Friday, June 24, 2016

Driverless Cars in America: Will the Technology Outstrip Everything Else?

It’s been seven months since my last post on self-driving automobiles.  Normally, that’s too short a time to tackle the subject again even for many technical propositions, but this one has been zooming along like a Ferrari.  Since November, a mass of work, most being completely proprietary to the software companies, automakers, and electronics firms doing it, has been finished.  The otherwise beleaguered gypsy cab companies Lyft and then Uber have been working with Ford and General Motors toward offering driverless taxis.  Microsoft and Alphabet, Google’s parent company, have made their like ambitions public.  An elaborate artificial city section in Ann Arbor, Michigan, complete with storefront facades, 13 different traffic light varieties, expressway ramps, and parking meters, is being used by at least five world-class car manufacturers to test their autonomous products, and others are under construction in Ypsilanti, California, and Virginia.  There has been an outpouring of articles, ranging from Neal E. Boudette’s New York Times “5 Things That Give Self-Driving Cars Headaches” to one of course much better than the grammar of its headline, “As a senior citizen, a self-driving car will be my godsend,” in the Washington Post, and on to attempts to find the best related investment targets.  There is also a subtopic taking form about driverless large trucks, with many companies seeing them as a way of resolving their long-standing driver shortages without sufficiently raising pay. 

Although it is impossible to even decently estimate the amount of money and person-hours currently going toward this effort, it is crystal-clear that by 2020 or so such technology will be usable for ordinary consumers.  That, though, will prove to be its least limiting factor.    

The largest sticking point is the lack of a suitable environment.  At the least, places allowing driverless vehicles will need large-scale Wi-Fi, for the constant communication with online facilities these cars and trucks will require.  Citywide or better still statewide or nationwide wireless connectivity, built robustly and redundantly enough to make outages almost nonexistent, is the best way of dealing with potholes (located precisely through GPS), poor visibility on snowy roads (through detailed maps), and detours (with up-to-the-minute rerouting instructions).  Unfortunately, that is exactly the kind of infrastructure project that Congress has refused to fund.  Ultimately, only countries willing to build such a network will be able to fully implement driverless technology.  

There is a set of additional problems which might be described as barriers to mentality.  The first is one of the five headaches in Boudette’s story, described as “ethics on the road.”  One example he poses is a ball, followed by children, bouncing into the car’s path, giving it no choices beyond hitting the ball’s pursuers or crashing into something on the side of the road and endangering its occupants.  In this and many other situations, some people will lose and others will be spared, and there will be no human driver to explain his or her actions, only computer code with unknown originators.  Another is bizarre accidents rare but not unheard of, which will kill people before they are programmatically forestalled.  A third problem is one more from Boudette, “unpredictable humans,” which may never be eliminated.  (Could a modern-day superbly maintained bullet train driven on its immaculate track by a completely sober, prudent, and experienced engineer avoid tragedy when a person, suicidal or otherwise, somehow appears, say, 130 feet directly in front of it, or half a second away at its 180 miles per hour?)  The fourth issue concerns autonomous 18-wheel trucks, of which many people will, even if mishap rates are microscopic, be terrified.  Although it is clear that driverless vehicles will prove vastly less dangerous than human-driven ones, resistance to the accidents they will have, many of which would not take place if they were manually driven, will still be at least a temporary problem. 

What are the chances that we can overcome the concerns above?  How might self-driving technology be implemented in stages?  What else will happen with and around it?  These will be the subjects of next week’s post.  

Friday, June 17, 2016

Guaranteed Income, an Idea with Plenty of Merit, Returns to the News

There are few comprehensive possible solutions to the permanent jobs crisis caused mostly by automation, globalization, efficiency, and the exclusively one-way movement of these trends.  Three of the only four I have seen that could remove the problem completely are reduced working hours, assured government jobs, and a system of payments for providing electronic content.  The fourth is a guaranteed citizen’s income.

