2 Billion Jobs to Disappear by 2030

2 Billion Jobs to Disappear by 2030

Futurist Thomas Frey at TEDxReset Istanbul 2012 201

A picture of me speaking at yesterday's TEDxReset in Istanbul.

Yesterday I was honored to be one of the featured speakers at the TEDxReset Conference in Istanbul, Turkey where I predicted that over 2 billion jobs will disappear by 2030. Since my 18-minute talk was about the rapidly shifting nature of colleges and higher education, I didn’t have time to explain how and why so many jobs would be going away. Because of all of the questions I received afterwards, I will do that here.

If you haven’t been to a TEDx event, it is hard to confer the life-changing nature of something like this. Ali Ustundag and his team pulled off a wonderful event.

The day was filled with an energizing mix of musicians, inspiration, and big thinkers. During the breaks, audience members were eager to hear more and peppered the speakers with countless questions. They were also extremely eager to hear more about the future.

When I brought up the idea of 2 billion jobs disappearing (roughly 50% of all the jobs on the planet) it wasn’t intended as a doom and gloom outlook. Rather, it was intended as a wakeup call, letting the world know how quickly things are about to change, and letting academia know that much of the battle ahead will be taking place at their doorstep.

Here is a brief overview of five industries - where the jobs will be going away and the jobs that will likely replace at least some of them - over the coming decades.


No one will miss the clutter and chaos of power lines.

1.) Power Industry

Until now, the utility companies existed as a safe career path where little more than storm-related outages and an occasional rate increase would cause industry officials to raise their eyebrows.

Yet the public has become increasingly vocal about their concerns over long-term health and environmental issues relating to the current structure and disseminating methods of the power industry, causing a number of ingenious minds to look for a better way of doing things.

Recently I was introduced to two solutions that seem predestined to start the proverbial row of dominoes to start falling. There are likely many more waiting in the wings, but these two capitalize on existing variances found in nature and are unusually elegant in the way they solve the problem of generating clean power at a low cost.

Both companies have asked me to keep quiet about their technology until they are a bit farther along, but I will at least explain the overarching ramifications.

I should emphasize that both technologies are intended to work inside the current utility company structure, so the changes will happen within the industry itself.

To begin with, these technologies will shift utilities around the world from national grids to micro grids that can be scaled from a single home to entire cities. The dirty power era will finally be over and the power lines that dangle menacingly over our neighborhoods, will begin to come down. All of them.

While the industry will go through a long-term shrinking trend, the immediate shift will cause many new jobs to be created.

Jobs Going Away

  • Power generation plants will begin to close down.
  • Coal plants will begin to close down.
  • Many railroad and transportation workers will no longer be needed.
  • Even wind farms, natural gas, and bio-fuel generators will begin to close down.
  • Ethanol plants will be phased out or repurposed.
  • Utility company engineers, gone.
  • Line repairmen, gone.

New Jobs Created

  • Manufacturing power generation units the size of ac units will go into full production.
  • Installation crews will begin to work around the clock.
  • The entire national grid will need to be taken down (a 20 year project). Much of it will be recycled and the recycling process alone will employ many thousands of people.
  • Micro-grid operations will open in every community requiring a new breed of engineers, managers, and regulators.
  • Many more.


San Francisco–based design team Mike and Maaike's concept car, the ATNMBL (the "autonomobile").

2.) Automobile Transportation – Going Driverless

Over the next 10 years we will see the first wave of autonomous vehicles hit the roads, with some of the first inroads made by vehicles that deliver packages, groceries, and fast-mail envelopes.

The first wave of driverless vehicles will be luxury vehicles that allow you to kick back, listen to music, have a cup of coffee, stop wherever you need to along the way, stay productive in transit with connections to the Internet, make phone calls, and even watch a movie or two, for substantially less than the cost of today’s limos.

