“Work. When you grow up, you might not have a job. We have no idea what the job market will look like in 2050. It is generally agreed that machine learning and robotics will change almost every line of work – from producing yoghurt to teaching yoga. However, there are conflicting views about the nature of the change and its imminence. Some believe that within a mere decade or two, billions of people will become economically redundant. Others maintain that even in the long run automation will keep generating new jobs and greater prosperity for all.” This is what Dr. Yuval Noah Harari tells us in his book, “21 Lessons for the 21st Century”. Let’s go over five of his predictions about how the concept of work will evolve in the coming years.

Connectivity and Updateability

For Dr. Harari, Artificial Intelligence (AI) possesses two abilities that humans do not: connectivity and updateability. And while it’s difficult to guarantee that individuals be connected and updated, AI can easily integrate into a single flexible network: “even if you have 10 billion AI doctors – each monitoring the health of a single human being – you can still update all of them within a split second, and they can all communicate to each other their feedback on the new disease or medicine,” explains Dr. Harari.

The advantages of connectivity and updateability have immense benefits for society: learning algorithms and biometric sensors could provide exceptional medical attention to a poor villager from a developing nation using only his smartphone. Healthcare even better than the richest person in the world in the most advanced urban hospital could receive.

Adopting Automatization will Reduce Risks

Dr. Harari explains that close to 1.25 million people die every year in traffic accidents, 90% of which are from very human causes: alcohol, texting while driving, falling asleep or getting distracted while driving. Self-driving vehicles (or those driven by AI) would never have those types of problems. That is to say, using self-driving vehicles would most likely save one million people per year.

Protect Humans, not their Jobs

For Dr. Harari, humans are the priority: “It would be madness to block automation in fields such as transport and healthcare just in order to protect human jobs. After all, what we ultimately ought to protect is humans – not jobs. Redundant drivers and doctors will just have to find something else to do.”

Human-AI Cooperation

“The job market of 2050 might well be characterized by human-AI cooperation rather than competition. In fields ranging from policing to banking, teams of human-plus-AIs could outperform both humans and computers. After IBM’s chess program Deep Blue beat Garry Kasparov in 1997, humans did not stop playing chess. Rather, thanks to AI trainers human chess masters became better than ever, and at least for a while human-AI teams known as ‘centaurs’ outperformed both humans and computers in chess. AI might similarly help groom the best detectives, bankers and soldiers in history.” Of course, new jobs will surely demand a high level of expertise, and this disruption will continue to increase. Dr. Harari estimates that by 2050, the ideas of a job lasting a lifetime and a profession lasting a lifetime will seem prehistoric.

The Key is Emotional Stamina

We have arrived to the big question: Will the average human have the emotional stamina to lead a life filled with so many and such incessant disorders?

Dr. Harari responds: “Change is always stressful, and the hectic world of the early twenty-first century has produced a global epidemic of stress. As the volatility of the job market and of individual careers increases, would people be able to cope? We would probably need far more effective stress-reduction techniques – ranging from drugs through neuro-feedback to meditation – to prevent the Sapiens mind from snapping. By 2050 a ‘useless’ class might emerge not merely because of an absolute lack of jobs or lack of relevant education, but also because of insufficient mental stamina.”

Author: Conciliac Team


Yuval Noah Harari, “21 Lessons for the 21st Century”, 2018, DEBATE, Penguin Random House Grupo Editorial