Episode 5 - The Future of Jobs, Income and Fulfillment (Transcription)
Mattimore: Welcome to hence the future podcast - I'm Mattimore Cronin
Justin: I'm Justin Clark.
Mattimore: Today we're talkin about the future of jobs income and. So first, I think we should start off by defining these terms and explaining why we're talking about all three of these topics versus just talkin about jobs or just talking about income.
So a job is what you do to get money income is the actual money itself. It's your means of surviving and fulfillment is your source of happiness purpose and satisfaction in life. So, why are we talkin about all three of these things? Versus just talkin about let's say jobs.
Justin: Yeah, I mean, they're all so interrelated and one of the things about jobs and income is right now those are basically the same thing but in the future when jobs are potentially automated some jobs are automated. Then we need to have the conversation about where income comes from and also with jobs being automated where does meaning come from because right now so much of people's meaning in life tends to come from their jobs.
Mattimore: So you could be a doctor and you love being a doctor. That's where you spend all your time and certainly your job. It's also your source of income. It's also your source of fulfillment. It's part of your identity. That's pretty common nowadays, but in the future when people are not able to contribute to the economy as much they're going to have to find another source of income and another source of fulfillment as well.
Justin: So what are your thoughts on jobs and how they'll change from where they are now? Maybe in the short term and then in the longer term may be short term being five to 10 years longer term being 20 to 50 years or something.
Mattimore: So there are a lot of skeptics in this area who don't think it's going to change very much and there's actually a name for this which is the Luddite fallacy.
Which the argument is basically like: "oh, look everything turned out fine in the Agricultural Revolution and the Industrial Revolution and even the digital Revolution. So why should it be any different this time? You know, there's always been more better jobs created with technological advancements in the past. Why would that not be the case this time." And the key difference here is that in the past a lot of the automation has happened with mechanical jobs physical labor jobs, you know, you don't see a whole lot of humans hauling bricks or sand or dirt or those are all done by machines pretty much and we have also started to see the automation of cognitive jobs as well.
You know, you see checkout clerks at grocery stores are now replaced by self-checkout machines and bank tellers have been replaced by just going to the ATM or even like, you know, my Wells Fargo app. You can just scan a check make transfer anything like pretty much everything that a banker used to do you can do on your own.
So I think that's the key difference of why it's most certainly going to be critical this time around whereas it might have been a bit overhyped.
Justin: Yeah, and then that's kind of the argument that people like to make is this time. I mean every time in the past new jobs were created and everything's been fine. But the thing about this time that's a little different is like you said people transitioned from maybe an agricultural job to another low-skill job like being a cashier. But the thing about this time is the technology and let's set aside superintelligence. Let's think of Technology as a tool rather than something that'll take over humans all together because that's you know, that was that was our first real podcast and kind of separate but this time we can think of technology just being a tool.
But people need to be skilled enough to use these tools and whether that's marketing managers being really competent in the tools that are created to optimize ad spending or digital creatives that are using tools like Adobe Creative Cloud to make awesome animations. The thing that's different is what are these low skilled workers going to transition to when their jobs are taken.
Mattimore: I mean there's no doubt that there are going to be more jobs out there for software engineers and digital artists, but the real question is what percentage of the population is going to be able to reinvent themselves.
To take on these new positions that open up which are going to be much smaller as far as the numbers of people employed versus people who work in call centers for instance or all of the Uber drivers out there or all of the retail people. So I think a good way for us now to just get a handle on the reality of the situation is to actually look at the numbers.
So in the next five years there is expected to be six percent of jobs lost to automation. That's from a McKinsey study. And that doesn't sound like much and really it's not much when we look at the long-term of where this could lead but keep in mind the current unemployment rate is only four percent. So that's more than doubling the unemployment rate in the next five years when you look until 2030, which is only 12 years away the number jumps up to 33 percent and that's according to the same McKinsey study that came out recently. So that's a third of jobs being lost. And just a benchmark how serious that would be during the Great Depression the unemployment rate the peak unemployment rate was only 25% and that only lasted for you know, a couple months or something and then it went down to most of the time it was only like 15 percent unemployment rate.
So this is big. I mean this like we're you talk about, you know, Occupy Wall Street or some of these movements. Democratic socialism. They're only going to become exponentially that much more intense once we get to these levels of unemployment and jobs being lost due to automation.
Justin: Yeah, and something needs to happen to take care of these people and I think a lot of people underestimate what can be done by some of these new machine learning algorithms.
For example, one of the big areas of research is in diagnostics. So for example looking at a 3D CAT scan of a person's entire body or more likely their chest cavity or their brain or something. They can now detect cancer at very close to and sometimes better than the best doctors. Some of these um, 3D image recognition machine learning algorithms and this isn't to say that doctors are all going to lose their jobs.
