How Machines Destroy and Create Jobs
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How Machines Destroy and Create Jobs

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“There’s just doesn’t seem to be many blacksmith jobs these days.”

At first glance, this would be a ridiculous thing to say. Of course there aren’t many blacksmiths around. We live in a modern society and machines do a way better job of making things from metal anyways.

However, it also raises an important point.

What if machines are better at driving long-haul trucks? What if machines are better servers at McDonald’s? What if robots did your taxes for you?

While some of these ideas are contentious today, in the future we may look back thinking that our fears were ill-placed. The truth is that the job landscape is constantly in flux as technology changes.

Some of today’s jobs with high automation potential may be the future “blacksmiths”, and we should not be surprised if they go away. The best thing that we can do is to understand these trends and build a set of skills that will be in demand in any market.

The Trend is Your Friend

The following graphics from NPR shows the evolution of jobs over time in the United States.

The first divides jobs into four main categories: white collar, blue collar, farming, and services. It shows how the composition of the overall job market has changed over the last 165 years:

US Jobs by Type (Percentage)

The second shows the same information, but plotted by the total number of jobs:

US Jobs by Type (Total)

There were 10 million farmers in America in the early 20th century.

Now there’s closer to one million, and yet those farmers produce way more food. Technology may have “killed off” the majority of farm jobs, but at the same time new technology created jobs in the service, blue collar, and white collar industries.

We may now be at a similar inflection point for other careers – this interactive graphic shows some of the jobs that have been on the decline in recent years.

In 1960, a whopping 11% of the workforce was employed in factories. Today only 4% are employed in factories.

In the late 1970s, almost 5% of the workforce was secretaries. Today, we’re at about half that, but professionals can be just as productive without a secretary thanks to better computer software.

Yes, there are globalization issues at play here as well, but even a modern domestic factory such as the Tesla Gigafactory (which has the largest building by footprint in the world) will only employ about 6,000 people. The majority of the work will be done by robots.

And while it seems scary to think about the rise of machines and a faster pace of technological advancement, it’s important to recognize that these types of sweeping changes to the job market have happened throughout history.

The point is, try not to be the 21st century version of a “blacksmith”.

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Technology

Ranked: The World’s Most Popular Social Networks, and Who Owns Them

When it comes to social networks, Meta is the dominant player, with a combined total of 7.5 billion MAUs across its four platforms.

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The World’s Most Popular Social Networks, and Who Owns Them

Currently, there are over 4.5 billion people around the world who use some form of social media—about 57% of the global population.

Yet, while social media’s audience is widespread and diverse, just a handful of companies control a majority of the world’s most popular social media platforms. Meta, the tech giant formerly known as Facebook, owns four of the five most widely used platforms.

This graphic highlights the biggest social networks across the globe, measured by their monthly active users (MAUs).

Note: We’ll be using terms like “social network” and “social platform” interchangeably to refer to various messaging, video, and image-sharing platforms that have social attributes built in.

Top Social Platforms by Monthly Active Users

To measure each platform’s MAUs, we dug into various sources, including the most recent company SEC filings, and quarterly earnings reports.

A majority of Meta’s user base comes from its most popular platform, Facebook—the social media giant currently has around 2.9 billion MAUs worldwide.

