high % could Yes. Repeat the procedureThe difficulty does not come from following rote steps. It comes from knowing what to do when there is a problem and/or anticipating and preventing problems. Besides there are now even with non average people differences in what surgeons do even given the same basic playbook. That is where intelligence comes into play. Likewise anyone can be trained to fly a plane once it is in the air. It’s the takeoff and landing in difficult conditions or emergencies where experience and intelligence comes into play.I guess a modern day Leucippus & Democritus could be accused of that.Most people aren’t those examples. If they were you wouldn’t be using them as examples.

          3. Vendita Auto

            “with the class of people” ? “non average people” “That is where intelligence comes into play” “Most people aren’t those examples” “If they were you wouldn’t be using them as examples.”= Nicene Creed I was not aware genius is visible from outside…

    2. Susan Rubinsky

      Plenty of public policy discourages education as well. I once had a young woman in college who worked for me, picking up my son from daycare and bringing him home and starting dinner and helping him with homework, etc. She accidentally became pregnant in her junior year and had a baby. Initially she was able to get public assistance for housing and food. Her plan was to finish college. By the time she had the baby, she only had one year left of college and was also applying to law school. However, social services did not support it; they told her she could take job training but they would remove her assistance if she went to college. I tried to help this young woman work through the hurdles of the system to no avail. The bureaucratic rules were nonsensical.

      1. ShanaC

        Stupid all the way through

  15. JimHirshfield

    Good luck on your panel – enjoy it while it lasts…’cause an algorithm is likely being written to take that job. 😉

    1. Vasudev Ram

      I hear Google et al are working on witty bots, too …

      1. JimHirshfield

        How do you know that I’m NOT a witty Google bot?

        1. Vasudev Ram

          That’s easy – you’re not buggy enough. All bots have bugs, because all software does.

          1. JimHirshfield

            Completely logical

          2. Vasudev Ram

            Class-ick !

          3. cavepainting

            I would say he is buggy enough to sound human!

        2. Vasudev Ram

          Upvoted for rhyming (you), though late comment timing (me).

  16. Rob Larson

    Regarding the first trend – globalization & outsourcing – just yesterday I was reading a speech by Charlie Munger, who dropped the following thought-provoking line of thinking in a speech about the strengths and weaknesses of the discipline of economics:Another example of not thinking through the consequences of the consequences is the standard reaction in economics to Ricardo’s law of comparative advantage giving benefit on both sides of trade. Ricardo came up with a wonderful, non-obvious explanation that was so powerful that people were charmed with it, and they still are, because it’s a very useful idea. Everybody in economics understands that comparative advantage is a big deal, when one considers first order advantages in trade from the Ricardo effect. But suppose you’ve got a very talented ethnic group, like the Chinese, and they’re very poor and backward, and you’re an advanced nation, and you create free trade with China, and it goes on for a long time.Now let’s follow with second and third order consequences: You are more prosperous than you would have been if you hadn’t traded with China in terms of average well-being in the United States, right? Ricardo proved it. But which nation is going to be growing faster in economic terms? It’s obviously China. They’re absorbing all the modern technology of the world through this great facilitator in free trade, and, like the Asian Tigers have proved, they will get ahead fast. Look at Hong Kong. Look at Taiwan. Look at early Japan. So, you start in a place where you’ve got a weak nation of backward peasants, a billion and a quarter of them, and in the end they’re going to be a much bigger, stronger nation than you are, maybe even having more and better atomic bombs. Well, Ricardo did not prove that that’s a wonderful outcome for the former leading nation. He didn’t try to determine second order and higher order effects.If you try and talk like this to an economics professor, and I’ve done this three times, they shrink in horror and offense because they don’t like this kind of talk. It really gums up this nice discipline of theirs, which is so much simpler when you ignore second and third order consequences.The best answer I ever got on that subject – in three tries – was from George Schultz. He said, “Charlie, the way I figure it is if we stop trading with China, the other advanced nations will do it anyway, and we wouldn’t stop the ascent of China compared to us, and we’d lose the Ricardodiagnosed advantages of trade.” Which is obviously correct. And I said, “Well George, you’ve just invented a new form of the tragedy of the commons. You’re locked in this system and you can’t fix it. You’re going to go to a tragic hell in a handbasket, if going to hell involves being once the great leader of the world and finally going to the shallows in terms of leadership.” And he said, “Charlie, I do not want to think about this.” I think he’s wise. He’s even older than I am, and maybe I should learn from him.

