With artificial intelligence and the emergence of robotics and other "smart machines," observers of culture have wondered what is the future of human work? In his insightful new book, business professor and theologian, Dr. Jay Richards, outlines the coming disruptions to the workplace produced by the proliferation smart machines, but also talks about "the human advantage" the people have. Join us for this fascinating discussion about the future of work and making career choices in this current environment.
More About Our Guest
Jay W. Richards, Ph.D., is assistant research professor in the School of Business and Economics at The Catholic University of America and a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute. He is author of many books including, Money, Greed, and God (2009), winner of a 2010 Templeton Enterprise Award.
Scott Rae: Welcome to the podcast Think Biblically: Conversations on Faith and Culture. I'm your host, Scott Rae, Dean of Faculty and Professor of Christian Ethics at Talbot School of Theology here at Biola University. We're here at Acton University, which is a conference of academics on the intersection of religious principles, liberty, and economics, and it's a great opportunity to get a whole group of great people together. And we're really pleased to have Jay Richards with us, Doctor Jay Richards, who is Assistant Research Professor in the School of Business and Economics at the Catholic University of America, in Washington, D.C., still functions as Senior Fellow of The Discovery Institute, Executive Editor of The Stream. I'll let you say a little bit more about what that is in just a moment. But the reason I am so delighted to have Jay on with us today is to talk about his latest book, which is incredibly provocative and very timely. The book is entitled The Human Advantage: The Future of American Work in an Age of Smart Machines.
So Jay, thanks so much for being with us, and-
Jay W. Richards: Great to be with you, Scott.
Scott Rae: ... for talking about this really important subject. And I think it's fair to say that our Christian community is about to be caught off guard by these smart machines. So let me cut right to the chase here at the very beginning. Are smart machines and artificial intelligence going to take all our jobs?
Jay W. Richards: No, they're not going to take all our jobs. So if listeners forget everything else, that's my conclusion. They're not going to take all our jobs and, more importantly, they're not going to replace us. It doesn't mean they're not going to do a lot of the jobs that we think only humans can do or that people are doing right now; that's a different question. But this idea that they're going to wipe out, say, half of all the jobs and leave us with nothing to do, I think is just a myth.
Scott Rae: Okay. But in your book, you do suggest that there's pretty significant economic disruption that's coming because of these smart machines.
Jay W. Richards: Yes. That's right.
Scott Rae: And it's here, and it's going to get worse.
Jay W. Richards: Yeah. That's right.
Scott Rae: So what kinds of jobs are going to be lost? What kinds of jobs should we be worried about losing?
Jay W. Richards: When people first think about this, they imagine that it's manual labor jobs, and that's actually a bit of a myth. And if you think about it, the things we can make computers to do, it's a lot of mental work, right? We got a computer to beat the world champion at chess in 1995. We can't make a robot that can do, say, house cleaning or room sweeping in hotels. And so there's actually complex bodily movements, skilled trades, that are going to be much harder to automate. Highly repetitive work, whether it's in a factory or in an office, in other words, things that can be easily automated that are sort of rule-based and repetitive ... The way I put it is anything that can be automated probably will be automated sometime in the next 20 or 25 years. But it's not as simple as, well, it's going to wipe out all the blue collar jobs and leave the white color. No, it's going to wipe out different ones based essentially on whether it makes sense to automate them.
Scott Rae: Okay. So give me a couple of concrete examples of jobs that have been lost, say, in the last five years.
Jay W. Richards: Absolutely. Well yeah, and in fact, what's funny, you think of the repetitive factory jobs on an assembly line. So this is not an internal [inaudible 00:03:15]. This type of working actually was invented by Henry Ford. Factories are couple of centuries old. This idea where every human person does just one thing over and over every day: those jobs have been disappearing, but they've been disappearing slowly since about 1980. Part of that is because they get moved overseas, but most of it is actually because if not total automation, partial automation in which you need fewer people to actually do more work.
So that's why our manufacturing sector is more productive per capita than it's ever been in history, but there are fewer people actually doing it. So it's those types of factory jobs that are going to disappear. Clerical work that requires a lot of data crunching that's highly repetitive. I mean, think about telephone operators is a perfect example of this, right? These jobs just simply don't exist. There's a lot of financial services jobs that are mostly simple analysis that have already disappeared and will continue to so.