But this does mean that some doctors - the best doctors - are going to be able to leverage this technology and increase their output. The amount of patients they can see or care for by maybe 10, 20, maybe a hundred X depending on the infrastructure that's in place and this I think for a while this won't be a problem because there are a lot of people that are lacking health care but in the long term, there's not going to be that big of a demand for even doctors. Because each doctor can support a lot more people, right and it's not unique to doctors either.
Mattimore: I mean, there's always going to be the top level doctors and surgeons who basically oversee the system that is basically automated. Then much more effective and accurate than if you had you know, some doctor who just has relied on the cases that he has lived through and seen which is such a small subset of the overall cases that all of humanity has seen so there's always going to be those top-level people but it's the same in a lot of the other spaces like even in the professional industry lawyers and accountants -I read this this article that was saying a lot of parents who are lawyers and accountants are recommending that their kids not go into those fields because they can see the writing on the wall. And yeah, there's always going to be the bombastic lawyer who's able to turn the crowd and it's more almost like a theatrical performance than anything.
but as far as all the legal clerks who do all of the discovery process and all the preparations. You know that's going to be much better done by a machine same thing with all of the accountants who prepare your taxes. I mean, you know, you got Turbo Tax and LegalZoom are already pretty good alternatives to an actual lawyer or an accountant.
So it's not like these are just low level jobs that are going to be automated. It's going to be pretty much any predictable or any aspect of any job that is predictable in the near term and in the long term. It doesn't even have to necessarily be predictable.
Justin: Yeah, that's it's really crazy because in the near-term what I'm kind of thinking is it makes sense intuitively and based on everything that's happening that jobs that can be run by software are going to be the first to go the the job or the jobs that can be run by software.
There are some jobs that need a robotic or a mechanical component and we don't necessarily have the infrastructure and I think robots are lacking when it comes to unpredictable tasks. I mean for the most part they're getting better. But but the unpredictability and just the sheer variety of the world when it comes to actually interacting with the outside world with some sort of mechanical arms or anything -I think that's more of a long-term thing. But for example like you were saying with the accountants that can all be run with software. We have the infrastructure to automate those jobs away right now. The only thing that's standing in the way of that is maybe a little bit of flexibility because there's there a lot of loopholes in laws that the best accountants can take advantage of for their clients and that's not something that's easily done by a computer but the basics of doing taxes and recording your income and expenses. That's easy. That's already being done.
Mattimore: Yeah, so let's look at the top 10 occupations by number of workers and just talk about how exposed they are to automation. So the number one retail salespeople for million workers in the us alone. So what are your what are your thoughts on that? I mean my feeling is I don't particularly like engaging with retail sales people often times I would rather just go on Amazon and find what's the best reviewed product in whatever category I'm looking for or trust the brands that I already know and just make sure it fits me well and then, buy it from there. So in personally I would like as a consumer to see retail sales persons be replaced by machines. Do you feel the same?
Justin: So I think it I think it makes sense in most retail cases. I think in some I mean for me I'm in I'm the same way. I would prefer to just shop online and be done with it, but I know there are some people that definitely don't want that and I think that might be standing in the way of complete automation. There's probably going to be those those boutiques that are like, yeah, we're still we're still old-fashioned. That's our value proposition.
Mattimore: Especially if it's like a high-end suit that you're getting tailor-made from Italy and things like, you know, maybe buying your underwear and socks you can do just with machine recommendations and trying it on.
Okay. So number two on the list is cashiers. I mean that's just such a clear that automation tasks. And especially with I don't know if you've seen the latest Amazon, um, what do they call them? The Amazon stores that are 100% automated that you have no, I think they call them like the Amazon ghost or something like that.
But basically they released the first one in Seattle and you go into this store. You don't have to pay for anything. You just walk into the store, pick up whatever you like, and because they have cameras looking at you from every possible angle and they have sensors that can tell when an item is removed from the shelf, they're able to track everything that you do and using facial recognition and using you know, if you scan your I think the only thing you have to do is like scan your phone or something like that. Then you know able to automate everything. So no one works in these stories, but it's not like you can go in there and steal stuff because their system is really damn good at knowing what inventories being taken who took it who that person is what their Amazon account is. So I think we're going to be seeing stores like that just exploding more and more in the next 10-20 years.
Justin: Yeah, and we're also going to see a lot of stores transition from retail to online. And that's one of the big things with Walmart trying to compete with Amazon is they're trying to have well, they're trying to keep their retail stores alive, but they're also trying to compete with Amazon when it comes to e-commerce because they see the writing on the wall and that they need to be available online which you know that even gets rid of store managers that gets rid of janitors that gets rid of everybody associated with a brick and mortar store.
Mattimore: And janitors and cleaners. That's number 10 on the list. So took care of that food prep and serving staff is number three. So I think this is a similar situation we're in. Stores or restaurants where people just really care about convenience and the price you are going to see automation. But if you're going to a high-end restaurant or some trendy coffee shop with your favorite Barista that makes it just so that's still going to be around because we're we are still cavemen after all and I think that's actually a good way to assess all of the jobs is thinking about.
