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Where will all the new jobs come from after the 'Great Reset'?

Will Hutton

20 May 2013

So what will happen after economic 'recovery' when it finally does arrive and which will be the areas that will create new human job opportunities as machines take over more and more traditional areas of work?

Consider, for example, the implications of the driverless car. These will be vehicles whose complex sensors allow them to communicate with one another, so that they know one another's intended route. One of the reasons Google is investing so much is that whoever owns the communications system for driverless cars will own the 21st century's equivalent of the telephone network or money clearing system: this will be a licence to print money. The benefits are endless. Roads will both be able to carry more traffic and be safer. Personalised door-to-door transport will become hugely pleasurable: your car will deliver you to your home or place of work and then park itself without you. Road accidents will plummet. Energy efficiency will be transformed. Insurance rates, even the need for insurance, will plunge. Personalised transport, ordered by your mobile phone, will gradually replace mass transport networks.

But the implications for employment are awesome. Thomas Frey, senior futurologist at the DaVinci Institute, lists taxi-, bus- and truck-driving as soon-to-be-extinct occupations – along with traffic police, all forms of home delivery and waste disposal, jobs at petrol stations, car washes and parking lots. The cars themselves will be made by robots in automated car factories. The only new jobs will be in the design and marketing of the cars, and in writing the computer software that will allow them to navigate their journeys, along with the apps for our mobile phones that will help us to use them better.

Notwithstanding robotisation and automation as my previous blog outlines, there are four broad areas in which there will be vast job opportunities:

 

  • Micro-production
       
    There is going to be a huge growth in micro-brewers, micro-bakers, micro-film-makers, micro-energy producers, micro-tailors, micro-software houses and so on who will deploy the internet and micro-production techniques to produce goods at prices as if they were mass-produced, but customised for individual tastes.

  • Human wellbeing

  • There will be vast growth in advising, coaching, caring, mentoring, doctoring, nursing, teaching and generally enhancing capabilities. Medical provision will explode, with replacement organs, skin and limbs opening up new specialisms and industries. Taste, sight and hearing will be vastly enhanced. Ageing will be deferred, with old-age advisers offering advice on how to live well in one's hundreds. Geneticists will open up a live-well economy. Instantaneous language translation will break down language barriers.

  • The globe's 'wicked issues' 

  • There will be new forms of nutrition and carbon-efficient energy, along with economising with water, to meet the demands of a world population of 9 billion in 2050. Space exploration will become crucial to find new minerals and energy sources. New forms of mining will allow exploration of the Earth's crust. The oceans will be farmed.

  • Digital and big data management

  • This will foster whole new industries – personalised journalism, social media, cyber-security, information selection, software, computer science and digital clutter removal.

    Doubtless the futurologists can come up with more: the truth is, nobody knows. What we do know is that two-thirds of what we consume today was not invented 25 years ago. It will be the same again in a generation's time. What is different is the pace of change, obsolescence and renewal – and new dangers of extraordinary inequality not just in wages, but in working possibilities. Firms and individuals will be on their mettle to open up, innovate and constantly reinvent themselves. If there is to be a successful Great Reset, Britain will need the open innovation structures, financing mechanisms and social support institutions to capitalise on the opportunities quickly, rather than be overwhelmed by the risks.

    This is what threatens our future, our living standards, and this is what we should be arguing about  – not the European Union, despite the efforts of Ukip and the Conservative party. Those whom the gods wish to destroy they first make mad.


    Read the preceeding blog on this topic by Will Hutton here.

    This blog also appeared as an article in The Observer on 19 May 2013.

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