Main menu


"A world without work".. How does technological progress threaten the future of the labor market?

Fears that technological development will cause people to lose their jobs are not new today. In the eighteenth century, neighbors stormed the home of Englishman James Hargreaves, inventor of the spinning wheel, and destroyed the machine and his home furniture as well, for fear that this machine would cause them to lose their jobs.

Over the centuries, many predictions appeared that indicated that machines would cause human unemployment, a scenario that economists call “technological unemployment,” but those predictions were wrong, according to Daniel Susskind in his book published in January. The past is under the title “A World Without Work”, which we will review the most prominent of it in the coming lines.

Although technology was the cause of the abolition of some jobs, new jobs appeared thanks to technological development, and these jobs were less stressful or dangerous than previous jobs, and machines may have replaced weavers, for example, but there are other new jobs that have become available such as Marketing managers, programmers and fashion designers.

Technology has helped workers over the past few centuries to be more productive, which contributed to achieving unprecedented economic prosperity and raising living standards. The US economy, for example, grew by 15,000 times between 1700 and 2000.

Fears may come true

Perhaps human fears that technology would replace them in the workplace were not true in the past, and yet the matter seems different this time, as Susskind claims in his new book. In his book, Susskind says that machines are getting smarter, and that they will soon replace humans in many jobs. , potentially replacing doctors, construction workers and insurers, ending what Susskind called the "work age".

Susskind points out that the state of inequality that is already inherent in the economy at the present time will increase, widening the gap between the rich and the poor, and this idea contradicts modern economic thought, as economists widely agree that machines, although they may have replaced workers at times However, it helped the workers at other times because it began to perform routine jobs instead of them, which contributed to increasing the productivity of the workers.

Economists believe that bank employees were previously afraid of the emergence of automatic teller machines, but these machines encouraged customers to use banks more, as the number of bank branches increased, and the number of their employees increased, who began to carry out tasks other than cashing out, but Susskind believes that the matter This time is different from previous times, as he points out in his book that artificial intelligence challenges the assumption that humans will always be better than machines in some jobs.

In the past, humans used to program robots to mimic human behavior, enabling them to carry out routine and repetitive tasks easily, and this means that automation mostly affected jobs with medium skills, while other jobs such as building homes and diagnosing diseases were relatively unaffected by automation, and Susskind stresses that the matter is different. Now because the people who work in developing artificial intelligence are teaching machines to take advantage of huge amounts of data, to solve problems in ways that humans can't.

Evidence of the technology's vast potential

Susskind gives evidence of the realization of fears that technology will replace humans in the future, as he indicates in his book that Stanford University has a machine that can use the data of about 130,000 cases to determine whether freckles are an indication of cancer, as can the “Stanford” program. Google “diagnosed more than 50 eye diseases, with a better error rate than doctors, according to a report published by the “Numbers” website.

On the other hand, a Chinese insurance company is using algorithms to read facial expressions to determine if loan applicants are scammers.

Technological development and increasing inequality

Susskind expects that technological development will cause an increase in inequality, indicating that all people could previously sell their skills and services, but with technological development some skills and services may lose their value and importance, and Susskind also expects that owners of traditional capital will witness prosperity, who own shares In real estate and technology, people with hard-to-find skills are easy to find, indicating that prosperity will be shared by fewer people.

Susskind added that in 1964 he was working for AT&T, which was the most valuable company in the United States at the time, with 758,000 employees, while he now works for Microsoft, which was the most valuable company in the United States of America. Before being replaced by Amazon recently, there were only 144,000 employees.

Instagram had only 13 employees when it was acquired by Facebook in 2012 for $1 billion.

Suggested Solutions

Susskind presents some solutions to the problem of "a world without work" in the last third of the book, and although they are not new solutions, they are thought-provoking, especially at a time when the younger generations are becoming increasingly interested in socialism because many for-profit companies have not been fair in its dividend, and instead canceled many of its employee stock ownership plans.

Other companies have taken advantage of loopholes to evade taxes, so Susskind suggests that the state take a bigger role in redistributing wealth as inequality increases by imposing a more efficient tax system.