Long-term structural changes
Starting from the predictions of what is technologically possible (in a certain time-frame), we can deduce what is economically feasible and therefore likely.
In a number of stages the structure of the economy will be dramatically changed:
- Development1 of virtual reality means that "white-collar" work will be moved to virtual workplaces and much of service and operator work will be done using telepresence.
- Advanced robotics will gradually replace humans in physical labor (first using some telepresence, but later moving to mostly autonomous systems).
- Artificial intelligence will replace humans in service, operator, manual (through robotics) and creative jobs.
- As nanotechnology develops, it will replace robotics as a way to produce objects and do other work.
- Eventually AI and robots will replace ordinary humans in all work. Only transhumans (cyborgs with augmented intelligence) will be working.
- Improvement of artificial intelligence (as well as merging of human and AI and uploading) will make reproducing physical workplaces unnecessary, moving work from VR to "idea space"
- As we move into the information space (through uploading) and change the environment (rebuilding the planet), physical work will increasingly become obsolete (knowledge based work, which will be a large proportion of the work, will be happening in the computer space). Only "software" will matter.
Work Outside VR spaces
On route to 'uploading', bodies and bodily requirements will continue to be vitally important. Even if VR interfaces are able to fool the senses about food and sex, people will still want to actually be healthy in the real world. Medical services can and will be delivered by telematics, i.e. from VR world to the physical world via robotic links. For a considerable time after advanced technology is proven, it may still remain cheaper, simpler, and more fun to manage bodily requirements actually in the real world. There may also be more status to it - if anyone can have vintage champagne and gorgeous sexual partners in the VR world, having it in the real world may give more prestige.