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It may be just a matter of time before jobs crater

U. Ivanov/Creative Commons

There is a fundamental question embedded in the debate over the future of work: will expanding automation pass without damage to job creation -- or are we headed into a catastrophic job crisis?

Last week, Google's Eric Schmidt embraced the optimistic view. Speaking in Paris, he said humans will work alongside machines, not be replaced by them. Indeed, " there is in fact going to be a jobs shortage," he said.

But a number of technologists and venture capitalists think that the speed and breadth of automation will lead to massive job loss. "If we don't have machines and software capable of performing most of the tasks we call labor in 30, 40, 50 years, then it will be a failure of Google and our technology ecosystem," said Doug Clinton, a venture capitalist with Loup Ventures.

Between the lines: There appears to be consensus that the jobs picture will be fine for the next five or even 10 years. But after that is when the sides diverge: artificial intelligence is expected to gain commercial traction and begin to take a serious bite out of jobs.