    1. Vendita Auto

      Good to note a comment that takes on a global perspective rather than your T word mindset although I am UK based I find your cognitive comments on a nation state with a history that shapes its cultural attitude to the west today demeaning “you’ve got a weak nation of backward peasants, a billion and a quarter of them”Free trade with China is crucial to the west as is IMO our ability to merge neurosciences & technology to enable mortals to process information in some hardwired form (cortex) we have to evolve, I know I am open to jibes but this post is about the future today.

      1. Rob Larson

        Those are Charlie Munger’s words, not mine.I am a huge proponent of free trade, but I thought his POV was thought-provoking, as it highlights one possible downside. If one nation is the most powerful on earth, by a large margin, would they willingly cede that position to another in exchange for being a certain % more wealthy? I don’t know the answer to that, but it’s interesting to think about.

        1. PhilipSugar

          Rob well said. I have an Economics Degree from Wharton and an Engineering Degree from Moore School.There are so many things that both Economists, Doctors, and Scientists take as fact things that are in fact fallacy.I was reminded this in Lego Robotics League tonight. I was really working with the kids to line up the robots, tighten up the axles, and square up the wheels. We still had a big variation. That’s ok we work towards the center.LE says it best you work down to you level of competition. I call it the PhD effect. B.S. Bullshit, M.S. More shit, PhD Piled Higher and Deeper in Shit.There is a big thing called common sense. Your last sentence is the right one. Yes we are certainly a % more wealthy. But who did the wealth go to? Most of us on this board, not so much to those that live in the swath of “red states”

          1. Twain Twain

            Big fan of common sense.

          2. PhilipSugar

            Me too. One of the things I look for most is engineers that can both think and also do.In some disciplines like economics its hard. But if you’ve been in business it’s easier.

        2. Vendita Auto

          “Those are Charlie Munger’s words, not mine” Rob my error mea culpa. but nevertheless thought provoking from another perspective.

  17. LE

    Workmarket needs to develop an additional brand that is more small business friendly.The website is slanted toward either larger businesses or businesses that employ people that have enough time to be able to dig to the bottom of how workmarket can help them. There is a huge demand in small business for what I think they offer [1] but unfortunately the way it is presented on the workmarket site is a big turnoff for anyone running a small business who is short for time. And they all are. Let’s call it 20 and under employees although it might as well be 100 and under.Additionally it’s unclear if the solution is to manage your existing freelancers or to be able to hire and attract new freelancers. While it appears to also be the latter from copy,it’s not clear from the site (and a quick check) how actually works.Clicking in the appropriate place requires someone to read a solutions guide on this page:http://content.workmarket.c…Not the way to make things easy for time pressed people.[1] I say ‘I think’ because I am not even sure I have the gist correct.

    1. Susan Rubinsky

      I have thought the same exact thing about WorkMarket. I abandoned it several years ago. I don’t want to hire people based on tasks. I want to hire people based on their value and build relationships with freelancers who can help me build value and who also gain value from their relationship working with me. The whole freelance marketplace has been disrupted by tech, but there are so many solutions that have made it harder for me to find talent.

      1. LE

        Part of the issue with many of these ‘so called’ new age companies is that they are constructed to scale to a big size with lack of attention to actual detail and quality. It’s an entirely different animal and approach to business. You cast a big net and don’t sweat the small stuff or details. Literally. Now I fully understand if that is what they have decided to do and if it works for them in building their business to a point where they can make money and that that is the game. But please don’t confuse building a quality business/product/service with what amounts to winning financially (which I am fine with as you know..). Especially given what Fred is saying and thinking they are or should be doing. Because you are 100% ignoring a very large part of business and a very loyal part as well.What’s interesting in both our comments is that we are looking for different things that could easily be side niches for a company like work market as opposed to being one corporate entity that tries to make everyone happy.I have needs for freelancers but there is no way it appears I can use workmarket to solve those needs.

  18. jason wright

    Will TV survive?