Driverless technology will initially require a driver, but it will quickly creep into everyday use much as airbags did. First as an expensive option for luxury cars, but eventually it will become a safety feature stipulated by the government.

The greatest benefits of this kind of automation won’t be realized until the driver’s hands are off the wheel. With over 2 million people involved in car accidents every year in the U.S., it won’t take long for legislators to be convinced that driverless cars are a substantially safer and more effective option.

The privilege of driving is about to be redefined.

Jobs Going Away

  • Taxi and limo drivers, gone.
  • Bus drivers, gone.
  • Truck drivers, gone.
  • Gas stations, parking lots, traffic cops, traffic courts, gone.
  • Fewer doctors and nurses will be needed to treat injuries.
  • Pizza (and other food) delivery drivers, gone.
  • Mail delivery drivers, gone.
  • FedEx and UPS delivery jobs, gone.
  • As people shift from owning their own vehicles to a transportation-on-demand system, the total number of vehicles manufactured will also begin to decline.

New Jobs Created

  • Delivery dispatchers
  • Traffic monitoring systems, although automated, will require a management team.
  • Automated traffic designers, architects, and engineers
  • Driverless “ride experience” people.
  • Driverless operating system engineers.
  • Emergency crews for when things go wrong.

iTunes u 23542354

Apple is involved in another life changing innovation with iTunes U.

3.) Education

The OpenCourseware Movement took hold in 2001 when MIT started recording all their courses and making them available for free online. They currently have over 2080 courses available that have been downloaded 131 million times.

In 2004 the Khan Academy was started with a clear and concise way of teaching science and math. Today they offer over 2,400 courses that have been downloaded 116 million times.

Now, the 8,000 pound gorilla in the OpenCourseware space is Apple’s iTunes U. This platform offers over 500,000 courses from 1,000 universities that have been downloaded over 700 million times. Recently they also started moving into the K-12 space.

All of these courses are free for anyone to take. So how do colleges, that charge steep tuitions, compete with “free”?

As the OpenCourseware Movement has shown us, courses are becoming a commodity. Teachers only need to teach once, record it, and then move on to another topic or something else.

In the middle of all this we are transitioning from a teaching model to a learning model. Why do we need to wait for a teacher to take the stage in the front of the room when we can learn whatever is of interest to us at any moment?

Teaching requires experts. Learning only requires coaches.

With all of the assets in place, we are moving quickly into the new frontier of a teacherless education system.

Jobs Going Away

  • Teachers.
  • Trainers.
  • Professors.

New Jobs Created

  • Coaches.
  • Course designers.
  • Learning camps.

3D Printed Building 564

Prototype of a 40' X 40' 3D Printer capable of printing a small building

4.) 3D Printers

Unlike a machine shop that starts with a large piece of metal and carves away everything but the final piece, 3D printing is an object creation technology where the shape of the objects are formed through a process of building up layers of material until all of the details are in place.

stereolithography hull photo

Chuck Hull in front of stereolithography machine.

The first commercial 3D printer was invented by Charles Hull in 1984, based on a technique called stereolithography.

Three-dimensional printing makes it as cheap to create single items as it is to produce thousands of items and thus undermines economies of scale. It may have as profound an impact on the world as the coming of the factory did during the Henry Ford era.

3D-printer clothing 653

3D Printed Dress

3D-printer - shoes 653

3D Printed Shoes

Jobs Going Away

  • If we can print our own clothes and they fit perfectly, clothing manufacturers and clothing retailers will quickly go away.
  • Similarly, if we can print our own shoes, shoe manufacturers and shoe retailers will cease to be relevant.
  • If we can print construction material, the lumber, rock, drywall, shingle, concrete, and various other construction industries will go away.

New Jobs Created

  • 3D printer design, engineering, and manufacturing.
  • 3D printer repairmen will be in big demand.
  • Product designers, stylists, and engineers for 3D printers.
  • 3D printer 'Ink' sellers.

