Today the Washington Post had a cartoon from Tom Toles, showing different kinds of economic activity through time. "Hunter-gatherer" gave way to agriculture, then "services" and "tech," each of which was higher on the picture than those previous. The last step, though, "job-hunter-gatherer" was at the lowest level and showed someone dumpster diving. Even more than he probably realized, Toles had a point.
Agriculture replaced hunting and gathering for humans at least 10,000 years ago - other extraction activities such as mining followed some time after. With the Industrial Revolution, which started in the late 1700s in England and took some time spreading through the Western world (as of 1850, the United States was still 90% rural), a second phase, manufacturing, took hold. Since some time in the first half of the 20th century, most Americans have been employed in the third phase - services. American employment in extraction and manufacturing has long since peaked, and even the number of service jobs, in the last decade, has probably reached its all-time maximum.
So what will replace service jobs? We know of nothing. Technical jobs as such do not constitute a new phase - they are themselves only service positions, and are too few in number as well. Futurist Herman Kahn, who flourished in the 1960s and 1970s, said the next stage would be "quaternary" (for phase #4) activities such as learning for its own sake, political activism, collecting, community activities, and the like. True, these ventures can consume whole lives, but they have one problem - they do not usually pay anything. So if Kahn was right, the future will call for Americans to change from earning to not earning.
That seems likely from here. In economic terms, the United States has excess capacity in workers. Fewer people are needed to work than want to, and the gap is growing. That is the problem we are facing. Is the answer guaranteed income, in which everyone is supported in some fashion, or something else? How can people make money if their labor is not needed?
These are the issues we will be confronting soon, by the end of this decade if not before. We need people on both political sides to determine what will follow service jobs. As of now, we don't know.