Scott Rae: So Amazon warehouses? [crosstalk]
Jay W. Richards: Amazon warehouses, which is example I give, though those have been ... If you go to an Amazon fulfillment center, it is a wonder of automation. It's almost entirely automated. The forklifts run themselves, but right at the end, there're human beings that pick up the product and put it in boxes because that's the one thing we haven't made robots that are able to do is to tell the difference between, well, this is toilet paper, this is fragile glass, right? This is a book. Humans, a four year old, is really good at doing that. We don't have robots yet that can do that. So I suspect that would be the last thing that gets automated.
Scott Rae: So what Henry Ford lamented years ago, that all I wants a pair of hands, but I get a whole person with it, those kinds of jobs are the ones that are in danger.
Jay W. Richards: Well, they are, if all you're doing is something really simple and repetitive with your hands. If you're doing something complex with your hands or with your body, that's going to be resistant to automation. [crosstalk] That really is different and it's known in the field as more Moravec's Paradox, from Hans Moravec, who just said, "Well, it's just hard to replicate the computational resources that robotics required to do what any four year old knows how to do it." That's actually a really tough problem.
Scott Rae: So the title of your book is, The Human Advantage. So how would you summarize what constitutes the human advantage over robotics, artificial intelligence, things like that?
Jay W. Richards: Yeah. Well it's a long answer, but the simple answer is everything about us that's not machine-like. So if we're just machines, if you think we're just machines made of meat, [inaudible] the famous Marvin Minsky quote, then you should probably be worried, because if we've just been produced by these blind forces of nature and we can do these things, maybe we'll produce machines that can surpass us. If we're not machines though, if we're makers of machines but we're more than that, then by definition machines can't literally replace us. So there's going to be, you can think of it as a residual, or I talk about it as our comparative advantage. It's the things that we can do uniquely. Those are the things that we're going to need to focus on. So the the things that can be automated, we let them be automated and in fact it ultimately, though it disrupts us, frees us up to do things that are more uniquely human.
Scott Rae: Okay. And in the past, all of the economic disruptions have been short term painful, but in the long run, I don't see anybody who misses the horse and buggy industry.
Jay W. Richards: That's right. Well and that's the lesson actually, that if technology created permanent technological unemployment, human history would be this long, depressing story of increasing unemployment. That's not the case, right?
Scott Rae: Definitely not.
Jay W. Richards: As the famous economists talk about the lump of labor fallacy, as if there's just this fixed amount of work to be done and if a machine does it, then there's nothing else to do. That's not what happens. We develop new ways of getting more output with less input. It brings the prices of things like food down. And then, first of all, we have more disposable income and it frees us up to do different things.
It's switching to the different things that I argue is the main cost of this because the disruption ... It's one thing to say, well there's going to be a great job five years from now, but if you need to pay your mortgage this month, that's called comfort. So it's really that temporary but severe disruption that we need to focus on and not this idea that we're all going to be put out of work permanently.
Scott Rae: Well, and I think we do need to resist the Keynesian idea that in the long run we're all dead.
Jay W. Richards: No, exactly.
Scott Rae: So the long run does matter.
Jay W. Richards: It does matter, absolutely. So the question is, really: if we understand that, overall, five or 10 years out, there'll be amazing new things to do, what do we do in the short run for people? What should individuals that are just starting college or high school or work do?
Scott Rae: Okay, so let's cut right to that point. So let's say that you've got a group of high school students that you are advising about career paths and education. In light of the phenomenon that you're describing in your book, how would you be advising that group of high school and college students?
Jay W. Richards: In fact, I do this a lot. The first thing I do is tell them that they shouldn't expect that the next ... Let's say you're about to go to college, that they're going to get four years of education and then they're done. That's just not how it's going to work. If you think of the way in which industry and types of work change over time, they need to be prepared for lifelong learning. So it's sort of the beginning. It's a time when they can set aside full time to study and to learn, but they should expect that they're always going to be doing that. The days are over, for most people, in which they can go to trade school or college for two or four years, go get a job and then work at the same firm doing the same thing for 40 years. That's just not likely to happen. And I know it's true in California, but in Washington D.C, 20- to 30-somethings, most them have three business cards; most of them have a job that pays the bills, a side gig that they really like, and then the flyer that they're hoping will pan out at some point. I think that's more the nature of the future.