RankPlatform nameParent companyCountryMonthly active users, in millions
#1FacebookMeta🇺🇸 U.S.2,910
#2YouTubeAlphabet🇺🇸 U.S.2,291
#3WhatsAppMeta🇺🇸 U.S.2,000
#4MessengerMeta🇺🇸 U.S.1,300
#5InstagramMeta🇺🇸 U.S.1,287
#6WeChatTencent🇨🇳 China1,225
#7KuaishouKuaishou🇨🇳 China1,000
#8TikTokBytedance🇨🇳 China1,000
#9TelegramTelegram🇦🇪 UAE600
#10QzoneTencent🇨🇳 China600
#11QQTencent🇨🇳 China591
#12WeiboSina🇨🇳 China566
#13DouyinBytedance🇨🇳 China550
#14SnapchatSnap🇺🇸 U.S.538
#15TwitterTwitter🇺🇸 U.S.463
#16PinterestPinterest🇺🇸 U.S.454
#17RedditReddit🇺🇸 U.S.430
#18LinkedInMicrosoft🇺🇸 U.S.310
#19QuoraQuora🇺🇸 U.S.300
#20SkypeMicrosoft🇺🇸 U.S.300
#21TiebaBaidu🇨🇳 China300
#22ViberRakuten🇯🇵 Japan250
#23TeamsMicrosoft🇺🇸 U.S.250
#24imoPageBites🇺🇸 U.S.212
#25LineNaver🇰🇷 South Korea169
#26PicsartPicsart🇺🇸 U.S.150
#27LikeeBigo Live🇸🇬 Singapore150
#28DiscordDiscord🇺🇸 U.S.140

Where in the world are Facebook users located? The platform’s biggest user base comes from India, with an audience size of almost 350 million. Its second-largest user base is the United States, with 193.9 million users, while Indonesia comes in third with 142.5 million.

But Facebook isn’t the only social giant in Meta’s network of platforms. WhatsApp has approximately 2 billion MAUs, making it Meta’s second-largest platform, and the third-largest social network overall.

Like Facebook, a significant number of WhatsApp users are located in India, with roughly 390 million users. Brazil has a large portion of WhatsApp users as well, with an audience size of 108 million.

The Billion Users Club

Meta currently dominates the social network landscape, with a combined total of 7.5 billion MAUs across all four of its platforms. However, a few other companies also hit the one billion MAU mark across all their platforms on the list:

RankParent company# of companies on the listCountryCombined MUAs
1Meta4🇺🇸 U.S.7.5 billion
2Tencent3🇨🇳 China2.4 billion
3Alphabet1🇺🇸 U.S.2.3 billion
4Bytedance2🇨🇳 China1.6 billion
5Kuaishou1🇨🇳 China1 billion

After Meta, Tencent has the second-highest reach thanks to its three platforms—WeChat, Qzone, and QQ. Of the three, WeChat is currently the most popular. On average, WeChat users send about 45 billion messages a day.

Third on the list is Alphabet, thanks to its one platform, YouTube. Founded in 2005, this video streaming platform currently has over 50 million content creators, who share approximately 500 hours of video content every minute.

Close behind Alphabet is Bytedance, with a combined 1.6 billion MAUs across its two platforms—Douyin and its international counterpart TikTok. While the apps share a lot of similarities, they function as completely separate entities, with different registration, content policies, and regulations.

Global Social Networks? Not Always

While social media networks often transcend country borders, it’s worth noting that the online realm does not completely escape the constraints and regulations of our physical world.

Since 2009, Facebook has been banned in China for not complying with censorship rules. Facebook was also blocked in Iran and Syria around the same time and has been blocked sporadically since.

In 2020, the Trump administration tried to enact a similar ban against TikTok, but the order was blocked by a federal judge and eventually revoked by the Biden administration a year later.

Despite various bans and roadblocks, it’s clear that social media platforms have seeped into the lives (and onto the screens) of users across the globe. And as internet access worldwide continues to grow, so too will the number of social media users.

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Money

How Central Banks Think About Digital Currency

Central bank digital currencies are on the horizon. What do 65 central banks representing 91% of global GDP think about them?

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How Central Banks Think About Digital Currency

In the late 1600s, the introduction of bank notes changed the financial system forever. Fast forward to today, and another monumental change is expected to occur through central bank digital currencies (CBDC).

A CBDC adopts certain characteristics of everyday paper or coin currencies and cryptocurrency. It is expected to provide central banks and the monetary systems they govern a step towards modernizing.

But what exactly are CBDCs and how do they differ from money we use today?

The ABCs of CBDCs

To better understand a CBDC, it helps to first understand the taxonomy of money and its overlapping properties.

