From The Washington Post’s Ed Hess: American manufacturing job losses to China and Mexico were a major theme of the presidential campaign, and President Trump has followed up on his promise to pressure manufacturers to keep jobs here rather than send them abroad. Already, he has jawboned automakers Ford, General Motors, Toyota and Fiat Chrysler and heating and cooling manufacturer Carrier into keeping and creating jobs in the United States. What he hasn’t yet addressed — but should — is the looming technology tsunami that will hit the U.S. job market over the next five to 15 years and likely destroy tens of millions of jobs due to automation by artificial intelligence, 3-D manufacturing, advanced robotics and driverless vehicles — among other emerging technologies.
The best research to date indicates that 47 percent of all U.S. jobs are likely to be replaced by technology over the next 10 to 15 years, more than 80 million in all, according to the Bank of England.
Think back to the human misery in this country during the financial recession when unemployment hit 10 percent. Triple that. Or even quintuple it. We as a society and as individuals are not ready for anything like that. This upheaval has the potential of being as disruptive for us now as the Industrial Revolution was for our ancestors.
Techno-optimists tell us to relax — don’t worry, technology will produce lots of new jobs just like it did during the Industrial Revolution. History will repeat itself, they say. Well, not so fast.
First, human disruption caused by the Industrial Revolution in Britain lasted 60 to 90 years, depending on the historical research. That is a long time for society to “right” itself, and lot of personal pain. Second, this time will be different because there will be new questions: Will technology produce lots of new jobs that advancing technology itself can’t do? And will displaced workers be able to keep up with the pace of advancing technologies?