Why Google’s Larry Page says we should all work less

The Boardroom

by Joe Curtis| 08 July 2014

Machine learning could replace a lot of jobs, adds the co-founder.

Google co-founder Larry Page believes the 40-hour working week could be cut to four days as people need to do less and less.

The search engine CEO was speaking in an interview with venture capitalist Vinod Khosla last week, and recommended that people work fewer hours after saying machine learning was automating jobs once performed by humans.

He said: "I totally believe we should be living in a time of abundance. Think about what we need - housing, security, education for our kids. The amount of resources and work to do that is pretty small. I'm guessing less than 1%.

"The idea that everyone needs to work frantically to meet people's needs is not true."

He added that one reason people work as much as they do is because they want to feel useful.

"I think there's a problem that we don't recognise," he said. "There's a social problem.

"A lot of people aren't happy if they don't have anything to do, so we need to give people things to do. You need to feel like you're needed and wanted."

The tech entrepreneur, worth $32bn, didn't say whether he would cut hours for Google employees, nor explained how people would live on fewer wages, but said unemployment could be tackled by giving two people a part-time job rather than one full-time role.

"At least the young people can have a half-time job rather than no job," he said. "We should have a coordinated way to adjust the work week."

A Gartner report last October predicted that smart machines could absorb millions of middle-class jobs in the coming decades.

"Job destruction will happen at a faster pace, with machine-driven job elimination overwhelming the market's ability to create valuable new ones," said Kenneth Brant, research director.

Google has been buying up artificial intelligence and robotics firms, including the acquisition of DeepMind in January.

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