We need to plan now for good employment, alternatives to declining jobs – systems for people, democracy, job creation and knowledge sharing are a path forward

Excerpt from Ross Mayfield, originally published at NewCo Shift.com

…50% of the jobs will be gone in ~20 years. Not from the great sucking sound of jobs to Mexico that can be stopped with a wall. Not from moving offshore to China. From automation that is moving quickly from blue collar manufacturing to white collar information work. Second only to climate change, this is the greatest disruption of our time, and I don’t mean that word in a good way.

A recent study found 50% of occupations today will be gone by 2020, and a 2013 Oxford study forecasted that 47% of jobs will be automated by 2034. A Ball State study found that only 13% of manufacturing job losses were due to trade, the rest from automation. A McKinsey study suggests 45% of knowledge work activity can be automated.

94% of the new job creation since 2005 is in the gig economy. These aren’t stable jobs with benefits on a career path. And if you are driving for Uber, your employer’s plan is to automate your job. Amazon has 270k employees, but most are soon-t0-be-automated ops and fulfillment. Facebook has 15k employees and a 330B market cap, and Snapchat in August had double their market cap per employee, at $48M per employee. The economic impact of Tech was raising productivity, but productivity and wages have been stagnant in recent years.

The canary in the coal mine is trucking. Truck Driver is the number one job in the US of A. Driving a truck is a respectable job that pays well enough to provide for a family without a lot of education. Uber Freight is taking orders, powered by Otto. The $680M acquisition of 91 employees, is an effective valuation of $7.5M per employee. Or you could say $200 per US trucking job killed.

Let’s try to humanize this for the geeks in the valley. Someone at your holiday family table will lose their job. Imagine that person is a truck driver. You know those high school friends on your Facebook? Some of them will lose their jobs and their families. Knowing all this is going to happen, what do you tell them? What can they really do?

Maybe someone has 2 years and resources to retrain themselves. But if half the jobs are gone in 20 years, how many times will they have to retrain? What should kids study now knowing this?

But let’s stay in our valley of thought. Hey, YC has a Basic Income experiment alongside some socialist countries! People won’t have to work for a living. Pot is legal now, districts are gerrymandered, and we’ll find new thing to sell them that will give them purpose. Someone needs to explain to me how Basic Income isn’t the most politically unrealistic idea of our time.

Being a Luddite in modern terms has been broadly people not adopting technology. Like people that didn’t “get blogging.” But the term comes from the people who destroyed laborsaving devices in the British textile industry during the industrial revolution. They acted on orders from a mythical general Ned Ludd to rebel against the technology that was destroying their jobs.

In 4–8 years there will be a populist politician that will point the finger at the Tech Industry as enemy number one. In a way, Trump already has. This person will yield a backlash against Tech that will stunt progress and make it an instrument of her or his control far worse. This is more than stones hurled at Google Busses. When people start to feel their unhappiness is because of Tech, the post-truth era of Trump and post-ethics of the GOP elite will pale in comparison to the real movements someone could control.

Tech still has time. Lean your products towards augmentation and job creation. Solidify your principles for what is humanely right against fear-mongering and scapegoating. Foster education, and not just what worked for you, but what junior colleges can do to help people transition. Tech company policy needs to go beyond the regulations that risk a single company wants to manage, and reflect it’s inherently progressive value set. Admit disruption is a bad word, and at least cause-relate your marketing and mission.

I think we failed to account for the whole picture when we created social, and instead just pretended neutrality in connecting people was good enough. Joi Ito in Whiplash:

We are now in a phase of emergent democracy that is quite distressing. But witnessing this has given those of us who held such optimism a decade ago even greater resolve to develop both the tools and momentum to fulfill our original dream of the technology advancing democracy in a positive way.

Tech can do more than grow. It can do good. And if doesn’t, bad things will happen.

Here’s what I’m doing about the Backlash. Also, for an example of augmentation in action, see our bot-augmented wiki for Slack teams

Also https://insideclimatenews.org/news/03112016/un-climate-scientists-last-chance-limit-global-warming-marrakech-morocco-cop-22

UNEP said that the need for urgent, immediate action to confront the climate crisis is “indisputable.”  Early action, it said, would help find the least expensive path toward eliminating carbon dioxide emissions in time to reach the 2-degree goal.
But speed is essential if there is any hope of keeping warming to 1.5 degrees, a target of vital concern to small island states and other poor nations that are most vulnerable to climate change.
“It is likely the last chance to keep the option of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees C in 2100 open,” the report said, “as all available scenarios consistent with the 1.5 degree C goal imply that global greenhouse gases peak before 2020.”

On Business Green, New study reveals wind and solar sectors are growing their workforce at rate 12 times faster than the rest of the US economy

The projections published in the EIA’s Annual Energy Outlook (AEO) have invariably overestimated the cost of renewable electricity generation and fallen sadly short of predicting new additions of wind and solar capacity. For example, Figure 1 shows that the projections published in the EIA’s Annual Energy Outlook repeatedly underestimated U.S. utility-scale solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity from 2011 to 2015 and continue to predict that solar installations will largely stall through about 2025.

