As a VC, I’ve been researching and tracking technologies broadly within the “Future of Work” space. Ask any VC and you’ll get different responses as to what Future of Work covers — be it collaboration, productivity, AR/VR, RPA, and more. So I thought I’d share some of our early learnings at Work-Bench, which are ever-evolving — we’d love to hear from you, and to continue to learn.
- I spend an inordinate amount of time thinking (and worrying) about the future of minimum wage jobs.
- My father, as an immigrant, came to the US and worked minimum wage jobs — at a gas station, as a bus boy. He eventually went on to become a software developer at Bell Labs and then a lawyer.
- I have been teaching the GED for 10 years — right now, at the 1199 SEIU Labor Union Group, to adult students who almost all hold 2 jobs, have 3 kids, and for whom English is a second language.
- If the robot/automation apocalypse is coming and 1/3 of American jobs will be displaced because of automation by 2030 (with the top 10 jobs with the greatest number of American employees, 8 being minimum wage) — where will 1/3 of Americans go to find new jobs?
- If we are on the wave of the Fourth Industrial Revolution and at a rate of disruption unlike any other before — then we should see an accompanying rise of emerging technologies in education to retrain and reskill people to keep up with ever-evolving jobs.
- Yet while we have seen massive technology gains in healthcare, e-commerce, transportation, biotech, entertainment, and more across robotics, autonomous vehicles, biometrics, AR/VR, machine learning and computer vision — I have yet to see these same technical leaps applied to retraining and reskilling.
- The form factors and tools for learning and training have fundamentally stayed the same for the past hundreds of years (in-person, voice), with little to no re-imagining of how we create, deploy, and consume new skills. It remains excruciating painful for an employer to author training content, which then makes it harder and harder for people to learn and pick up skills for new jobs.
- I am alarmed for the millions of people who are currently working minimum wage jobs, and where they will go to find new jobs that can provide for them and their families in 15–20 years.
- While I don’t believe all jobs will be automated away — I do believe that these workers will be less and less capable of building a financial safety net for themselves, and even less likely to access education opportunities to adequately prepare them for new jobs.
- So given this…where are the areas in deep tech to apply and create new form factors for reskilling and retaining 1/3 of Americans?
Opportunities for Deep Tech to Be Applied to Reskilling/Retraining
- AR/VR — while this space has been slow to pick up, companies like our Work-Bench portfolio company Upskill are gaining great traction at manufacturing and industrial companies
- Voice — conversation intelligence from sales enablement companies like Gong.io and Chorus.ai
- Biometrics, Emotion Detection and Tracking — some early MIT research here, and across healthcare advances like smartphone video apps
- Neurotrophic Research — i.e. Neuralink and some early memory stimulation research here (or even building apps that applies basic neurological principles like blocking and interleaving).
- New Form Factors for Content Delivery — facial recognition engines and AR interfaces of of Snapchat and Pokemon Go
- Predictive Analytics & Personalization — what we have seen in dynamic and intelligent content for marketing and recommendation engines, i.e. Movable Ink, Netflix, etc.
- Wearable Tech for Safety/Productivity — Humanyze, Kinetic
- Universal Basic Income — some very early thoughts on the applications of blockchain here.
If you’re thinking about the intersection of deep tech and applying it to the future of minimum wage jobs, I’d love to talk.