For example, the properties of cash are that it’s accessible, physical and digital, central bank issued, and token-based. Here’s how the taxonomy of money breaks down:

  • Accessibility: The accessibility of money is a big factor in determining its place within the taxonomy of money. For instance, cash and general purpose CBDCs are considered widely accessible.
  • Form: Is the money physical or digital? The form of money determines distribution and the potential for dilution, and future CBDCs issued will be completely digital.
  • Issuer: Where does the money come from? CBDCs are to be issued by the central bank and backed by their respective governments, which differs from cryptocurrencies which mostly have no government affiliations.
  • Technology: How does the currency work? CBDCs break down into token-based and account-based approaches. A token-based CBDC operates like banknotes today, where your information is not known nor needed by a cashier when accepting your payment. An account-based system, however, requires authorization to partake on the network, akin to paying with a digital wallet or card.

Digital Currency vs Digital Coins

In essence, digital currency is the electronic form of banknotes that exists today. Therefore, it’s viewed by some as a modern and efficient version of the cash you hold in your wallet or purse.

On the other hand, cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin are a store of value like gold that is secured by encryption. Cryptocurrencies are privately owned and fueled by blockchain technology, compared to digital currencies which do not use decentralized ledgers or blockchain technology.

Digital Currency: Regulatory Authority and Stability

Digital currencies are issued by a central bank, and therefore, are backed by the full power of a government. According to the Bank for International Settlements, over 20% of central banks surveyed say they have legal authority in issuing a CBDC. Almost 10% more said laws are currently being changed to allow for it.

As more central banks issue digital currencies, there’s likely to be favorability between them. This is similar to how a few currencies like the U.S. dollar and Euro dominate the currency landscape.

The Benefits of Issuing a CBDC

There are several positives regarding the issuance of a CBDC over other currencies.

First, the cost of retail payments in the U.S. is estimated to be between 0.5% and 0.9% of the country’s $20 trillion in GDP. Digital currencies can flow much more effectively between parties, helping reduce these transaction fees.

Second, large chunks of the global population are still considered unbanked. In this case, a CBDC opens avenues for people to access the global financial system without a bank. Even today, 6% of Americans do not have a single bank account.

Other motivations for a CBDC include:

  • Financial stability
  • Monetary policy implementation
  • Increased safety, efficiency, and robustness
  • Limit on illicit activity

An example of payments efficiency can be seen during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, when some Americans failed to receive their stimulus check. Altogether, some $2 billion in funds have gone unclaimed. A functioning rollout of a CBDC and a more direct relationship with citizens would minimize such a problem.

Status of CBDCs

Although widespread adoption of CBDCs is still far away, research and experiments are making notable strides forward:

  • 81 countries representing 90% of global GDP are exploring CBDCs.
  • The share of central banks actively engaging in CBDC work grew to 86% in the last 4 years.
  • 60% of central banks are conducting experiments on CBDCs (up from 42% in 2019) and 14% are moving forward to development and pilot arrangement.
  • The Bahamas is one of five countries currently working with a CBDC – the Bahamian Sand Dollar.
  • Sweden and Uruguay have shown interest in a digital currency. Sweden began testing an “e-krona” in 2020, and Uruguay announced tests to issue digital Uruguayan pesos as far back as 2017.
  • The People’s Bank of China has been running CBDC tests since April 2020. In all, tens of thousands of citizens have participated, spending 2 billion yuan, and the country is poised to be the first to fully launch a CBDC.

The U.K. central bank is less optimistic about a rolling out a CBDC in the near future. The proposed digital currency—dubbed “Britcoin”—is unlikely to arrive until at least 2025.

Disrupting The World of Money

Wherever you look, technology is disrupting finance and upending the status quo.

This can be seen through the rising market value of fintech firms, which in some cases are trumping traditional financial institutions in value. It is also evident in the rapid rise of Bitcoin to a $1 trillion market cap, making it the fastest asset to do so.

With the rollout of central bank digital currencies on the horizon, the next disruption of financial systems is already beginning.

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