  19. Rob Underwood

    I believe the Labor Department and that the unemployment rate is accurately calculated by non-partisan officials and statistician.But I also believe the real life experiences of friends and family in the job market.While it’s always dangerous to extrapolate too much about an entire country from one’s experience, I also can’t pretend that I don’t know a lot of folks who are really struggling to find work right now. Some of them are comparatively “unskilled” (e.g., 2 year associates degrees vs. Bachelors degrees or, better, still, professional graduate degrees) but many also have graduate degrees and/or degrees from world class universities. While going to an Ivy League school does not guarantee anyone a job, it’s a head-scratcher to see folks with 20-30 years of experience, hard skills in design, development, and/or management and prestigious degree find little interest to no interest in their services.And, to paraphrase, “It’s a recession when your neighbor loses their job; it’s a depression when you lose yours.” I thought Trump could, and might well win, in part because I thought there were many wealthy progressives who work in media, tech, and finance, and live in places like Brooklyn and San Francisco who were just not seeing how much economic distress families were feeling throughout the US, even in families with 1-2 adults with “in demand” skills. The lagging growth in income is resulting in families that, if they do have jobs, are struggling to save for retirement, let alone college. If anyone has it, I’d love to see what the Gen-X retirement savings levels look like for example.So there’s something up, at least in my opinion.Possible theories:- We’re not seeing the “real” unemployment number because we’re paying enough attention to the decline in the participation rate (see… for context)- We’ve not adjusted our tracking of employment to account for the “gig economy” and the peaks and valleys free lancers encounter – Rampant age discriminationThis last point is the most controversial, but I think in tech, including and especially NYC tech, it’s a big problem. There is a big hiring bias for tech talent of people over 30 or so., which I’ve seen first hand and also seen many colleagues run into. This doesn’t seem as pronounced in the valley, where I think there is more familiarity with developers who have gray hair. But in places like NYC, it seems like some (not all) orgs, founders, and execs have difficulty believing that folks north of 30 might be able to write code. That’s a problem I hope we can overcome soon.

    1. bsoist

      I believe the Labor Department and that the unemployment rate is accurately calculated by non-partisan officials and statistician.I do too, but the measurement itself does not really represent what a lot of people think it does – unemployment – and doesn’t address the problem of underemployment. Working as little as fifteen hours last week, even for no pay, could qualify one as employed.

    2. Quantella Owens

      I hope you don’t mind my commenting on this because I think the distinction I’m about to make is relevant or I wouldn’t bother: “While going to an Ivy League school does not guarantee anyone a job, it’s a head-scratcher to see folks with 20-30 years of experience, hard skills in design, development, and/or management and prestigious degree find little interest to no interest in their services.” They are interested in their “services” just not interested in the “cost of carry.” If these workers were to offer to consult with/for these same companies, I’d bet they would have plenty of takers. The problem is that companies are facing rising penalties in every category, lawsuits over age discrimination etc and software that in many cases makes some of the routine processes obsolete. The bodies are the easiest to cut when the numbers have to be met. But those folks who are being cut are more valuable than ever…..provided they are willing to hang a shingle and work independently or within a specialist agency. They are already versed in coding, mature, professional and highly sought after…just not as employees. I think a paradigm shift in thinking about how their work is structured is what is missing…because there is definitely still plenty of work to do in almost every industry.

      1. Rob Underwood

        I can assure you they are absolutely interested in “consult(ing) with/for these same companies” — in fact most of them (e.g., my friend who went to Harvard, does videography and graphic design, can do some web development, and worked tier 1 ad agencies for 2 decades”) are only looking for consulting. He can’t give work away.

        1. Quantella Owens

          First: Sorry for the delay in responding. For some reason, I can never see responses to my posts in Disqus. I’m not good with the tech stuff and I’ve spent DAYS trying to track down the issue and I still can’t find it.Secondly: If you can, in other words, if you think you friend wouldn’t mind, can you share more info with me? I’m currently working on this very thing and I’m boggled. I know how much work has to be done, but what keeps confusing me is whether or not it is a choice of industry issue or a choice of expression issue. I’m not explaining what I mean very well and for that I am sorry, but what I’m trying to get at is…is this an issue of the market your friend has chosen or the way he explains his value proposition to said market?

          1. Rob Underwood

            I will ask.All I can say is I know many very well qualified people — great degrees (Masters and above and/or Ivy League) with years or even decades of experience at tier 1 companies or firms, and market relevant skills (e.g. software engineering), who can’t find work, including contract gigs. The only common denominator is they all are over 30-35. Can I prove age discrimination is at work? No. But do I see a ton of older (i.e., over 30) workers, even software developers, who are really struggling to find work right now, even on the coasts and other “hot” markets. Absolutely.

