The robots are coming!
Wednesday February 20, 2019
The robots are coming!
Perhaps it’s better to say the robots are already here, and many more -- like a whole lot more -- are on their way.
According to a new report from the Metropolitan Policy Program at Brookings called “Automation and Artificial Intelligence,” the ongoing robotics revolution will undoubtedly have a huge impact on many jobs now performed by humans.
The report says automation and rapidly evolving AI will affect tasks in virtually every occupation, with “almost no occupation…unaffected by the adoption of currently available technologies.”
About a quarter of all U.S. jobs will face “high exposure” to risk for robotic replacement in coming decades, the report notes, with another 36 percent facing “medium exposure” to automation by 2030.
What jobs are most at-risk?
The report says “routine, predictable physical and cognitive tasks will be most vulnerable.” Obviously, these are the jobs in the auto industry and other similar assembly line, factory-type industries that are already being taken over by robots that can perform the same boring, repetitious, monotonous, mind-numbing functions that most human workers hate but that at least put food on the table for themselves and their families.
But other jobs are also at-risk. Among the most vulnerable, the report says, are those in production, office administration, transportation and food preparation. It doesn’t take a genius to understand that these are mainly jobs that require little education beyond a high school diploma.
So kids, stay in school and train yourself for an occupation that takes brainpower, creativity and a high level of expertise in your chosen field.
But what about those who are well beyond high school and vulnerable to that pink slip from an employer who can’t resist the financial advantage of replacing them with a robot? A robot that never tires, never needs a break and never asks for more money or health benefits?
Employers have an ethical dilemma: Do they simply turn their robot-replaced workers out into the street, or do they have a responsibility to help those workers move on to another occupation that is less vulnerable to robots?
And what is the responsibility of local, state and federal governments to help replaced workers keep earning a living and contributing to the overall health of the economy?
The report suggests the promotion of a national “constant learning mindset” that invests in re-skilling workers, expands accelerated learning and certifications, makes skill development more financially accessible, and aligns and expands traditional education to more effectively cope with the ongoing changes in the employment landscape.
The report also recommends the creation of a “Universal Adjustment Benefit” to help support displaced workers and maximize hiring through a subsidized employment program.
These ideas will take a financial commitment from employers and by citizens through government tax mechanisms. But those costs should be weighed against the hurtful, long-term economic impact of lost human productivity, expensive welfare support programs, increased crime and drug abuse.
We are in the midst of a technological and social revolution when it comes to the basic question of how do our people continue to support themselves when robots throw them out of work.
The answers won’t come easily, but they must be a part -- an integral part -- of any solution.
To view the report, click here.