Will you become a future member of the useless class?

An excerpt from How to Survive the 21st Century, by Yuval Noah Harari, Jan 23, 2020

 

First, we might face upheavals on the social and economic level. Automation will soon eliminate millions upon millions of jobs. And while new jobs will certainly be created, it is unclear whether people will be able to learn the necessary new skills fast enough. Suppose you’re a 50 years-old truck driver. And you just lost your job to a self-driving vehicle. Now, there are new jobs. In designing software, or in teaching yoga to engineers. But how does a 50 years-old truck driver reinvent himself or herself as a software engineer or as a yoga teacher?

And people will have to do it not just once but again and again throughout their lives, because the automation revolution will not be a single watershed event following which the job market will settle down into some new equilibrium. Rather, it will be a cascade of ever bigger disruptions. Because AI is nowhere near its full potential. Old jobs will disappear. New jobs will emerge. But then the new jobs will rapidly change and vanish. Whereas in the past, humans had to struggle against exploitation, in the 21st century, the really big struggle will be against irrelevance. And it’s much worse to be irrelevant than to be exploited.

Those who fail in the struggle against irrelevance would constitute a new useless class. People who are useless, not from the viewpoint of their friends and family of course, but useless from the viewpoint of the economic and political system. And this useless class will be separated by an ever-growing gap from the ever more powerful elite.

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