Bill Gates: People Don't Realize How Many Jobs Will Soon Be Replaced By Software Bots

I've been a computer scientist for almost 10 years and I also have a degree in economics.

My selfish worry is that people such as myself are no longer compensated the way people like Henry Ford or Andrew Carnegie used to be. I realized this during my very first programming job out of college, when I was the sole engineer on a 10 million dollar project where the only real costs were my labor and electricity use. I was getting paid 34k for my efforts. My employer was in the process of building a mansion while I was wrapping scraps of sheet-metal around my car's muffler to get to work. From where I'm sitting, the process of industrialization has been turned into wage work and the profits go who knows where. Creating a new age of aristocrats, no doubt, with all the accompanying inefficiencies created by the hoarding wealth and spending it on lavish frivolities. It's ironic, really. It's still about who you know more than what you know. From a labor relations standpoint, engineers lack the bargaining power to get what they are truly worth in the economy. In a perverse way, engineers are like serfs to the rich landowners, where software has become the new agriculture and intellectual property has become the new land. In the US, home to the biggest software economy in the world, programmers are expressly forbidden by law from receiving overtime pay or holding on to the rights to any software they create, even in their own time. If this is a taste of what the future holds for every worker paired up with a computer, then good luck to us all.

But the even more fundamental problem as I see it is one of marginal cost. Industrial farming cannot produce food cheaply enough keep up with masses of unemployed people. Neither can the construction industry provide enough shelter at a low enough cost. And our existing educational system can't handle the masses of people seeking an education without increasing the costs per individual. What we'll face, then, is a growing disparity between poor people who require increasingly cheaper products to maintain their lifestyle and rich people who require an increasing amount of resources to advance the economy which reduces those costs. The question is whether this economy is sustainable. Can you reduce the wages of productive people enough to make the resources needed by non-productive people cheap enough for everyone to afford (it doesn't matter how you do it - whether by transfer payments or continued increases in productivity), or will this end in a Malthusian crisis?

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