Subtitles section Play video Print subtitles 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, so why hasn't this happened in 2300 years? I believe you need three conditions satisfied in order to achieve massive social change: You need the vision, the resources and the technology to fulfill your dreams. In the past, we had the vision and the resources, but we didn't have the technology.