Thought experiment #8 about jobs in 2030. Jump in!


This time I noticed the new thought experiment by chance and didn’t plan to write it yet, but I have some time, so why not. Excited to know that it was proposed by @MoneyModernGirl. Also funny that @SavingNinja started to have so many external thought experiment ideas. This is likely just a recency bias. I remember that last 2 experiments were proposed by other people. Perhaps, participants just started to propose their ideas. Ok, feels like I am already in “dump everything verbatim” mood. Thus, it is the time to read the new experiment! I actually feel much more excited than I was when I started writing this paragraph. Wow, the magic of writing and just starting.

The statement

I recently read a statistic that 85% of the jobs there will be in 2030 have not yet been created. What do you think these jobs are, and which ones will no longer exist? What does this mean for education? What will offices look like in 11 years? Will people continue to commute to a physical office or will remote work and digital nomadism take over? Finally, how do you think this will affect the overall global economic balance?

The experiment page is here and it has links to other answers!

My answer

Oh, at least I understand all the words in the description and don’t need a dictionary. Thank you!

I think this time there are 2 major ways to answer this question for me. The first one “I read that” and the second one “My own opinion”. The issue is that the second one is very tricky to produce aka I don’t have much opinion yet. But I will just write and I am pretty sure that by the end of this post I will have a pretty strong opinion.

What do you think these jobs are, and which ones will no longer exist?

I read in multiple places that these will be mostly creative jobs. I tend to agree. People are doing great at improving efficiency in areas which are necessary for life. E.g. fewer and fewer people are involved in agriculture (I read this somewhere and feel lazy to find a proof, sorry). Thus, I assume that this trend will to some degree continue. 2030 is actually pretty soon, so I don’t think there will be full automation by 2030. At least I would be very surprised. I suspect that current technology is not sufficient yet for that (or I just don’t know enough).

Thus, more and more people will be forced to move away from these “strictly-needed-for-life” fields into “technically-not-needed-but-makes-fun” fields. Some part of this outflow of people should definitely go to existing creative professions. E.g. writing, making music, videos, painting. This also gets easier and easier nowadays. One can make a video and publish it on Youtube or even self publish a book on Amazon. This does not mean that someone will buy it, but at least it is much easier than publishing a paper book (and so muuuuuuuuuuuuch cheaper).

This tendency to automation will create demand for make-automation-happen jobs. Some people need to maintain the automation. Hm, could this be automated? Not sure, perhaps not at first. Some people will need to develop automation (thus, research). Some people will need to produce tools for automation (thus, hardware, software). These areas won’t be that relatively large.

I also presume that it will be cheaper to buy all the necessities in life. I.e. something like on the way to Universal Basic Income, but not that dramatic. Since producing stuff needed for life gets more efficient and, thus, cheaper, one will need to work less to be able to afford all of that. One will also have less pressure to work due to that. That’s another argument for creative fields. People will get more fun from work, because they are not forced to work that much as now.

What I also read is that customized stuff will be super expensive (this time I remember the source: levelsio, specific tweet). These cheap ways to satisfy one’s needs will be produced by automation and will be quite generic. In some sense it is like mass produced clothing now. You do have some choice (e.g. which color or size), but you don’t get to choose everything about the item (e.g. how it should be made, precise template). I assume that something like that will happen in the future as well. Probably, not in 2030, but I think it will already be much cheaper to satisfy basic needs in 2030. Here I definitely remember that making future predictions is risky, but I am also not betting any money, so I am fine to do some here.

Thus, highly customized stuff will become more expensive and there will be people who produce it. In some sense this still fulfills the old description - these jobs can be creative. One can buy a cheap mass produced t-shirt and know that there are thousands (or millions) of them in the world. Or they can pay much more to a tailor to make a unique one specifically for them. For a tailor this can definitely be like a creative endeavor.

Ok, now I see that the two ways above (what I read vs what I think) do intersect a lot. So please excuse the mess, but we are going further!

What does this mean for education?

Oh. That’s tricky one. It definitely means that the education will have to change. Currently the education is meant as a way to produce humans who can create some value in the world to be able to satisfy their basic life needs. If it becomes much easier to satisfy these needs (the extreme case is Universal Basic Income), then the pressure to study should become much smaller. Obviously, there will be people who will study, but their intention will be very different. It will be just for their intrinsic fun. If they decide to drop out for some reason, they can definitely do that. I also think that the studies will have to become more practical. The demand for some highly theoretic stuff should go down, but for practical “how to do XYZ” - up.

But this is mostly about higher education, e.g. uni. It is actually hard to imagine what kind of knowledge will be necessary to be learned in the school. Obviously, in 2030 few will worry about this and just continue having the old material they used to have, but at some point people will notice that a lot of it does not make much sense anymore and stop teaching it. Perhaps the mandatory school part will be compressed in couple years with some really basic stuff like reading, writing, counting, using Internet, writing blog posts, paying with a credit card.