Scott Rae: All right. So you point out a number of things in the book that you believe hold people back from moving forward. One of these is what you call the fatalist myth. What exactly is that and how does that function?
Jay W. Richards: The fatalist myth is just this terrible belief that a lot of people have that either their genes or their circumstances or society has fixed their future for them, so that there's really nothing they can do. That's really who the book is written for. I wrote the book is an optimistic book to say, look, I'm not going to spend a bunch of time talking about disruption and all of these things. I'm just going to treat it as a fact and say: what should you do to adapt yourself to be able to flourish in a new economy?
The fatalist myth is the thing that tempts you not to do anything; to say, "Well, I don't have any technical skills. What can I do? I'm a long haul trucker." I always try to remind people, especially native-born Americans like myself, that there are millions of people that risk their lives to come here. They often don't know the language. They obviously see opportunities, and so sort of think about the opportunities that they see and try to get it into your own head. Because it's tempting, you if you're in a dead end job or you're in an industry that seems to be waning, to think that there's nothing you can do. The reality is, compared to our ancestors 200 years ago, most of whom were farming, they actually didn't have a plan B. But most of us that are adults, especially if you're college educated, the truth of the matter is there's hundreds of things you can do and it's self-indulgent to say, "Well, there's just really nothing I can do."
Scott Rae: So should high school and college students be seeking something different out of a college education than we traditionally sought in the past?
Jay W. Richards: Well I think a college education, and I'm saying this as a college professor, has for centuries, it's bundled several goods together. So it's a credential, it's a signal, it provides networking opportunities, it delivers information. Ideally, it's soul-building; that was the goal of liberal arts, was to sort of expand the soul. All those things are good. I don't know that a college or university has to always do all of those things and it may be that some of those things get unbundled. That's why I think, for instance, it's good advice to tell some people, "Look, go to trade school." Everybody doesn't have to go to liberal arts college.
On the other hand, if you can, I tell my children this, and so I would tell anyone else, try to do all of it. Try to develop a skill, do a degree or maybe a minor in coding or in graphic design or whatever, and also get a liberal arts degree because in some ways that makes you the most adaptable. You actually don't want to over specialize. Some people think, okay, I'll find the narrowest sort of technical specialty. That's all I'll do. Cybersecurity right now, for instance, is actually a great thing to do right now, but it's highly specialized and it may be that five years from now that didn't make sense. And so really, I think a genuine liberal arts education, not what passes for that at a lot of secular schools.
Scott Rae: I understand.
Jay W. Richards: ... is, I think, still a very valuable asset, especially because it focuses on what it means to be human.
Scott Rae: So, you learn things like critical thinking-
Jay W. Richards: Absolutely.
Scott Rae: Problem solving.
Jay W. Richards: Yes. How to read, how to read a text.
Scott Rae: And how to write.
Jay W. Richards: How to write a coherent sentence.
Scott Rae: And some minimal character development.
Jay W. Richards: Absolutely, which I think is actually the key thing.
Scott Rae: Now this is really a provocative statement, that in the United States, minimal virtues and basic healthcare are all that somebody needs to avoid poverty.
Jay W. Richards: That's right. And this is in fact, here at Acton University, Jonah Goldberg, mentioned this last night and I think it did come from the Brookings Institution, this pathway to success. So basically, this is just a statistical matter. If you graduate from high school, avoid felonies, go to college or trade school, wait until you're married to have kids, and I would say stay married, you're just almost certainly not going to be below the poverty line in the United States. That's not true everywhere. So that's what I would call minimal virtue, right? Don't commit a felony. That's shouldn't be that high of a hurdle.
Scott Rae: [inaudible] bar's not that high.
Jay W. Richards: That's not that high. And so we need to remind ourselves of that before we say, okay, in addition to that, what do we need to do in the new economy? The pathway to success means you're not going to be impoverished, but you might not flourish necessarily unless you do more than that.
Scott Rae: Now you said that may not be true in some other parts of the world.