Dog Bot 345

Boston Dynamics' BigDog

5.) Bots

We are moving quickly past the robotic vacuum cleaner stage to far more complex machines.

The BigDog robot, shown above, is among the most impressive and potentially useful for troops in the immediate future--it's being developed to act as an autonomous drone assistant that'll carry gear for soldiers across rough battlefield terrain.

Nearly every physical task can conceivably be done by a robot at some point in the future.

Jobs Going Away

  • Fishing bots will replace fishermen.
  • Mining bots will replace miners.
  • Ag bots will replace farmers.
  • Inspection bots will replace human inspectors.
  • Warrior drones will replace soldiers.
  • Robots can pick up building material coming out of the 3D printer and begin building a house with it.

New Jobs Created

  • Robot designers, engineers, repairmen.
  • Robot dispatchers.
  • Robot therapists.
  • Robot trainers.
  • Robot fashion designers.

Final Thoughts

In these five industries alone there will be hundreds of millions of jobs disappearing. But many other sectors will also be affected.

Certainly there’s a downside to all this. The more technology we rely on, the more breaking points we’ll have in our lives.

Driverless drones can deliver people. These people can deliver bombs or illicit drugs as easily as pizza.

Robots that can build building can also destroy buildings.

All of this technology could make us fat, dumb, and lazy, and the problems we thought we were solving become far more complicated.

We are not well-equipped culturally and emotionally to have this much technology entering into our lives. There will be backlashes, “destroy the robots” or "damn the driverless car" campaigns with proposed legislation attempting to limit its influence.

At the same time, most of the jobs getting displaced are the low-level, low-skilled labor positions. Our challenge will be to upgrade our workforce to match the labor demand of the coming era. Although it won’t be an easy road ahead it will be one filled with amazing technology and huge potentials as the industries shift.

By Futurist Thomas Frey

Author of “Communicating with the Future” - the book that changes everything


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174 Responses

  1. The Internet opens up a lot of opportunities for new kind of jobs. I agree with you that many of the jobs that you have listed are likely disappear and instead virtual jobs will be created. Take retail nowadays. Big brands sell more stuff online than in their shops. Shops are still kept alive just to let remind people of the existence of these brands but the bulk of sales comes from the online shops.

  2. pigbitinmad

    Sure, it would be great to have Robots do everything and everyone reap the benefits. But do you really think that can ever happen. This is not taking into account the essential ugliness of human nature. Only the top 1% who feel that they own the technology will benefit and F the rest of us. The 7 out of 8 will just have to reduce the surplus population and go die.

  3. A. Novotny

    I always enjoy reading about prediction what might happen in the next 20,30 years in the future and yet those so-called experts can’t even tell us with accuracy what the weather will be in the next 24 hours

  4. MiKayla Clark



    I mean, it’s nice and all but…you can’t just get rid of certain jobs just like that and replace them with THINGS. What’s the point? Seriously, I hate this. I don’t want my future kids living in a world like that. I want REAL teachers for them, REAL drivers, everything.

  5. FuturistSpeaker


    Thanks for your comments. I’m quite sure you’ll always have the option to work with “real” teachers and “real” drivers, but over time they’ll get increasingly expensive and will be considered the inferior option. A hundred years ago people were saying they still wanted to travel using a “real” horse rather than a mechanical one. Your thinking will very likely change over time.


  6. We are at the end of the usefulness of money. Google the resource based economy.



    There is much more we can do. Like explore space and learn so much more. No need to sit back to be lazy.

  7. jared

    What’s the power generation technology company up to? Having been in the process of licensing their tech almost a year ago, I don’t see any of it being deployed in my neck of the woods. Any updates?

  8. FuturistSpeaker


    As with most startups, they ran into some unforeseen circumstances. I’ll let you know as I hear more.

    Thomas Frey

  9. Rohit T

    Basically, technology will make lots of jobs obsolete. I guess engineers and scientists helping to develop that technology will be the most in demand.

