In 30 Years People May Not Have to Work

Will those out of work be content to live a life of leisure? Can the global economy adapt to unemployment that’s greater than 50%?

Rice University computer scientist Moshe Vardi expects that within 30 years machines will be capable of doing almost any job that a human now can.

“We are approaching a time when machines will be able to outperform humans at almost any task,” Vardi says. “I believe that society needs to confront this question before it is upon us.”

Vardi—a member of the National Academy of Engineering and the National Academy of Science who holds several distinguished titles at Rice University—maintains that the advancement of artificial intelligence (AI) is increasing even as existing robotic and AI technologies eliminate middle-class jobs.

He does add some people believe that future advances in automation will ultimately benefit humans, just as automation has benefited society since the dawn of the industrial age.

But even if the global economic system can be restructured to enable billions of people to live leisurely, without work, Vardi questions whether it would benefit humanity. “Humanity is about to face perhaps its greatest challenge ever, which is finding meaning in life after the end of ‘In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread,’” he says. Before human labor becomes obsolete, Vardi says we’ll need to rise to the occasion and meet this challenge.