Jay W. Richards: Absolutely. In fact, it's not true. I mean, if you are born and raised in Haiti, you might work your fingers to the bone and be a very virtuous person and a good father and married to the mother of your children, and still just be utterly impoverished. So the social context, the legal context in which we act, makes all the difference. I mean, the late Steve Jobs, right? If he'd been born in Haiti, would have been different economically than he was being born in California.
Scott Rae: Now you've got a whole series of virtues that are necessary for avoiding poverty; why don't you list a few of those and then spell out one or two.
Jay W. Richards: Absolutely. Well the virtues actually correspond to what I call the five features of the information economy, which is disruption, exponential growth, digitization, which is the movement from molecules to atoms, hyperconnectivity, and an increase in the information part of the economy. My argument is that there are actually virtues that correspond to those and so those include what I call courage, and ... Darn, I don't have a list of them here, but antifragility ... Maybe you have them.
The big one is creative freedom, but all of these correspond to those features of the information economy.
Scott Rae: All right. I want to zero in on one of these that we don't often think about as a virtue, which is antifragility.
Jay W. Richards: Absolutely.
Scott Rae: So what do you mean by that and why is that so important as a virtue?
Jay W. Richards: Of course I get the term from Nassim Nicholas Taleb, his great book Antifragile, and he's describing systems in general. I'm talking about antifragility as a virtue, but essentially you can think of a system or a person as having three states. Something can be very fragile, which means it's easily broken, it's easily perturbed or disturbed. It can be robust or rigid, like a granite countertop, or it can be antifragile. Antifragile is that property in which you improve with perturbation.
So to be antifragile as a virtue means that when you experience failure, for instance, failure, it is not just a strike against you. You actually learn something so that you improve from it. And his example, which I think is the best example, is biological systems. If you lift weights really hard, you'll tear muscle fibers, have an inflammatory response, then eat and rest, and your body builds it back stronger and bigger than it was before. That's antifragility. And that's the virtue that we want. And I argue that's especially important because of this prior virtue of courage. Courage is just the willingness to act in the context of failure, which I think is really important because of a disruptive age, that means you can't predict the future. And so either you're going to throw up your hands and not do anything or you're going to act with the possibility of failure.
Of course, failure by itself is not the path to success, you just keep failing. And so you need courage and then you need the ability to learn from failure. And so those are the two first things that I think people need to work and to succeed in a disruptive and exponentially growing sector of the economy.
Scott Rae: Okay. Now you make the point that our educational system is not well-tooled to produce antifragility.
Jay W. Richards: No. It's not.
Scott Rae: How so?
Jay W. Richards: Well I mean, in the most obvious way, and you see this of course in a lot of secular and state schools, we're actually making kids fragile. I mean, rather than you take them to school and you expose them to things and you help them. I think the goal of education ought to be a kind of inoculation in which you ... It's like if you inoculate someone, you're exposing them to a weak version of the virus so they build up an immunity to it. Well, I would say as a Christian educator, that's what I want students to do. So I'm going to have to expose them to bad ideas, but I also have to equip them to be able to deal with it. And so part of that is learning how to deal with ideas that you disagree with. And yet now we're creating these safe spaces on campus-
Scott Rae: Without being offended.
Jay W. Richards: ... without being offended, and to know how to actually deal with them and to say, "Well, people disagree with me. I think they're wrong for these reasons and I can make arguments, but I'm not going to be treated as if my human rights had been violated." Unfortunately, that's what is happening. So we have these highly fragile college students that ... I mean, it's actually tragic because they're in a protective environment where they're sort of hothouse flowers in the hot house in college, but I'm telling you, this makes a terrible employee, to have someone that's just perpetually offended. This is not somebody that anybody wants to work with, and so we're really not equipping them for life in the world.
Scott Rae: You maintain that they're going to get a rude awakening once they got to the real world.
Jay W. Richards: Yeah, absolutely. And a lot of them do. And I've encountered some. I mean, this is the dilemma because the reality is that when you get into the world of business, which is where most of us end up, you've got to learn how to serve other people. Either you're working for your boss, but you also usually have a customer you have to serve. And that requires anticipating what they want. If all you've been thinking about is how you feel based on what other people are saying, you're not going to be very other-directed in your capacity to serve other people, which is what you have to do in business.
