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  • TEDx Vienna. X= independently organized TED event

  • Hello everyone. Hi, welcome. How are you doing today? Good?

  • Yeah? It's a wonderful day, isn't it?

  • Well, let me fix that for you. I'll talk about jobs.

  • Can I have please a quick show of hands? Raise your hand

  • if you either work or know somebody close to you

  • who works in any of these areas:

  • How about driving: That's trucks, delivery, buses, taxis, anything.

  • Raise your hand. How about janitors?

  • Housecleaning, cashiers or...

  • No one? No one knows anyone who works... Ok, good.

  • Secretaries, real estate, accounting, retail, manufacturing, journalism...

  • Ok, let's say it's about 70% of you. Good.

  • Robots will steal your job.

  • Laughter, ridicule, contempt:

  • This is how I was greeted by the establishment of economists

  • about four years ago, when I first started thinking about these issues.

  • At that time, I helped start an organization called the Zeitgeist Movement,

  • and we were thinking of ways on how to build a better society.

  • At that time, nobody took us seriously, but things have changed now.

  • What changed? Well, very few people are laughing.

  • [In] 2009, Martin Ford comes up with [book] 'The Lights in the Tunnel',

  • where he paints a picture of an increasingly automated economy:

  • Lots of jobs are being replaced by machines,

  • and very few new jobs are being created.

  • [In] 2011, two MIT economists have pretty much the same thesis.

  • So, let's look at the evidence for this. Shall we?

  • Kodak, the once undisputed giant of the photography industry,

  • had a 90% market share in the US in 1976.

  • By the year 1984, they were employing 145,000 people, and in 2012,

  • they had a networth of negative $1 billion when they went bankrupt.

  • Why? Because they failed to predict

  • the importance of exponential trends when it comes to technology.

  • On the other hand, Instagram, a digital photography company,

  • [in] the same year (2012), had 13 employees;

  • and they were sold to Facebook for $1 billion.

  • This is kind of ironic because Kodak pioneered digital photography.

  • They actually invented the first digital camera

  • when they came out in 1975 with a 0.01 Mpix digital camera,

  • but they thought it was a toy and they didn't pay attention,

  • so that's what happens with exponentials. We don't pay attention.

  • Let's play a little game with you. Let's be a more interactive school: 30 Steps.

  • Imagine I take 30 steps lineary: That's one, two, three...

  • where do I get if I get to 30?

  • About the end of the stage right there.

  • How about if I take 30 steps exponentially? 2,4,8,16...

  • Where do I get?

  • Where? Outside?

  • Actually, I get to the Moon.

  • By the way, this is not the scale. The Moon is much further away

  • and back, and I still have enough steps to circle the Earth

  • 8 times over.

  • That's what exponential means. How do I know this?

  • I just asked Wolphram Alpha.

  • Foxconn [is] the world's largest manufacturer of electronic components.

  • They make pretty much anything, so if you've got something on your lap

  • or in your pocket that makes noises and is blinky and bright,

  • and it's probably tweeting right now, they made it.

  • Not just Apple, they make anything.

  • It's a multinational corporation worth $100 billion,

  • which employs 1.2 million people.

  • What are they doing? They're automating, of course.

  • In fact, they are about to deploy an army of 1 million robots

  • to 'cut rising labour expenses and improve efficiency'.

  • Canon is doing the same, going fully automated very soon.

  • Lots of other companies are following. Now, what if Walmart follows?

  • [It's the] biggest multinational corporation in the world, employs 2.1 million people.

  • What if they automate?

  • Well, they can't, right? They don't have the technology to do that.

  • They most certainly do. Amazon knows this very well.

  • This is a graph made by fellow-author Andrew McAfee from MIT.

  • We pretty much agree on the analysis.

  • As you can see, profits and investments are all going up and up and up

  • for corporate investments and multinational corporations;

  • but the red line, which is the employment to population ratio

  • is going down and down and down;

  • and we both agree that when it comes to automation,

  • we ain't seen nothing yet.

  • This is the Google autonomous car.

  • You know, the futuristic car that drives itself without a human driver.

  • By the way, it's as cool as it sounds.

  • I was inside, this is me at NASA a few months ago,

  • and it's a pretty neat piece of technology. They have all sorts of sensors,

  • lasers, GPS, and machine learning algorithms,

  • drives itself. It's safer, better than any human driver, doesn't get tired,

  • follows every street rule, never crashes, never breaks any rule whatsoever.

  • Basically it just works, and it's better than humans.

  • Problem is, 3.6 million people in the US alone

  • work driving, meaning they drive for a living.

  • That's 2.6% of the population.

  • [In] Austria and Europe, they have very similar numbers.

  • I think these people might be affected by this kind of technology, don't you?

  • Accounting, retail, manufacturing, translations;

  • no one is safe.

  • Journalism, as the Wall Street Journal puts it

  • "Software is eating the world."

  • What do we do?

  • Should we despair?

  • How about putting taxes on technology?

  • Impose more regulation?

  • Maybe do some education reforms?

  • Basically, find any clever ways to get everyone a damn job!

  • That's what these guys are proposing.

  • That's what their presidential campaign is all about,

  • and it sounds reasonable enough.

  • After all, famously said by Voltaire is the sentence:

  • "Work saves us from three great evils: boredom, vice and need."

  • He said that in 1759.

  • Is that really the case, today, in this society?

  • I think we might be missing a big opportunity.

  • It was Confucius who said:

  • "Choose a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life."

  • Brilliant, I agree.

  • Problem:

  • Getting a job you love, one that is fulfilling,

  • and that allows you to follow your moral code today,

  • I don't know about you, but it's pretty damn hard.

