Why technology is both a threat and opportunity to your job
- Big tech leaders are excited for a future of robotics and automation, but the common worker worries about what it means for them.
- Nobel Laureates weigh in on how new technologies could affect future workplaces.
- Discover Nobel Perspectives, which explores the questions that shape our world with Nobel award-winning economists.
As technological change speeds up, there is a growing fear of being left behind. Should more be done to address the challenges imposed by disruptive tech?
The big tech leaders celebrate a future of robotics and automation, a kind of utopia for both man and machine. During the World Economic Forum 2019, the fourth industrial revolution remained a hot topic of debate. What does this mean for the common worker? According to a 2017 Pew Research Center study, 72% of Americans are worried about robots replacing them at work. Why is it that some people embrace the forthcoming automation stage, while others feel so apprehensive?
“They have every reason to have fears about the future,” says Nobel Laureate James Heckman. Having worked on skill formation in adult training programs in the 1990s, he saw firsthand that it’s not easy for people to adjust when their job skills are no longer needed. “What we are finding is that people are not equipped to the extent they could be and should be to deal with these changing technological patterns. They will naturally blame globalization, robots, technology, and they will flock to somebody who promises them a solution.”
“People are not equipped to the extent they … should be to deal with changing technological patterns.” — Heckman
Even if you have a relatively future-proof job, the question could remain whether you’ll be provided a sufficient salary. There are some economists who believe that it is the combination of technological progress and global trade that has led directly to the stagnation of lower and middle-class incomes, while the top incomes are growing rapidly. “Those distributional effects are now front and center in lots of analyses but also in political processes,” says Michael Spence. The Nobel Laureate thinks it’s time to reassess the definition of economic well-being.
“Growth patterns in which there is extreme inequality don’t work,” says the expert on economic development. “They don’t work because there’s economic waste, but more importantly, they don’t work because of some failure