Our friends over at Singularity University recently published a fascinating article in The Washington Post about the impact of technology on the future workforce. It features an email exchange with Vivek Wadhwa, Singularity’s Vice President of Innovation and Research, and futurist Ray Kurzweil, in which they discuss whether the rapid advancement of technology will have a net positive or negative impact on employment in the future.
They both make intriguing points, but one that I feel strongly about falls on Kurzweil’s side of the argument—which is that Internet technology is creating a revolution in employment, one that’s for the better.
Using mobile apps as an example of new technology that has created employment opportunities, Wadhwa says there have “only” been 500,000 or so jobs created in the mobile app economy. But what I think is important to note is that the mobile app economy is much earlier in its evolution than the Internet is, and there is still significant growth ahead of it. On oDesk for example, we saw mobile app development demand take off just a few years ago and it’s now growing rapidly, at a rate of more than 115% over the past year.
It’s also important to remember that advances in Internet technology have created exponentially more jobs than in the mobile apps sector alone. We see this in online work, where the Internet has catalyzed job creation across the board by eliminating geographic barriers—and not just in industries that deal with new technologies. Even in age-old professions such as legal work and writing, the Internet has brought growth to countless industries by creating opportunities that didn’t exist before, that are unrestricted by geography. And the growth is staggering: from 2009 to this year, hours worked on oDesk have grown 8x.
Everyone’s talking about the rise of “telecommuting” and “virtual work” — all of which refer to leveraging the Internet to bring work to the worker, rather than the worker to the work. Today, it’s about enabling the best minds to work together, regardless of where they happen to be. Technology makes this possible. And we predict increasing connectivity and Internet savvy is going to continue to fuel this employment revolution, with one in three workers hired to work online by 2020. Now that is what I call an employment revolution.
To read the article in full, find it on The Washington Post here.