I wrote favorably about such a thing in a November 2014 post, and analyzed it in detail in Work’s New Age Chapter 8, so I will be brief about introducing it.  It has a long, honorable place in American political thought, with advocates on both the left (Bertrand Russell and John Kenneth Galbraith) and the right (Thomas Paine and Milton Friedman), since it offers not only the ultimate in social security but a minimum of government involvement.  Similar programs, from Alaska’s annual dividend to the national Earned Income Credit, have succeeded.  Its conceptual appeal rests on two facts:  that functioning markets not only require sellers but buyers, who must have money from somewhere; and that, although we have replaced jobs in extraction areas such as farming, fishing and mining with manufacturing ones, and in turn exchanged those for ones in services, we know of no paying employment that will replace endangered and disappearing jobs there.  To qualify as guaranteed income, as opposed to welfare, federal governments must provide money to all adult citizens, regardless of how much they earn from other sources.  Its largest obstacle is, of course, its cost.

After years of only occasional mention, guaranteed income – also called a “basic income” – has made the pages of The New York Times, The Economist, Financial Times, and elsewhere.  The impetus was probably Switzerland’s June 5 referendum, in which automatic monthly payments of SFR2500 and SFR625 in their currency almost at par with the U.S. dollar would have been made to each citizen adult and citizen child respectively.  Only 23% voted in favor of it, but its supporters expressed delight at that percentage being so high. 

In the wake of the Swiss plebiscite, commentators made several points about guaranteed income, with varying amounts of merit.  They suggested that it would cause reduced motivation for working, which is correct, but that would be held to a favorable level, reducing demand for work to something approximating the number of jobs available, if the stipend amounts were more like the $10,000 I have recommended instead of the too-high $30,000+ on which the Swiss voted, which would mean that people would need other sources of money if they wanted, for example, cars and sit-down restaurant meals.  (Interestingly, only 2% of Swiss citizens surveyed thought even the amount on which they voted would cause them to leave their jobs, but one-third thought others would do that – I suspect that Americans have the same perception gap.)

Writers also mentioned, as one put it, the problem of losing “the centrality of paid work to the way people live.”  That would be a more valid concern if it were not happening already, and there were fewer than the current 94 million not in the labor force at all.  The idea that the market, or “capitalism” in one commentator’s words, has always provided new jobs and so will continue to do that is also weak, since the only positions beyond extraction, manufacturing, and services are unpaid.  And it silly to suggest, as two did, that there would be a “stigma” about getting money every American would receive.

Three things from recent articles were more worthwhile.  The first was a chart in The Economist’s June 4th “Sighing for paradise to come,” a fine comprehensive piece despite its misleading title.  It showed how much money 12 different developed countries were now spending annually per person on social, non-health-care programs.  That, a starting point for funds redirectable to guaranteed income, showed that Denmark and Norway were highest at $10,900 and $10,700, with Sweden, Finland, and France also over $9,000 and Germany at $8,300.  The United States came in at $6,000, still a large amount and higher than Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada.  I have seen little before about two other concerns mentioned, that such redistribution, since it would benefit those with high incomes along with others, would be regressive, and that it would be incompatible with either open borders or with all residents receiving equal treatment.  Those may actually be good things, but are worthy of continuing discussion.

So where is the idea of guaranteed income going from here? Brazil, Canada, the Netherlands, and even India are now running small-scale experimental rollouts on it.  In Finland, 10,000 adults will receive 550 euros per month, or about $7,500 annually, for two years, toward possible national implementation.  It is hardly unthinkable that Switzerland might try another vote with a lower amount.  Two sources of increased American taxes worthy of consideration would be higher ones on estates, mentioned by Eduardo Porter in The New York Times, and a levy on financial transactions.  Both would affect those in the higher income brackets the most, paying for much of the stipends going to their economic peers.  Charles Murray, a nationally-known conservative author and commentator who has written before on basic income, is scheduled to soon publish an update to his previously released plan to provide $10,000 to each American 21 or over without increasing any taxes.

Overall, though, the bottom line is that it is premature to implement a guaranteed income in the United States.  There are still 151 million Americans employed, which, though decreasing as a percentage, is only doing so slowly.  That, though, is not the same as saying we should not be talking about it or even planning for it.  Perceptions can move at glacial paces, and this one may go from radical to necessary as soon as a couple of presidents from now.  “Forewarned is forearmed” is an ancient proverb for a reason, and dealing with guaranteed income before it is needed will prove to be one more example.          

Friday, June 10, 2016

Another Result of the Permanent Jobs Crisis: The Middle Class, As We Know It, Will Continue to Dwindle

Last month a Pew Research Center study made national news.  It found that the share of middle-class families, which it defined as those with between 66%+ and 200% of median household income, had dropped greatly and broadly.  The center found that of 229 metropolitan areas, 203 had a smaller percentage of middle-class households in 2014 than in 2000.  No longer, per the survey, do a majority of American adults have middle-class income. 