  10. It is clear to see what people may want, but not what people can produce in exchange for it.

    As routine jobs will get automated, there will be very few remaining positions left. There is no limits to what machines can be made to do. But there are limits to what majority of people can learn to do.

    If production of all necessities was automated, then the cost of products would be close to zero. But that will never happen if consumers don’t own the production. So if the price of necessities remains the same, what exactly will consumer produce in exchange for it?

    This will lead to trade imbalance and destruction of free market.

  11. D. Ewan

    I’d really like to know how the micro-grid power source is supposed to work. It’s been well over 2 years. Does your non-disclosure agreement go on forever?

  12. As related to space exploration, the high frontier of space will only be a realm of
    freedom if American power is used to secure it.

    Brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, grandparents and grandchildren may all find themselves employed in a family business.
    “Rougher,” Logan said the word as though he were trying it on for size.

  13. David

    I agree with almost everything you explain here, except with the education part. Teachers won’t disappear, at least not in every country. For example, in Spain teachers won’t disappier. I’m pretty sure about that the same way I’m sure that better teachers will be needed in that country. Why? Well, going to school in Spain is completely free (0-18 years).

    Your theories are very interesting, but you are too focused on countries like USA or UK.

  14. FuturistSpeaker


    Thanks for your comments. No, teachers will not completely disappear and no, there is no one-size-fit-all formula for learning. But if you consider the need for on-demand specialized training and the average person shifting careers six times by 2030, the percentage of teacher-led classes will dramatically decrease.

    One of the big drivers for new options is the fact that we have a global teacher shortage of over 18 million teachers and a full 23% of all young kids growing up do not attend any school whatsoever. We still have a lot of work ahead.

    Futurist Thomas Frey

  15. Şentekin Can

    Probably Mostar predictions will happen someday, however 2030 is just at the corner, may be by 2130 instead?
    We have had cars for almost 150 years now, and GM is almost bankrupt due to manufacturing defect recalls. Even reliable Toyota had to recall Prius. Can you imagine what would happen if they were to built defective driverless cars? Personal computers are widely used since 1970’s and still you can’t run one without rebooting once a while.
    Overall I rate these predictions equal to Gulliver’s travels.

  16. Todd

    I have to say that although the predictions you make sound exciting the reality is that as those low paying low income jobs go away the people that are left without employment of which make up a large percentage of the population will rebel and rise up against those who take away their ability to provide for themselves and there progeny.and the idea that they will be willing (or able at that time)to train to do something new will not appeal which will create a huge criminal element. i fear for the future of our species when all blue collar work is gone

  17. Curently

    Personal computers are widely used since 1970′s and still you can’t run one without rebooting once a while. google

  18. stephen w

    With all this occurring, why do we still talk about jobs as a whole for the economy? Jobs are just that: Tasks that need to be done. If it is replaced with robots, then that is making the the economy itself better. The quality of life is increased. But the problem with our capitalistic society is that money controls the quality of life and the “economy”, and not the jobs that people are so concerned about.

    With all of this coming to the plate, we need to start looking outside the form of currency, and start looking more towards what really matters: the management of limited resources. If we don’t, we really won’t last much longer in this world, and snuff ourselves out.

  19. Patrick

    I agree, many jobs will be gone. Who wanted to be a buggy whip manufacturer in 1880? However, I take articles like this with a huge grain. I can recall predictions in the early 60s of flying cars and such being the norm by now.

    What always gets failed to be considered by futurists is the two horns of economics and unintended consequences. because something is possible does not make it economically viable, nor does it mean it won’t create a bigger problem that it is trying to solve. In addition, there are many, many jobs automation will never be able to do. Robots will not build houses. If they even could, the number of specialized machines one would need to do the various jobs involved in just a single family home alone would exceed the cost of the entire development several times over. What about road building? Machines may be able to do that, but not without someone to program, run and repair them, in which case they may as well stick to men on bulldozers and graders.

