Tech Talk: Can VR Offset Technological Unemployment?

You don't need to be a Neo-Luddite to have real concerns about a scenario in which technological unemployment becomes the number one problem of the world's economy. Numerous industry experts agree that job automation on a grand scale is coming sooner rather than later and it's definitely going to make certain jobs extinct. However, famous technical evangelist Robert Scoble apparently isn't worried that there'll soon be billions of people without jobs because programmers and engineers will find a way to replace everyone with their creation. That's all in spite of the fact that the latest Oxford study suggests close to half of all jobs in the US will be automated by 2033.

Recently, Scoble revealed that he believes the virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) industries will offset technological unemployment by inciting creation of a lot more jobs than people think. "Watching Skrillex from your front yard in concert, watching Hillary Clinton give a speech in three dimensions, or even being on the podium with her is going to change everything," claims Scoble, adding that there's no way someone who never experienced these technologies can realize how much of an impact will they have on the entire world. He isn't just referring to the traditional tech industry, though. Namely, Scoble is convinced VR and AR have the potential to create completely new economies, because once consumers fully embrace them like they're currently starting to embrace wearables and unlike how they've accepted smartphones and tablets in the past, that huge job gap caused by technological automation will soon get a lot smaller.

It's naturally a given that VR and AR advancement will create new jobs in programming. However, Scoble is also quick to point out that global and universal acceptance of products like Oculus Rift, Microsoft HoloLens, and HTC Vive will also lead to "an insatiable demand for new content", new age entertainment, new ways of experiencing music, movies, TV shows, games, sports, and virtually everything else we're currently surrounded with. In other words, there'll be a huge demand for content creators, creative people with bright ideas, designers looking to come up with new experiences, new twists on traditional entertainment.

Furthermore, Scoble cites numerous examples of highly successful existing virtual economies like those found in games like Second Life and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. The virtual world of the free-to-play game Second Life has an estimated GDP of no less than $500 million and is yet to even embrace virtual reality and new opportunities that come with it. World of Warcraft, Team Fortress 2, FIFA, Runescape, DotA 2... examples of video games which quickly spawned economies boasting bigger GDPs than those of most small countries are numerous and Scoble believes they're just further proof that there'll be a lot more money to be made from virtual and augmented reality products. The latest example of an instant AR hit that already birthed an economy which is on the way to be worth millions is Pokemon GO as thousands of trainers have already started selling their accounts and charging people for playing the game on their behalf. That's all in spite of the fact that Niantic Labs' latest title doesn't even have a trading system yet which will certainly open up more opportunities for making money.

Regardless of that, Scoble doesn't claim that the upcoming shift in the workforce—described by him as "unseen since the industrial revolution"—will be smooth. The biggest problem will be people who are now nearing retirement and will likely be too old to learn an entirely new profession in time to adapt to the job markets of the future. Given how the process of automation is likely going to happen in huge numbers, governments will probably have to be ready to come up with some kind of a solution regarding living wages during the transition period because otherwise the world will be faced with tens of millions of older workers accepting jobs for peanuts simply because of too much competition on the job market. Once completed, though, the transition is likely to completely eliminate the need for manual labor and a lot of jobs that are left will be something that people weren't even able to fathom at the turn of the century. Only time will tell whether Scoble's predictions will end up being accurate or not, but few will deny that it's refreshing to see a somewhat positive stance and expectations regarding the inevitable workforce shift that technological advancements are bound to force in the next few decades.

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