In reality, however, solar PV capacity is growing at an unprecedented rate. The Solar Energy Industries Association reported that by the third quarter of 2016, the cumulative U.S. utility-scale solar PV capacity (including capacity which was under contract but not yet operating) exceeded the AEO2015 projection for capacity in 2039. Accounting for planned capacity which had been announced but was not yet under contract by Q3 2016 indicates that utility-scale solar PV capacity will soon far surpass all AEO projections for 2040.

Solar PV Capacity and Projections
EIA reference case projections of U.S. utility-scale solar PV capacity and historical data (black, bold) as well as points which include planned capacity under contract in Q3 of 2016 and announced but pre-contract installations as of Q3 2016. Projection data taken from the EIA’s Annual Energy Outlook, historical data taken from Solar Energy Industries Association’s U.S. Solar Market Insight Reports.

In addition to missing the sharp rise in solar photovoltaic installations, EIA projections also missed a dramatic downturn in coal production over the last decade. They failed to pick up on the trend year after year and still predict flat or rising coal production through 2040, as shown in Figure 2.

History (black, bold) and annual EIA projections of U.S. coal production from 1997 to 2040. Note that the vertical axis starts at 950 million short tons for clarity. Data taken from: the EIA's Annual Energy Outlook.
History (black, bold) and annual EIA projections of U.S. coal production from 2006-2015. Note that the vertical axis starts at 950 million short tons for clarity. Data taken from: the EIA’s Annual Energy Outlook.

Disruptive innovations tend to precipitate new market trends that are notoriously difficult to predict. Just as the invention of the personal computer led to an abrupt decline in the typewriter industry in the late 1900’s, a massive transition toward renewable resources is transforming U.S. energy markets and so far EIA projections have failed to keep up with this transition. Every year, EIA forecasts predict a return to the trends of the 90’s, but the technological and political landscapes surrounding the U.S. energy industry are changing rapidly and historical precedent suggests that energy markets may never return to those of past decades.

For more details, readers are encouraged to download the full CEA White Paper here.

ABC News:

Climate change could threaten entire financial system, APRA warns

By Stephen Long, 17 Feb 2017

Climate change could threaten the stability of the entire financial system, the prudential regulator has warned, as it prepares to apply climate change “stress tests” to the nation’s financial institutions.

In its first major speech on climate change, the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority chastised companies for a lack of action on the risks it poses.

“While climate risks have been broadly recognised, they have often been seen as a future problem or a non-financial problem,” APRA executive board member Geoff Summerhayes told an Insurance Council conference in Sydney.

“Many of these risks are foreseeable, material and actionable now.

“Climate risks also have potential system-wide implications that APRA and other regulators here and abroad are paying much closer attention to.”

The speech comes as the Government and the Opposition bicker about renewable energy targets amid dismay among industry leaders about a lack of certainty on climate change policy.

The Climate Institute’s CEO John Connor described the speech as a “huge” development.

“APRA has never gone out there like this before,” he said.

“It’s an antidote to the hyper partisan political culture war on climate policy; our regulator’s moved to the front foot in managing climate risks.”

The Climate Institute and the Investor Group on Climate Change wrote jointly to the Council of Financial Regulators two years calling for regulatory action on the financial risks from climate change.

Lack of policy ‘could greatly increase financial risks’

APRA warned in the speech that lack of policy and regulatory action could make the financial risks posed by climate change “greater and more abrupt”.

“There could be either sharper, more significant policy changes and market adjustments down the track, or the physical impacts of climate change could become more severe, more likely and more unpredictable,” Mr Summerhayes said.

“It’s unsafe for entities or regulators to ignore risks just because there is uncertainty, or even controversy, about the policy outlook.

“Like all risks, it is better they are explicitly considered and managed as appropriate, rather than simply ignored or neglected.

“So what can you expect to see from us? A greater emphasis on stress testing for organisational and systemic resilience in the face of adverse shocks.

“Just as we would expect to see more sophisticated scenario-based analysis of climate risks at the firm level, we look at these risks as part of our system-wide stress testing.”

APRA’s intervention follows a similar though more pointed warning two years ago by the head of the Bank of England about the threats climate change posed to financial stability.

It comes in the wake of the Paris Climate Change Accord, which committed the world to taking steps to keep global temperature rises below 1.5 degrees Celsius.

APRA’s speech addressed the risks identified by the Bank of England:

  • physical risk around the effects of climate change
  • transition risk from the shift towards a zero net emissions economy
  • liability risk for company directors, trustees, and insurer

Climate change is the “tragedy of the horizon”, Bank of England Governor Mark Carney warned in his landmark 2015 speech.

“We don’t need an army of actuaries to tell us that the catastrophic impacts of climate change will be felt beyond the traditional horizons of most actors – imposing a cost on future generations that the current generation has no direct incentive to fix.”

Topics: climate-change, business-economics-and-finance, regulation, sydney-2000