Which jobs would you prefer to be done by a machine versus a human? So like in my personal life, there are certain jobs people that I interact with who I would not want it to be a machine. Like I don't want to just watch a video of or do like an AR/VR our experience of a yoga class. I want to actually go to the yoga studio, you know be around the yogi who I've come to admire feel the energy in the class and all of that same thing when you're getting your your haircut, you know, a lot of times you like those interactions talkin to your hairdresser, or a masseuse, you know, there's something about a real person massaging you that when you just have the repeatable pulsations of some massage chair it's just not the same. But with other jobs like. You know someone who's going to prepare your taxes every year on the dot based on the data that's available to it or someone who's going to give you legal advice in an automated fashion based on how the laws are changing and how your business is evolving or a doctor who diagnosis what illnesses you might be coming down with based on your health data that you share through your Smartwatch wearable.
Those are much better done by machines and those are high-end jobs since it's not just Uber drivers and I would certainly prefer to have a self-driving car take me home after a long day of work or traveling. Yeah versus the gamble of someone who's stinky or rude or to talk ever
Justin: Or someone that's just tired because I mean just having a just being tired makes you almost just like being drunk. When you're driving so, you know, there's there's a lot of human Folly when it comes to driving. That's why we see so many deaths on the road
Mattimore: So yeah, I mean when you look at this list of the top 10 Industries, the only ones that I think are really safe, so nurse is number five on the list.
That's gonna still that's the job that is still better done by a human even if a robot can do everything you need. It's just better to have someone there who cares who can hold your hand bedside manner that kind of stuff.
Justin: Yeah, you need that human connection like when when someone is sick and in that vulnerable weak state, it's good to have someone there caring for you in my opinion.
Mattimore: I totally agree. But outside of that outside of nurses and some high-end waiters hostesses. Those are really the only jobs out of the top 10 list that it seems like are safe from automation at least in the short to medium term.
Justin: So given all that. What do you think people are gonna do in terms of income and what what does the landscape of income wealth everything related to money? What does that look like?
Mattimore: Yeah. So the way that most people think is going to go is that it's just going to create more white collar jobs, and there might be some truth to that. You know, I just finished this book called Bullshit Jobs.
It's really funny and interesting and basically it explores this theory that the number of bullshit jobs meaning jobs that don't actually contribute real value to the economy have been skyrocketing already and it's only supposed to Skyrocket more. So, you know some of these jobs, let me just like read out the categories that he has he has Flunkies whose basic purpose is to make others feel important. So this would be like, you know the doorman, um, your receptionist who really you could answer your own phone, but it makes you feel more important having someone else answered for you administrative assistants who just like, you know, make you feel more important because you're at the top of this pyramid.
Yeah, that's the first category then there's people like goons who basically act aggressively on the interests of their employers. So that would be like a lobbyist corporate lawyers like telemarketers like anyone that's just like trying to get at you. Um, and then there's duck tapers which are people who fix problems that shouldn't exist.
So if you have some system where just because your boss likes things done in a in a very human way that doesn't make any sense and can easily be automated you hire people to basically make that faulty system work. Or like if you have a system that has very um, you know that has a lot of issues with the underlying code.You'll have people software engineers constantly, you know duct taping that code.
Justin: Oh man. Yeah technical debt is a huge thing.
Mattimore: Yeah. Well most company. I mean as a growth Market most companies I've engaged with they build it. And then they think about all of the important stuff so they're basically like, okay. Yeah, let's build it and then they're like. Wait a minute. We need proof of concept. We need to validate the we need all of these other things that could have been done before starting the company just through some Facebook ad testing. Yeah, there's a lot of that duct-taping. There's also a box-tickers which are basically performance man managers, you know, anyone who's just making sure everything goes according to plan and then taskmasters would be like middle management people who are basically just like they just oversee employees, but they don't really do a whole lot themselves. So this this area of bullshit jobs could grow but I think because the U.S. Is a free market economy. It's not gonna grow. Yeah. It's not gonna grow at the rate that it could grow somewhere like China where the government controls the economy and they can say Hey, you have to continue employing these many people because otherwise we're going to see some really bad economic effects.
And so they keep these bullshit employees around just for this because they have to but in the u.s. It's a free market. So I think people are gonna choose automation where it makes sense.
Justin: Yeah, and the thing about the U.S. Being a free market is. We're almost we're kind of pseudo free market because we still have a lot of infrastructure in place that kind of keeps people down and some people. Let's say for example the welfare state and this is something I kind of wanted to talk about when it comes to income the welfare state right now you're disincentivized to go off of welfare because if you actually take a job, you're gonna end up making less money than you were with welfare
It's it's a lose-lose situation. And in the other thing about the the free economy is not everybody has the not everybody has equal opportunity basically. So once everyone has equal opportunity then I think it's going to be more towards a free market but we still have lobbyists.
We still have unions like the whole fight of the taxi unions with Uber obviously Uber is a better solution than paying I don't even know how much regular taxis cost, but I know it's outrageous.
