Are We Ready for True Disruption?
Global Political Shift
Last year brought about many dramatic changes in the political landscape that have been collecting for quite a while now. With both the paradigm shifting votes that brought us Brexit in Europe or the election of Trump and his political outsider appeal, it’s clear that the status quo is being challenged.
Underlying both of those, as well as other movements globally that are still gathering steam, is a populous wave of frustration that seems to center most strongly around a sense of threat from others, whether they be refugees or legal immigrants. This threat is most keenly reflected in the working class globally in a growing anxiety from them around potential and actual job loss.
The anxiety and frustration of the masses is being channeled through politicians especially those on the far right into creating a narrative that places the blame and threat on the globalization of industry over the last three decades. Whether in questioning the value of continued participation in existing alliances such as the EU or NAFTA, or whether through proposing legislation to strengthen, the battle cry from these leaders revolves around a mantra of “bring jobs back.”
As psychologically satisfying as the concept of getting back what was may be to a large swath of the public, the deeper question is what if those jobs no longer exist anywhere to be brought back from? To clarify our point, the jobs we are often talking about are of the non-specialization variety.
You can see the importance and impact placed on those kinds of jobs in the scale of grandstanding that Trump did soon after taking office with his tweets regarding Carrier. Carrier’s decision (and more importantly Trump’s influence on it) to keep a factory open rather than relocate it to Mexico was something used to illustrate how his promises on the campaign trail were going to impact the US economy.
In the end, it was revealed that the win amounted to several hundred jobs at most. What has not been discussed by the current US administration in all their talks of job creation is how they will address the rise of automation. Automation, as well as AI advances will make even previously thought of “safer” jobs like driving and other service industry roles disappear from the marketplace.
Impact of Tech on Jobs
As anyone involved in tech – or the venture capital community that backs it – can tell you, code and robotics is rapidly making whole swaths of jobs obsolete and changing the needs of the workplace drastically. We have already seen in manufacturing a mass decline in personnel need that cannot be fully attributed to simple outsourcing.
In fact, rather than manufacturing in the US decreasing as is oft the layman’s view, quite the opposite has occurred. Over the span of time from 2006 to 2013 there was an increase in US manufacturing of over 2% annually or over 17.6% total per a report from Ball State University. Despite that increase that same report shows that 88% of jobs within that sector were lost to robotics and other influences here in the states.
The numbers forecast for driving and service based job loss in the coming future is equally grim. 3-8 million jobs are likely to disappear within a mere matter of years from now as self-driving cars, drone delivery and automated food service becomes more widespread and fine-tuned. We are only just beginning to see the full impact on society as our values and everyday expectations of what life looks like is upended and reshapes.
New Paths Are Needed
What we are going to need at the very least is new training, new approaches to education. The over a century old model of schools and college will show its obsolescence more plainly with each passing year. The visionaries of the future must consider how to initiate and develop more nimble training. Huge pools of workers will more often than ever before need to be trained and retrained in cycles as what is needed shifts rapidly. Trade schools focusing on shorter burst, high usability skills will become crucial.
Another more drastic and larger shift will be the possibility, more likely the crucial need, to implement some form of Basic Guaranteed Income. It has been proposed under many similar titles but the central concept of a wide spread minimum living wage provided as a base for society by developed societies for their own continued growth is rapidly entering conversations worldwide.
Plans are already in motion in Finland and the Netherlands to study the impact of a Basic Guaranteed Income, Canada is likely to experiment with it in Ontario and in France members of parliament have expressed willingness to experiment as well. This utopian, socialist sounding idea has been gathering steam and supporters not just from idealists but from entrepreneurs and technologists.
Basic Guaranteed Income is supported by private endeavors within Silicon Valley where initiatives are being launched. One major supporter who is personally invested to the tune of $10 million is Sam Altman, president of Y Combinator. He plans to disperse that money to a wide enough pool of recipients and generate data from the experiment of doing so that could influence governments to create their own pilot programs.
Another vocal proponent is Albert Wegner of venture capital firm Union Square Ventures. He has stated in his forthcoming book “World After Capital” the shifts of scarcity that support considering it for true development and growth long term.
Clearly disruption is here and growing, in order to use it to its most widespread potential we are going to need all the creative minds in technology, financial and education sectors to come together to find the best possible solutions in a changing world and take ever bolder chances head on.