Preventing ‘Robot Apocalypse’ From Ending Labor as We Know It
There is ample evidence that simply viewing technology as a labor cost saving tool leads to over investment.
It seems not a day goes by without the appearance of another dire warning about the future of work.
a “robot apocalypse,” while the day of “singularity” coming when artificial intelligence exceeds human intelligence. that as owners of capital capture more of the benefits of innovations than those who labor for a living.
Yet there is also a counter-trend emerging: Groups as diverse as the and the are beginning to argue that it’s up to society to shape the future of work. What’s needed is action today to harness and channel technological changes, prepare the workforce for new demands and opportunities, strengthen their voices and built a new social contract that includes leaders in business, education, labor and government.
How to Shape Change
But fighting technology-inspired changes, as the Luddites of the early 19th century did, rarely works – and can in fact have disastrous consequences.
The important lesson from this episode is that the transition from an agricultural to an industrial economy occurred in the absence of updated policies to govern the transition, which led to more pain for those who were displaced than was necessary.
So as today’s workers in dozens of occupations face down the robot apocalypse, what’s needed aren’t more battle cries but concerted action by leaders in business, education, government and, of course, labor.
And if, as predicted, AI and robotics do transform nearly half of jobs requiring new skill sets for workers, the current challenge may be greater than ever, making it even more important that we create a vision and a path forward that everyone can support.
Giving ‘Wisdom to the Machines’
Let’s start with business leaders since they buy and implement most new technologies.
The for introducing new technology is to reduce human labor and the costs associated with it. Robots, or more broadly software, don’t leave for another job, go on strike or need bathroom breaks – let alone a paycheck or benefits.
Instead, GM eventually learned from Toyota via a joint venture that the highest return on investments came by integrating new technology with new work practices, which to help “give wisdom to the machines.”
Learning for Life
Lifelong learning is the new buzz phrase when it comes to discussions of work. Transforming this from rhetoric to reality will require fundamental changes in educational institutions and teaching methods.
It starts with the children in schools today by the AI revolution in coming decades. And while in the past the focus was on the STEM disciplines – science, technology, engineering and math – industry leaders these days say they need tomorrow’s workforce to be filled with people who can think analytically and creatively, work well together in teams and .
In other words, workers need to be inculcated from an early age with more behavioral and analytic skills, such as teamwork, communications and problem-solving with data.
Even after people are in the workforce, learning new skills and acquiring new knowledge will continue throughout their careers. That means businesses and universities will need to form new partnerships that ensure the workforce can continue to adapt.
A New Social Contract
The , projects and reforms that helped shift the US from a primarily agricultural to industrial economy. It established collective bargaining rights, created Social Security and unemployment insurance, and set minimum wages and labor standards.
With the rise of the gig economy and the changing nature of the employer-employee relationship, a to support workers in this new reality. Benefits should be portable so workers can easily move from job to job without losing health insurance and other benefits now tied to a specific employer. Post-secondary education needs to be more affordable.
so different kinds of workers, from professionals, to low wage workers, to independent contractors, can all have their voices heard. And safety nets need strengthening to support those displaced or whose career has been downgraded by all the seismic changes coming our way.
Workers Need a Seat
As for labor leaders, they need to make sure they’re at the table with business, education and government to ensure workers aren’t left behind by new technologies.
In addition, they can’t just wait to be invited by companies to participate in discussions about implementing new tech. The is showing how to get engaged by new agreements with big casinos in Las Vegas and large chains like Marriott to and are fairly compensated along the way.
The key point is that none of these groups can meet the coming challenges on its own. Just as we’ll be doing in our class in coming weeks, people from all walks of life and segments of society should be discussing these issues so everyone can participate in shaping the future of work.
(This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same. This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article here.)
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