Mattimore: So that's really interesting though about the welfare state and why it's there are so many things broken with it right now.
So if you look at how people currently get their income just as a starting point, if you're a middle class or upper class person you get your income from a salary and either comes from private company or comes from the government people who are employed by the government. It seems like they're a little bit safer because laws would have to change budgets would have to be reallocated for them to lose their job because it's not as exposed to the free market as private companies are private companies you get your money from your salary or as an independent contractor on a pro project or hourly basis, and that's the most exposed to automation.
But if you look at people who are unemployed or below the poverty threshold, they get their income. In the form of welfare, and basically they have to prove that they're always looking for a job that they cannot in fact get a job and that's how they receive their welfare payments. So if you have this deal, you know, let's say you get welfare of I don't know what I don't know what it is like something like that.
Justin: I think it's more like 12. The poverty line is 12,000 in the u.s. I believe.
Mattimore: Yes. So let's say you're getting 12 thousand dollars from the government for doing nothing and then you have an opportunity to take on a job that makes 15 thousand dollars a year if you take on that job you only met three thousand. Well, you're all so you have to work for it.
Justin: Well, the other thing is you pay taxes on those 15,000 you don't taxes on your welfare dollars.
Mattimore: So the alternative with universal basic income and the universal part of that is you get it no matter what every month you get a check in the mail and whether you take on side projects become an entrepreneur you keep that money so it's that's the real advantage of of universal basic income over the welfare system that we're currently living in.
Justin: Yeah, and those that don't know what Universal Basic Income is or UBI it's basically just a it's a transfer of wealth from whether it's government or anything else and we can talk about how that might be funded, but the idea is no matter who you are, you get some amount of money from the government and this there's a lot of different versions of UBI too. So some people are arguing that the Ubi should be enough to put them into the middle class. Some people arguing that a UBI, is in addition to getting money you there's also the welfare State, Medicaid everything else involved in our current welfare state. There's just UBI on top of it. So there's a lot of different flavors of UBI.
Mattimore: Or there's UBI where you just have a certain threshold of only people who make less than six figures get get it or something.
Justin: Yeah, exactly. So there's a lot of flavors to it and I think it confuses a lot of people because it's such a divisive thing and you have a lot of super conservative people that view this as a form of Socialism and you also have super liberal people that can view this as a form of capitalism. So there's there's a very weird mix of arguments here. And like we have talked about before it's probably somewhere in the middle in terms of where it stands politically. That's why we have support from both sides. Like this isn't a political issue. This is just a human issue. What are people going to do?
Especially the useless class which are the people that are in low skilled jobs now, they can't transition to another low skilled job because that other low skilled job will most likely be automated. So, the one of the most prominent proposed Solutions, is this UBI and I tend to favor kind of the the minimum UBI so basically, That would be in the form of giving people enough money to be above the poverty line and not have to worry about their finances.
They can they can afford a house or rent at some sort of...
Mattimore: They can afford housing food basic education safety health care just like all the bare necessities of life. Would you cap it or would it just be for for everyone?
Justin: I think it should be capped above a certain income because $12,000 maybe like seven-figure cap, or yeah be lower.
I mean, I don't exactly know what the optimal number would be. But there is an optimal number where the the marginal benefit of giving some wealthy people $12,000 a year. I mean that's a drop in the bucket. It doesn't even make sense. So the other thing about you is how could it possibly be funded? And in the idea is you can you can fund this by 1: cutting a lot of welfare programs because the welfare state right now is completely outrageous and it costs so much money because people can't better themselves and they can't get out of it. And um and also have the bureaucracy of the government organization actually running it.
Mattimore: Yeah, and it's connected to mental health issues the issues with our prison system. There's all of these problems that are festering in part because of how inefficient and how backwards the welfare state is. So if you instead give everyone enough money for them to be able to live a decent life, then you solve a lot of the issues with a lot of our other systems.
So I think as a replacement it has a lot of practical benefits. And it has a lot of moral benefits. You can make the moral argument for you bi which is pretty hard to argue against I mean if you take these numbers to be real where we're going to lose a third of all US jobs by 2030 just 12 years from now - more unemployment than the Great Depression.
How can you argue that we shouldn't help redistribute the wealth in some way? And the other key difference is that it's not like this. Unemployment is gonna be the result of you know lack of consumer confidence like it was during the Great Depression and some of the other recessions we've had it's going to be because people cannot contribute value to the economy.
So it's a fundamentally different problem that can only be solved by redistributing the wealth in some form.
Justin: Yeah, and this isn't this isn't us saying that. This isn't a socialist thing and that's one of the things that I hear a lot, especially living in Tennessee. If anybody hears the idea of UBI, it's immediately shot down because it seems like a socialist view.
I mean in a way it kind of accomplishes a similar thing, but it also it just gives people equal opportunity and it gives it gives them a floor. I heard this in a in an awesome video about UBI and I forgot exactly what it's called. So we'll link it and show notes, but basically welfare as it is right now gives you a ceiling basically puts you in a box the UBI just gives you a floor.
