Paul's Internet Landfill/ 2014/ Jobsolescence


So I got lost in Twitter and came across this interview with Marc Andreessen: . In this article he makes the argument that keeping jobs around when technology has rendered them obsolete is stupid, because better technology creates more human wants, and thus new jobs. There is a big problem with this argument that has been rattling around in my head for a while, but which I think I can now articulate clearly.

Say you have a job that has been automated out of the economy.

Marc Andreessen says that you don't have to worry because human greed is infinite and there will be new jobs available.

There is no guarantee that you will be able to do those new jobs. Here is why:

The argument from Andreseen's side tends to be that anybody can have any basket of skills, even though nobody actually believes this is true. (Otherwise he would not be complaining that tech companies cannot find people.)

The argument from the left wing side is that some people do not have the right basket of skills to be employed.

My argument is that almost NOBODY will have a sufficient basket of skills to stay employed. Almost all of us will be worthless as workers in the capitalist economy. Computers are getting better and better at doing the things that humans used to do better, such as pattern matching.

We will have other roles to play in the non-capitalist economy (social bonding, say) but the machines will do a better job than we can in every other way. There will be better automated venture capitalists than Marc Andreessen, and then he will have to find a different job as well.

Thus the implied promise that getting rid of jobs creates new jobs for people is not true for two reasons: the people forced out of the old jobs may not have the skills required for the new ones, and many of the jobs (maybe most of the jobs) will be automatable right off the bat.