    We will still need people to be police officers, firemen, EMTs lawyers, mechanics, residential and commercial painters, landscapers, carpenters, roofers, heating and air installers, and millions of other jobs.

  20. Sunil

    You had me going until the printing of lumber and concrete! Why not print gold and beer, then we won’t need jobs!

  21. Ethan

    Interesting read, and I agree on the given points. However, these are all the more obvious jobs which are at great risk of replacement. There are many which aren’t quite so easy to see. If you’re interested, look into “The Future of Employment” by Frey and Osborne of Oxford University. Machine learning is the real scary thing for job replacement. Goodbye accountants, data analysts, lawyers, doctors, etc..

  22. rj

    Well then it seems everybody will be quite free, so they(we) should be sent to mars.

  23. Thomas

    I really like your article but from reading your opinion about education, I went to college before 2001. Today student can google every question and there are companies dedicated to helping you cheat such as chegg. The classes that I had taken online were ones that I learned nothing from. If I had taken all my classes online, I would have learned nothing. My prediction for the future is that many companies will find MIT online degrees to be worthless except for math orientated degrees. I can already see a future for online MIT business major employee saying “I’m a little shaky with this concept called DEEEmand.”

  24. Konan Igan

    So how do we know THEY like this idea? IF we dont get ris of secret societies who steer and control the entire world… NONE of this will ever happen.

    So what happens to the 2 Biilion People who arent workign? Whats left off ehre 9 and it is good stuff) is that people are going to have to change a lot to meet this new future.

    We arent going to be able to have 4 billion low IQ people running around doing nothing…becaus ethey wont be doing nothing.

    The above scenarios sound good but the billions of low IQ people (no insult intended)will behave in what way?

    ANd then theres those pesky sociopaths who have to have way more than anyone else…what do we do with the sociopath Hitler leader styled types who will want to rule over everyone and control everything…the Luciferian Illuminati…casll them what you want to.

    We have to get rid of these NWO types or few will make it it past WW3…which is going to happen if the CIA and secret socieitesa are not destroyed.

  25. Konan Igan

    Konan Igan Says: Your comment is awaiting moderation.
    March 21st, 2015 at 11:08 am
    So how do we know THEY like this idea? IF we dont get rid of secret societies who steer and control the entire world… NONE of this will ever happen.

    So what happens to the billions of people who arent working? Whats left off (and it is good stuff) is that people are going to have to change a lot to meet this new future.

    We arent going to be able to have 4 billion low IQ people running around doing nothing…because they won’t be doing nothing…and they will be killing or whatever if they cant make the transition. Mankind must face itself and deal with the violent traits of men 1st if this is ever going to work.

    The above scenarios sound good but the billions of low IQ people (no insult intended)will behave in what way?

    And then theres those pesky sociopaths who have to have way more than anyone else…power fame fortune maybe all 3…what do we do with those sociopath Hitler leader styled types who will want to rule over everyone and control everything…the Luciferian Illuminati…call them what you want to….we must rid the world of these pointy headed sociopaths who have been steeped in ancient mystic BS….and practice it on the rest of the world like 911.

    For example…what do we do with the BUSH types? et. al.

    We have to get rid of these NWO types or few will make it it past WW3…which is going to happen if the CIA and secret socieitesa are not destroyed.

  26. Konan Igan

    MY main concern is not the next 25 years…but the next 5 years. How do we keep our own Secret Society Jesuit CIA and Roman Catholic Pope heads to not destroy the rest of us so THEY can still rule over the world THEY have run for the last at least 300 years ? Mmmm…?

    HOW…do we do this?

  27. Mike

    The big issue here is equality. We can’t have more than 1/2 the nation without money and the stability that comes with it. That’s the biggest issue that will need to be addressed. Are the rich just going to let the rest of us die since we will no longer be useful?

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