Because you don't have to work. If you want to transition your life, you can take time off without worrying about finances to educate yourself in how to program you can build relationships. You can go volunteer. You can do literally anything but the argument that you know, we shouldn't give people money because they didn't work for it. They should pull themselves up by their bootstraps right is just I think that's like an argument.
Mattimore: I think that's like a hangover from the cold war where we've been so conditioned as westerners to think of Communism as evil and it's not evil communism is not bad and capitalism is not good. The important thing is what's more efficient. What's a more efficient way of creating wealth and happiness and fulfillment in our society? And when communism was in vogue when it was spreading all across the world people loved the idea because the basic argument was we can create Paradise on Earth because of these advancements in technology and it turned out not to be true because technology hadn't come far enough along a decentralized system of governance and the market was more optimal than a centralized system of government and and the market, but that is no longer likely to be the case going forward. I mean if you look at like Amazon for instance think about how efficient all of their Logistics are and think about if our entire economy or the entire world economy was run on something similar that would be a much cleaner, less messy system than having everyone making their own little decisions, you know in microcosms.
Justin: Yeah, so the the thing about UBI to is it's also I mean, it's not really a communist thing.
Mattimore: I've heard it called a capitalist road to communism.
Justin: I don't know if it's a road to communism because it's still just giving people a floor but it's also free market they can do whatever they want with this money in communism there's there are a lot of restrictions and that's why it doesn't actually work practically even if even if the ideas might be morally good it just doesn't work practically, but when you have market conditions giving people the opportunity to learn or take time off to take care of their kids or really do whatever they want to do, they just have basic needs covered and some people are gonna blow through. Let's say fifteen thousand dollar stipend and you know, there are those people and they have the opportunity but they didn't use it correctly.
Mattimore: Like it gives people moral agency because if you have income every month, you have the moral agency to decide what to do with it and it also lessons the load for people who are basically acting as the support system for a lot of this quote-unquote useless class, like right now, there's a lot of people living off their girlfriend living off their boyfriend living off their parents and they just feel kind of dejected and they don't have the sense of purpose. so they basically just loaf around all day and collecting welfare or collecting the support from whoever they're being supported by but in the future if this person all of these people got a check every month, then it'd be a lot easier for their parents or their girlfriend or their boyfriend to say. "Hey, you're getting some income. Now. Why don't you do something about your situation? Why don't you start contributing to the rent? Why don't you you know start some side company with that passion project that you've been talkin about?" So I think it will have the added benefit of getting people out of their cognitive holes and into a place where they can better themselves and be less of a drag on the rest of society.
Justin: Yeah, and the other thing about UBI versus some other versions of socialism and communism. This is actually being tested in the real world and actually works in the real world. So for example, I know there are several countries in Africa that are doing widespread studies on UBI and what it does is almost universally good and one of the one of the big things in like I said in these developing countries is gives people agency. To start a new company or something.
Mattimore: So I think we should talk now about fulfillment which is the third part and after that we'll get into the worst-case best-case and most likely taking all three of these aspects into account jobs income in fulfillment. So talking now about fulfillment as I was thinking about this question, I kept thinking back to an episode of Boy Meets World where you know Corey's dad the main characters Dad one episode he's really depressed and his wife is like, you know, what's wrong, honey, and he talks about how you know my whole life. I've been so focused on just providing enough for the family. And here I am I woke up. It's my 50th birthday party and all I am is a grocer and all I'll ever be is a grocer. You're basically he works in a grocery store and he had been too busy working his whole life to even think about fulfillment and think about whether or not he was fulfilling his dreams and his wife comforts him by saying you're not just a grocer you're a father you're a husband. Look at your loving family. Look at what we have, you know, don't be so hard on yourself. And I think this is such a common trend where people are so focused on working that they don't even think about what they actually want out of life. It's like you get on this track and Alan Watts talks about it where it's like, you know, you get to kindergarten and okay next things first grade, but I do well getting into first grade.
Okay, not second grades coming in third grade fourth grade. Oh got to get into college. Now. I got to get a good college Okay. Now what's your career going to be and looks like you're on this track where there's no point. No clear point except maybe right before going to college and right after graduating college that you really have to think about "what do I want out of life what fulfills me and my needs of happiness and satisfaction self-worth and purpose."
Justin: Yeah. I really I know which lecture by Alan Watts you're talkin about because basically people just they're working towards this thing at the end. We'll say retirement. For example people just want to go on and work towards this one goal in the very end. They're gonna grind it out right now until they're 65 and then they can do whatever they want. It's this thing somewhere off in the unknown future.
Mattimore: There's a my family friend. A friend of my my mom's side of the family very wealthy guy. Very successful guy. He did exactly what you just talked about. He worked his ass off until he was like 60 years old and then he's like, hey, I'm going to go travel the world and about two or three months into his traveling he died because he basically had a blood clot in his ankle, which is very common for older people flying. And he's gone and he had waited all this time to be able to finally travel and see the world and it was basically too late at that point.
