The Clouds Forming Over American Jobs


February 8, 2017 5:43 PM

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Donald Trump visited Indianapolis as president elect to announce some, but not all, of the jobs at the local Carrier plant would be preserved and not shipped to Mexico. If President Trump is concerned about American jobs in the longer term, he will heed the advice of an economist and form a blue-ribbon commission aimed at studying how America should react to a coming technological revolution.

Ed Hess, professor at the University of Virginia’s Darden Business School, has written a book, “Humility Is the New Smart: Rethinking Human Excellence in the Smart Machine Age.” In an opinion piece published in the Washington Post, Hess paints a very scary picture of the future world of work.

Hess foresees a disruption in our economy not seen since the Industrial Revolution. Technology, in his view, will replace most jobs we know today.

Hess cites Bank of England research findings that 47% of all American jobs will evaporate in the next 10-15 years, 80 million jobs total. The unemployment rate reached a painful 10% during the financial crisis, but Hess estimates jobless rates could reach 30% to 40% as technology continues to advance.

That poses the following question – will there be employment safe from this jobs tsunami?

“For now, the consensus is that humans will be needed to perform those tasks that require higher-order critical thinking, innovation, creativity, high emotional engagement with other humans and trade skills requiring real-time problem-solving and manual dexterity,” Hess wrote in his Washington Post article. “Humans will need to excel at doing those things that are, for now, uniquely human. Good will no longer be good enough.”

Hess is proposing this blue ribbon presidential commission as a way to start planning for the future. That includes how our education system needs to adapt in order to prepare students for this new world of work.

Experts who study this future jobs issue have been warning that cataclysmic change is coming. Now Hess argues this will begin to impact us in 5-10 years. It is time for some genuine leaders to emerge in our political system and begin to prepare us for this change. Failure to do so will make these changes much worse on all of us.


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