Why (most) jobs will become irrelevant… The rise of the self-sustaining individual

Attila Szigeti
Feb 18, 2015 · 6 min read

Over the last few weeks, more and more people have contemplated the effects of Uber-like models, the rise of API-s and the decline of below the API jobs. Contrary to the majority, I still see our future as bright as the North Star…

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It all started with a Bloomberg article about Google building an Uber competitor. Among all the articles anatomising the short and mid term effect of this, there was a very intriguing one. Peter Reinhard, CEO and co-founder of Segment explored how API-s will replace middle management. To cross the t-s and dot all the i-s, Anthony Kosner depicted a grim future possibility in which API-s and automation will take over most of the currently human powered job opportunities.

Above and below the API jobs. Source: Forbes.com

The result? Within decades we will end up in a world where some 7–9 billion people will desperately try to survive by competing for job opportunities, with inhumanly efficient algorithms and robots. Maybe a fraction of people will be able to hold onto professions that keep them above the API.

“Uber drivers, Amazon Mechanical Turk workers, 99design contestants, TaskRabbit taskers and HomeJoy cleaners are all targets for further automation. “

But what will we do with the billions of underskilled, unemployed people? How can we emerge from such a system collapse?

I agree that the not-too-distant future (1–3 decades from now) will be hard as hell. But after that, we might just enter a new era of equality and peace.

With the maturation of technologies like 3D printing and biohacking, VR, personalised medicine (and drugs), in-vitro food, we will see the emergence of self-sustaining individuals (and small groups), as a repeatable and viable model. This will make us independent from the larger social, economical, physical structures — like world economy, cities and such.

Let’s examine the pieces of the puzzle, before we fit them together

100% Internet coverage

This one is a no-brainer. By using satellites, balloons or similar, we will be able to easily connect to the internet from anywhere. Which also means access to all the knowledge, all our connections…


Combine the above with VR, and you won’t even have to move from your room to explore the world. Unsatisfied with the current VR experience? Fear not. Maybe DARPA’s cortical modem will solve your needs. See, feel, smell like you are wherever, from your couch. Welcome to the Matrix.

3D printing and/or biohacking

Maybe the most important component for the self-sustaining model. A 3D printer that can replicate itself and also create clothing and building material like stuff and also working gadgets. Seems like sci-fi? There are already ongoing experiments to solve self replication. Obviously, for 3D printing you need special material. But what if you could take common organic material (like grass…) and use it to build stuff? (This reminds me to put biohacking and 3D printing on my learning list…)


You want to go somewhere, or to deliver something? Matternet will satisfy your needs. But why would you even want to travel or transport anything, if you can print all the physical stuff you need, and access anybody, any place via VR?

Renewable energy

Another no-brainer. Just buy a mobile solar or wind cell, and you can pretty much power your 3D printer and all the gadgets you printed for yourself. Ohh, and did you hear that we might even have solar cells that we can 3D print?

Personalized medicine

Worried that you will get sick? Just take advantage of long distance medicine, then print your personalised drugs. Easy peasy.

In-vitro food

Of course it would be nice to have access to healthy, tasty food. Thank God, soon we will be able to grow meat (can’t be more disgusting than how sausage is made today). And growing vegetables in small places is already working. And if you are into bugs, there’s a machine just for you.

Each of these things already exists at least as a prototype. And they will become trivial part of everyday life within the next decades.

And when these happen, people will have a choice. Try to remain part of an obsolete system where everybody plays a tiny part, as a worker — doing stuff for salary, living in giant cities…

Or just grab one of these solar powered 3D printers with self-replicating capability, go to a lovely place, print a house, print clothes, print some gadgets, home-grow food, and do what feels right.

And if they don’t want to live their lives as a lonely individual, they can join with people they find appealing, and live their lives in small groups. Families will raise their children, and when the time comes, they will just print another 3D printer, powered by abundantly available biomaterial and powered by endless solar power. Then the young adult can go and explore the world, find a lovely place, print a house…

Of course, even if this naively optimistic future happens, we still face a more imminent question. How can we survive the coming decades of mass-unemployment caused by mass-automation?

I believe, the only way out is to enhance our skills, push our capabilities. Through (digital) learning. Which of course presents huge challenges in itself…

We will have to conduct a long series of experiments to figure out how to bring the offline learning experience to online courses, how we can deliver learning material in a personalized way, how we can go from pushing students from memorizing textbooks to simulation based learning, how to properly motivate and keep students engaged...

Challenge accepted!

The point is, that if we build up our ability to invent and innovate, to inspire and lead others, we might become irreplaceable, at least might keep us floating above the API threshold.

    Attila Szigeti

    Written by

    Building new ventures and startup studios. Book: startupstudioplaybook.com | Tools: startupstudio.vc

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