  • In fact, according to Deloitte Shifting that says

  • "As much as 80% of the people hate their job."

  • 80%, that's 4 out of 5, spending most of their useful lifetime

  • doing something they don't particularly enjoy.

  • Now in 2012, with this kind of technology at our fingertips,

  • guys, doesn't that make you little

  • mad?

  • A little bit?

  • We are in kind of a work paradox.

  • Because we work long and hard hours on jobs we hate

  • to buy things we don't need

  • to impress people we don't like.

  • Genius! [weak applause]

  • We have to adjust what the economy allows us to perform,

  • and the sad reality is that most jobs, unfortunately, are neither fulfilling,

  • nor do they create any value for society;

  • and I don't think I have to name which jobs. I think you know which ones.

  • By the way, they are going to be automated very soon,

  • and I suspect within our lifetime.

  • So, we are screwed.

  • That's the end of my talk, bye.

  • No, I think there's light in the tunnel, because

  • I spent a year researching this problem,

  • and I think I might have cracked it.

  • I might have discovered what the purpose of life is.

  • Now I'm going to give it to you.

  • Right now, TEDex Vienna.

  • Would you like to know?

  • Ok, here it goes:

  • The purpose of life is

  • to have robots steal your job.

  • All right, let's be serious. I suppose I don't know my purpose,

  • let alone your purpose, or that of anyone else;

  • but I'm pretty sure what the purpose of life is not,

  • and the purpose of life cannot be to work, produce

  • and consume more and more and more.

  • So, here is a radical idea.

  • The goal of the future is full unemployment, so we can play.

  • That's why we have to destroy the present political economic system.

  • This is no light statement, considering that it comes from legendary author

  • and futurist Arthur C. Clarke.

  • I think we must do away with the absolutely specious notion

  • that everybody has to earn a living.

  • It is fact today that 1 in 10,000 can create the technological breakthrough

  • capable of supporting all the rest;

  • and so, the youth of today are absolutely right

  • in recognizing this nonsense of earning a living.

  • We keep inventing new jobs because of this false idea

  • that everyone has to be employed in some kind of drudgery or another,

  • because according to Darwinian-Malthusian theory,

  • they must justify their right to exist.

  • And so, we have inspectors of inspectors,

  • and people making instruments for inspectors to inspect inspectors.

  • The true business of people should be to go back to school,

  • and think about whatever they were thinking about

  • before somebody came along and told them they had to earn a living.

  • I know what you're thinking.

  • These are naive words.

  • Words of a young mind, oblivious to intricate and complex fabric of society

  • and the economic system. That might be true.

  • Good thing they are not my words, though, but those of genius

  • futurist Buckminster Fuller interviewed in 1970 by New York Magazine.

  • Now, ok, this is all very nice; but look, we have to face reality, ok?

  • Tomorrow, [we've] got to go to work.

  • Well, tomorrow is Sunday, but on Monday we've got to go to work,

  • buy food, pay the rent, pay the bills. Look, we can't just leave everything.

  • So, how do you solve this problem now?

  • As I said, I spent years researching this problem.

  • Here is the short answer:

  • There is no short answer.

  • That's why I wrote a book to explain this.

  • I spent the last years traveling some 20 countries.

  • I went to NASA, I studied at Singularity University,

  • and I spoke with some of the greatest minds on this planet

  • to tackle this problem.

  • As it turns out, you need a plan and not just any plan.

  • You need a multi-year plan that involves lots of people,

  • and everyone has a different plan.

  • It's pretty complicated. I'm short in time,

  • and the TED guys told me to keep it simple;

  • so I made a picture of two possible futures.

  • To the left, we've got

  • exponential technologies and limited resources.

  • I think that's a fair assumption to make.

  • We add the need for growth and labor for income,

  • That's the basis of every society today.

  • To me in a few years that equals to:

  • mass unemployment, runaway climate change, resource depletion,

  • starvation, worldwide violence and civil unrest.

  • Not too nice.

  • To the right we still have exponential technologies and limited resources.

  • We can't really change that unless we obliterate the human race,

  • or break the laws of physics,

  • but what we can change is our attitude, our goals and our purpose.

  • Open source, DIY innovators, self-sustaining communities,

  • I think this will redefine the idea of work.

  • By letting go the idea of infinite growth and labor for income,

  • we can use our ingenuity.

  • Instead of finding clever ways to get everyone a new job (maybe useless),

  • we can use the same ingenuity to work less, have more free time,

  • have more fulfilling lives,

  • restore global resource balance and generally have a more resilient system.

  • Ah ha! You, Sir, are a techno-utopian!

  • You believe technology solves everything! That's what everyone tells me.

  • To the contrary!

  • I believe technology is merely a facilitator of your intention.

  • Look back to the picture. If you subscribe to the idea

  • that we have infinite needs that require an infinite amount of work

  • and infinite growth to be satisfied (which, by the way, is impossible)

  • exponential technology will help you get there exponentially faster

  • to these awful results.

  • Ok, but we've been living like this for thousands of years,

  • are we supposed to just give that up?

  • Isn't that against human nature?

  • Well,

  • we had slavery for thousands of years.

  • We gave that up.

  • I believe we are at a dawn of a new civilization,

  • but we can only evolve as a society if we are ready to accept

  • that some of the assumptions that we most hold dear,

  • we have to let to go of them.

  • Technology was never meant to increase productivity and growth

  • so we can work longer hours anywhere, anytime on any device.

  • That's instanity.

  • It was made to make our lives better.

  • By the way, this isn't anything new. People have been talking about this for ages.

  • Aristotle, 2300 years ago, said exactly the same thing,