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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

The Future of Remote Work, According to Startups

In an in-depth survey, startup founders and their teams revealed work-from-home experiences and their plans for a post-pandemic future.

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No matter where in the world you log in from—Silicon Valley, London, and beyond—COVID-19 has triggered a mass exodus from traditional office life. Now that the lucky among us have settled into remote work, many are left wondering if this massive, inadvertent work-from-home experiment will change work for good.

In the following charts, we feature data from a comprehensive survey conducted by UK-based startup network Founders Forum, in which hundreds of founders and their teams revealed their experiences of remote work and their plans for a post-pandemic future.

While the future remains a blank page, it’s clear that hundreds of startups have no plans to hit backspace on remote work.

Who’s Talking

Based primarily in the UK, almost half of the survey participants were founders, and nearly a quarter were managers below the C-suite.

Prior to pandemic-related lockdowns, 94% of those surveyed had worked from an external office. Despite their brick-and-mortar setup, more than 90% were able to accomplish the majority of their work remotely.

Gen X and Millennials made up most of the survey contingent, with nearly 80% of respondents with ages between 26-50, and 40% in the 31-40 age bracket.

Founders Forum Remote Work Survey

From improved work-life balance and productivity levels to reduced formal teamwork, these entrepreneurs flagged some bold truths about what’s working and what’s not.

Founders With A Remote Vision

If history has taught us anything, it’s that world events have the potential to cause permanent mass change, like 9/11’s lasting impact on airport security.

Although most survey respondents had plans to be back in the office within six months, those startups are rethinking their remote work policies as a direct result of COVID-19.

How might that play out in a post-pandemic world?

Based on the startup responses, a realistic post-pandemic work scenario could involve 3 to 5 days of remote work a week, with a couple dedicated in-office days for the entire team.

Founders Forum Future of Remote Work Perspectives

Upwards of 92% of respondents said they wanted the option to work from home in some capacity.

It’s important to stay open to learning and experimenting with new ways of working. The current pandemic has only accelerated this process. We’ll see the other side of this crisis, and I’m confident it will be brighter.

— Evgeny Shadchnev, CEO, Makers Academy

Productivity Scales at Home

Working from home hasn’t slowed down these startups—in fact, it may have improved overall productivity in many cases.

More than half of the respondents were more productive from home, and 55% also reported working longer hours.

Founders Forum Remote Work Productivity

Blurred lines, however, raised some concerns.

From chores and rowdy children to extended hours, working from home often makes it difficult to compartmentalize. As a result, employers and employees may have to draw firmer lines between work and home in their remote policies, especially in the long term.

Although the benefits appear to outweigh the concerns, these issues pose important questions about our increasingly remote future.

Teams Reveal Some Intel

To uncover some work-from-home easter eggs (“Better for exercise. MUCH more pleasant environment”), we grouped nearly 400 open-ended questions according to sentiment and revealed some interesting patterns.

From serendipitous encounters and beers with colleagues to more formal teamwork, an overwhelming number of the respondents missed the camaraderie of team interactions.

Founders Forum Remote Entrepreneurs

It was clear startups did not miss the hours spent commuting every day. During the pandemic, those hours have been replaced by family time, work, or other activities like cooking healthy meals and working out.

Remote working has been great for getting us through lockdown—but truly creative work needs the magic of face to face interaction, not endless Zoom calls. Without the serendipity and chemistry of real-world encounters, the world will be a far less creative place.

— Rohan Silva, CEO, Second Home

The Future Looks Remote

This pandemic has delivered a new normal that’s simultaneously challenging and revealing. For now, it looks like a new way of working is being coded into our collective software.

What becomes of the beloved open-office plan in a pandemic-prepped world remains to be seen, but if these startups are any indication, work-life may have changed for good.

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How Big Tech Makes Their Billions

The big five tech companies generate almost $900 billion in revenues combined, more than the GDP of four of the G20 nations. Here’s how they earn it all.

