A friend of mine argues that the advent of smart-contracts may leave white-collar workers out of work, possibly sooner than the much-anticipated joblessness of truck-drivers to automated vehicles:
“Companies that, once started, can run themselves [without humans]”
Throughout the following whitepaper, I will refer to such a company as a “virtual company”.
If a “virtual machine” is one that can completely simulate the functions of an equivalent real-world machine while having no moving parts in the physical world…..
Then a “virtual company” is one that can [possibly requiring the aid of robotics and artificial intelligence] completely simulate the functions of any current real life company while having no (or very few) human employees.
Before we get any further, let me address the obvious. I know you’re asking yourself, “Isn’t that what artificial intelligence and robots are already for?”
Artificial intelligence may represent a way to automate individual white-collar jobs. Robots represent a way to automate individual blue-collar jobs. But they’re too narrowly defined and niche-oriented to go beyond that. To quote Kai Fu Lee:
“The AI engine today is basically a number cruncher that looks at one single task and out-crunches people”
It’s more accurate to describe 2018-level AI tech as pattern recognition algorithms on steroids, not the early steps of an emerging general sentience a la Skynet.
Smart contracts represent a way to automate companies in the collective sense. They are especially well-suited for handling operations, bidding, finance, accounting, contract enforcement, and program management tasks. In other words, the back-end nuts-and-bolts that hold any company together.
These changes are probably inevitable, due to the massive economic incentive to incorporate smart-contracts and replace the white-collar workers.
If you’re a nerd for tech-economics, it’s worth reading the whole white-paper, in six parts on Medium:
But the critical takeway, in my opinion, is that the college education that millions of American students invest tens of thousands of dollars in (trillions collectively) for the purpose of qualifying in a white-collar job may become economically obsolete within a decade or two. Perhaps sooner: the adaptation of new and more efficient technology seems to be happening faster and faster these days.
I just did an informal interview with an electrical company earlier today (I am taking my own advice here), and the master electrician said that the trades work-force is aging and demand for qualified trades-people is growing. If people want economic security twenty years from now, and are young enough to still altar their course, trades are the way to go. According to the electrician (who may be too old to fully benefit from the wave he sees coming), HVAC techs, plumbers, electricians, and carpenters are going to be the lawyers of the mid-21st century, as far as incomes are concerned. Colleges and Universities simply can no longer deliver what they promise. The internet has made the information they hold ubiquitous and free, and smart-technology is soon to make their credentials largely irrelevant in the labor market.