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The effect of technology on jobs

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If you are afraid of losing your job because of technological advancement then you are doing it wrong. You might forgot what is a job at the fundamental level.

A job is a relationship between a problem and an entity. The entity should solve the problem and the job is done. A solution may create new problems as causality dictates this world. If you are afraid of losing your job as a result of lack of demand for it then you go against the fundamentals of problem solving.

According to modern society jobs exist to provide a source of living. This is true at the current level of development of society. Majority of the people need an actual job to get money so they can live. Money is the greatest abstraction ever made by humanity. Its main purpose is to measure, exchange and effectively handle value. Most of the value extracted from our current world is from solving problems. If you are afraid that there will be no problem that you can solve in the future and so you cannot extract value from it then why are you trying to solve current problems at the first place? If your goal is to conserve problems just for the sake of money and perceived security then you are contributing to the history’s biggest social illusion ever. We are already generating a bunch of bullshit jobs and it is getting harder to distinguish between real value and jobs where there is no real problem to solve. What is valuable is of course highly subjective and I don’t fully agree with the linked article. However it is a pretty interesting article.

I am a software engineer and this industry is working hard to solve as many problems as possible. Even the problem of the existence of software engineering. One day (probably in the near future) we won’t develop computer programs as we are developing them today. We will arrive to a situation where is no need for humans to write these software. It is actually the stone age of technology today. We are writing software by hand. It is like manufacturing common stuff several hundred years ago. A few days ago Bill Gates hold his 3rd AMA (ask me anything) on reddit. There was a question about this topic. Is programming a safe future for a newcomer or we will automate it so we need less people to get the job done? I can answer this question very quickly: there is no such thing as safe future job. And this is amazing. This means that we are going to solve problems faster than ever before. If you are going to be a programmer and you are afraid that there will be no big demand for programmers in e.g. 10-20 years then you should not be a programmer. As one wrote in a comment: “Almost seems like a snake eating its own tail.“. It is true if you do not accept the fundamentals of jobs and you want to live in an illusion where you are doing something without real value behind it. The fundamental is to solve the problem and not to keep it.

There are a lot of examples that new technology renders old jobs unimportant. On the other hand new technology creates new jobs. Let’s change the word technology to solution and job to problem. There are a lot of examples that new solutions renders old problems unimportant. On the other hand new solutions creates new problems. There are debates on the balance so it is not that clear if more new jobs are created than destroyed by technological development. But I believe this is not a big deal. It is a short term concern for sure because of the state of societies but on the long term why would we cling on old problems just to maintain our current playground? Even if the number of problems that can be solved by humans will dramatically decline (which is hard to predict) there will be no Armageddon. We started as humans with problems like how to make fire and we arrived to a time where we are afraid that we cannot get a proper job. Even the lack of jobs is a problem to solve. It requires a higher level of thinking.

What are we going to do if there is no need for programmers, plumbers, farmers, bankers, postmen, pilots, taxi drivers or corporate lawyers? It only depends on us. Where do you extract value from today when not solving problems (doing your job)? Probably from your family, friends and hobbies. From music, arts through sports and games to the exploration of space there will be an almost infinite number of activity you can do and get value from. The same things you do today just on a bigger scale.

There is an ever growing intersection of fun things and jobs. Believe me there were not as many enjoyable activities a century ago. Life of a single person is too short to realize that humanity as a whole is advancing at a rapid pace and you have way more possibilities to get value than your grandparents had. Financial crisis? Growing inequality? High unemployment? Yes, short term concerns but look at the bigger picture. If you were born a century ago your life would be much more determined and restricted about what to do. It is even true for the poor regions of Earth just a bit differently.

What is the role of money in this game? Money won’t go anywhere. Sorry revolutionary folks but money is the projection of human interaction so it will only disappear if humanity disappears. It will certainly change as it has been changing from the beginning. It must change since the source of value is constantly changing too. What we have to do is to embrace the basic value of humanity: the human. Humanity declares what is valuable and so we can declare that a human without anything is a valuable thing by itself. In the language of money this is called the Unconditional Basic Income. Actually it is conditional. You have to be alive :). We need advanced societies to make it work. Switzerland may be the first. We need societies where life itself is valuable enough that we can assign money to it. There are critics and concerns about UBI but I think it is a way better approach than artificially creating or keeping jobs without real value behind them. It could be also better than QE to stimulate economy. Once value is assigned to every single person in a society they can start dealing with much better things. Things that you can’t even imagine today.


The Beauty of 21th century

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It is January 2014. Winter in my home country, Hungary. We were swimming in the Andaman sea with my friends when I decided to write this post.

We came to Thailand for a month long trip in the middle of hungarian winter. Did I spend my full yearly holiday allowance at the beginning of the year? Obviously not. I only took a few days to get here and I am going to work the whole month with the hungarian team. This is possible because:

  1. I am a software developer
  2. We (the people) have the software to do this
  3. My company is really flexible
  4. I do not spend all my money for stuff

1. A software developer can work from anywhere. I only need a computer and an internet connection and I can do my work. There are definitely lots of jobs out there where you can do this and there will be even more as the 21th century advances.

2. Software development evolved so far that we created systems that support this remotely thing. Actually my company develops these kind of softwares so it was straightforward for me to use:

  • LogMeIn Hamachi for VPN (so I can access the network of my company)
  • LogMeIn Pro to access my office PC if I need it
  • to attend company meetings
  • and of course I use Skype for international calls

3. LogMeIn allowed me to do this trip so they definitely showed me how friendly is this company. Actually there is a 6 hour time shift between Hungary and Thailand so I work with the guys from 4 pm to midnight (so I can spend almost my whole day freely).


4. I am a regular reader of Leo Babauta’s Zen Habits blog and the post which I linked above is one of my favorites and I completely agree with that. People who know me enough knows that I love to live with less and less stuff. I do love experiences instead.

These four factors are the main reasons why I am here. And I really love it. A few decades ago I could not have done this and I believe that it is going to be even better. The opportunity is here and growing. The opportunity is available for more and more people. You can do this also, you just have to believe in yourself. Really.