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Posted: February 17, 2012

Two billion jobs to disappear by 2030

Please let me elaborate

Thomas Frey

On Feb. 2, I was honored to be one of the featured speakers at the TEDxReset Conference in Istanbul, Turkey, where I predicted that more than 2 billion jobs will disappear by 2030. Since my 18-minute talk was about the rapidly shifting nature of colleges and higher education, I didn’t have time to explain how and why so many jobs would be going away. Because of all of the questions I received afterwards, I thought I should take time to elaborate on this topic.

If you haven’t been to a TEDx event, it is hard to describe the life-changing nature of something like this. Ali Ustundag and his team pulled off a wonderful event.

The day was filled with an energizing mix of musicians, inspiration and big thinkers. During the breaks, audience members were eager to hear more and peppered the speakers with countless questions. They were also extremely eager to hear more about the future.

When I brought up the idea of 2 billion jobs disappearing (roughly 50 percent of all the jobs on the planet) it wasn’t intended as a doom and gloom outlook Rather, it was intended as a wakeup call, letting the world know how quickly things are about to change, and letting academia know that much of the battle ahead will be taking place at their doorstep.

Here is a brief overview of five industries – where the jobs will be going away and the jobs that will likely replace at least some of them – over the coming decades.

1.) Power Industry

Until now, the utility companies existed as a safe career path where little more than storm-related outages and an occasional rate increase would cause industry officials to raise their eyebrows.

Yet the public has become increasingly vocal about their concerns over long-term health and environmental issues relating to the current structure and disseminating methods of of the power industry, causing a number of ingenious minds to look for a better way of doing things.

Recently, I was introduced to two solutions that seem predestined to start the proverbial row of dominoes to start falling. There are likely many more waiting in the wings, but these two capitalize on existing variances found in nature and are unusually elegant in the way they solve the problem of generating clean power at a low cost.

Both companies have asked me to keep quiet about their technology until they are a bit farther along, but I will at least explain the overarching ramifications.

I should emphasize that both technologies are intended to work inside the current utility company structure, so the changes will happen within the industry itself.

To begin with, these technologies will shift utilities around the world from national grids to micro grids that can be scaled from a single home to entire cities. The dirty power era will finally be over and the power lines that dangle menacingly over our neighborhoods, will begin to come down. All of them.

While the industry will go through a long-term shrinking trend, the immediate shift will cause many new jobs to be created.

Jobs Going Away

  • Power generation plants will begin to close down.
  • Coal plants will begin to close down.
  • Many railroad and transportation workers will no longer be needed.
  • Even wind farms, natural gas, and bio-fuel generators will begin to close down.
  • Ethanol plants will be phased out or repurposed.
  • Utility company engineers, gone.
  • Line repairmen, gone.

New Jobs Created

  • Manufacturing power generation units the size of ac units will go into full production.
  • Installation crews will begin to work around the clock.
  • The entire national grid will need to be taken down (a 20 year project). Much of it will be recycled and the recycling process alone will employ many thousands of people.
  • Micro-grid operations will open in every community requiring a new breed of engineers, managers, and regulators.
  • Many more.

2.) Automobile Transportation – Going Driverless

Over the next 10 years we will see the first wave of autonomous vehicles hit the roads, with some of the first inroads made by vehicles that deliver packages, groceries, and fast-mail envelopes.

The first wave of driverless vehicles will be luxury vehicles that allow you to kick back, listen to music, have a cup of coffee, stop wherever you need to along the way, stay productive in transit with connections to the Internet, make phone calls, and even watch a movie or two, for substantially less than the cost of today’s limos.

Driverless technology will initially require a driver, but it will quickly creep into everyday use much as airbags did. First as an expensive option for luxury cars, but eventually it will become a safety feature stipulated by the government.

The greatest benefits of this kind of automation won’t be realized until the driver’s hands are off the wheel. With over 2 million people involved in car accidents every year in the U.S., it won’t take long for legislators to be convinced that driverless cars are a substantially safer and more effective option.

The privilege of driving is about to be redefined.

Jobs Going Away

  • Taxi and limo drivers, gone.
  • Bus drivers, gone.
  • Truck drivers, gone.
  • Gas stations, parking lots, traffic cops, traffic courts, gone.
  • Fewer doctors and nurses will be needed to treat injuries.
  • Pizza (and other food) delivery drivers, gone.
  • Mail delivery drivers, gone.
  • FedEx and UPS delivery jobs, gone.
  • As people shift from owning their own vehicles to a transportation-on-demand system, the total number of vehicles manufactured will also begin to decline.

New Jobs Created

  • Delivery dispatchers
  • Traffic monitoring systems, although automated, will require a management team.
  • Automated traffic designers, architects, and engineers
  • Driverless “ride experience” people.
  • Driverless operating system engineers.

Emergency crews for when things go wrong.

Thomas Frey is the executive director and senior futurist at the DaVinci Institute and currently Google’s top-rated futurist speaker.  At the Institute, he has developed original research studies, enabling him to speak on unusual topics, translating trends into unique opportunities. Tom continually pushes the envelope of understanding, creating fascinating images of the world to come.  His talks on futurist topics have captivated people ranging from high level of government officials to executives in Fortune 500 companies including NASA, IBM, AT&T, Hewlett-Packard, Unilever, GE, Blackmont Capital, Lucent Technologies, First Data, Boeing, Ford Motor Company, Qwest, Allied Signal, Hunter Douglas, Direct TV, Capital One, National Association of Federal Credit Unions, STAMATS, Bell Canada, American Chemical Society, Times of India, Leaders in Dubai, and many more. Before launching the DaVinci Institute, Tom spent 15 years at IBM as an engineer and designer where he received over 270 awards, more than any other IBM engineer.

Enjoy this article? Sign up to get ColoradoBiz Exclusives. The opinions expressed in this article are solely that of the author and do not represent ColoradoBiz magazine. Comments on articles will be removed if they include personal attacks.

Readers Respond

Good article. I'm glad that I'm retiring. You guys have got it By John Wray on 2012 03 01
Thomas, great brain fodder as always. By TC North on 2012 02 23
wow, keep me informed By LeAnne on 2012 02 22
You do not allow enough space to give a sensible answer. Makes me angry to find out after I have carefully worded my reply. By Dave Lucia on 2012 02 20

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