Scott Rae: Well, and you probably won't learn and grow.
Jay W. Richards: Absolutely. Yeah.
Scott Rae: And take the kind of constructive feedback that you actually need.
Jay W. Richards: No, exactly. Because I mean, that's the most valuable thing often that professors can give you is that kind of constructive feedback where you're being told what you don't really want to hear, but you need to hear. And if you know that, you say, "Well, I needed to hear that. Now what do I do about it?" You're more likely to improve. But if you're perpetually offended, you're in big trouble.
Scott Rae: Now, probably the most provocative thing you say in the book, is the advice to follow your passions is terrible advice.
Jay W. Richards: That's right.
Scott Rae: Why is that?
Jay W. Richards: And it is the thing I've gotten the most pushback on. In fact, in an article online, somebody called me a heretic for saying this, and the reason is he thought I was saying, don't follow your calling. That's not what I said. In fact, I think that God does call us to do certain things and part of preparing for life is to figure out, okay, what has God uniquely suited me to do, and finding that and orienting yourself. But the other thing you have to do is to adapt to the world. So the reality is that our passions are fleeting things, at least as I'm using the word. I had passions. I wanted to be an oceanographer at one point as a kid, I wanted to be a rock musician, but it was something every week.
Scott Rae: I wanted to play in the NBA.
Jay W. Richards: NBA. No, exactly. People are passionate about all sorts of things. Most of those are not good career paths, at least initially, unless we spent time orienting ourselves so that we say, okay, first of all, what do people need? What would they want? What can I provide? What would I be good at? What has God fitted me for? If you're doing that, you're sort of working your way down the funnel and you're narrowing the options. You're not just saying-
Scott Rae: That's much wiser.
Jay W. Richards: ... "What excites me?" I mean, we'd never tell a 12 year old, "Well, just do whatever you think's fun." That's the last thing you'd tell them. And yet we tell 17 and 18 year olds to follow their passion. Well first of all, a lot of them don't even have a clear passion. And if they do, it's not likely probably to be something that's going to be a good longterm job prospect.
Scott Rae: Well, and some people actually are losing sleep over the fact that they don't.
Jay W. Richards: No, exactly. And I think that's the problem is because sometimes because of the fact that we don't quite know what the future holds, very often you have to just feel your way around. And we'd all love to get sort of an email from heaven where God just specifies for us, okay, just do this, do this, and then do this.
I often used to pray this way: "God, just tell me exactly what to do." He rarely does that. And so my assumption is that he wants us to feel around a little bit.
Scott Rae: Well, because he doesn't want you shirking responsibility for it.
Jay W. Richards: No, exactly. He wants you looking out and figuring these things out. And especially in a constantly changing world, expect that. Sometimes people say in the sixth grade, "I want to be a violinist," and that's what they do. That's great. But don't assume that that's the norm. In fact, I think that's the exception.
Scott Rae: But don't we often use things that you are most passionate about as an indicator of calling and vocation- [crosstalk 00:21:11].
Jay W. Richards: Yes. Yes, absolutely. Well, that's the trick.
Scott Rae: Okay, so how does that connect?
Jay W. Richards: And so I think you need to put it in a theological context. And so first of all, there are going to be lots of things that you're passionate about, but if you're thinking about, okay, what should I do for a career? So I'm assuming a career, this is going to be the way that you make money. So it's by definition going to need to be something that somebody's willing to pay you to do. And so there might be lots of things you love to do that are just hobbies and indulgences. That's fine, but you shouldn't expect that if you want to play World of Warcraft or whatever, somebody's going to pay you to do it, right? It's a hobby that you hopefully don't do very often.
And so that sort of question in which you say, "Okay, well, God calls me to do something, but I have to do something in order to make a living in a world of scarcity that is beneficial to people," then what you're doing is you're starting to align, okay, what are the things out there I'm going to need to provide with ... What would I be good at? What would I really like to do? What could I throw myself into? So when I say don't follow your passion or follow your passion is bad advice, I'm not saying don't look at what you're sort of called to or- [crosstalk 00:22:12].
