The current political spotlight when it comes to jobs and employment, is focused on the threat of corporations outsourcing or illegal immigration reducing jobs for citizens. The anxiety about the struggle to find gainful employment was a big part of anti-establishment politics that led to Britain’s “Brexit”, and America’s election of Trump. Governments have been slow to come to the aid of those who have had their jobs displaced and have had to settle of jobs that paid much less than what they were previously making. Economic policy wonks will have the argument that outsourcing has been great in terms of reducing the cost of goods. Those who have been displaced, however, know the reality that it doesn’t matter if goods are cheaper if one doesn’t have a job to earn enough money to pay for these goods.
What isn’t getting much attention in the main media or political theater is the much bigger threat on the horizon of advances in automation and AI in replacing jobs on a scale never seen before at all skill levels.
Folks will argue that people have complained about the threat of job loss from automation since forever and there have always been new jobs created to replace the old ones lost.
So is this new alert about automation/AI just another false alarm like the Boy Who Cried Wolf? Some say so, but many are starting to see this time could be the real deal when it comes to the loss of jobs done by human labor.
Here’s a chart of predicted job loss due to automation in various fields:
The problem with the above chart is it’s just a “guess” based on current technology and assumptions, but there’s a good change these assumptions aren’t taking into effect the speed and advancement of technology and AI development. As it is now, automation is appearing in specialty fields like law, music, journalism, and medical surgery. This is one of the reasons why this new wave of technology is different- it won’t be about just simple labor, but complex skilled labor as well, that few thought would be under threat.
Will the governments be proactive in staying ahead of the problem , or will they be reactive, and wait until job losses are are crisis levels before taking any meaningful action? Based on past performance, something tells me they won’t be ready as we move into this new frontier.
Here are some interesting, but sobering videos of this topic as additional food for thought: