Principal Consultant, Silicon Edge
Recently Andy Serwer, managing editor of Fortune, sat down with Marc Andreesen to discuss The Future of Work, Cars and the Wisdom in Saying 'No' (full, unabridged version on Forbes Magazine here: Inside the mind of Marc Andreessen).
In this interview, I was particularly struck with Marc's views on the impact of the ever-accelerating and widening technological adoption on the job market, and the elimination of entire categories of jobs as well as his comments on education and the need for re-training.
Andy Serwer: We all understand that the Internet revolution is inevitable at this point, but it’s also kind of controversial. There are scads of new jobs at Facebook and Twitter and other places, but what about the ones that are destroyed by the inroads of technology into every industry? Are you actually creating more than you’re destroying?
Marc Andreessen: Jobs are critically important, but looking at economic change through the impact on jobs has always been a difficult way to think about economic progress. Let’s take a historical example. Once upon a time, 100 percent of the United States effectively was in agriculture, right? Now it’s down to 3 percent. Productivity in agriculture has exploded. Output has never been higher. The same thing happened in manufacturing 150 years ago or so. It would have been very easy to say, “Stop economic progress because what are all the farmers going to do if they can’t farm?” And of course, we didn’t stop the progress of mechanization and manufacturing, and our answer instead was the creation of new industries.
From my vantage point, this is completely off track for one main reason -- in the earlier stages of mechanization and automation we had far, far, far fewer people on this planet so that these productivity increases could support and sustain larger and larger populations. In addition, the rate of change was far lower and more localized. It was the difference of seeing single family home burn, to the firebombing off an entire city with no where to run to the simultaneous firebombing of an entire country if not world.