There is a bet on the prediction site Metaculus, that asks will US labor force participation drop below 10%? The formulation of the argument for the question focuses on automation and a related question on Whole Brain Emulation or other paths to Artificial General Intelligence.
The U.S. labor participation rate stood at 61.4% as of February 2021, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), which publishes updates monthly. The monthly figures have hovered around 63% since 2013, after a sharp decline in the wake of the Great Recession. In August 2020, there were 13.6 million unemployed, up 7.6 million from the 6 million in August 2019.
One of the many anticipated effects of automation is a decline in the labor force participation rate. For example, in 1850 about 76.6% of men aged 65 and older participated in the labor force. This figure is now down to 23.38%. Among other factors, this decline probably reflects a shift from work to leisure among older people as society got richer from automation.
US life expectancy in 1850 was 41 for men and 20 for women. In 1850, farm people made up 4.9 million, or about 64 percent, of the USA 7.7 million workers.
* In 1883, the German chancellor, Otto Von Bismarck, in a maneuver against Marxists who were burgeoning in power and popularity, announced that anyone over 65 years old would be forced to retire and that he would pay a pension to them.
* Retirement as a concept began to be widely adopted in the United States after the period of the Industrial Revolution.
* President Franklin D. Roosevelt proposed the Social Security Act of 1935, which made workers pay for their own particular retirement.
The cause of reduced labor force participation is people getting wealthy enough to retire and longer lives. Automation impacted this by helping to generate the wealth all people could be 60% as active to achieve sufficient societal wealth. There were other means of productivity boosting. Automation was not the majority reason for boosting productivity. There was mastering coal, oil and other energy.
The extrapolation of these trends is life extension enables people to live to 400 years, then labor force participation could drop to 10% if people still only work less than 40 years and retire most of the rest of the time. Automation would not be the driving factor other than increasing the wealth of society to enable reduced participation. The example of older people labor participation dropping is because of people living to 80 years on average and the 55-65 age of retirement and social security and retirement planning. Continued extrapolation is people live to 400 and overall labor participation drops.
Societally, I think people will have serial careers and participate in something that would be called labor. But it will not be the classic robo-automation.
I think radical life extension will happen.
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
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