Feb 132012

Yesterday I was honored to be one of the featured speakers at the TEDxReset Conference in Istanbul, Turkey where I predicted that over 2 billion jobs will disappear by 2030. Since my 18-minute talk was about the rapidly shifting nature of colleges and higher education, I didn’t have time to explain how and why so many jobs would be going away. Because of all of the questions I received afterwards, I will do that here.

via FuturistSpeaker.com – A Study of Future Trends and Predictions by Futurist Thomas Frey » Blog Archive » 2 Billion Jobs to Disappear by 2030.

He goes on to suggest that five industries will be impacted:

  1. The Power Industry (Gas and Electricity primarily)
  2. The Automobile Industry
  3. The Education Industry (Colleges specifically, trade schools to a lesser degree)
  4. The Manufacturing Industry (Anything that can be replaced by 3D printers)
  5. ? Unspecified Industry where Bots will replace all manual labor

The last two aren’t really industries, they’re technology ideas that will affect jobs because of some speculated impact said technologies will have. For #4, the technology is 3rd printers. If you’ve seen anything about 3D printers, the potential is huge. Certainly a lot of supply chains can be easily replaced by a house-hold 3D printer, supplies and 3D printer diagrams. I think Thomas overestimates the probability that households with disposable income will prefer 3D printed items over traditionally mass manufactured items. Books, Shoes, comfort items. While Thomas believes that if we can make our own shoes suddenly shoe manufacturers are going to go away, but he underestimates the value of comfort. Likewise, for clothing manufacturing to go away there would need to be sizable advances in 3D printing technology (and  3D printing material technology). Presently, manufacturing clothing out of anything but the 3D printing plastic is impossible. And the odds that you can produce anything of comfort is next to zero. It’s 2012 now. Do we honestly think that 18 years will bring all of the needed advancements to not only produce said clothing and shoes, but to almost make it comfortable and fashionable? I think not.

For #5, Bots stand to inherit a lot of activities that are labor intensive. And, as I posted recently, some of the humanoid robot advancements mean it’s possible we might see more advanced robotics taking over menial jobs (harvesting produce from farms; washing dishes; putting the immigrant out of work.)

Thomas leaves us with critical words to consider in our headlong rush in to new technology:

Certainly there’s a downside to all this. The more technology we rely on, the more breaking points we’ll have in our lives.