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How Big Tech Makes Their Billions

The world’s largest companies are all in technology, and four out of five of those “Big Tech” companies have grown to trillion-dollar market capitalizations.

Despite their similarities, each of the five technology companies (Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Microsoft, and Alphabet) have very different cashflow breakdowns and growth trajectories. Some have a diversified mix of applications and cloud services, products, and data accumulation, while others have a more singular focus.

But through growth in almost all segments, Big Tech has eclipsed Big Oil and other major industry groups to comprise the most valuable publicly-traded companies in the world. By continuing to grow, these companies have strengthened the financial position of their billionaire founders and led the tech-heavy NASDAQ to new record highs.

Unfortunately, with growth comes difficulty. Data-use, diversity, and treatment of workers have all become hot-button issues on a global scale, putting Big Tech on the defensive with advertisers and governments alike.

Still, even this hasn’t stopped the tech giants from (almost) all posting massive revenue growth.

Revenues for Big Tech Keep Increasing

Across the board, greater technological adoption is the biggest driver of increased revenues.

Amazon earned the most in total revenue compared with last year’s figures, with leaps in almost all of the company’s operations. Revenue from online sales and third-party seller services increased by almost $30 billion, while Amazon Web Services and Amazon Prime saw increased revenues of $15 billion combined.

The only chunk of the Amazon pie that didn’t increase were physical store sales, which have stagnated after previously being the fastest growing segment.

Big Tech Revenues (2019 vs. 2018)

CompanyRevenue (2018)Revenue (2019)Growth (YoY)
Apple$265.6 billion$260.2 billion-2.03%
Amazon$232.9 billion$280.5 billion20.44%
Alphabet$136.8 billion$161.9 billion18.35%
Microsoft$110.4 billion$125.8 billion13.95%
Facebook$55.8 billion$70.8 billion26.88%
Combined$801.5 billion$899.2 billion12.19%

Services and ads drove increased revenues for the rest of Big Tech as well. Alphabet’s ad revenue from Google properties and networks increased by $20 billion. Meanwhile, Google Cloud has seen continued adoption and grown into its own $8.9 billion segment.

For Microsoft, growth in cloud computing and services led to stronger revenue in almost all segments. Most interestingly, growth for Azure services outpaced that of Office and Windows to become the company’s largest share of revenue.

And greater adoption of services and ad integration were a big boost for ad-driven Facebook. Largely due to continued increases in average revenue per user, Facebook generated an additional $20 billion in revenue.

Comparing the Tech Giants

The one company that didn’t post massive revenue increases was Apple, though it did see gains in some revenue segments.

iPhone revenue, still the cornerstone of the business, dropped by almost $25 billion. That offset an almost $10 billion increase in revenue from services and about $3 billion from iPad sales.

However, with net income of $55.2 billion, Apple leads Big Tech in both net income and market capitalization.

Big Tech: The Full Picture

CompanyRevenue (2019)Net Income (2019)Market Cap (July 2020)
Apple$260.2 billion$55.2 billion$1.58 trillion
Amazon$280.5 billion$11.6 billion$1.44 trillion
Alphabet$161.9 billion$34.3 billion$1.02 trillion
Microsoft$125.8 billion$39.2 billion$1.56 trillion
Facebook$70.8 billion$18.5 billion$665.04 billion
Combined$899.2 billion$158.8 billion$6.24 trillion

Bigger Than Countries

They might have different revenue streams and margins, but together the tech giants have grown from Silicon Valley upstarts to global forces.

The tech giants combined for almost $900 billion in revenues in 2019, greater than the GDP of four of the G20 nations. By comparison, Big Tech’s earnings would make it the #18 largest country by GDP, ahead of Saudi Arabia and just behind the Netherlands.

Big Tech earns billions by capitalizing on their platforms and growing user databases. Through increased growth and adoption of software, cloud computing, and ad proliferation, those billions should continue to increase.

As technology use has increased in 2020, and is only forecast to continue growing, how much more will Big Tech be able to earn in the future?

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