We just got an extension on the much-hyped job evisceration expected from AI and automation advancement, Axios Future reported last month.
While experts don’t expect this looming challenge to evaporate, MIT’s task force on The Work of the Future concluded in its final report that the immediate effects were initially overdramatized.
Why? Because while some jobs have been replaced, others have been created – and overall employment remains on the rise. The key impact is not the removal of jobs but the dramatic overhaul of the jobs available today. Most (63%) of jobs in 2018 didn’t exist just 60 years ago, according to the Axios report. Yet little has changed regarding our labor policy or our approach to education.
Automation has undoubtedly made workers more productive, automating routine tasks and freeing human employees for more adaptive and flexible work. But the true cautionary tale today is the ever-widening gap in the population between the privileged and the underprivileged, which David Mindell, MIT engineer and an author of the Work of the Future report, cautions will only be exacerbated if we deploy automation in today’s labor market.
Even the COVID-19 pandemic has proved that point, the report notes.
While automation and technology enabled many to adapt to online service, learn remotely, and receive telemedicine, the most vulnerable workers in low-paying service jobs like hospitality, food service, or cleaning have been displaced or severely impacted.
As technology advances, those differences will open become more gaping.
Preparing for an AI and Automation Saturated Future
We all need to work – it’s crucial to our humanity. Task Force Research Advisory Board member Josh Cohen writes in an MIT Work of the Future research brief, “work is a way that we can learn, exercise our powers of perception, imagination, and judgment, collaborate socially, and make constructive social contributions.”
For the more vulnerable members of society, that means all workers need better labor policies protecting them and better education for equipping them.
And, many, many people (an estimated 60% of adults, according to a recent US Census report, who don’t have a four-year college degree) must be supported in reskilling and retraining for future jobs.
While work may not be as scary as early predictions cautioned in the wake of AI and Automation, work may be too low paying or too unsatisfying to support a tenable way of life if we cannot revitalize labor and education policies that are failing a significant part of the population. Last year, the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation warned the United States’ stagnating investment in Research and Development is also a key factoring in hampering innovation and stagnating productivity.
Although AI and automation haven’t caused jobs to disappear overnight, it’s crucial we use this unforeseen lapse in impact to prepare.
At Education Unbound, we’re championing a different approach to education – one where we embrace project-based learning and equip underserved students for tomorrow’s jobs even in a changing landscape by building essential skills that will translate across the jobs we know today - and the ones emerging tomorrow.
Visit https://www.educationunbound.org/ to learn how you can join us and help equip underprivileged students to face the jobs of tomorrow with the skillsets and education they need.
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