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We need to plan for the impact of technology on jobs

June 15, 2013

Ray Kurzweil, Peter Diamandis, and others argue that we are in an era of exponentially accelerating innovation. This era was kicked off by the mass adoption of the Internet which means that there are now 2.5bn (and rising) minds connected for the first time in history. Advancements in technology and science spread rapidly and can be adopted and further developed anywhere in the World almost immediately. The slow, linear spread of information that existed before the Internet is history.

This era has the potential to deliver an abundance of food, clean water, medical access, and energy to everyone (click here to read my blog on abundance).

However, a team from MIT have raised the issue that technology is displacing jobs, potentially at a higher rate than ever before (click here to read a review of their argument). For example, the infographic below (click on it to enlarge) shows that, since 2000, productivity in the US has continued to rise but employment growth has stalled. This cannot be solely attributed to the impact of technology on jobs, but it is worth monitoring.

Emergent technologies could clearly impact on a range of jobs. Driverless cars could replace taxi-drivers; robots are advancing to a level where they can already manage simple human tasks in manufacturing, care-giving, medicine, and even farming; and 3D printing is a direct replacement for low-end manufacturing jobs.

Historically, dislocation has been managed through social welfare and new industries have emerged to provide alternative employment. The challenge would be if the pace of creative destruction accelerated in this era, so that social welfare struggled to cope and if sufficient alternative employment did not emerge.

At a personal, corporate, and government level, we need to plan for this challenge and seek to be pro-active rather than re-active.


From → Abundance

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