So it's a good lesson to everyone just to do whatever it is you most love in life now not later and don't worry so much about the money. I mean, you should obviously choose careers and be as wise as you can so that you are financially secure, but don't put fulfillment in the backseat put it in the front seat.
Justin: Yeah, and and that kind of remind you might have to correct me on on my Latin but I believe there's a Latin saying called the Memento Mori or something like that. Remember like basically remember that death is coming. And you don't know when death is going to be at your door would be that could be tomorrow I I mean people fall and I we are so fragile. And that's something that that a lot of people kind of overlook the think that it won't happen to them.
Mattimore: Yeah, and the Romans would have frescoes of skeletons in their dining rooms and then their atrium. Because it would constantly remind them of that. So while they're eating they literally have these frescoes of skeletons eating and drinking so it reminds and hey, you're living the good life now and there's even a line in the Aeneid where Aeneas meets his father Ancaises in the Underworld and his his father who's just a ghost at that point.
He tells them hey live your life now because it's not a good place down here. Which is completely different from the Christian and you know, pretty much all the modern religious points where it's basically like. Oh no no once you die, that's the best stuff ever don't really care so much about this current life that you're living in. This is really just like a a gamified testing ground and that's something Yuval Noah Harari talks about to he talks about religion as a virtual reality. So even if you're a poor peasant who lives a miserable existence and is completely impressed by superiors. You can still gamify your life by oh going to pray five times a day. I'm not going to eat pork. Uh, not gonna have sex with other men.
Justin: You can tell yourself that God is giving you this life for a reason and you feel like your life has meaning because of this and you know and unfortunately, I think this can be a little problematic because it kind of turns people away from the reality that we are here. No one actually knows what happens after death, you know, there's there are a lot of claims about heaven or hell or nothing. But I think I think we know so little about the nature of life and death that we know that we are here in the moment and you should try to be as happy as possible.
I think I think we might be um a little off topic when it comes to meaning and jobs, but you know, you also have to have a job that gives you this sort of fulfillment. You don't want to slave away being an Excel monkey, you know just being a data entry monkey that just stares at a computer all day and doesn't actually add value or at least feel like you're adding value.
But I think that's sort of where we are now the status quo, but in the future, I think it's gonna be a very small percentage of people who can still derive meaning from their jobs. So if you are someone who is designing a better system for Humanity to live in whether that means you're a government official or a software engineer, systems engineer or you know, some digital or VR civil aren't whatever that is.
That's a very small portion of people and those people can continue to derive their sense of fulfillment from jobs. But for all the people who join the useless class people who are not just unemployed, but unemployable, you know, like horses are now is like the classic example, there used to be like five million horses employed.
And now it's more expensive to own a horse than the value of the horse can produce the same thing is going to happen with humans. So the question is how do those people derive their sense of income and fullfilment. We already talked about income some sort of wealth redistribution, whether you call it Universal Basic Income or whether you just expand the current welfare state or call it something else doesn't really matter but some form of wealth distribution is going to have to happen and then as far as fulfillment, there are still some ways no matter whether you have a job or not that you can drive fulfillment the clearest and most obvious one is you can still find love. You can still start a family you can still raise kids and instill your values in them and for a lot of people that alone could be enough and one level similar to that is person-to-person connections.
If you're someone who loves being a psychiatrist or a therapist or you are a yogi or a guru or an author or someone who helps other human beings. On a person-to-person level or volunteer, you know helping the elderly or whatever. That is. That's one area. You can have intellectual pursuits.
So maybe you know, even though machines have kind of figured it out. You want to figure out your take on the meaning of life or whatever it might be so intellectual pursuits are still going to be around artistic pursuits are still going to be around. I think those two areas are going to grow and expand intellectual pursuits could be even more podcasters more people expounding about their own ideas and opinions artistic pursuits likewise, there's going to be more musicians, but that cannot be the source of income, but it can be the source of fulfillment at least not at scale.
Mattimore: Yeah, and I think the issue about the near term is we will have a useless class. That that needs to find meaning outside of work and I think people should be able to find meaning whether they're working or not. And this is kind of an issue when it comes to the company itself or the individual.
Justin: I mean both kind of need to work together and if it's just the individual then like we were talkin about a person if there is some sort of welfare state can do whatever they want and that's that's kind of the beauty of UBI. And that's why the the Fulfillment aspect and Universal Basic Income are so tied together because it gives people agency about where they're going and what they're doing with their life, but after this period of a useless class, hopefully the education system changes and teaches people to learn not just that teaches people facts about some version of history that is in you know, the US. History books, but it actually teaches them to be curious and to really pursue their intellectual interests, and I think if the education system changes like that, maybe education in general just kind of turns to a Montessori approach which is sort of giving for those that don't know a Montessori School basically gives kids agency about what they want to learn. Um, I think there are some that are public school like that. Okay. Yeah. I know there are several different names but Montessori I think is the biggest one that has that approach.