While writing the paragraph above, I noticed that this absence of pressure to study should create a field producing these pressure artificially. If you don’t have to do anything, it is very easy to overreact and quit stuff. For example, “oh, I am having a headache today, let’s drop this university course, perhaps this will help”. Also I suspect that psychology should become more popular too (not studying it, but using).

What will offices look like in 11 years?

I think they will mostly look like they do nowadays. There are already examples of companies with no office. came to mind and I can’t remember the second example I heard recently. I assume that the trend will continue. In some sense the number of jobs which require physical presence are decreasing. Being in one office is good for communication, but there are workarounds for that too.

I also suspect that coworking spaces will continue to become more popular. If everyone is into something creative and completely on their own, they will get lonely fast. Thus, being able to communicate/collaborate with others even when you are not from one company will be valuable.

Again I suspect that 11 years is just not that much. Or perhaps am I being to conservative? I think a good way to sanity check this claim is to think about what changed since 2008 (i.e. 11 years before today). To be honest, nothing too major gets in my mind. There are many more smart-phones for sure. The offices seem to be pretty much the same. Yes, the nomad movement is much more popular (I don’t think I ever heard about it back then at all).

Will people continue to commute to a physical office or will remote work and digital nomadism take over?

See above. Some will do, because their job requires that, e.g. hardware development or maintenance. Majority won’t have too. Some will do this voluntarily when they feel like it.

It is funny that so many office people find the other extreme of having no office so nice and attractive. I am pretty sure that once they try it, they will find plenty of aspects in which their office job wasn’t that bad. E.g. I read that nomads have very few deep friendships, because it is trickier to build a friendship without being able to meet and spend time together. I didn’t say impossible. E.g. Derek Sivers claims to have phone calls with his friends and this seems to work well for him.

Finally, how do you think this will affect the overall global economic balance?

Another hard question. I suspect that everyone will become a bit more frugal when compared to now. Now one has to work quite a lot, because otherwise they won’t be able to live sustainably. At the same time, the job offerings are often such that one has to work a lot more than they would need to just satisfy their needs. As a result, they have plenty of spare money and this ends up in consumerism. I feel like being able to work creatively with little financial pressure should change this. I.e. people will refuse to work that much for stuff they don’t need. To be honest, once I wrote this it is hard to believe. At least that’s my hope in some sense.

I don’t think that this will stop the economic growth though. These creative endeavors can still produce value and one could invest into this.

Now I got a feeling that my hand-wavy descriptions are missing something, so let’s try consider a concrete example. This is probably not from 2030, somewhat later.

Let’s take Jane. She is 12 now. She has already finished her mandatory part of education. She is free to choose what to do next. She needs 100$ per month to have basic food, some reasonable-but-modest shelter, minimal fun. She can study a lot for the next years and become an automation robot developer and earn like 10k$ per month. This produces a lot of value (scales well) and not many people want to do this - learning all the tricky stuff is boring and hard. Or she can take some shorter more practical classes. E.g. music, drawing, writing. She can produce some content on her own and be payed for (or by donations).

This seems to uncover what makes me feel uneasy about my arguments. If everyone is lazy and frugal, why would someone pay Jane for her music? E.g. nowadays it is extremely hard to get payed by one’s creative endeavors. In some sense, you must be pretty good to get there. It cannot be the case that everyone will be equally good. Thus, there will be some competition anyway. So I am not sure how to resolve this. If Jane gets 100$ per month from her country, then my model seems to work. If she needs to earn them - than it is tricky. It some sense Jane is not needed anywhere. This sounds a bit scary. Perhaps she could start her own “industry” the same way “let’s-play” videos and streams have started.

Again I suspect that not much will change by 2030. The descriptions above are in my view more likely for 2050-2100.

It is funny to experience this conflict, which automation brings. In some sense it tells you - hey, your work is not needed anymore, but providing for your basic needs is so cheap that we are happy to do so (perhaps even completely for free). Thus, just enjoy your life. So will we become a bunch of low educated pleasure seeking constantly depressed weirdos? It is also funny to think of the impact of this survival pressure on my life. I think I would have achieved much less if there was no pressure to work and earn money. I also wouldn’t end up discovering the areas which I enjoy a lot now. I would consider them too difficult and not worth it. However, I like them a lot now. Perhaps, I would discover something else then.

At the same time for people who are adults right now this switch should be okeyish. They already have developed their sense of “I must stick to this and get through”. Thus, they will be able to figure out some way to live reasonably happy life even when their job is not needed anymore. I have no clue how new generations will handle this. Will they be able to self challenge themselves the same way the world challenges us nowadays?

Funny that I produced more questions than original post even had. Overall, despite my descriptions above I do like optimism and I do believe that everything will be fine. People have got through a lot of bad stuff and such jobs turmoil does not seem that major from this perspective.

Happy future!