100 years ago most people knew how things that they held in their hands worked. 50 years ago some people knew how to change the oil of their cars or do simple fixes around the house. Today, no one has a clue how the iphone works.
Is everything going to become virtual? What is going to be the role of blockchain and crypto in that world? Are we going to effectively colonize Mars? These are only a few questions that most of us have about the future.
No human is a good fortune-teller, but it doesn’t stop us from trying to be one at least for a blog post. I’ll try not to look too far into the future as every day that we look further into the future the more blurry it looks. Let’s maybe look through the waves of uncertainty and try to imagine a possible future based on the reflections of these possible realities.
Before we jump in and make predictions, let’s make a list of a few forces that we think are important in shaping our future. I will completely ignore the sociopolitical aspects and focus on technology. Predicting the behavior of a double pendulum becomes chaotic in physics let alone the social and political behavior of humans. Alright, here are the important pieces of technology puzzles that we can play with to build the future:
- AI: Ability to outsource simpler tasks to machines
- Automation: Ability to manufacture goods without human intervention
- Virtual reality: Enabling humans to control more complex machines from afar and entertainment.
- Biotech: Ability to manipulate living organisms to produce food
- Blockchain: Smart transactions between machines
In the last few decades, production lines are more and more automated. Computer vision and machine learning will accelerate the rate of this automation and keep reducing costs of production. Even though there are avenues for shared-economy to grow, I don’t believe that human ego can get past the joy of owning “things”. It is a primitive characteristic of human nature that I believe we will carry with us for centuries to come. I don’t think there is going to be anything more consistent than human selfishness in time.
I believe humans will keep owning things and producing more things that are built by machines. But what would the humans of the next decades do? I believe that people’s job will mostly be setting up and training machines that build machines. Machines don’t know what humans want unless they are told. In other words, recipie and intellectual property becomes more and important piece of the production, not the means of the production. We can think of it as a CAD drawing of a part is the most important aspect of the part, not the 3D printer that produces the part.
All of the activity around ML and AI in recent years is to fuel the engine of machines to build things for humans. Humans will need machines to make food and live and I believe the only important job of the future generation is building and programming those machines. As mentioned, the machines that people directly use will not be made by humans. They will be made with an automated machine. So, the most important job of the future is building and training the machines that build machines. The rest of the jobs will be about sustaining the old technology and will be transitory.
There will be a hierarchy of machines that ultimately build the machines that provide humans with their needs. As time goes by and our supply chain becomes deeper, more layers will be added to humans who build machines and machines that make machines. The caveat is that the number of humans needed to build those machines is going to be smaller and smaller than the people who benefit from those machines.
Further out in the future, when most people cannot compete to be among the humans who build the machines, the income gap will grow and will make more and more people irrelevant to the new economy. It is irrational to believe that most people will catch up with the increasing rate of expensive education that is needed to maintain these complex systems.
As mentioned, we didn’t want to get into the sociopolitical impacts of these disruptions in this blog post, but there’s no doubt in my mind that there will be a massive shift in the future. I have no idea when or where or how, but it seems to be inevitable at this point.
Going back to our main subject, it seems that experts who can build or program machines will be in increasing demand. What is ironic in my mind is that many people are doubting the importance of college education at the time that it is the most crucial. The knowledge gaps in the massive shifts in the new technology cannot be overcome by a few months at a coding bootcamp though it will be a bare minimum. Take building quantum computers for example. To be able to compete with machines when it comes down to building quantum computers, you’ll need to be able to understand its basic working principles because these precise machines are almost entirely built by machines.
So, to sum up, it seems like the stack between the humans who build machines and the machines that provide for humans is becoming thicker and thicker by new technology such as AI and ML and mechatronics. Intellectual property will become the core thing when it comes down to manufacturing. And the ratio of the humans who build the machines to the number of humans who benefit from the machines will decrease in incredibly dramatic rates. Here is an example: 100 years ago most people knew how things that they used worked. 50 years ago lots of people knew how to change the oil of their cars or do simple fixes. Today, no one knows how to fix the iphone that is in their hands.
Let me know what you think.