Self-driving cars and trucks will cost millions of American jobs, right?
No, poses Marc Andreessen, the co-founder of venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz and early web pioneer.
Speaking at the Code Conference at the Terranea Resort in California, Andreessen argued that self-driving cars will not only build productivity and save lives, but will drive many job-creating ancillary industries.
The idea of automation stealing jobs — “It’s a fallacy,” Andreessen said (specifically citing the lump of labor fallacy and the luddite fallacy). “It’s a recurring panic. This happens every 25 or 50 years, people get all amped up about ‘machines are going to take all the jobs’ and it never happens.”
Andreessen used the example of the rise of the automobile industry a century ago, which many thought would cost the livelihood of everyone whose jobs were to take care of horses.
But “the car then created not only a lot of jobs creating cars” but everything else that happened because of the car: Paved streets, restaurants, motels, movie theaters, apartment complexes, office complexes, the entire buildout of suburban America, etc.
“The jobs that were created by the automobile on the second, third, and fourth order effects were 100X, 1000X the number of jobs that blacksmiths had,” he said.
“I think the self-driving car has the opportunity to not only improve productivity for the people in the car, which will be a huge economic boost for those people; Not only has the opportunity to save lives — over a million people die worldwide in road deaths today caused by human drivers, and I think we can take that very close to zero, which is very good for both human welfare and for economic productivity — it’s a very serious dent in productivity when people get killed; And then all the ancillary industries that end up getting built out.”
Maybe, he poses, self-driving cars will lead to the creation of exurbs — a layer beyond a city’s suburbs — that will actually work. This could cause a huge construction boom, which, in turn, could create jobs for the people who were ever involved in driving cars.
This article originally appeared on Recode.net.