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Silicon Valley And The Jobs Revolution To Come

Paul Guillory

Posted on December 12, 2017 09:24

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Silicon Valley has figured out how to make technology work for themselves and, to a lesser degree, the customer. The next policy and economic frontier is the dwindling job.

I’m fascinated by the implications of the big tech companies.

Peter Thiel, creator of PayPal and one of the first few investors in Facebook, laments that while we were promised flying cars, we got 140 characters instead (Twitter).

Giant tech companies aren’t revolutionizing our lives as much as reorganizing the way old things are distributed. Yes, there has been a revolution in technology, but let’s look at what has really changed.

We still talk on phones. We still write to each other (in fact more than ever with texting and email). We still drive cars. We still get food from restaurants and supermarkets. There is still war, inequality and political chaos. And still, the number one thing people want is a good job.

I think one of Thiel’s points is that not having the freedom associated with income from a good job is fine, if the revolution responsible for it has truly changed our lives.

Not having to leave your house for groceries is remarkable. But, is it as great as you and your neighbor having a decent job, or the benefits of a decent job?

According to an interview with NYU professor Scott Galloway on the James Altucher podcast, for every amazing job Amazon creates for his students, three are lost in the supply chain.

In the movie Office Space, the main characters wanted to figure out how to do a little business for themselves on every transaction within the company. Each payout would be so small, nothing would change, and no one would notice. But when there are a gazillion transactions, the money piles up.

The money has piled up.

Silicon Valley technology is so ubiquitous, it touches the lives of virtually every American. They participate in every transaction.

YouTube has changed the world, I agree. But having YouTube only pays if we figure out how to make actually having less disposable income less necessary in other aspects of our lives. Education perhaps?

Amazon leads a discussion about universal guaranteed income. This seems like mollification. If the internet allowed them to build a company worth twice the GDP of Israel, maybe we can figure out how bring the cost of living down. Higher education is a runaway train of cost.

In free markets, wealth is created rather than taken from one person and given to the next. But here we’ve done both.

We’ve created more leisure, but we’ve also transferred away jobs to make room for the efficiency. People have less money. Wages are stagnant. But, perhaps, it’s less necessary. The value of these companies is based on fewer inputs; more efficiency. 

In the past, the wealthiest, most powerful and most profitable companies provided three benefits. They provided their products and value to their shareholders.

But they provided a third thing: Jobs. Silicon Valley provides the first two.  And maybe jobs are becoming obsolete. But, what will be their third contribution? And how can we start this discussion?

Paul Guillory

Posted on December 12, 2017 09:24

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