Google Co-Founders’ Solution To Jobs Problem: Work Less, More Part-Time Jobs

Here’s an unsurprising factoid: Billionaires don’t understand what it’s like to not have enough money, especially when they’ve been rich virtually their entire adult lives. Google co-founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page sat down for a “fireside chat” at the Khosla Ventures CEO Summit, and they shared their thoughts on, among other thing, the present and future of the human workforce.

The conversation flowed that way naturally, and host Vinod Khosla asked an interesting question about the “machine-learning revolution” and how human jobs are being replaced. “But I do wonder if the vast majority of jobs that we know today, more than 50-percent might be replaced by machines that can do that human judgment piece better,” he said.

Brin Page

Brin and Page essentially agreed that machines have replaced many workers in the past and would likely continue to do so over the next couple of decades.

And then the conversation went off the rails. Page stated that the things we typically need to make ourselves happy are housing, security, and opportunities for our kids--which is an agreeable enough statement--but then his rich-guy myopia took over. “It's not that hard for us to provide those things,” he said. “The amount of resources we need to do that, the amount of work that actually needs to go into that is pretty small. I'm guessing less than 1-percent at the moment. So the idea that everyone needs to work frantically to meet people's needs is just not true.”

Allowing that he’s thinking in the larger sense about the need for certain kinds of labor, he’s completely wrong that individuals don’t have to work hard for those essentials. Many families in this country simply can’t achieve those things, and worse, many of those people are employed. One of the problems workers face in making ends meet is being underemployed--not being given enough hours to get over that “part-time” status hump, for example, and dealing with lower-than-necessary hourly wages.

Page’s solution is to copy what he says Richard Branson is trying in the UK by splitting one full time job into two part-time jobs. This measure, Page indicates, is to help people feel wanted and valuable by giving them something to do. He also thinks we should add more vacation time.

Surely everyone would be happy working less hours and having more vacation time. However, far too many people would be happier with a real, full-time job that paid them a living wage. Page and Brin may well be geniuses, and their contribution to the world via Google is almost immeasurable, but they’re apparently clueless when it comes to the harsh economy and dismal job market the rest of us are facing.
DanJChiccino 5 months ago

Wow....These two have no clue what its like to work a labor job 12 hours a day, 5 days a week and still barely have enough money to get by.

RCone 5 months ago

Typical rich person's solution. Take one full time job and split it into two part time jobs where neither employee has any benefits outside of a paycheck. Brin and Page are both idiots, rich idiots, but idiots nonetheless.

JamesHostick 5 months ago

Not surprising considering that it's a couple of Billionaires who are spouting this nonsense.

DragneaPaul 5 months ago


RZielaskowski 5 months ago

Don't understand the hate. Technically, it would help 'fix' some of the unemployment. People who can't get a job at all, who are homeless, or are depending on others (family/government) would have a better chance at a job. Employers would have lower risk hiring someone.

Another method would be to lower the minimum wage so these same people could get full time jobs.

People hate to hear it, but not everyone is equal, not everyone is worth employing for the minimum wage.

You're an asshole,what sane person would even allow themselves to slave over less wages. That's exactly what''s wrong with this country,GOP idiots like yourself would rather see people eating out of garbage cans than make an honest living.

BenFletcher 5 months ago

Not only that, but with minimum wage increases, this is basically what's already happening...

jturnbull65 5 months ago

The "work" that he is talking about is the total national, or even global, activity. Just as he explains with his lead-in that in 100 years the US went from requiring the vast amount of work to go towards farming to now being able to accomplish it with 2% of the workforce, he is saying likewise that the work required to produce housing, security, and the more vague "opportunity for our kids" is very small. He is speaking hypothetically and ideologically, and the misinterpretation that leads to the author calling Page clueless is laughably ironic.

FreeJet 5 months ago

Everybody doesn't get to come to work wearing t-shirts and flip-flops. Everybody doesn't have a Zen garden to meditate in or a house designed using feng shui. Everybody can't "Wang Chung tonight". If Google did a Google of itself, I wonder what it would find? Would it see a "reflection" of itself? Would it approve of what it "saw"? Inquiring minds want to know.

