We are at the beginning of what the World Economic Forum has labeled the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Millions of people will lose their jobs as the economy shifts towards automation and AI. The Trump administration seems to disagree, claiming that AI will not take American jobs for another “50 to 100 years.” But this assertion is off-base. Even the most conservative estimates project automation to take 6 percent of all U.S. jobs by 2021. Here are some steps we can take to prepare the United States for automation right now.
1. Mark jobs with stability rankings
We could introduce new metrics to the economy. Jobs that have a low likelihood of being replaced by AI should have a stability ranking to inform people that those jobs are relatively safe. Jobs that have a high likelihood of being replaced by AI, like that of a taxi driver, should have a warning attached to them.
2. Update the curriculum
Right now, approximately 50 percent of subject knowledge currently acquired during the first year of a four-year technical degree becomes outdated by the time students graduate.
Businesses should collaborate more closely with governments and education providers to reshape curriculum. College programs should be connected to companies around the country. This connection would help schools understand what skills are in demand and enable them to keep their curriculum updated.
3. Invest more in retraining programs
The United States spends only 0.1 percent of GDP (1/1000th of GDP) on programs that help workers transition between jobs, such as training programs and job-search assistance. Other advanced economies spend on average 0.6 percent of GDP investing in these programs.
The American government should encourage those who lose their jobs to get trained in new ones and subsidize that training. People should not have to worry about being able to provide for themselves because of automation; instead, they should have a certain level of financial security while they train for new jobs.
4. Learn from the past
In the early 20th century, major investments in secondary education helped the U.S. transition from an agriculture-based economy to a manufacturing economy. As automation looms, the U.S. would benefit from new investments in education.
5. Ease mid-career transitions
In Denmark, 70 percent of workers consider mid-career transitions a positive development, whereas in most other developed countries, only 30 percent of people feel good about it. Why? Denmark dedicates two weeks of the working year on certified skills training for adults. This means that employment mobility is the norm in Denmark — as it should be everywhere, with automation looming.
6. Subsidize job seekers
There are conflicting reports about whether we are ready for Universal Basic Income, but a Universal Basic Adjustment Benefit could be a good alternative for those worried about the potential of UBI contributing to a culture of laziness. Instead of subsidizing everyone, UBAB provides benefits to those actively seeking new job opportunities.
7. Redefine work
Companies will increasingly connect with remote freelancers and independent contractors through online platforms. New skills will have to be learned, and old skills will either become obsolete or get redeployed across different industries. For instance, while retail sales jobs may evaporate, sales jobs in information technology will become more prominent. It is up to the private sector and the American government to ensure that these transitions are as smooth as possible.
8. Study automation
There is no government program or institution dedicated to automation and its effects on the American way of life. Automation needs to be studied, and formal policies need to be put in place which address the issues it creates.
In the end, automation will revolutionize traditional employment and the way business is done. We must find a way to tackle the very real and current problem of job loss. Studying automation, investing in education, connecting businesses with educational institutions, and changing the way we think about traditional employment should be top of mind for all Americans as we enter the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
Michael Solomon is an established entrepreneur and the founder of tech talent agency 10x Management.
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