The Rest of the Page

The “9 dots puzzle” is a well known puzzle that begins with a 3×3 square grid of dots on a page of paper.  To solve the puzzle, you must connect all 9 dots with only 4 straight lines, and without letting your pen or pencil leave the page. [1]

Although these rules may seem simple enough, many people encountering this puzzle for the first time incorrectly assume that areas of the page outside the boundaries of the grid of dots are off limits.  By failing to consider the rest of the page, they unwittingly turn a simple puzzle into an unsolvable problem.

Society faces an analogous puzzle today about the future of human work.  Although technology’s rapid advancement over the course of the Industrial Age has greatly improved living standards, it has also made many jobs obsolete.  In recent years, the overall trend of machines making jobs obsolete has caused many people to question whether there will be enough work for humans to do in the future.

Analogous to the “9 dots puzzle” above, it’s tempting to approach this question by incorrectly assuming that work that takes place outside of “real world” environments is off limits.  However, recent advances in virtual reality technologies suggest that jobs that take place in virtual reality environments will be a widespread possibility before long, and so such jobs must be considered as part of the future landscape of potential work.  In other words, the “page” in this case is much bigger than the “grid of dots,” and so the above question can’t be properly answered without considering the rest of the page.

As discussed in previous posts, virtual reality technologies have the potential to provide large numbers of socially useful jobs, regardless of whether or not most jobs located in “real world” environments are eventually automated or made obsolete.  Societies that nurture job creation with these technologies will thus diversify their job markets in a historically unprecedented way, and ensure that future jobs can be located in both real world and virtual reality environments.

 

References and Additional Notes

[1] See this Wikipedia mention of the “Nine dots puzzle” for more information about it: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thinking_outside_the_box#Nine_dots_puzzle

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