Google chairman Eric Schmidt has warned delegates at the World Economic Forum in Davos that innovation in technology may wipe out whole swathes of jobs.
The danger, he believes, is that many jobs are being automated by IT systems, and therefore jobs for humans are becoming obsolete.
This, he said, will be one of the biggest global issues in the next 20 to 30 years.
“The race is between computers and people and the people need to win,” he said.
“I am clearly on that side. In this fight, it is very important that we find the things that humans are really good at,” he added.
Middle-class workers could be the main ones to lose out, as Schmidt compared the situation to the industrial revolution.
“There is quite a bit of research that middle-class jobs that are relatively highly skilled are being automated out,” he said.
But the former CEO of Google said that organisations should not delay adopting new technologies, and encouraged people to keep innovating.
However, he said that at the moment these new technologies were only creating part-time work, and growth in areas such as the social care and creative industries, while middle-class jobs were being replaced by service jobs.
Schmidt said that entrepreneurs needed the most support, because they create a large number of full-time openings.
The Google chairman called on governments to invest in education to up-skill their populations.
“It is pretty clear that work is changing and the classic nine-to-five job is going to have to be redefined.
“Without significant encouragement, this will get worse and worse,” he said.
Schmidt labelled the ongoing debate on privacy as a “luxury” that the majority of people who do not live in democracies cannot have.
“For them, the ability to use the internet totally overwhelms their fear of how the government uses it,” he stated.
He also suggested that Microsoft’s decision to store foreign customer data outside the US wouldn’t prevent the NSA from snooping.
“My understanding is that data in another country is still subject to [US] laws. It’s not obvious to me how you get around that rule. You would have to transfer the assets to a foreign corporation,” he said.