StephenCordova 5 months ago

The main problem is that nothing is MADE here!

DonEdwardsJr 5 months ago

Why I hire Mexican's they work for $2 a hr. the one's that beg me for more money I just replace.

acarzt 5 months ago

They are not idiots... they didn't become billions because they are idiots... they are just ignorant. They have never experienced what us common folk do everyday. You shouldnt expect them to have answer for something they dont know anything about, just like no one would expect any of you to be able to solve hard problems in an industry you're unfamiliar with, like theoretical physics for example.

AllenJun 5 months ago

I read the title and decided to read the article just because its probably a misleading title or something, but wow! I am poor.

CameronBashaw 5 months ago

Don't forget, Google's been investing heavily in robotics so it can completely replace the human workforce, selling their inventions to the commercial industries that are in want of saving their bottom line even more.... at least, that's not too far fetched...

Versifier 5 months ago

I've read the entire transcript and I don't feel like what is described in the article is what was being said at all.

They aren't saying people don't have to work hard just to survive, they are saying people shouldn't have to work as hard as they do... They are both arguing for shorter work weeks, longer vacations, and for higher wages at the expense of employers profits.

JeremiahWarner 5 months ago

One thing I've noticed is that a lot of people don't notice all the other jobs out there. That being said I'm a cook and there is always work and is one thing a machine will never replace. Decent pay, 40+ hours, raises, chances to move up, and its fun, on down time there is nothing to do but fuck around, but i will say as in any job you do have to prove yourself. If there is one thing Americans love its well cooked food. Its a slave job at times but like I said its fun.

Growly 5 months ago

The central quote in this article is taken woefully out of context. In the full transcript (linked in the article itself), Larry actually starts by saying (emphasis mine):

"I totally believe we should be living in a time of abundance, like Peter Diamandis' book. If you really think about the things that you need to make yourself happy - housing, security, opportunities for your kids - anthropologists have been identifying these things. It's not that hard for us to provide those things. The amount of resources we need to do that, the amount of work that actually needs to go into that is pretty small. I'm guessing less than 1-percent at the moment. So the idea that everyone needs to work frantically to meet people's needs is just not true. [...]"

It actually sounds like he's talking about society's ability to provide those basic needs, if we could only rearrange our resources and effort as people, presumably as per the book he mentions.

This is extremely disingenuous, even dishonest, reporting. I am disappointed.

Dave_HH 5 months ago


While I disagree that Seth was being disingenuous or dishonest, I do agree with your view of the context.  I think Larry was indeed speaking of society's or human kind's ability to support everyone with a reasonable quality of life.  However, I think he also trivializes the work of "rearranging resources" as you say, because, we all know, in reality, society just isn't setup this way currently.

I agree his thought process was noble but he minimizes it so casually from a billionaire's perspective that it takes a lot off the original, core intention of "if we all just helped each other out," or whatever noble cause would achieve this quite literal utopia.

scolaner 5 months ago

I'll admit that I may have minimized his larger point that technically speaking, society at large can provide basic needs fairly easily. However, as Dave indicated, that's just not something that will happen; income disparity is woefully bad these days, and our society is not one in which that's going to change anytime soon.

Thus, in my opinion, Page is seeing the world from the convenient position of someone who hasn't had to think twice about money in many years. (And good for him, he deserves it.) He doesn't seem to grasp the reality of living and working in the U.S. economy. A big problem we have is underemployment, yet he's espousing that as a great idea.

His comment that people needing to feel useful is accurate, but his notion of giving more people part-time jobs to placate them strikes me as condescending, and as I said in the piece, myopic. How many households are there there days that subsist on only one full-time income? How many would survive on two part-time incomes? Do these part-time jobs come with full benefits? Medical/dental, paid vacation, 401k matching?

And his idea of simply reducing the amount of time people work would be great, except there are very few people who can afford to do that. Are employers suddenly going to pay everyone for extra time off? Too many won't even pay for maternity leave. (Years ago, I once had to burn a vacation day to get my wisdom teeth out.)

Perhaps we do live in a time of abundance, but I don't think the middle class isn't seeing much of it, and as far as I can tell, Page doesn't understand that.

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