“…Americans have always believed in building a better future. Each generation has strived to pass on higher standards of living to their children… In the long run, the critical determinant of living standards is labor productivity—the amount of goods and services produced by an average worker in a fixed period of time…” ((ERP2010), pg. 259-261)
The 2010 Economic Report of the President (ERP2010) was unequivocal. Still, the 2016 ERP, in part, states:
“… the economy has been changing in profound ways, … Today, technology doesn’t just replace jobs on the assembly line, but rather affects any job where work can be automated… these trends have squeezed workers, making it difficult for middle-class families to feel secure, even when they have jobs and the economy is growing.” (https://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/docs/ERP_2016_Book_Complete%20JA.pdf) [pg3-4]
We assume that the President has the ability to have some of the best economists available to guide him. Yet, in 2010 when Robots were hardly an unknown measure of economic change the report states that the living standard determinant is “labor productivity-the amount of goods and services produced by an average worker in a fixed period….” And so, in the report 0f 2016, “trends have squeezed workers, making it difficult for middle-class families to feel secure…”
When we consider that the United States government is charged with protecting the people it’s hard to imagine that economists are unable to project six years in the future. (It may well be a result of the contentiousness in Congress)
An economic commission charged with projecting the health of the United States economy for the next 20 years may resolve this unfortunate lack of foresight.
Various forms of automation have already affected many repetitious jobs and are sure to continue in that path and beyond. This clearly indicates that the standard of living of the future will not be determined by the amount of goods and services produced by an average worker in a fixed period of time.
In order that America can continue to build a better future for the next generations an aggressive effort by government, industry, workers and economist must develop a plan to move us from a society based on the reliance on labor production to a society that will share in its productive output.
In the interim, the American worker must pursue their living wage with planning and foresight. This is especially true of those who expect to enter workforce in the near future. Do not believe that because you may enter a profession that takes many years of educational training and/or apprenticeship that you will not be affected by future automation. It would be better to anticipate cross training. Just take a look back to where automation was 20 years ago and imagine what it might be like in the next 20 years of exponential growth. Your future might depend on how much you know about designing/building/programming robots.
Not all of us will be so lucky. What will happen to those workers displaced by automation? We will continue this conversation in our next post. Please let us hear from you with ideas that might answer this absorbing question.
Working with Robots – Displaced Workers