Globally, we consume films that show us dystopian life after some apocalypse. Yet we never want to ask the question: How did this happen? The assumption is always some sort of nuclear madness, alien invasions, or global epidemics.
The reality? More than a billion people globally will lose not only their jobs, but connections to ways of life, and places that they live. Not in some distant time, but within the next five to ten years. It affects you. It affects your children and grandchildren NOW.
So why are all but a handful of the world’s politicians ignoring this societal tsunami far bigger to mankind than even the threat of global warming? Technodisplacement by robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) are great for the people who pay the bills.
In my last HuffPo blog ”Trump And Republicans Expect You To Die, Joe Public ,” came the sobering and revelatory statistic:
45% of working-age Americans are permanently unemployed. CNBC estimates 94.7M people are permanently out of work. Adjusted for seasonal teen employment, approximately 91.2M people, either physically can’t work, stay at home to take care of others, or have given up any hope of finding a job. That’s equivalent to the entire populations of the states of California, Texas, New York, and Washington.
Automation, without a pathway to new kinds of employment, not China or immigration, has created a permanent underclass in the shadows of unrealistic, low unemployment numbers.
It hasn’t been a front-burner issue because most “highly educated” Americans think it only affects factory workers and the cubicle crowd. Don’t think you’re impacted? Think again.
A sampling of the change:
Estimates of technology-related job loss vary from 47% to 80% of the existing workforce in the next two decades, not counting the already permanently unemployed, or the collateral job loss by people working in support of other people. So another 58M full-time workers, and 13M part-time workers, or more, will become technologically unemployed.
Up to 165M people, or about 75% of the American workforce, could be out of their traditional jobs before 2025.
This is a global crisis. Displacement, particularly in fragile economies of parts of Africa and Asia, could be profound. With 1.36B people, China, potentially, could face more than 600M people in search of new ways to work and live if it keeps up with the West and automates at or above our levels.
What are the nations of the world going to DO with all of the people displaced by technology?
Economists say that we should not fear this change. Losing a current career doesn’t mean that all of us will be permanently unemployed. Humans will adapt to other forms of work that engage them in areas where machines will not be able to do the job for a long time, if at all.
Many experts project that technology will create as many jobs as it destroys. What kind, how much they pay, and what they offer humans in terms of career fulfillment are far less clear.
So how do we approach this brave new world?
Avinash Meetoo’s TED talk provides some enlightened ideas:
We see two potential tracks of the future forming:
Social Darwinist Route - The billionaires funding the “Freedom Caucus” of the Republican Party aim to:
Progressive Route - Those who believe in the fundamental equality of humans and that human rights are not doled out by misuse of Darwin’s theories on natural selection want to:
A future without most of the types of jobs humans have been doing in organized societies for thousands of years presents major challenges:
Technology, we are told, can bring prosperity, peace and better health. Yet, without any public policy or global agreements on its implementation, the automation tsunami is about to hit both blue-collar and white-collar jobs worldwide. Too bad there isn’t an Al Gore to wake people up to the danger.