  20. JaredMermey

    Whatever policy is chosen, this feels like an exercise where HOW you say it is as important as WHAT you say.Acceleration where the second derivative of improvement is positive is hard to wrap one’s head around. Prior rate of change is so tangible that attempting to change people’s minds that the rate of change of the rate of change will increase at orders of magnitude to what they are used to is a very difficult hurdle to overcome. Yet, it is a pre-requisite to societal change and something whoever is implementing policy must figure out.If the distribution of outcomes of the effects of automation on society is bi-modal (something I currently would posit but by no means is fact), then figuring out the above is the crucial factor to achieving the positive mode.

  21. ShanaC

    Personally, a far scarier thought:Beyond on demand work – there is a enough theoretical comp sci and economic papers out there that it might be doable to have the contracts for said labor in continual negotiation on an open market while someone is in the middle of working. so you could start the day with one labor contract, and end the day with a radically different one, including starting out the day paid $100/hr and ending at poverty wages.If that falls out, basically, labor has no hedge on tomorrow. And that is a bigger problem by far.

  22. Charise

    Thanks Fred for including this topic in your blog and moderating a discussion that includes both tech and economic justice advocates. This is a critical issue for the low income communities in Oakland, California where I am that have already lost jobs and homes as a result of globalization and the financial crisis. An additional angle on this topic is what is the future of wealth? Maya Rockeymoore knows a lot about the racial wealth gap which is way worse than the income inequality gap. We need solutions that address how we bring back community wealth building opportunities (e.g. worker co-ops and community land trusts).

  23. george

    Very interested in building an effective labor cloud – Talent blooms everywhere and technology connects and enables virtual organizations to operate at great efficiency. Several of my clients have already committed to this resource model and it’s been very effective. However, there is still one major challenge – scaling the workforce. My suggestion: LinkedIn should be all over this service model, they have all the parts to take the App work-for-hire model to the next level.

  24. Tom Labus

    A fragmented work force is also one that’s easily manipulated.Where’s team spirit?

  25. Ronnie Rendel

    By breaking work down into measurable sets of actions in specific skill-sets (tags), we transition from “corporate” production to “value based” production, thus taking advantageof a vast and global digital labor market.A single person can be associated with several “companies”, which are nothing more than a manager with “formula” for converting certain sets of actions into $.

  26. Stephane Kasriel

    Nice piece. IMHO you’re missing a key component though.The “on demand workforce” isn’t really new: it’s the logical continuation of the progressive shift from traditional employment (fixed labor contract, 9-to-5, input-based) to independent work (freelance contract, ad-hoc, output-based).What is truly new is the growth of distributed workforces (which isn’t at all the same thing as globalization or offshoring) – fundamentally, the realization that the office was an unnatural evolution of the factory floor and that knowledge work can be done from anywhere ; that talent is much more evenly distributed than job opportunities. And that has much larger implications for the economy and society, starting with a very welcome reversal of today’s increasing concentration of opportunities, GDP and wealth in an ever smaller number of cities – with the corresponding social inequality as a result. We may finally be breaking the location paradox that academics have been discussing for decades.

  27. Josh Swihart

    We launched a company along these lines today. Someone sent me to this page. More on our perspective, for what’s it’s worth:

    1. cavepainting

      Congratulations! A couple of questions for you.a) I imagine this is a marketplace that connects marketing and design professionals with companies? How do you expect to overcome the catch-22 inherent in these businesses of building enough supply and demand? As you know, the industry is littered with corpses of marketplaces that never found liquidity.b) How are you differentiated from the many others who operate in the same space? Are you targeting a specific niche?

      1. Josh Swihart

        Thank you.a. Sort of. The intent isn’t to be another marketplace. The intent is to deliver an outcome using the most appropriate group of people and resources. There are a lot of factors that play into that (availability, experience, relationships, location, fit, cost, etc.) For example, the head of sourcing for a large civil engineering company told me that he wants to be able to point to a bridge and say – “Bring me all the resources I need to build a bridge just like that one”. I think that’s an interesting problem to solve.b. I suppose it depends on who we’re compared against. We’re focused on outcomes more than providing a directory of people. We want to move toward a model that operates with a governance, profit and equity that is shared among participants (people and service providers) – similar to a DAO.I’m happy to provide more depth on the model. Feel free to contact me through the site.