Automation Manifesto

By Michael Solomon & Rishon Blumberg

Our first career was in the music business (Brick Wall Management) and we watched the industry get decimated by the onslaught of great new technology. The problem was not the technology but the industry’s complete lack of planning for it and unwillingness to adapt. The result of that paralysis is that the recorded music industry is a fraction of what it once was.  Because we now primarily work in technology (10x Management), we’ve had a front row seat to see what’s coming in the near term and the future. While most of what’s coming is awesome and exciting; and virtually all of us will have net improvements in our lives, the downsides could be devastating for humanity.

In the simplest of terms, automation, robotics, AI, machine learning and algorithms (which overlap each other in many ways) will eliminate a massive number of jobs…as a matter of fact the process has already begun. Unlike transitions in the past, when job loss was replaced with new industries [see the Luddite Fallacy], these losses will not be replaced. We are looking at a vast amount of net job loss [see the STEM Fallacy].

Our objectives are to:

  1. Get people focused on the gravity of this.
  2. Get some viable solutions on the table. This is a selfish act because we don’t want to see and live through the aftermath of these changes and the civil unrest that we believe will ensue if this is left unplanned for. We believe wholeheartedly that this poses the biggest risk to peace. And we have kids and want them to have a chance at a good life.

The solutions which are needed are on two unrelated paths:

  1. In the absence of a job, how do people stay out of poverty?
  2. What do people do with their time, talent and energy in a post employment world? Bon Bons, TV and video games might sound good for a while but that will get quite old quite fast.

We are by no means uniquely qualified to scream from the rooftops about this. We had been inching towards wanting to evangelize about this problem but then two things happened that pushed us over the edge.  1. Steven Mnuchin, the treasury secretary’s comments on the topic in April 2017 which highlighted that our current administration has no plans to address this massive issue and 2.  Price Waterhouse Cooper released a study the same week predicting almost 40% job loss in the US in the next 15 years. After those two things, we knew that this needed to be addressed now.  As the saying goes, “If not me then who? If not now, then when?” We all have to work together to bring this global issue to the forefront of mainstream conversation and policy discussions. This needs its “Inconvenient Truth” moment.

We hope that if you’ve read this far, that you’ll agree to help by spreading the word to ensure this topic rises up the political agenda.

Some very important points of clarification:

  • This is not a partisan issue. Despite our criticism of a politician above, be clear whether you’re conservative or liberal, Democrat, Republican, Independent, or Libertarian. Whether you’re rich, poor or in the middle: this will impact you. How it will impact you will be determined by the actions that citizens and governments take to prepare.
  • As of this writing, we have no clear opinion as to the best path forward but we know we need our greatest minds and resources focused on tackling the problem.  We say this because we want to be clear that we’re not lobbying for any particular solution at this time.
  • The predictions about net job loss from the rise of automation range vastly depending on whom you ask, but almost all of those who are considered experts, agree that it’s coming and coming soon. On the selected resources page in the news feed section of this website, you will find links to dozens of mainstream sources that speak to the coming wave of job loss.
  • Artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics are relatively speaking in their infancy but it’s already very clear that there are a huge number of tasks they can perform better than humans.
  • This is not limited to physical and manual labor nor to simple tasks. Many lawyers, doctors and other professionals/white-collar employees will be displaced just as easily as professional drivers, security guards, retail workers, restaurant workers, and factory workers among others.