Scott Rae: Don't just ignore what your passions are.
Jay W. Richards: Yes, don't ignore that, but don't assume that whatever you happen to be passionate about today is necessarily by itself going to tell you what you ought to devote your life to. That's all- [crosstalk 00:22:23].
Scott Rae: I think that that's actually very, very helpful and it's nuanced sort of just right because I wouldn't want to discourage people from following their dreams.
Jay W. Richards: No, not at all.
Scott Rae: But I do think it's good advice, the question you raised about: does the world need what you're passionate about? And it may be that what you're passionate about is not something anybody's going to pay you for.
Jay W. Richards: No, that's right. And then maybe that's-
Scott Rae: And that's okay.
Jay W. Richards: That's okay. And that could still be a hobby, but that's the difference between a career and a hobby. One is you do just mainly for your own entertainment, and the other one you do at least in part because you're trying to serve the needs of others.
Scott Rae: Here's another thing. I mean, the book is full of these really provocative things that they're just so interesting, they just demand to be teased out a little bit more. You say that altruism's one of the most misunderstood facts about our market system.
Jay W. Richards: Absolutely. Well in altruism, if you look up the word and the etymology is from the Latin word alter, which means other. And so to be altruistic sort of in the narrow sense is just to act for the benefit of others. So when we hear altruism, most people think of Mother Teresa because they identify it just with self-sacrifice in which you essentially forego something-
Scott Rae: Total self-sacrifice.
Jay W. Richards: Total self-sacrifice, right? Jesus on the cross, right? That is a type of altruism, but there's also a type of what we'll call commercial altruism in which you are also interested in fulfilling some need that you have, which in order to do it, you actually need to serve other people. And so almost every job that we do is actually like this, right? If you're a good barista or you're a good executive assistant, you may just be doing those jobs mainly because you need to pay the rent or get braces for your daughter, but you're not going to be any good unless you can constantly attend to the needs of others. And that's a type of altruism that I think we miss.
And so in a market economy with the rule of law, that's sort of the best way, that's the most assured way of actually being able to get someone to pay you to do something, is to find, okay, what do they need? And find a way to fulfill that. That's a type of altruism. The problem is we have this really silly bifurcation in which you either have total self-sacrifice as altruism, or it's all just greed and selfishness, right? That's a really unrealistic and I think just false way of viewing the world.
Scott Rae: Yeah, that's a false dichotomy. I actually think we can take this a step further in distinctly Christian terms, and say that the market system is one of the chief ways in which we can love our neighbor.
Jay W. Richards: Absolutely.
Scott Rae: Now, would you also hold that that's true in a global economy where I may never see my neighbor face-to-face-
Jay W. Richards: Yes.
Scott Rae: I may never meet him or her, but simply by virtue of those commercial transactions, I am loving my neighbor? Or is that a stretch of the concept?
Jay W. Richards: I don't think it's a stretch of the concept, at least if you understand that. Now, I do think, this is Hayek's famous analysis, that the way in which you interact with people close to you is personal and different. You know what the effects of your actions are, right, whereas I don't know exactly what the effects of my actions on a factory worker in Thailand are, necessarily. But if you study the market system in the market process and you say, okay, no one has access to all the sort of information needed to produce something, the best way in which those actions can be coordinated in this world is a market system with price signals so that people don't have to know the whole system, but they can make decisions based at the local levels and it ends up benefiting other people. And so I think honestly it's the sort of thing that a lot of people don't even think is possible and we wouldn't think it's possible except that the products of this process are everywhere around us.
Scott Rae: Let's take for example that a number of our listeners decide while they're listening to this, that they want to order your book. And so while they're listening to this, they're on their computer, on Amazon, and they hit that buy with one click.
Jay W. Richards: Yes, exactly.
Scott Rae: So how many people go into action when that order is placed?
Jay W. Richards: Who knows? It's millions. And if you were to trace all of the physical infrastructure and the technological infrastructure, it's tens of millions of people are involved. None of them know about this particular detail, most were presumably both trying to provide something for people, also meet their own needs. It makes sense that we would normally, as Adam Smith said, be concerned about the needs of our children and our nearest neighbors. And yet they provide something, in this kind of distant way, as a result both of their own actions and this market process that's been set up.
