Future Jobs - Erik Brynjolfsson

July 11, 2013

So your future self’s woken up at home on this weekday in 2055. Time for work, right?

But what kind of work? With America’s old industries sagging, what kind of jobs will we do?

To tackle that question, Steve Paulson sat down with MIT management professor, Erik Brynjolfsson.


I had a limited Twitter conversation about innovation and curiosity as being a skill that needed to be taught. An arguer came up against the thought that they were necessary to develop, but were not necessarily "skills." This article helped me to get a better grasp - a stronger foothold in the argument that they WERE INDEED skills. Thank you Steve and Erik!

Frank Korb

There is conversation about WHERE this all needs to happen... Government... education... I think, believe, we need to move away from teaching to the tests and begin, make more of the problem solving end of things. It is not dates and formulas so much as it is finding the solutions, making the mistakes, trying and trying again until the solutions to the challenges are found. As a teacher, it is my job to help our students work through the challenges, provide the challenges, but not necessarily to be the one pouring the information into their minds. I believe in the continued positive support to fail and fail and fail until that solution is found. Formative and formative evaluations, promoting reflection and thought, collaboration and problem solving... Innovation and Creativity are some of the bedrock of what my students are faced with as they develop up through my classes.


I live in Silicon Valley, and the future of under employment that Erik Brynjolfsson talked about is already happening here. If you are not one of the fortunate tech workers at places like Google, Facebook, or Apple, it's almost impossible to live here. My husband and I both have mid-level jobs and yet can barely afford to rent within 20 miles of my office (fortunately he works from home.) If rents go up any higher (buy a home here? That's so impossible that I don't even dream of it!), we'll have to leave the area or commute for hours each day.

I don not see how this center can hold. If the 99% can barely afford to live, who will buy the junk that the 1% is making?


I found this guest's vision of a supposedly "positive" future where robots do all the work and people have more leisure to do whatever they want absolutely appalling. A couple specifics:
(1) This is the same tired old promise we've been fed by the captains of industry for over a century, and it has not come to pass. Quite the opposite, industrialization appears to have hit the limit of its usefulness. It is now destroying our earthly habitat and squeezing the life out of 99% of the population as the previous commenter noted.
(2) The vision of no work and all leisure is NOT a positive vision. Quite the contrary: dedicated, socially useful work gives life meaning and is essential for our individual and societal well being. Whether the work is producing our food, caring our neighborhoods, providing physical and mental care to those in need, educating others of all ages, making music and art. People who elevate leisure as a good to be pursued know nothing about what is truly valuable in life. This notion of work versus leisure needs to be composted immediately.
(3) The idea of robots doing all the work is just another variation of slavery. We've been taught to think of slavery in the narrowest terms - those Africans who were brought to the American colonies and then later freed by Lincoln. We need to expand our concept to see that having someone else take care of the necessities of our lives so we can go play golf or whatever is a continuation of the slavery mentality. Our dependence on machines running on fossil fuels is another form of slavery - and it's quite clear we are paying a huge price for abusing that particular slave - just as we are paying a huge price for the enslavement of Africans, in the form of ineradicable racism in our culture.
In the end it comes down to taking responsibility for our lives and our communities by our willingness to deal with the fundamental physicality of our bodies and our kinship with and dependence on the earth. Mr MIT's vision of the 'positive' future is going in a totally wrong direction.