Historically, technology has always created entire new occupations and opportunities while destroying old industries and jobs. There is little doubt that the auto industry is a good example to exemplify the former cases as horse carriages phased out when the technology became widely available to produce the automobile. There is enough economic precedence to support these former statements which may explain why so many people today naively think that millions of jobs will still be created in the near future due to the advent of information technology. We absolutely have historical evidence of that.
Let me ask you a question: How many people do you think were employed at YouTube when the company was sold to Google back in 2005? The number, brothers and sisters, was 65! General Motors at its peak hired 840,000 employees. Today, GM hires 36,000 hard working employees. That is a drastic loss of employment between the years of 1979 and 2016. Have you heard about the newly developed app “Instagram?” Who hasn’t, right? How many people do you think worked at Instagram when the company was acquired by Facebook in 2012? The answers ladies and gentleman was 13! The irony of the former is that Instagram was sold for a billion dollars. Man, the per-employee evaluation at Instagram at the time of its purchase was 77 million! Holy cow!
Aren’t these new companies supposed to generate millions of jobs because of technological advancements in order to replace the ones that they destroy? Many people swear by this logic. I personally like the position taken by the author of the book Rise of the Robots — Martin Ford. In his book he talks about how information technology is now an utility that comes with machine intelligence. I think he is absolutely correct about his assertions, as information technology today is as necessary as electricity, as he puts it. Can you imagine banking without technology? How about education? Are cars free of technology? Which industry is free of this new utility? Won’t you agree that all new technological business created will take advantage of this powerful new utility?
Of course they will! It is where we are headed. Let’s assume for a moment that we will take advantage of information technology in the creation of new industries. Then, millions of jobs are likely to be lost and be replaced by a few, if any jobs from these emerging tech enterprises as contemporary technology systems already exist. We have seen evidence of that already in the cases of the creation of YouTube, Instagram, and even the app, “What’sUp.” Why would these technology based industries create many more jobs in the future when they already possess so many cases of automation in society?
Uncontrolled information technology adoption will lead to tiny workforces where only a few will benefit from its advancements which will in effect drastically change the way our economy operates and how we live in the United States and abroad. Automation is here to stay. Sooner or later, simply based on the concept of Moore’s law, these new information technology systems will get better increasing their capacities of self learning leading to more automation in the near future.
I hope I am being disturbingly persuasive. As technologies continue to accelerate, I find no reason to believe that new jobs will be created to replace the ones they destroy. In fact, I think that the millions of white-collar jobs we enjoy having today will turn into maybe thousands causing a severe shift in the quality of living experienced by tens of millions of Americans. I hope my predictions are wrong and unfounded but from what I see, I don’t think so. I guess that only time will tell.