That however does not mean that American affluence is falling, for three reasons.  One, of the 229 there were more gaining upper-class shares (172) than lower-class ones (160).  Two, middle class as Pew defined it is only relative to others, without regard to how high that mean or median national income actually is.  Three, when you are evaluating nothing but income you have at best a rough approximation of true prosperity, which includes all the resources to which people have access;  if as now many things are free or much lower priced than in the past, they are measured little or not at all in income-based analyses.

The Pew piece precipitated various articles bemoaning the “shrinking,” if not “vanishing” or “disappearing,” middle class.  They came from the left, which incorrectly blamed American corporations, and the right, which incorrectly blamed Barack Obama.  They did, though, have some points worthy of concern.  Average family income has dropped $4,000, inflation-unadjusted, in 16 years.  Debt as a percentage of annual income has more than doubled since 1989, to 122%.  And perhaps saddest of all, median 2014 middle-class retirement savings, despite households getting older in general, sat at only $20,000.

Reestablishing a high middle-class percentage does not look easy from here.  We now have 4.7% official unemployment, which cannot get much lower without even more people leaving the labor force.  Women are fully integrated into the workforce, and their income, in most families, has done little more than offset how much less their husbands’ good career jobs pay, adjusted for inflation, compared to those a generation or two ago.  An increasing share of newly created positions pay too little for even two spouses working full-time at them to be assured of middle-class status as defined above.  Work, and income with it, has become increasingly concentrated into fewer and fewer people.  The savings rate is unlikely to improve, as the baby boom generation has been as a whole poor at keeping money, and younger millennials simply do not have work opportunities sufficient for them to do what would be best, setting cash aside in their 20s.  America may, frankly, simply have less economic equality than it has in the past. 
What can we do?  The best answer is for us to stop seeing ourselves in classes at all.  Over the next ten years or so we can refine a package of amenities within reach of all Americans.  They can include sufficient food, shelter, freedom from violent crime, health coverage through Obamacare or otherwise, a home computer with Wi-Fi or other high-speed Internet service and commensurate access to email along with vast numbers of free websites and oceans of information, the opportunity to live in such a way as to benefit from rising life expectancy, availability of low-priced consumer products as now available in Walmarts among other places, adequate heating, air conditioning in most climates, microwave ovens, cell phones, and more.  Most of those things would have been beyond the reach of our grandparents when they were our age, and we should not take them for granted.  The bulk is in place now, needing little more than national Wi-Fi, an idea now overdue – the rest we should continue to expect.

There is another side, though.  Some things we have long associated with the middle class will become indulgences that fewer people will have.  Those start with cars, and we should not take it as a sign of impoverishment that Americans, particularly those in cities with good public transportation, will be less likely to own them, or that couples, even if working, will more often share one.  Large cash holdings, whether used for savings or consumption, will continue being less the norm.  Having children should be a thoughtful choice, with many or even most choosing not to undertake that ever-increasing financial burden.  In contrast to postindustrial products such as software, hand-made items, whatever they are, will become luxuries, as will many manufactured ones.  And, of course, we can no longer expect that everyone with the ability to work will be able to find it.

The name for this new set of people?  If we want one at all, we can call it “sustaining class.”  That is where over 80% of Americans will be, with their prosperity gains real but coming more from technology improvements than from better jobs.  That is where our future is pointing.  

Friday, June 3, 2016

May: Latent Work Demand and Official Unemployment Move In Opposite Directions, as the American Job Shortage Number (AJSN) Increases 260,000 to 17.6 Million

Commentators yesterday called this morning’s Bureau of Labor Statistics employment release “the big one,” and expected we would gain about 160,000 net new positions.  Well, one out of two ain’t bad.

This 44th month of the American Job Shortage Number, or AJSN, started with the strangest set of federal data I have yet seen.  What on earth happened?
First, seasonally adjusted official joblessness, the headline number from this government-released report but not for much longer, fell all the way from 5.0% to 4.7%.  That was tremendously good.   

Second, we gained only 38,000 net new nonfarm jobs.  That was terrible, about 100,000 less than absorbed by our population increase, a five-year low, and a full 122,000 under than the solid consensus projection.

