Friday, September 20, 2013

That machine wants your job

Posted By on Fri, Sep 20, 2013 at 3:58 PM

Several years out of the Great Recession haven't produced the economic boom of many past US recoveries, and we continue to hear about the millions of Americans who have joined the ranks of the permanently unemployed.

As Republicans continue to feather the nests of the rich with the failed expectation that they will create jobs, and Democrats continue to push job training and education, both parties may be wrong.

The pace of technological advancement is moving so rapidly that the question we should be asking is: How susceptible is the job market to computerization?

According to an article by Andrew Leonard on Salon.com, the answer is very. One estimate puts the percent of US jobs at risk at nearly 50 percent.

Labor analysts have been tracking the trend for years, and we’ve seen how technology has transformed almost every major industry. Sometimes the transformation has been so dramatic that thousands of employees have been replaced with little or no possibility of reemployment. Take bank tellers, for example. Their numbers shrank to a fraction of their earlier level with the advent of the Automated Teller Machine.

More recently we've seen the hollowing out of the mid-level job market, also known as the middle class. Workers are clustered at the low end, filling low-paying manual jobs, while highly educated workers are filling specialized jobs.

Education — the more, the better — will keep workers ahead of the machines and employed, we've been told. But that’s looking less certain, too. Not only is the pace of technological advancement showing no sign of slowing down, education alone won’t be able to replace all the jobs lost.

As Leonard puts, if we really are in a race against the machines, you might want to bet on the machines.

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