Mattimore: Right and these in these schools? There's no grade levels oftentimes. You can pretty much decide what how you want to spend your time for at least half of the day half of the other half of the day will be based on things that everyone needs to learn but if you love art and design or conversely if you love numbers and maths and Sciences, you can spend the bulk of your time on that honing your skills, but it still needs to be a general and Broad enough.That it can apply to the world no matter how the world evolve.
Justin: Yeah, even even if people aren't producing economically viable things, whether it's knowledge or widgets if people get fulfillment out of what they're doing and we have all the economic value we need created by technology. It doesn't matter as long as they're fulfilled.
Mattimore: Right, and that's the other big aspect that people miss especially when talking about Universal Basic Income is that with this automation comes great prophets and huge increases in efficiency. So the wealth created is going to be beyond anything we've seen thus far. Just like the levels of automation and job loss are going to be unlike anything. We've seen thus far and so they're going to balance each other out. And if anything it's going to be more, you know, the balance that scale is going to tip more on the side of having more wealth created. It's going to be created faster than humans can populate themselves.
Justin: Yeah that that kind of leads me into the worst-case scenario. So, what I had for the worst-case kind of wrote this down, but um, the education system does not change. So it's it's teaching kids to well. It's basically teaching kids obsolete information. I mean similar to what we are now the worst case is it stays the same as what it is now in terms of education and then we have the people that don't we so we have people in power that don't allow something like UBI to come into effect because because we got to bring back the coal jobs. Yeah, exactly exactly. Um,
Mattimore: But what's that gonna lead to so this is the worst case so education does involve policies don't change what's going to happen.
Justin: So I think no matter what happens jobs will be automated so people are going to have basically it'll put so many people on welfare and it'll keep them at that poverty level. So we're gonna have an extreme amount of people down at the poverty level in like you were just talkin about with wealth creation.
Where's it gonna go if it's not really being redistributed. Well, we're gonna have even fewer extremely rich people like we we might be talkin on the order of a trillionaire.
Mattimore: I heard I heard one guy say that. It's very possible that by the year 2050 there could be something like 100,000 people who have 90% of the world's wealth like is insanely small but it makes sense when you consider how many people have a sizable amount of stock in the big tech companies that we talked about in the last podcast.
Justin: Yeah, and that's that's really scary. It's the owners of this technology. That will benefit and if there's no sort of redistribution, then they will basically take everything and this is completely set of this is not even talking about super intelligent AI this is just technology that can automate these
Mattimore: Just narrow AI That's hitting on all the major industries. So if that happens to me, it seems like at some point there's going to be major protests that demand action. So just like how we saw Occupy Wall Street, which was relatively timid compared to what we might experience in the future. We would see protests where I mean. Just absolute chaos, Molotov cocktails people demanding change.
The question is will that actually result in change and if we stay Democratic it seems like it would result in change and then we would adopt UBI and everything would become much better. But if we go the opposite route and we move away from the democratic system where we have more of an authoritarian government or it seems Democratic but really all the elections are kind of a sham and they're all being hacked and whatever else then we could see something like the movie Children of Men where there's this small insular community of Central London and they basically have gates around it and everyone else who's part of the poor useless class, pretty much 80% of the world was like considered what refugees are considered today, then that's what the world would look like and it would be this incredibly divided place where there's just lots of hatred on the side of the poor and lots of fear and just wanting to build yourself in with your own little castle on the side of the the few wealthy.
Justin: Yeah, that definitely seems like about the worst way this could go. What do you think for the best case?
Mattimore: So the best case would be if the very next president was someone who was a future minded person. So just talkin about the US. Liking about their term and getting reelected, right and every president. I'm constantly just shocked by how short term they're thinking is like we've known for decades that eventually environmentally sustainable energy is going to not only be better for the world but be cheaper and more effective than the status quo.
But because we have these lobbyists and all of these people who are bought and by the traditional energy sector and just dinosaur politicians in the White House right now. So my in my mind the best case scenario would be if we had a an intelligent future minded president who could then put all of the right feature minded staff in place so that we can actually create policies that are good for everyone in the long term.
Not just some people in the short term. And if that happens and if we adopt UBI if we test it, if we optimize it just like you would optimize any other system. Then we could have human flourishing on a scale that we've never seen and we could figure out all of the difficult problems of our time such as how to deal with not enough resources here on Earth how to deal with overpopulation how to colonize other planets to lighten the first two problems how to just create overall happiness and meaning for for everyone and I think that is a very real possibility. Another thing. I'll say just about the worst case that came to mind is the idea of people. So this is not the worst case. I guess this is sort of like a middle case.
So a middle case would be something like we do eventually adopt UBI. But people aren't able to find the right fulfillment because basically they become hedonists and they are always in virtual reality gamified states that have do provide them with a lot of sense of meaning even though it's pretty artificial and they're basically just like. You know having sex with robots sex workers and and just constantly in this game. They're real physical human body is just like an absolute wreck, but they're constantly in this Oasis like environment, that's like a middle case which is bad, you know, not everyone is starving and protesting and killing each other, but it's not ideal.