Third, the count of people not technically unemployed, but wanting work and not having looked for it for a year or more, soared a staggering 545,000 to just over 3.8 million.  The increase in latent demand for jobs from this group dwarfed the changes from all others, including those from 206,000 fewer unemployed, almost 900,000 fewer claiming no interest in work, and the oddly opposite 30,000 fall in persons discouraged.

Fourth, the two figures best showing how common it is for Americans to be working were split, with the employment-population ratio staying even at 59.7%, but the labor force participation rate matching April’s loss to reach 62.6% and heading again toward levels not seen since Jimmy Carter’s first full presidential year.

Fifth, while the number of officially unemployed people out for 27 weeks or longer actually fell almost 200,000 to 1.9 million, the count of those working part-time for economic reasons, or keeping short-hour positions while unsuccessfully seeking full-time ones, which had been ratcheting down for years, skyrocketed 468,000 and is now at 6.4 million, only 800,000 less than the officially completely jobless.  I know of no statistics on the number of people with temporary positions paying, say, half of what they once earned before, but that must be in the same range if not beyond it.

Sixth, average wages, though given to fluctuation and up significantly last time, rose another 5 cents per hour. 

Overall, the AJSN is significantly up, as follows:

The share of latent demand coming from those officially jobless is now under 37 percent, which I suspect is an all-time American high.  For decades, most people ready to go from working to not working were technically unemployed – now, that is not even close to true.

Two other good things went into May’s peculiar mix.  The unadjusted jobless rate went down as well, to 4.5%, and compared to a year before the AJSN is 900,000 lower, reflecting reduced latent demand of 1.05 million from those officially unemployed but 150,000 more from those with other statuses.  We also should not need to worry about interest rate boosts for a while.

The turtle was confused – he moved his legs around quite a bit for a member of his species, and considered various possibilities.  In the end, he took a decisive step, and forward or sideways it was not. 

Friday, May 27, 2016

The New Overtime Pay Rule, Unlike a Higher Minimum Wage, Is a Winner

Last week the Department of Labor adjusted a dollar amount unchanged in 41 years.  Effective December 1, the highest salary for which employers must pay time-and-a-half for weekly hours worked over 40 will increase from $23,660 to $47,476.  It will now increase, algorithmically, every three years.    

I do not support raising the minimum wage.  As I have written before, that costs jobs, rarely eliminates poverty, pushes demand for positions unnecessarily high, and sticks it most often not to the likes of McDonalds and Wal-Mart but to struggling local employers.  In a country where people’s wants and needs vary drastically, it is wrong that jobs paying below a certain amount are illegal.  Yet I do not see requirements for overtime eligibility the same way, and here is why.

First, requiring unpaid work is employee abuse.  Below a true management level, for which $47,000+ is a better approximation than $23,660, labor is an hourly expense.  Any requirement that production workers, be they making hamburgers or computer programs, provide it for free, whether they are compelled formally or informally, goes straight to the employer’s bottom line.   

Second, too much work and not enough people to do it during their regular hours is a human resources problem, for which the business’s management, not its workers, is responsible.

Third, over the past several decades there has been more and more concentration of work into fewer employees, which minimizes the number of jobs.  Avoiding hiring people by getting uncompensated hours from existing workers makes that worse.

Fourth, no longer will so many people need to choose between being promoted or getting higher pay.  That may sound strange, but if restaurant shift managers are expected to stay late whenever they are needed, those accepting that position may well earn less per hour than the newest salad maker. 

Fifth, the threshold adjustment will prevent the problem of many restaurant and retail managers, ostensibly hired to supervise, putting in unpaid extra time doing low-level tasks themselves.  These situations, as dirty as water after a manager washes dishes, will be cleared up.

Sixth, one of the few comprehensive solutions to the jobs crisis I have seen is to reduce working hours.  I think a normal standard of 30 a week would prove to be successful, and we are taking one step toward getting there by bringing that, in effect, down to 40.

