UnLabor Day – How AI Is Eating Jobs

UnLabor Day – How AI Is Eating Jobs

We celebrate Labor Day by being away from our jobs.

Consider the world 200 years ago in 1817. For light you burned animal fat, for heat you chopped wood, and transportation ran on hay. You did it day after day. Only the very few had the luxury of a day off, let alone a three day weekend.

From 1817, climb into your time machine and revert another 200 years to 1617. You’d find a world quite similar: toil, toil toil….fat, wood, hay. The world of 1417 also looked the same as 1617.

Now kick your time machine in forward. From 1817 leap ahead 200 years and it’s…it’s whoa!

I can’t even begin to imagine what the world of 2217 might look like, but that doesn’t concern me as much as 2037 or even 2027.

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I’m not an engineer, but when I study the latest on Artificial Intelligence, I am blown away by what I am reading. Advances in the world of AI are not just an important topic, but probably THE most important topic for our future.

Because artificial intelligence will leave half our adult population unemployable.

Need an example? Already artificial intelligence machines are replacing journalist jobs. Automated machine learning techniques are sifting through massive data sets to write newswire reports. In Korea, computer “SoccerBots” generate articles on local sporting matches.

So it’s not just the waitresses and truck drivers who are facing obsolescence, but your son or granddaughter with their newly minted college degree in journalism (coupled with $40,000 in loan debt). This is just one of the many professions being devoured by artificial intelligence.

Price Waterhouse Cooper is projecting that 40% of current white collar, middle class jobs will be gone within 15 years. Forty percent.

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The Portland, Oregon area is abundant with examples of the psychopathology of people who have lost all hope for the dignity and meaning which comes with self-sustaining work. What happens when its’ no longer just a couple of hundred camping out under the Morrison Bridge?

What happens to society when a majority of our neighbors can no longer hope of celebrating Labor Day?

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This piece first appeared in the weekly newsletter of the Oregon City Chamber Of Commerce


  1. I agree with your pessimistic view of the future for work. Maybe we will all become couch potatoes and watch computer generated movies and game shows.
    However, I hope that this leads us instead to a plane of philosophy, debate and action that sees all humans as capable of living rewarding lives without the necessity of working,

    • …living rewarding lives without the necessity of working,

      Raising the question, if one is not working how will they put food on the table? Will those producing wealth be willing to share – either thru taxation or charity – enough to support the rest? It’s an intriguing question

  2. I’ve written several Letters to the Editor of our local paper on this topic. The central issue for the future of our country is how to we prepare our children and grandchildren to perform meaningful work in a world full of AI and robots. Big businesses are going to have to drive the changes to our national education system which must be implemented across the K-12 spectrum while colleges and universities must stop peddling useless curiculums supporting imaginary careers. This is a national security issue that people simply don’t see coming at them. Keep beating this drum – it’s too important!


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