Justin: Yeah, so I was actually. I basically agree completely on the best case but almost exactly what you just described is kind of what I'm thinking for the likely case and I think it depends on where VR is by the time UBI is introduced and there are a lot of factors at play, but I think that is one likely case.
Another likely case is: we have the best case and worst case scenarios spread all over the world. So some countries are basically our ideal situation other countries.. are not.
Mattimore: I agree. I think that's the most likely especially in the Nordic countries that are already doing such a great job. They're already one step away from you. Those studies are gonna continue to thrive but societies where there simply isn't enough wealth creation to support all of the people in that society that's going to be really tough. I mean, you know the US we have the benefit of one of the world. Well, we currently have the world's largest GDP.
We have the world's largest tech companies. We produce more wealth than any other country currently China and India catching up, but they're not there yet. So we have the luxury of being able to talk about UBI from the perspective of like well, is it morally justified is it practical because we know we could do it if we wanted.
But other countries don't have that luxury. Especially if they continue to lag farther and farther behind in the AI tech race, they're not going to have the luxury of giving everyone enough wealth to live a decent. Unless there are some non government organizations or private companies or you know, an AI a beneficial AI overlord that's able to redistribute wealth on a global scale.
Not just a national scale.
Justin: Yeah, I think the way the world is set up right now is really our anyways with with borders, you know, there's this little arbitrary line in the middle of land that doesn't you know, if you cross it your in illegal territory you're in legal trouble because you walked past a certain arbitrary line. It just seems so archaic to me that we can't just be humans can't just be a global human citizen of Earth and it seems like if that I might adjust my best case scenario to reflect that. I mean if we had a global situation where there was a UBI and everybody I mean it's not like everybody needs to completely cooperate because we're humans and I don't think human nature will change that much because we're not really evolving.
Mattimore: Countries will have to make a lot of concessions, that's the tricky part. I mean try to convince all of the.
Countries in the Middle East to live in the way that you could that's for everyone and you're gonna hit a lot of resistance. Yeah the best case scenario that you're talkin about. It also comes at a cost which is privacy and data that kind of stuff because you can imagine if every human being on Earth was allowed to go wherever they wanted do whatever they wanted to do so long as they don't break these laws. We need a system for making sure they don't break those laws so that everyone is safer. So one thing that's been proposed in sci-fi is if everyone walks around with a wearable, similar to like an Apple Watch, but one that you cannot break off no matter how hard you try.
And at any point because there are cameras everywhere and they can see everything you do when you're about to commit a crime they can just inject something into your wrist that puts you to sleep. If you're about to do something terrible, like kill someone they can inject poison into you to kill you.
They can use that bracelet to know where you are at all times. They can monitor everything you do on social media in the VR world a world. That's the downside but if it's governed in a beneficial way where the right intentions are there, and the only things that are outlawed are things that are truly wrong and if you really want to get your kicks as the black hat person like in West World and you can do that in the virtual world without penalty. It seems like that's a more best case but still realistic scenario. That's true.
Justin: Yeah, I mean it's any time you talk about an ideal case. You can almost be 100% sure that that ideal case will never actually see the light of day. Which is kind of unfortunate but you know there there are a lot of other good solutions. It doesn't have to be the perfect ideal solution.
Mattimore: Right, I mean so from that. I think if everyone can figure out how to get to the same solution on their own terms and then we unify into a global society that values happiness and fulfillment and freedom. That's the best-case scenario because I don't think it's right for us to force different societies with different cultural norms to adopt our way of thinking but it's more like once these changes do accelerate and we see the Nordic countries really figuring it out.
We adopt the policies that they have all of Europe adopts those policies. Other places like South Africa and parts of Asia those policies and then eventually even the most conservative communities like in the Middle East they adopt those policies and then pretty much we see ourselves as one Global community and everyone has enough to live a decent life and everyone can just focus on how to get the most happiness purposeful fullfilment out of their lives. That's the ideal scenario.
Justin: Yeah in the nice thing about that too is you don't you don't sacrifice the cool cultural differences that we have as humans. When you kind of allow countries to come to their own conclusions, like what you just described because I mean the amount of variety and the cultures of countries is outstanding and I think that's one of the cool things about being a human is just like the sheer we have very little biological variation, but we have so much cultural variation and I think that's really cool to think about and and they would be cool to kind of champion the cultural differences and celebrate them rather than kind of converge everyone into this plain vanilla, you know, everybody has the same culture.
Mattimore: I think that's probably a good place to put a pin in it. So thank you everyone for listening. This has been the future of jobs income and fulfillment you can tune in next week to hence the future. We haven't decided on what our topic is yet, but we have a couple ideas of what the finalists are. So we're going to decide that sometime this week and if you want to follow us on social media where at hence the future Facebook Instagram Twitter, and you can also leave a suggestion in our suggestion box.
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Mattimore and Justin