As for the case against the change, I don’t remember seeing as many bad arguments on one issue as I have here.  Those opposing the law claim it will make managers punch time clocks (no need for that, and most managers fill out timecards, to track what projects they are working on, as it is), that jobs will become more rigid (only at the expense of volunteer work) with less telecommuting and flexible hours (employees can contemporaneously write down the hours they put in on paper, if recapping at the end of each week isn’t good enough), that businesses will be damaged by the loss of unpaid work (which also happened when slavery ended), that workers will lose “prestige” and suffer “demotions” (nonsense and nonsense), that it will call for excessive record-keeping (one small spreadsheet per work group?), that it will result in pay cuts and loss of benefits (employers can do that any time they want anyway), and, as maybe the most laughable example of false entitlement, that it will hurt universities by requiring they pay postdoctoral fellows and adjunct professors for the time they actually put in.  The only reasonable objection I have seen is making accounting for business travel more complex, but the laws on pay there should, of course, be the same for those now under the threshold. 

What will be the effect of this change?  Contrary to what President Obama said, it will not raise pay for a great deal of people.  Employers will have five main ways of dealing with the higher limit:  simply paying for overtime as it occurs, not having the extra work done, reducing base pay as to formalize the amount of hours the employees have actually been working, giving raises to bring workers over the maximum, and transferring work over 40 hours per week to new employees.  Only two of these would mean more money for workers, but two would give them extra free time.  As for opportunities, observers have different views on how many jobs this new law will generate, with Goldman Sachs economist Alec Phillips estimating 100,000 new ones next year, but California’s similar 1980 regulation created almost none.  We will need to wait and see. 

Although this threshold increase will mean change, three things should be clear to employers and employees.  Those earning more than this $47,476 – which is only the 1970 inflation-adjusted equivalent of $7,699 – can continue to be expressly paid for getting the job done, no matter how many hours it takes, and can put in all the extra time they want.  Despite one complaint, networking activities, if optional, will be unaffected.  And all workers will be as welcome as ever to advance themselves after hours.  Those things will continue to benefit businesses, but cheating their employees out of their labor will not.  That is a good thing.  

Friday, May 20, 2016

Ten Principles for What’s Still a Permanent Jobs Crisis

“For most of their lives, Americans have thought all good people could find work and support themselves.  That is gone forever, and no economic recovery will bring it back.”

In the five years since I put that on the back cover of Work’s New Age, we have had fine economic times.  We have added over 8 million net new jobs since 2013 alone, and the official unemployment rate is, at 5.0%, a hair above half of what it was when that book went to press.  The American Job Shortage Number (AJSN), showing latent demand for additional positions, has not improved as much, but is still down from 23.3 million in July 2009 to 17.3 million last month.  Over the past year wage increases have exceeded inflation, and the numbers of those officially jobless for 27 weeks or longer, and working part-time for economic reasons, are way down. 

Yet the jobs crisis is not over.  The events of the past seven years, if not the entire 43 since what I call the Winning by Default era ended, have broken the back of the idea that ordinary Americans can routinely get work at all, let alone support others or even themselves with it.  The labor force participation rate, the best indicator of how common it is for United States residents to be either working or officially unemployed, was last month at 62.8%, well below its 2008 Great Recession 65.8%-66.2% range.  Since that recession ended in 2009, a disproportionate number of new positions – sources disagree on just how many – have paid lower than most.  At one point, one-third of jobs added since then were with temporary help agencies, and, per a CNN article from last month, many growing the most in numbers, specifically food preparation and service workers, personal care aides, home health aides, retail salespeople, and restaurant cooks, have average annual pay under $22,500.  At the same time, more and more people have been putting pressure on governments to raise minimum wages, and early returns when they have succeeded, as I wrote a few weeks ago, have shown that such moves have, indeed, caused jobs to go away.  We also have now had almost seven years without a recession, which while hardly unprecedented is not representative. 

So, given that we are not out of the jobs-crisis woods, what principles can we use to deal with our work situation, both currently and in general?

First, the largest employment gap, emotionally as well as logistically, is between those with and without jobs. 

Second, as long as we have no guaranteed income, the worst legal thing a worker can experience is not to have employment at all.

Third, the high share of new jobs being low-paying means our employment statistics, including the AJSN, overstate our prosperity.

Fourth, however, there is a place for low-paying positions, as people’s wants and needs vary greatly, they are not always the only sustenance source for those working them, and even a job at the lowest $7.25 hourly minimum, if full-time and including some small perquisites such as free food, can support one person in the great bulk of our country.

Fifth, education has done almost all it can to facilitate people working good jobs, as the number of such positions is limited and decreasing, and it now serves mainly to affect who gets them.

Sixth, almost every alleged “skills gap” situation would go away if employers were willing to either train workers or to pay market wages for those with the capabilities they want.

