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Truck drivers will be replaced by autonomous vehicles within 10 years, former Facebook executive warns

By Ben Ames | July 13, 2016 | 8:05 PM

The relentless drive of Silicon Valley startup companies is on track to make the truck driving profession obsolete within a decade, according to a former Facebook executive who recently published a tell-all memoir about his years at the huge social media firm.

Speaking in a radio interview with Boston’s WBUR on July 13, author Antonio García Martinez discussed his business book "Chaos Monkeys: Obscene Fortune and Random Failure in Silicon Valley."

Named for a software application used by the online movie-rental company Netflix to model the impact of unpredictable events on its ability to stream movies and TV shows to its customers, the term “chaos monkeys” also describes the futility of predicting which tech startups will succeed and what impact they will have on society, he said.

“Just imagine a wild monkey rampaging through a large computer center, kicking over boxes and pulling on cables. Silicon Valley right now is sort of like the zoo where the chaos monkeys are kept,” Martinez said on WBUR’s On Point program.

“They run around society and they pull the plug on things like taxis, and they ship an app called Uber, where anyone can become a taxi driver. Or they pull the plug on hotels and anyone with a spare bedroom or a weekend cottage can suddenly become an innkeeper [with Airbnb],” he said.

Driven by that creative instinct, waves of technology startups are sweeping through American society, “pulling the plug” on many traditional industries in a frantic search for the next great business success. However, no firm has the motivation—or even the capability—to forecast how its invention will affect the personal lives of fellow citizens, he said.

“Consider what will happen to truck drivers when autonomous vehicles are standard; and that’s going to happen in 10 years,” Martinez said. “If you look at a map of the most popular job in every U.S. state, for a large number of states, truck driving is the most popular profession—it’s the one way that non-college educated people can make a good living--and that’s going to go away in 10 years. That’s not going to exist as a job in 10 years. And nobody is thinking about that. I think that’s going to be a real problem down the line.”

Quoting the venture capitalist and former Netscape founder Marc Andreessen, Martinez predicted that the future will soon hold only two types of jobs—you’ll either tell the computer what to do, or you’ll be told by the computer what to do.

“I think that will be the reality for a large swath of the economy, and what happens in that world is a real question. There are not going to be jobs for a lot of people in this economy within 10 to 20 years,” Martinez said. “When the chaos monkeys visit, it’s a question of is your life going to be the same before and after?”

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