Scott Rae: Yeah. But I still think that's a little bit counterintuitive-
Jay W. Richards: It is.
Scott Rae: ... for most people to think that you could actually love someone that you don't ever meet, or never see face-to-face.
Jay W. Richards: Absolutely. Yeah, and there is a sort of moral proximity question, right? In which you know most certainly the effects of your actions up close, right? I know exactly what my daughter needs, I know what my daughter's allergies, are and things like that. And so there's a type of social interaction that's appropriate to them. And so then the question is what types of social interactions ... And interactions scale at different sizes. Well, we can't love everyone at 7 billion people in the world the way we love our children, obviously. It doesn't mean we can't act in certain ways and do things that actually help them and that are in some extended sense, I think, an act of loving and altruism.
Scott Rae: Yeah, we have different obligations based on different relationships.
Jay W. Richards: Yeah, absolutely.
Scott Rae: So put on your prophetic hat for a minute. What do you think are some of the disruptions that are coming in the next, say, 18 to 24 months, that we ought to be on the lookout for?
Jay W. Richards: 18 to 24 months is a little harder to say, but I do think-
Scott Rae: Or whatever time period- [crosstalk 00:28:06].
Jay W. Richards: I'll say five years. Increasingly autonomous cars and vehicles, I think, are are just near the horizon, and in terms of jobs, that's going to be the most significant for long haul trucking, primarily because long haul trucking's actually an easier problem to solve than, say, in-city driving. It's straight on interstates, essentially. And in many states, that's the number one job for men, is long haul trucking, many of whom that's all they've ever done. And so I think there's a disruption there. And I'm not expecting that suddenly we're going to have trucks driving themselves. I just think that we're going to need fewer people to do a lot of the work that was requiring one person per truck before. And so that's where I see a disruption coming, at least in the near term.
Scott Rae: In the short term.
Jay W. Richards: Yeah. And then those factories that are still organized around that simple assembly line model in which the workers on the factory floor are not doing skilled work. They're doing really repetitive work. I think those are in danger. A lot of those have already disappeared, but there's some.
Scott Rae: It's going to be interesting to see how that affects the global economy. [crosstalk]
Jay W. Richards: Absolutely, especially because a lot of those factors are in other parts of the world now, not in the United States.
Scott Rae: Okay. One last question. Give our listeners a note of hope, amidst the disruptions that are coming.
Jay W. Richards: Absolutely. My argument in the book, it's why it's called The Human Advantage, is that we're in what's now, we can call it the information economy. We've moved from this industrial economy into an economy in which the production of new, meaningful information is the primary source of wealth. Here's the good news. Human beings have exclusive jurisdiction on the production of new and meaningful information. And so rather than thinking the information economy is going to increasingly alienate us, if we orient ourselves properly, we can actually more of us start doing those things that only humans can do, so that in some ways we're leaving and producing, creating machines to do some of the things that we could have done. And we're going to be moving more and more to those things that are uniquely human pursuits. And I think that's a positive message.
Scott Rae: Right. And as a Christian, I mean, what gives you hope?
Jay W. Richards: We are creatures made in the image of the creative God and God commanded the first man and woman, "Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it," and I think that's what we're supposed to be doing. And that's what we're doing.
Scott Rae: Okay, that's great stuff. This just begs for a follow-up, so we'll do a follow-up on this at some point, but Jay, thank you so much for being with us. I want to highly recommend the book, The Human Advantage: The Future of American Work in an Age of Smart Machines, especially the discussion of the virtues necessary for not only surviving, but prospering and flourishing in this age of disruption that's coming, but yet recognizing that there's a human advantage ultimately because we're made in the image of our creator, God.
Jay W. Richards: Absolutely. Thanks, Scott.
Scott Rae: This has been great stuff. Thank you so much for being with us.
This has been an episode of the podcast Think Biblically: Conversations on Faith and Culture. To learn more about us and today's guest, Doctor Jay Richards, and to find more episodes, go to biola.edu/thinkbiblically. That's biola.edu/thinkbiblically. If you enjoyed today's conversation, give us a rating on your podcast app and please do share it with a friend. Thanks so much for listening and remember, think biblically about everything.