Seventh, I see no hope for many more high-paying jobs that the market can’t support, as artificially creating them usually costs more than they are worth, so we all need to adjust to their shortage.

Eighth, large numbers of things we have now, such as a constantly increasing set of medical treatments, were unavailable or extremely expensive in decades past, and many more, such as almost all electronic devices from TVs to phones, are priced far lower in constant dollars than ever before, and these boons are not counted in any wealth or prosperity statistics.

Ninth, accordingly we need to redefine what it means to be affluent and financially successful.

Tenth, the middle class as we knew it may be disappearing, but as more resources become free or cheap it is being replaced by something with similar or even higher levels of comprehensive prosperity.  By 2050 there may be only a minute number of Americans with true lower-class status, a 1% or a bit more who have profited mostly through possibly unstoppable wealth concentration at the top, and a great mass of people who might be called “sustaining class,” “typical class,” or something more melodious.  They will not be virtually guaranteed full-size standalone houses or new cars every few years, as were middle-classers from the 1945 to 1973 Winning by Default years, but would be envied by them for having, for example, free long-distance telephone calls. 

More to follow on this last principle.  Stay tuned. 


Friday, May 13, 2016

Uber and Lyft in Austin: Have We Seen the Sharing Economy’s Peak?

Over the past year, as I wrote last month, there has been a backlash against the two largest areas of the sharing economy, namely room rentals, mainly provided by Airbnb, and car rides from Lyft and Uber.  Some cities, such as Barcelona and Berlin, will not tolerate Airbnb rentals at all, and others, such as San Francisco and Santa Monica, now limit and regulate them to the point where their supply is much reduced.  Even more places have contested these unlicensed taxi services, and some, including Spain, Romania, and the city of New Delhi, have banned them altogether.  In April, Uber agreed to pay up to $100 million to settle a class-action lawsuit about the company’s questionable-at-best categorizing of drivers as independent contractors; Lyft settled a similar complaint for $27 million earlier this week.  Only three days ago, the 35,000 New York City Uber workers formed a group described in the New York Times as “short of a union,” the Independent Drivers Guild, giving them a formal say in much of what their employer does.    

Last weekend, though, saw the clearest and most publicized American defeat for the unlicensed taxi companies.  Austin, Texas had a Saturday referendum proposing that Uber and Lyft be exempt from the city’s current cab-company regulations, including fingerprinting drivers for background checks.  The two firms spent $8 million toward convincing people to vote for the measure, which did not succeed, as 56 percent of Austinites voted to regulate all taxi providers equally.  Uber and Lyft responded by saying they would no longer offer their services in that city, effective almost immediately.

Austin is large, with a 1.25 million metropolitan population, and is hardly known as anti-technology, with 51,000-student University of Texas and as much connected private research and development as one might expect.  Views there on taxi regulations have no reason to be extreme.  That is why, then, that many more cities will follow.  They will not allow these companies to, as two Austin commentators put it, “arrogantly confuse a convenience for a few as a necessity for the many” and try to “take out city government” as if it were only another competing business.  The trend will probably move on to unregulated hotel rooms, which after all disturb local residents rather more than do unfingerprinted cabdrivers.  

So the two largest ride-sharing companies can’t tolerate being treated the same as those successfully offering taxis for decades?  That is telling.  I wrote last March that “the income achieved by Uber, similar Lyft, and room-renting facilitator Airbnb service providers is inflated by a temporary lack of regulation,” and predicted an end to the flowering of such companies by 2019 or earlier.  Indeed, the Austin outcome and the company’s reaction show that, despite estimated values as high as $62.5 billion for Uber, these businesses are remarkably fragile and transitory.

Not all what these companies are doing, though, is endangered.  Lyft has joined forces with General Motors on driverless taxis, which, given the state of and effort going into that technology, are almost certain to become the norm within 20 years or so.  Uber would do well to move in the same direction.  In the meantime, though, the idea that anyone can provide taxi or hotel services in the United States without meeting legal standards has, as of Saturday, become obsolescent. 

As for jobs in this sharing-economy center, they are still there.  Anyone wanting to make money doing these things is welcome to try, but they would be – and many already have been – fools for not properly assessing what it really costs them.  The same goes for opportunities sharing other resources, though none have emerged as being as widespread as Uber or Airbnb.  If it’s worthwhile to you, do it – but don’t count on it lasting for long.